Palin: Shun science’s ‘politicized agenda’

One of the perks of political rock star-dom is that you get to write pretty much whatever you want and the nation’s leading newspapers will publish it. Take Sarah Palin: Judging from The Washington Post’s op-ed page, she’s now one of the country’s top experts on climate change. In July, The Post devoted valuable ink and inches to her musings on Congress’ “cap and tax” plan. This time around, she tosses a treatise on Copenhagen our way.

Marc Ambinder’s already done us the favor of a point-by-point takedown of her column — which comes to the forceful conclusion, “The president should boycott Copenhagen” — so I’ll limit my commentary to two quick additional thoughts.

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First, the column uses the words “agenda” and “politicized” three times each (not to mention variants thereof) in describing the work of the world’s foremost environmental scientists. And the question that always enters my mind is, what exactly is their agenda? What could well-educated and respected scientists hope to gain from a massive conspiracy that, in Palin’s opinion, will unleash untold economic harm on the populace while providing no benefits in return? Do they hope for prestige? (If so, Palin would likely answer, it hasn’t worked, since they’ve brought their entire field to what she calls a “tipping point” — in a bad way.) Or perhaps jobs for their friends in the Chinese alternative energy industry? (A potentially more rational argument, except that I’ve never heard anyone draw these ties.) Seriously, I’m scratching my head.

And second, my favorite two lines of the column:

[W]e can’t say with assurance that man’s activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs.

So it’s possible that anthropogenic climate change is real, but even so, the economic costs of doing something to stop it are much greater than the potential benefits. Even if these benefits include saving hundreds of millions of coast-dwelling people from the ravages of rising sea levels and protecting world civilization as we know it? Can those really be “far outweighed” by lower energy costs, even if we accept Republicans’ wildly inflated (and refuted) estimate that a cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon emissions could set every American family back by $3,100 a year?

If you give her credit for nothing else, you can’t say Sarah Palin doesn’t have the power to spark a lively debate.

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Aaron Wiener

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