The imperative to fight climate change cannot trump all other concerns
Bill McKibben says "when [other environmental] efforts come into conflict with the imperative need to act urgently on global warming, they have to take second place." It’s a common sentiment these days, but I’ll be honest that it makes me a bit nervous.
My inclination, of course, is to support wind farms. But they are industrial development, and as such deserve reasonable regulation, smart siting decisions, and community involvement.
I like to think I "get" global warming, but I don’t necessarily accept that it’s the One and True Problem, the overwhelming existential threat before which all other considerations must go overboard — any more than I believe the same of terrorism.
The clean coal and nuclear power lobbies would love to use global warming as a trump card. GE would be all over it. So would the ANWR-hungry Republican Congress.
But even in light of global warming, we still owe ourselves honest debate about other issues. Biodiversity matters. Wilderness matters. Human culture, democracy and rule of law matter. The economy matters. If you go far enough down the matters scale, eventually you find the pastoral ocean views of American aristocracy on Nantucket, and hell, even they matter a little bit.
Giving any issue the status of get-out-of-jail-free card is an invitation to abuse. Not abuse by Bill McKibben — a veritable secular saint — but by hangers-on. Everybody with a project to fund, political favor to call in, tax break to push, or axe to grind.
Of course, this discussion is a bit moot in light of the fact that global warming receives nothing near the attention it deserves in most contexts. I just don’t want to end up saying, "You’re with us or you’re with the global warmists," to batter down all local or countervailing concerns. That kind of Manicheanism is for the other side.