After a brief Twitter discussion with Ted Nordhaus (who authored the article I wrote about here) I came across another of his recent articles. It’s about Climate Hawks’s revealed preferences. The basic suggestion is that Climate Hawks don’t really behave in a way that is consistent with what they appear to be suggesting. If we really are on the verge of some kind of catastrophe, then shouldn’t they be taking more drastic action than they currently are? In not doing so,
[their] actions are telling everyone not to be so terribly alarmed.
My own views on this keeps changing, so I thought this might be an interesting discussion point. I’ll make a few general comments, though.
Some of this is a bit strawman-like. I don’t think that climate hawks necessarily think that we’re on the verge of catastrophe, or that addressing climate change will require massive changes to our lifestyles; in many cases I think they simply regard it as an important issue that should be addressed, sooner rather than later. This is also a largely a global problem that requires collective action; individual actions will, by themselves, have little impact.
I also think that some of this rhetoric is just a convenient excuse. If some people who think it’s important, don’t behave as if it really is, then it can’t be that important. If it does turn out to be important, then you can blame them for not behaving in a sufficiently convincing manner.
It’s also not obvious that it would make much difference. This is dominated, I think, by identity politics. Those who don’t identify with climate hawks will remain unconvinced however they behave.
On the other hand, people should behave in a way that is consistent with what they’re saying. Also, maybe there are people on the sidelines who would be more convinced if climate hawks did behave in a way that appeared more consistent with their rhetoric. So, the issue that I can’t quite get my head around is whether or not those who regard climate change as an important issue should be behaving in some way that makes this more obvious. If they do so, maybe others will be more convinced. On the other hand, if they do behave in some substantially different way, that might then imply that we can’t address this without changing our lifestyles, which could itself be counter-productive. However, maybe we can’t address this without changing our lifestyles. If so, shouldn’t those who regard this as an issue worth addressing lead they way? Thoughts?
WMC has a post: Climate chickenhawks.