NYT’s David Brooks: “I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade.”

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"NYT’s David Brooks: “I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade.”"

“If you’re willing to give me nuclear power, I’m willing to follow Lindsey Graham’s lead and do a little bit on the cap-and-trade bill.”

I totally buy the argument that we need to set a cap on carbon emissions….

I was once again reminded how many business and investment types are thinking quite practically and capitalistically about green, job-creating technologies. For us Hamiltonian conservatives who believe in internal improvements, energy and infrastructure are obviously the two big areas where we should be investing.

David Brooks is one of the few leading conservative intellectuals who hasn’t been knee-jerk anti-science on climate change.   In a 2005 piece on conservative intellectual exhaustion, “Running Out of Steam” he even asserted:

Global warming is real (conservatives secretly know this).

Well, subsequent events have demonstrated that if conservatives (other than Sen. Lindsey Graham) know that global warming is real, it is the best kept secret since, well, that whole fake moon landing thing (see “Unscientific America, Part 1: From the moon-landing deniers to WattsUpWithThat” and Honey, I shrunk the GOP, Part 3: RNC Chair Steele withdraws support for Rep. Kirk over his vote on climate and clean energy bill).

Still, Brooks himself knows it, and in a pretty candid “New Year’s Resolutions” piece (with fellow NYT columnist Gail Collins), he spells out what he believes.  I would not that Collins does not particularly distinguished herself in this piece:

Gail Collins: In 2009 I was very forthright about cases in which conservatives avoided speaking the truth because they knew it would offend their base….  Let me offer up a nominee from the other side of the aisle: nuclear power.

David Brooks: If you are going to come out for nuclear power, I suppose I should grapple with the cap-and-trade legislation now working its way in the Senate.

Gail Collins: Nuclear power should be a serious element in our energy policy. It does double duty in fighting global warming and reducing our reliance on imported oil. The practical challenges aren’t as great as in most of the new green energy sources that are all the rage.

Well, of course, nuclear power doesn’t do very much to reduce our reliance on imported oil — since exceedingly little oil is used to make electricity these days — unless we have a very aggressive effort to electrify transportation system, which Obama and progressives are certainly pushing but Collins never mentions.

Collins seems unaware that the 2005 energy bill had massive subsidies and other policies to promote nuclear power.  She never actually mentions what other policies she’d like to see.  She thinks the biggest problems with nuclear power our proliferation and spent fuel, whereas the three biggest reasons we haven’t seen the much-advertised nuclear renaissance are cost, cost, cost:

Enviros ain’t the reasons we aren’t building nukes these days.  Boards of Directors are.

What Brooks has to say is more interesting:

I have to confess, I am not at my best when dealing with environmental issues. On the one hand, I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade. On the other hand, I feel a frisson of pleasure when I come across evidence that contradicts the models. I don’t know if this is just because I distrust people who are so confident they can model complex systems or because I relish any fact that might make Al Gore look silly.I totally buy the argument that we need to set a cap on carbon emissions. But I feel myself sometimes rooting for people in coal states like Indiana who feel that they are fighting against a bunch of rich toffs from the Vineyard who are trying to take away their livelihood.

Maybe this year I should resolve to overcome my unworthy visceral reactions and follow the evidence. In that case, I’m off to a decent start.

Last night I was up in Boston moderating a panel discussion sponsored by the National Hockey League on environmental and global warming issues. (Hockey players like ice and want to preserve frozen ponds.) I could tell you that I flew up just so I could talk about carbon sequestration, but the real reason I did it was so I could do a panel in Fenway Park and meet Mike Richter.

To read more on that panel, see the NHL.com story, “Mike Richter goes green with NHL panel at Fenway.”  Since McKibben was there, maybe he’ll blog on it.  Back to Brooks.

