Climate policy deserves thoughtful discourse, not petty attacks: a response to Paul Krugman

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Just because someone doesn’t support an extreme climate policy agenda, like the Inflation Reduction Act, doesn’t mean that they deny climate change is occurring.

Science isn’t policy. It doesn’t give us objective answers to our policy questions. Instead, it serves to inform policy decisions, which are inherently subjective.

Some advocating for radical policy changes to address climate change fail to draw these distinctions. And they attack people who don’t support their policy agenda, such as by calling them “climate deniers.” This includes New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who recently attacked organizations like CEI for not getting in line with his desired climate agenda.

There is a genuine difference in thinking between those pushing a heavy-handed governmental role to address climate change and those who oppose such efforts. 

The former think that government must change almost every aspect of our lives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even if there is no meaningful impact on global temperature.

For many who oppose these efforts, such as myself, the harm to freedom, quality of life, and individual rights doesn’t justify policies that are all costs with little to no benefits. In fact, when would a policy agenda ever make sense if the harm is greater than the good?

But it goes even further than this. For the sake of argument, let’s just say we all agree that climate change is a major problem. The best way to address this challenge isn’t to impose government central planning that will hurt Americans. Instead, the best path would be to remove governmental obstacles so that freedom, innovation, and wealth empower humans to develop solutions to our biggest challenges.

There should be thoughtful discourse on policy issues, like climate policy, without name calling, which is something that Krugman in his column didn’t exhibit. The following is a letter to the editor that I submitted to the New York Times, but it hasn’t been published:

Re “Climate Is Now a Culture War Issue,” by Paul Krugman (Opinion, Aug. 7):

There are some individuals, including Dr. Krugman, who support climate policies that drive up energy prices, hand more taxpayer dollars to special interests, and seek to dictate how Americans live their lives, from the cars they drive to the appliances they use to cook their meals. This is precisely what the Inflation Reduction Act does, a law that Krugman touts in his opinion piece.

There are many Americans though who don’t support such policies because they want abundant and affordable energy, dislike cronyism, and believe quite rightly that they should choose how to live their own lives. Dr Krugman talks with disdain of people who disagree with him on climate policy, calling them “climate deniers.” People are not denying climate change just because they reject the harmful and misguided policies that Krugman embraces. As a professional opinion writer, he should know that it’s ok for people to hold different opinions. And he should certainly know that calling people names and attributing bad intent to those who disagree with him is a sure sign he lacks confidence in the merits of his own arguments.

At a minimum, I hope Paul Krugman and like-minded individuals agree with me about the need for free and open discourse. If the past is any indication, this may be a pipe dream. But if Americans regularly criticize efforts, public and private, to chill free speech, then maybe there is hope that this silencing of different views won’t be tolerated.

The most important issues of the day need to be thoroughly discussed without people fearing that they will be demagogued for sharing their views. When many Americans are too scared to even speak, it isn’t just harmful to freedom but is also a recipe for bad policy.