Anyone familiar with environmentalist literature of the past decades will immediately recognize the form of Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu’s argument in Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement. The structure of such books, going at least as far back as Rachel Carson, goes like this: We face the following existential threats to life on earth . . . (extended discussion). After this comes a tour of the ways in which current modes of thinking and/or current institutions are inadequate to address those threats, if not outright contributing causes. The conclusion: we therefore need some radical revision of our present normal…
Last week, the attorneys general of 20 states met at a conference “dedicated to coming up with creative ways to enforce laws being flouted by the fossil fuel industry,” in the words of the conference’s host, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The environmental website Ecowatch called it “an unprecedented, multi-state effort to investigate and prosecute” oil companies that the AGs say “stymied attempts to combat global warming.”
President Obama promised that he would use science to save the planet from climate change and now he has delivered. His Environmental Protection Agency has reinterpreted a 1970 law section, whose proposed revision was defeated by the Democratic Senate in 2010, into a 645 page rule forcing states to reduce overall carbon emissions in their thousands of fossil fuels power plants 30% by the year 2030, one state by 72%. Obama claims the cost per year will only be $8.8 billion but the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates $50 billion because the government assumes alternatives can somehow be found at cheaper costs than technology can produce today.
A while ago, I commented on Jim Ceaser’s “Four Heads and One Heart.” Ceaser believes that the four competing intellectual traditions (the heads) that comprise the modern American conservative movement are united by a common loathing of liberalism (the heart). That piece still shapes my thinking, and I still recommend it. But I want to add to Ceaser’s theory by proposing that there’s an intellectual attitude that all four heads share; there’s something on which they all agree.
The president, armed with inherent executive power topped with statutory authority, faced a dilemma: Danger beckoned. Congress alternated between theatrical hems and political haws. The international position and perhaps security of the United States were at stake. So he chose the path of boldness—the path down which greatness lies.
Reported in certain journals, that might have been President Bush at the height of the Global War on Terror. But portrayed in other outlets, it was President Obama bypassing Congress, employing unilateral executive power to regulate greenhouse gases. Politically, a great distance separates Bush and Obama. Constitutionally, it is increasingly difficult to tell them apart—and one reason is the theory of the Presidency some conservatives propagated a decade ago and which is now being bent toward purposes that probably make them wish they had remembered the axiom never to endorse any power one would not entrust to one with whom one disagreed.
And he said unto them, the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath ….
Mark 2:27 (King James version)
A few days ago, the Drudge Report brought me to a link that I thought for a time simply had to be an early April Fool’s Day joke, but is instead dead serious: How Engineering the Human Body Could Combat Climate Change. In this article, Atlantic correspondent Ross Andersen ably interviews S. Matthew Liao, a professor of philosophy and bioethics at New York University. Liao and his philosopher co-authors (link no longer available) have a forthcoming paper in the journal Ethics, Policy & Environment that proposes genetic engineering and other “biomedical modifications” of body function for the purpose of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That’s obviously crazy, but it illustrates the absurd lengths to which eco-fanatics will go in the quixotic quest to fix the weather.
Yesterday’s post on the climate change cases before the D.C. Circuit promised a few additional thoughts on the institutional aspects of the controversy. Here they are, delivered in customary good cheer.
By any measure, the EPA’s GHG regime constitutes the most ambitious, expensive, and expansive regulatory regime in the agency’s history. No consumer, no industry, no state will remain unaffected. As the EPA and the climate change “community” have emphasized, the problem is global and long-term. We’re not talking about removing a discrete pollutant (lead) from a few products (gasoline, paint). We are talking about a program that must be all-encompassing and run, with increased stringency, from here to eternity.
No one decided that we should do this. Certainly, the Congress didn’t decide it. The Supreme Court didn’t, or says it didn’t (it just told the EPA to follow the law). The EPA didn’t, or at least can plausibly claim that it didn’t and doesn’t (it’s just following the law and the Supreme Court). We are simply sliding into a bureaucratic nightmare.