During the course of the panel, my normal unworthy emotions on these issues were replaced by emotions I’m a bit prouder of. As the panelists (academics, business leaders, activists) spoke, I did get infected by their passion. It is a remarkably broad social movement. I learned from Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund, my favorite environmental group, that the cap-and-trade bill, which I thought was dead in the senate, actually is close to getting enough votes to pass. What’s more, I was once again reminded how many business and investment types are thinking quite practically and capitalistically about green, job-creating technologies. For us Hamiltonian conservatives who believe in internal improvements, energy and infrastructure are obviously the two big areas where we should be investing.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that if you’re willing to give me nuclear power, I’m willing to follow Lindsey Graham’s lead and do a little bit on the cap-and-trade bill, which is an imperfect piece of legislation, God knows, but still probably good for the country.

David, you can have nuclear power.  I have no doubt there will be subsidies and streamlining of regulations for nukes in the final bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs bill.  Now you just have to get your fellow conservatives to stop spreading disinformation and demagogueing the issue.  Deal?

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27 Responses to NYT’s David Brooks: “I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade.”

  1. Dean says:

    I’m not sure that Brooks, or Hamiltonian conservatives, would be considered bonafide conservatives by the southern-controlled elements of the Republican party. If such conservatives were a major part of the Republican Party, it wouldn’t be so dead in the water out here in the Pacific states as it is, where most conservatives aren’t fond of the mixture of politics and religion. But Grahams foray into this area is the one that truly challenges the conservative litmus tests.

  2. Leif says:

    WELL SAID JOE!!!

  3. Tommy Lee says:

    Sure Mr. Graham, next time I want to swat a fly, I’ll be sure to use an atomic bomb to do it. That’s precisely what you are proposing to do, solve a problem that involves a few tens of millielectronvolts of energy conversion at most, with a process that produces hundreds of megaelectrovolts, energy conversion scales that are separated by ten orders of decimal magnitudes. There is a word for that in science – crazy.

    Let me give you a hint how to approach our energy conversion problem, which reduces essentially to boiling water at 35 meV – condensed matter and quantum physics, not astrophysics. It also goes without saying that to address the lack of funding and motivation at the quantum physics level, we would have to elect senators that have both brains and a clue.

    And no, Mr. Brooks, ‘god’ doesn’t ‘know’.

  4. Clark Meyer says:

    What really strikes me is his honesty about how much of his resistance has to do with culture war posturing, the kneejerk opposition to anything that Al Gore cares about, the assumption that pointy-headed liberal academics were trying to tell “real Americans” what to do. I’ve felt this for a long time within sectors of my own circle of friends and family where the negative reaction to Gore is visceral and unwavering (I live in the South and my wife produces a syndicated conservative talk radio show). At the end of a long conversation about climate change with my mother-in-law recently, she opened up to a better understanding of the mess we are in only when she could start blaming Gore for turning people like her away from the truth. Whatever.

    It’s also interesting that Brooks allows himself to get on board only when he sees a “broad social movement” that he can safely join. I think there’s a lesson there for all of us (and I’ve needled you about this recently, Joe), that we can simultaneously stick to our convictions and temper our passion in the name of building as broad a social movement as possible.

  5. Wit's End says:

    A minor edit: “I would not that Collins does not particularly distinguished herself in this piece:” Note, distinguish.

    May I? David Brooks is such a prig. He’s the male Peggy Nooningtoneth, just search for the hilarity at the Wonkette for blingees of Peggy, or go here for Brooks! http://wonkette.com/?s=david+brooks

    The snarkists there should be able to make short shrift of this: “I feel myself sometimes rooting for people in coal states like Indiana who feel that they are fighting against a bunch of rich toffs from the Vineyard who are trying to take away their livelihood.”

    I just bet David Brooks cries into his pillow every night for the jobless in Indiana.

  6. Jonah says:

    “…an imperfect piece of legislation, God knows, but still probably good for the country.”

    Could he have hedged any more in that sentence? Good on you, Joe, for seeing the glass half full on this one.

  7. Lou Grinzo says:

    Wit’s End:

    Well said.

    I have never understood this all-too-American penchant for saying, “I’m going to root for the (perceived) Little Guy, even when it means rooting against his (and my and everyone else’s) best interests.” I see this in all parts of the political spectrum, but it’s heavily concentrated on the right-hand side. I think it stems from the hypercompetitiveness of many on the right (and a few on the left, to be fair) to win every battle at all costs, often ignoring the larger picture.

