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Gutting Democracy to Save the Planet


According to the editors of a prestigious magazine, Obama should pull a fast one. Even though he barely mentioned climate change on the campaign trail, they think it should now be his foremost concern.


I started paying close attention to the anti-global warming movement partly because I’m a civil libertarian. I believe in free speech. I believe in democracy.

I don’t care how special or urgent someone thinks their cause is, if they’re prepared to toss democratic traditions out the window they have no hope of winning my support. Rather, I consider them dangerous. I regard it as my civic duty to alert my fellow citizens to this danger.

Recently the editors of a magazine associated with a US institution of higher learning published an open letter to President Obama. The headline reads: Dear Mr. President: Time to Deal with Climate Change. This is the subheading:

In a letter to President Obama, the editors of MIT Technology Review argue that addressing climate change must take top priority in the next four years.

There are some surprisingly sensible – and honest – statements in this letter. For instance:

Renewable energy sources, like solar and advanced biofuels, are simply not yet ready to compete with fossil fuels. Solar power, for example, still generates less than 1 percent of our nation’s electricity and, under most circumstances, remains much more expensive than electricity generated from fossil fuels.

But overall this is a profoundly immoral and anti-democratic screed. A few months after the end of an election campaign in which the phrase “climate change” wasn’t mentioned once during three televised debates between the two presidential contenders, the editors of a magazine ensconced in an ivory tower think fighting climate change “must take top priority.”

These people are telling President Obama to pull a fast one. They don’t care that climate change was all but absent from his election campaign. It doesn’t matter to them that, during those long months in which he had every opportunity to explain his priorities, philosophy, and values to voters, Obama didn’t for one moment suggest that climate change was his over-riding concern.

These people are saying that election campaigns and election platforms are meaningless. They think it’s perfectly OK to be mislead voters.

They’re telling him that the way to be a hero is to say you’re concerned about X on the campaign trail and then, after one is elected president of the United States, to announce that Y is actually going to be the focus of your attention.

Heaven save us from magazine editors.


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