Politics is Not a Dirty Word

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What Dave Roberts said. You do hear with a frightening frequency people with green sympathies, up to and including Al Gore, suggest that global warming shouldn’t be a “political issue.” Drained of senseless rhetoric this seems to reduce to the view that “everyone ought to agree with my favored policies.” And, of course, I think everyone really should agree with my favored policies. But, in practice, they don’t. And so: Politics.

This is the world, and anyone who aspires to radically alter America’s energy use patterns needs to learn to live with it. Achieving the goals requires lots of political change.

Meanwhile, both whatever degree of climate change can’t be prevented and whatever prevention measures we adopt will all have different kinds of costs and benefits. Different policies will allocate these costs to different people. The mechanism by which we decide what to do is called “politics” and it exists so that individuals and organizations with somewhat divergent interests and ideas can make collective decisions about how to tackle common problems. The rhetoric of anti-politics isn’t just an analytic mistake, it’s part of the problem. A public that doesn’t believe divergent interests can be reconciled and common solutions devised for common problems — a public that doesn’t believe in politics — is going to be a public that doesn’t believe there’s anything that can or should be done to prevent catastrophic climate change.