Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Environmental Security? 

I heard someone on NPR make a very good point today. To paraphrase, Global Warming is much like Social Security. Both require significant upfront sacrifices for benefits that will manifest only in our children's lifetimes.
To further the analogy, the longer we wait the bigger the sacrifice necessary to stave off "armageddon."
So why did I support the Democrats' recent stonewalling on Social Security while I holler incessantly at walls, doorknobs, and young children at the folly of both parties' do-nothing response to Global Warming? I'm glad you asked, dear reader, and so I shall respond. To wit:

1) Social Security isn't the biggest crisis in current governance, as Bush so loudly proclaimed. Thanks in part to his medicare expansion, it's not even the biggest longterm fiscal disaster that we face. (The medicare drug benefit will possibly turn out to provide the least benefit to the american people for the greatest cost, but that's an argument for another day. Right now I'm trying to justify my apparent hypocrisy, remember?)

2) The proposed solutions (of 2005) would have made the problem worse. We can argue about the merits of encouraging more and more folks to "go for broke" with their retirement social safety net in the stock market, but there's no arguing that adding more than $1 billion of upfront debt to a system is no way to salvage its solvency. It was an idealogical powergrab, nothing more. Even we who disagree with the Right thought that they were capable of balancing numbers. This time they didn't pretend to try.

3) I, and most others who've read any lay literature, have known for decades that Global Warming was likely coming, could be averted, but would require a 50+ year lagtime to do it with minimal cost or disruption to society. (It's hilarious to watch the folks who used to criticize Gore for being a chicken little on the subject because, of course, humans couldn't actually change the planet's ecology. Now, they criticize Gore for being right before all the evidence was in, and for asking for sacrifices when they would have been far more minor in nature. I don't make this up, nor do I understand the logic. I personally criticize Gore for doing so little to advance his positiion as V.P. of the most powerful nation on Earth. But that's me.)

4) If Social Security bankrupts the United States, life goes on. If Global Warming makes the planet inhospitable to humanity, for the vast majority life stops. I used to stay up late worrying that one day the sun would stop beating and all human life would end so what was the point. I don't do that any more (send away the nice men with the white jacket), but I do want my children to grow old and to be able to imagine the same fate for their children and grandchildren. Call me sappy.

Global Warming matters. If only because all those great civilized space colonizing tales I love to read won't have a chance to come to fruitiion if our descendents must fight tooth and claw for the remaining scraps of arable land on a flood-ravaged world.

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