The penalty for failure
Science says hydraulic fracturing is safe when done properly. Science says wildfires are essential to restoring the ecological health of forests. Science says human activity is increasing global temperatures, leading to potentially catastrophic climate change.
Yet science is hardly the last word on any issue. Otherwise, there would be no anti-fracking activists, no expensive fire-suppression policies enacted by federal agencies and no climate-change doubters.
A report leaked Tuesday by scientists within the federal government concludes that Americans are already feeling the effects of climate change. Included in the evidence: The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980.
“Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change,” the scientists wrote in a draft obtained by the New York Times.
Fearful that the Trump administration might try to suppress the report, scientists took a page out of Trump’s playbook and took their findings directly to the public.
This end-around will likely have zero impact on an administration that has already enacted regulatory moves designed to roll back reductions on emissions and speed up drilling and mining on federal lands —not to mention withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate treaty.
There was ample evidence of climate change before this report. New information or an amplification of previous findings will only push climate change doubters further into a corner. They either have to continue ignoring real scientific findings or accept increased regulation of a key economic sector.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Accepting nearly universally held scientific conclusions would be the first step in addressing the problem rationally and offering market-based alternatives to the government-control demands of radical climate activists.
But that debate can’t happen in an anti-science environment. The longer conservatives wait to acknowledge that climate change is occurring as a result of human action, the fewer opportunities to stave off extreme measures: cap-and-trade scenarios, carbon taxes or government rationing of energy sources.
Ignoring the evidence now could mean expensive investments down the road. How many dikes and levees will be required to save coastal cities from rising seas? In Colorado, rising temperatures could threaten the ski industry, the water supply and our forests, making them more susceptible to insect infestations and fires. Streamflows are under threat. All of this comes with a real cost.
As we’ve long asserted, the conservative position should be mitigating future risk with measured action now. Responsible politicians of all stripes must impress upon the presidential administration the extreme penalty for failing to take climate change seriously.