Red-Blue America: Will America ever take bold action on climate change?

Hundreds of thousands of Americans on Sunday marched in New York City, asking the country's leaders to take bold action on climate change. President Barack Obama, California Gov. Jerry Brown, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and other notables this week a...

Hundreds of thousands of Americans on Sunday marched in New York City, asking the country’s leaders to take bold action on climate change. President Barack Obama, California Gov. Jerry Brown, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and other notables this week addressed the United Nations about the climate challenges facing the world. But skeptics abound - notably within the Republican Party.
Will the country confront climate change? Should it?

By Joel Mathis

Let’s talk about class warfare for a minute.
Nothing’s going to happen about climate change. Nothing was ever going to happen. The people who make millions and billions of dollars from our carbon-powered economy never had any interest in changing their habits - what’s the fun in making somewhat-smaller-yet-still-vast fortunes - and of course, they didn’t need to do so.
When drought strikes the heartland and cropland turns to dust, they’re not the ones who will go hungry.
When oceans rise and coastal residents are forced from their homes, they’re not the ones who will be homeless.
And as the middle latitudes of the planet become increasingly unpleasant places to live, they’re not the ones who will feel the discomfort.
You think the Koch Brothers will suffer from climate change? Coal company operators? Oil company titans? Or will the rich and comfortable always be rich and comfortable even while the rest of us are left to deal with - and maybe die from - the results of ruling class’s inaction?
You know the answer.
And the shame of it all is this: We went along with it. We enjoyed our comforts so - couldn’t imagine a life with a little less air conditioning, a slightly smaller car - that many of us decided to believe that thousands of scientists had concocted climate change as a conspiracy theory, that trustworthy people on the issue were just the ones who happened to be getting rich from the status quo.
Now we have to live with what’s coming.
New York City already is trying to figure out how to keep the water out of its subways. The Pentagon is planning for national security threats brought on by climate change. The world already is changing because the climate already is changing. As always, it will be the poor who bear the worst of it. It’s too late for speeches and marches to do anything about it.

Joel Mathis (joelmmathis@ is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine.

By Ben Boychuk


Climate changes. It always has and always will. As recently as 12,000 years ago, much of the area we know as Kentucky, Ohio and Nebraska sat beneath about 100 feet of ice. And as recently as 500 years ago, sparsely populated California experienced droughts spanning a decade or more.
Most people probably have heard about the supposed consensus among 98 percent of scientists that the planet is warming and therefore something must be done. Even if the scientific consensus is correct - a highly questionable proposition - there is no consensus about the remedy.
Why? Because the answer is political, not scientific. Leonardo DiCaprio is an actor, not a scientist. Jerry Brown and Al Gore are politicians, not scientists. California billionaire Tom Steyer is a speculator and an environmental activist who made his fortune in fossil fuels, not a scientist. The vast majority of the 400,000 people who marched through Manhattan last Sunday with banners declaring “the debate is over” and demanding “system change, not climate change,” weren’t scientists. They were political activists pushing a peculiar political agenda.
Assuming politics can avert global warming or global cooling, what law - or set of laws - could attain the desired goal? A carbon tax? Tighter regulation on coal-burning power plants? Cap-and-trade? Outlawing capitalism? All of the above?
Maybe the better answer is none of the above. All of those policies require a vast expansion of government and a diminution of personal freedom with zero guarantee of success. Distrusting the government with virtually unlimited power over natural resources and energy supplies doesn’t make you a climate change “denier.” It makes you sane.
Turns out, saving the world from an environmental apocalypse is a lucrative industry. The Gores, DiCaprios and Steyers of the world are trying to sell you something - a poorer quality of life in exchange for the possibility that maybe, just maybe, your sacrifice now will save the world later. Don’t worry, those guys will be just fine.

Ben Boychuk ( ) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

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