Will it break us?

Many, many, many, many people have criticized the astonishingly stupid headline on last Tuesday’s front-page Washington Post story: "Climate Is a Risky Issue for Democrats." The Republican base still clings to denial of plain reality, the Republican leadership is openly in hock to fossil-fuel companies, media coverage of climate has never been more intense, fighting climate change polls off the charts, especially among young people, and polls show that people trust Democrats over Republicans to take care of the issue.

In the calcified, beclotted mind of a WaPo editor, that means Democrats are at risk. The village elders can’t help it — they’re just habituated to writing about Dems like a bullied little dweeb at school:

Good Grades a Risky Issue for Little Johnny
Academic achievement raises pantsing fears

But the headline wasn’t the real problem. The real problem is current conventional wisdom, which the piece faithfully reflects. Reigning CW goes like this:

  1. There is a one-to-one correlation between reducing CO2 emissions and increasing energy prices; lower CO2 a notch, raise energy prices a notch;
  2. thus, the more "serious" a candidate is on climate change, the more they implicitly or explicitly intend to jack up voters’ bills;
  3. while fighting climate change is trendy and popular now, support will quickly vanish when energy prices start going up.

The important thing to note is that if No. 1 is correct, 2 and 3 really do follow. If fighting global warming just means imposing pain on voters, candidates who want to fight global warming are screwed.

Everything hinges on showing the public that No. 1 is false: that the net benefits of fighting climate change will exceed the costs.

I can’t put that strongly enough. All the hysterical, quasi-theological arguments around this issue, all the FUD, all the tangents and misdirections and rancor, they all come down to that: people think tackling climate change means pain.

If we can change enough minds about that, the rest of the arguments will be rendered moot. If we can’t, all else is for naught. More on this later.