    This was highlighted in a great scene from The West Wing, where one character (Leo?) said to another (Josh?), “that’s the problem–you want to beat the other guy, I just want to win.”

    If we could take all the emotion out of the energy and climate discussions, and “go exactly where the data leads you, and nowhere else”, I think we’d solve a hell of a lot of problems very quickly, or at least begin to solve them. Instead we have the eroding effects of the [long string of cringe-inducing pejorative adjectives] deniers and all the effort spent in trying to overcome their relentless insanity.

    How utterly sad and wasteful.

  8. Sam says:

    The fact that he can say that he “roots for the little guy” shows that he doesn’t know what he is talking about when he says that he “totally accept[s]” the science behind global warming. He obviously feels secure enough in his job and his profession to say things he hasn’t even begun to study and try to think through. What he ought to be doing is actually studying the issue, and finding ways of talking to his readers that inform them. As he is a widely read columnist who writes on policy issues, I find this mildly disturbing, although not unexpected given the sad state of education in this country, especially science education.

    Brooks has a sweet personality in some ways, but he is unintentionally making himself a joke. Black humor.

  9. D. King says:

    “Global warming is real (conservatives secretly know this).”

    Damn, I can’t believe this reveal. What’s next?
    Is he going to give away our secret hand shake?

  10. What I take away from this article is the reality that mitigating climate change is difficult due to the human factors. Industries will change as we alter our living habits and switch to new forms of energy production, and that means that many lives will be affected negatively.

    But I’m reminded of the switch from trains to airplanes as our primary mode of long range transportation. Lots of lives were disrupted in the process too, but in the end society benefited greatly. What’s different in this case, however, is that we’re not talking about convenience, we’re talking about survival.

  11. Anna Haynes says:

    “On the other hand, I feel a frisson of pleasure when I come across evidence that contradicts the models.”

    Wow. Kudos, big heartfelt ones, to David Brooks for his honesty on this.

    I’m feeling like there’s hope for the world after all.

  12. Leif says:

    Brooks says … give me nukes I will talk C&T… Well here is my counter David; I will give you ALL THE NUCLEAR that is proven to be economical and sustainable when stacked fairly against other mitigation directions. I want a fair, court mitigated accounting of the best “bang for the buck!”

    Assuming of course that we could get a “court mitigated” anything this contentious in our life time. Roomer has it that we do not have long to dally, estimates vary among the men of knowledge!

  13. Very nice article! Thanks, Joe!

    Thanks for trying to separate this issue from the partisan divide.

    We need conservatives who are arguing against taking greenhouse gases seriously to understand that they are not arguing against liberals on this one, they are arguing against nature. Of course, nature never loses an argument in the long run.

    Thanks to Brooks for taking serious matters seriously despite the temptation to do otherwise.

    And thanks to both for keeping nuclear on the table.

  14. I actually only appeared at the NHL panel via (low-carbon) video. But Mike Richter is a really good fellow, and it’s a useful reminder how key people like he can be in helping broaden this discussion. The NHL is an obvious partner because they’re…about ice.

  15. Leif says:

    Lou, #7: “How utterly sad and wasteful.” In many respects I agree with you, that sparing with the Anti-Science folks is just that. Especially when confronted day in and day out with the same amateurish attempts. I believe it is important to remember that we were all “disbelievers” or at best skeptics if we knew anything at all. What “word” or “feeling” or “sight'” or “sound” or smell” or “taste? even” led us in the pursuit of “pure” knowledge which has lead us to this point! The sparing on this site sharpens my thought, points out avenues of attack and even understanding. This increases my confidence when among my peers. Where in our communities can we say for sure we “touched” some adult or child’s mind. Where we can say that we helped that person toward a life time of discovery. In any field! Besides saving the world, what else have we GOT to do?

    How many minds has this site “touched”? One? Ten? One hundred? Ten thousand?…?…

    Two Palms UP To All,
    Leif

  16. I am so glad that David Brooks is in negotiations with climate models. So far all he is asking is enough nuclear power to generate a hockey ice rink.

