What is the difference between those on the Left and those on the Right? Why does there seem to be such a wide gap in opinion between them at the moment? Why is any discussion on the topic du jour so bitter?
The fundamental difference between Left and Right is that the Left thinks with its heart and the Right thinks with its head. To those on the Left, compassion and good intentions are what matter most. On the Right the most important consideration is 'does it do good?' This is why the Left thinks the Right is bad and the Right thinks the Left is wrong (as distinct from bad).
There's a quote that is attributed to Churchill (apparently wrongly but nobody quite knows who said it first) that goes along the lines, "If you're young and not on the left then you have no heart. If you're middle-aged and not on the right then you have no brain."
This pithy aphorism explains the bad/wrong view that Left and Right have of each other. The vast majority of the Right (more than 90%) when they were young had leftist ideals, from wanting to be good to the environment to helping the poor. However, there comes a time when young people begin to 'grow up' attitudinally, they begin to see the world as it really is and the gravitation to the Right is a natural result. This is how come the Right knows that the Left is wrong; it's been there. Meanwhile, those on the Left continue to believe that all cultures are equal, that because their cause is morally good any negative results don't matter and that equality of outcome is more important than equality of opportunity. This is why the Left thinks that the Right is bad; i.e. you don't agree with my high moral values then you must be bad. All good, logical stuff.
I can now hear those of you on the Left reading this post accusing me of being some right wing death beast, some sinister, Karl Rovian apostle of conservatism or, shock horror, a fascist. Shooting the messenger is the Left's way of not having to deal with the message (see my other post on that subject).
If you're on the Left then ask yourself this question. Should we sign the Kyoto Protocol? At least 90% of you will agree that we should. I would then ask why we would sign it to which you would answer that Global Warming is an existential crisis and that we need to do something about it. I would point out that a fully implemented Kyoto Protocol (i.e. all countries including USA and Australia sign but China and India etc don't) would cost more than $20 trillion dollars and save, tops, 0.1C in the next 50 years, which doesn't seem to be much of a return on investment. That may be true, you would respond, but it's a symbolic first step. Symbolism is a large part of a Leftist's identity and the cost of it is irrelevant as long as the cause is good. Contrast this example with the environmentalist Bjorn Lomberg's Copenhagen Consensus Centre to see where people from countries dealing on a day to day basis with the real issues of life - disease, clean water and enough food - rank things in terms of spending priorities. The problem for me with the Global Warming debate is that it takes time and resources away from more important issues that need to be dealt with in the here and now, not in a hundred years' time.
Global Warming also introduces us to the flexible nature of Leftist opinion. We are told that we should believe in the anthropogenic (man made) origin of the current increase in temperature because there's scientific consensus on the matter. Since when is consensus a substitute for science? The general consensus a couple of thousand years ago was that the earth was flat. The consequences for the early nay-sayers were dire. When Einstein was told that a hundred leading scientists had signed a letter saying that his theories were wrong his response was to question why a hundred were needed when only one would do? If consensus settles the matter as inviolable truth then how did the consensus on Iraq's WMD turn out? Nearly everyone on all sides of the political spectrum shared the view that Saddam Hussein had WMD and the odd person that had been in Iraq and studied the matter (rather than those with a political barrow to push) who dissented were given no platform at all. After the fact, the Left changed its position and rolls out the "Bush lied, people died" mantra.
For the Left, feelings and good intentions trump truth. It is therefore OK to exaggerate the impact of Global Warming and to use the most extreme predictions from computer models in order to further the agenda because the intention is good. On the Right, if the outcome is bad then the goodness of intention doesn't even get a look in.
Which leads me to the last point I want to make. Why is there so much bitterness and hysteria in the debate today? Why does this emanate mostly from the Left to the bewilderment of the Right? The answer is that there is a societal civil war going on in the West at the moment between Left and Right. It is being waged in our education institutions, in the media and on the Internet. After the fall of socialism as an acceptable ideology with the end of the Soviet Union its supporters moved into the compatible field of environmentalism in order to continue to promote their politics. Environmentalism offered a respectable cloak to those with totalitarian ideology (Leftism naturally promotes totalitarianism, which will be the subject of a later post) and gave rise to the term 'watermelon' to describe those that are green on the outside and red on the inside. The litany of leftist failures in the 20th century including the 100+ million people dead in socialist countries, the disastrous effect the ban on DDT has had in Africa (millions dead of malaria), the wrongness of Paul Erlich's The Population Bomb, the peak oil crisis, the dishonesty of the heterosexual AIDS crisis, the prediction that the world would run out of essential minerals by the mid-80s and, famously, the consensus in the 1970s that the world was cooling and we were entering another ice age are all examples of the Left's feel-good, morally superior positions that have had either egregious outcomes or been just plain wrong. Does the Left feel any shame? No. Their intentions were good and that's all that matters. There is no accountability.
Global Warming, therefore, is the Left's last chance to impose its will; thus the hysteria. If you question the consensus you are referred to as a Denier, as in Holocaust Denier, and it doesn't get any more evil than that. It is a bitter fight and there are quite a few more years of it to come.