Entry from October 16, 2009

Every now and then a headline gives you a glimpse inside the mind of the media to compare with the classic of 1997, to a New York Times story, subsequently repeated with variations, by Fox Butterfield: “Crime Rates are Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.” This gave rise to what the great James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal continues to call the Fox Butterfield fallacy — a form of obtuseness caused by liberal assumptions about the world. In this case it is the assumption that falling crime rates and rising rates of incarceration could have nothing to do with one another. Another such moment happened yesterday in — where else? — The New York Times with this gem, to an article by Elisabeth Rosenthal, “The Road to Copenhagen: Biggest Obstacle to Global Climate Deal May Be How to Pay for It.”

Well duh! One shouldn’t be surprised but somehow one is that this is what the average Times reader must consider news. Oh dear. We’ve suddenly realized. No one knows where the money will come from. But no one has ever known where the money will come from during all the time — roughly 20 years now — that we have been agonizing and agitating to do something about global warming, and it never seemed to matter before. Al Gore’s assurance that Global Warming was a moral and not a political issue struck such people with the force of a revelation partly because it liberated them from the necessity of thinking practically about it. Like the Nobel Peace Prize-winning former Vice-President himself in his Oscar-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth, they just assumed that no price could be too high for reducing or eliminating those notorious “greenhouse gases.”

Now they find that this is not the case. As Ms Rosenthal informs us,

As world leaders struggle to hash out a new global climate deal by December, they face a hurdle perhaps more formidable than getting big polluters like the United States and China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: how to pay for the new accord. The price tag for a new climate agreement will be a staggering $100 billion a year by 2020, many economists estimate; some put the cost at closer to $1 trillion. That money is needed to help fast-developing countries like India and Brazil convert to costly but cleaner technologies as they industrialize, as well as to assist the poorest countries in coping with the consequences of climate change, like droughts and rising seas. This financing is an essential part of any international climate agreement, negotiators and scientists say, because developing nations must curb the growth of their emissions if the world is to limit rising temperatures. . . But to date there is no concrete strategy to raise such huge sums. There is not even agreement about which nations should pay or in what proportion.

I guess that’s the hard part, huh? Who would ever have thought it? Lost in the greenies’ dream world, these practitioners of fantasy politics always assumed that those of us who raised objections to the Kyoto Treaty, for example, were simply evil conservatives, getting in the way of the good people merely for the sake of it. “Mean people suck,” they told us in the same confident spirit as “war is not the answer.” Now that they are tasked with turning their dreams into reality, the price tag suddenly becomes a relevant consideration. Maybe they’re being “mean” themselves.

Moreover, we can be about as confident as it is possible to be that so much money will never be paid by the rich countries — or anybody else — to the poor countries because it would be politically impossible or economically ruinous or both. But the Times report depends utterly on pretending we don’t know this, and that finding the money is just the next step in an inevitable process of stopping global warming — another fantasy. As the similar fantasies relating to Obamacare show — and Rich Lowry has a good overview of them today at NRO — an addiction to fantasy seems to be something that liberals just can’t bring themselves to break.

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