In this post, I’ll debunk David Brooks’ error-riddled op-ed, “A Sad Green Story.” His piece is so myth-filled, it would be better termed a fairy tale.
Brooks, of course, is the conservative who wants to be loved by progressives. But for every seemingly mavericky thing he says – “I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade” — is another filled with errors, such as his “Flip-Flop on Green Jobs.”
Today’s piece is so bad, it’s hypocrisy has already been skewered by the Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein, and its litany of false statements have been debunked by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and Media Matters — which I’ll excerpt below.
First though, like every fairy tale, this one begins once upon a time in a land far, far away:
The period around 2003 was the golden spring of green technology. John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduced a bipartisan bill to curb global warming. I got my first ride in a Prius from a conservative foreign policy hawk who said that these new technologies were going to help us end our dependence on Middle Eastern despots. You’d go to Silicon Valley and all the venture capitalists, it seemed, were rushing into clean tech.
Yes, it was a happy time in the Bizarro world, Htrae. But soon, a darkness fell over the land:
From that date on the story begins to get a little sadder.
Al Gore released his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006. The global warming issue became associated with the highly partisan former vice president. Gore mobilized liberals, but, once he became the global warming spokesman, no Republican could stand shoulder to shoulder with him and survive. Any slim chance of building a bipartisan national consensus was gone.
Then, in 2008, Barack Obama seized upon green technology and decided to make it the centerpiece of his jobs program. During his presidential campaign he promised to create five million green tech jobs. Renewable energy has many virtues, but it is not a jobs program….
This is a story of overreach, misjudgments and disappointment.
You’re crying? I’m so sorry. But don’t worry, kids, this story never happened. It’s just make believe. Look, here, I have the real story. Sure, it also has an unhappy ending, but at least it has the advantage of being true.
You see, there was this couch, and, in an effort sponsored by Al Gore himself, the former Republican Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich sat on it with his Democratic counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, and they both endorsed climate action. You’re crying, again? Oh, I see, yes, he is a giant newt, but his bark is much, much — googolplex much — worse than his bite. Where was I?
Yes, take a look at this chart, it’ll make you feel much, much better … for a while, anyway.
Percent of Americans Who Believe the Effects of Global Warming Have Already Begun to Happen, by Political Ideology, from McCright and Dunlap
Political polarization on climate jumped in 2009 — long after Gore’s 2006 movie.
Many, many Republicans embraced cap-and-trade after the movie and didn’t flip flop on climate until 2009, suggesting again it was something other than Gore’s advocacy to blaim (see Tim Pawlenty: “Every one of us” running for president has flip-flopped on climate change).
Let’s remember that the GOP presidential nominee in 2008 ran on a platform of climate action and cap-and-trade — even his conservative VP, Sarah Palin, endorsed it. That’s a key reason again that you see in the top chart that the liberal-conservative polarization did not accelerate until 2009, when a certain person got elected with overwhelming majorities and the prospect of an actual climate bill became quite real.
Extensive polling data and analysis simply doesn’t support this myth that Gore polarized the debate. Indeed, on the basis of his 2012 peer-reviewed analysis, Dr. Robert Brulle told me,
“I think this should close down forever the idea that Al Gore caused the partisan polarization over climate change.”
I’ve asked many other leading experts on social science and public opinion — including McCright and Dunlap, authors of “The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public’s views of global warming, 2001–2010″ — and they all agree the data don’t support this myth. Stanford’s Jon Krosnick also agrees there is no data to support it.
It is a fairy tale, and one that people as intermittently smart as David Brooks should stop telling.
Ezra Klein notes that “pricing carbon” is “an idea Brooks supported then and supports now,” and then he skewers Brooks: