In this week’s congressional primaries in Maryland, incumbent Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger will be challenged by Jeff Morris in the 2nd district. Morris is running on a pledge to “return reason to Congress”, and so sets a clear standard by which he should be evaluated: Is the Morris campaign able to apply basic principles of reason to the important political issues of the day?
Climate change is certainly an important political issue, and Jeff Morris addresses it in his “issues” statements. Writing on the impact of “cap and trade” legislation on levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, Morris declares, “There is not indisputable scientific evidence that US POLICIES alone will reduce carbon inputs into the atmosphere. Adopting this bill as law is a catastrophic position for the USA to take.”
Is this argument reasonable?
Morris claims that a climate bill that regulates carbon emissions would be catastrophic because there is no evidence that proposed climate legislation will alone reduce carbon inputs into the atmosphere. However, this position is both factually incorrect and illogical.
First, lets deal with the logic. Climate change is a global problem, and it’s true that a global response will be required. A global response will consist of many coordinated local and national responses. So, in order for a global response to be successful, a collection of local and national responses will be required. Local and national responses, of the sort represented by the climate legislation that Morris opposes, will have to take place to enable an effective global climate response, even though each particular local or national response will in itself be inadequate.
This situation is akin to a physician prescribing, to treat an infection, a two-week program of antibiotic pills, with two pills taken every day. Taking one pill alone will not defeat the infection, but is part of a larger program that will successfully defeat the infection. Neither the physician nor the patient would know precisely how many antibiotic pills were required to kill the infection, but it would not be reasonable to, for that reason, refuse to take one of the pills. Yet, Morris is proposing just such a course of inaction, and doing it in the name of reason.
Factually, it’s plainly incorrect to state that American climate legislation would not alone create a reduction of carbon emissions. If just one American decided to stop driving a car, or stop smoking cigarettes, that would “reduce carbon inputs”. There’s no scientific question about it. The question isn’t whether reduction of carbon emissions would result, but whether the reduction of carbon emissions would be sufficient. If anything, the doubt about the sufficiency of carbon emission reductions under currently proposed climate legislation should lead Morris to support stronger climate legislation, not to oppose climate legislation completely, as he does.
Jeff Morris may describe himself as the candidate of reason, but his sloppy evaluation of climate legislation shows that he is the master neither of reason nor of the facts upon which reason depends. If Jeff Morris were to successfully unseat Dutch Ruppersberger, Congress could not be expected to become more reasonable as a result.