When I got the chance to read it last night, I was disappointed by McCain's speech on global warming, though perhaps not for the same reason that most of the NRO set was.
While I am something of a global warming skeptic (I'm not skeptical as to whether there's been a warming trend, but I am skeptical as to how much of it is the result of human actions, but most of all I'm skeptical about our ability to reduce our emissions enough to help any) I think that many in conservative circles have been too shrill and absolute in their approach to the issue -- fuelled in part by a general suspicion of science in conservative quarters which I do not think is a particularly good thing.
So I had hoped that McCain would bring some needed moderation to the Republican approach to dealing with global warming. He didn't. Instead he fell hook, line, and sinker for the impossible and therefore meaningless posturing which has been indulged in too often by environmental activists.
Before even opening his mouth, he set himself up with some pretty bad symbolism -- choosing to make his address from a wind farm. As if to illustrate the foolishness of this, the wind was apparently not blowing, and so he gave his address standing in front of a bunch of wind turbines busy not generating power. Wind power is one of the classic examples of good intentions and poor thinking. It works well for small scale power generation in remote areas with lots of wind, but it is no way to power a city. Wind farms take up vast amounts of land, they produce inconstant supplies of electricity, and when you fact in the cost of building and maintaining the wind turbines (not to mention the opportunity cost of not using the land for anything else) they're almost universally net losses rather than gains of energy.
The speech itself seemed to take it's relationship with practicality from the setting. McCain's proposal is for a cap-and-trade limit on carbon emissions. In some sense, this is not necessarily a bad idea, but the devil is invariably in the details. I'm skeptical of the whole idea of getting the government into measuring everyone's carbon emissions -- not to mention that the "carbon offsets" that are part of the plan are often simply a way of paying someone to do what they would do anyway.
Further, most of the goals McCain set (return to 1990 emission levels by 2020, get down to 60% of 1990 emissions by 2050) are starkly unrealistic, given that our population is continuing to rise at a pretty decent clip. Taking our total national emissions in 2050 to 60% of the 1990 level would actually be a 75% or greater reduction in per capita carbon emissions.
Some good things were mentioned, such as increasing our use of nuclear power, which we desperately need to do. But this was amidst a swarm of less well thought-out policies. I had wanted to see someone take a responsible yet conservative approach to addressing the global warming issue -- but this does not appear to be it.
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