    It sounds like he is begrudgingly trivializing the issue. But if he can bargain with the laws of science.. go for it.

  17. Wit's End says:

    I’ve often had the feeling that conservatives who grudgingly acknowledge that climate change exists – and can obviously be dealt with effectively only through collective, international, government instigated regulation – are so ideologically offended that they persist in demanding nuclear power be included in a transition to green energy, even though it’s obviously not really renewable, or safe, or cost-effective…but solely to say (Friedmanesquely) Suck.On.This. to environmentalists. It’s peevish, really, but I suppose they must have that frisson of pleasure to compensate for being wrong, wrong, wrong.

    Is that anything like a Chris Matthews leg tingle, David?

  18. Zan says:

    Thanks. I was wondering what you thought about nuclear power.

  19. Uosdwis says:

    Do you see the fundamental difference? You, personally, can harness wind power, solar power for your house. You cannot have a nuclear reactor in your basement. Thus, it is one source that corporations can still control. Nice.

  20. RoySV says:

    Wow! Those few paragraphs between Collins and Brooks really crystallize the fraudulent and bankrupt circus that passes for traditional journalism in this country. It is arrogant, ignorant, petty, immoral and self-satisfied all at once. Ouch!

    In particular this latter part:

    I have to confess, I am not at my best when dealing with environmental issues..

    Followed by

    Last night I was up in Boston moderating a panel discussion sponsored by the National Hockey League on environmental and global warming issues. … I could tell you that I flew up just so I could talk about carbon sequestration, but the real reason I did it was so I could do a panel in Fenway Park and meet Mike Richter.

    How can anyone caring about earth’s future not detest this cheesy, pandering and incompetent poser?

  21. Steven Biel says:

    So what happens when we run out of uranium in about 50 years?

  22. Logic Deferred says:

    Wind, solar (CSP), tidal, geothermal; a bandaid is only there to give you time to heal.

  23. pete says:

    The collapse of the climate and economy is the fault of former President Clinton for killing the one thing that will work: the Integral Fast Reactor. Anything else is simply rearranging deck chairs on a sinking titanic. The IFR was an advanced nuclear technology unlimited by fuel supplies, that could power the world for a thousand years feeding only on material recovered from today’s used nuclear fuel or depleted uranium:
    http://www.sustainablenuclear.org/PADs/pad0509till.html

  24. William Maddox says:

    After years in the wilderness blatently trying to justify the policies of neo-cons and their patsy Bush, Brooks has recently been trying to redeem himself by intermittent displays of intellectual character. Kudos for that but this would be W.F. Buckley is still, for the most part, tripping over his ideology.

    Bill Maddox

  25. Ronald says:

    but isn’t this a little to easy?

    I get this article. Conservatives and Republicans are dumb about Global Warming and don’t understand how bad the problem is. Convervatives and Republican columnists who want to stay employed as such, continue to be in favor of one form of low carbon energy, nuclear electricity, and that being in favor of nuclear is inadequate to get us out of global warming.

    But maybe it’s time you got out of the philosopher-journalist-commentator mode and start to be a marketer. or salesman.

    It’s easy to philosophize about the world, but can you sell your version of it.

    What is it that David Brooks (or any conservative or republican commentator) should or could write that conservatives and Republicans would listen to and would be effective against Global Warming? is there anything? Write that article that he should write that would work with his audience.

    Maybe all we can do is congraduate each other on how smart we are and how dumb everybody else is. But if we were really smart we might, just might, be able to more the discussion along a little better than it is.

  26. Leif says:

    Ronald: What a great idea! Why don’t WE write an article that David Brooks should write! Collectively!

    Having been fortunate enough to share many of the insights passed out like popcorn at times on CP, well, the mind boggles…

    Joe, you want to edit?

  27. David Brooks has very little influence on Republican policy. Everyone of importance there reads him, but very little real influence.

    What IS happening is that nuclear is becoming more popular, even among Democrats. The fact that the UAE *chose* nuclear over renewables as their baseload solution is having an impact, I think (especially with all that ‘sun’…they chose what was best for them).

    DW