Kevin D. Williamson asks the progressives of California to please demonstrate their competence at risk management before exporting their methods world-wide. From Global Warming Guacamole:
[The drought in] California presents the global-warming dispute in miniature. The Left, with the prominent advocacy of President Barack Obama, has argued that the challenge of global warming necessitates a new form of economic organization under political discipline. Never mind, for the moment, that the Left has been arguing for a new form of economic organization under political discipline for more than a century (the crisis changes every generation, but the identical solution endures); consider the actual choice presented by Sternbergh’s avocado. We could embark on a sprawling, unfocused, and unmanageable crusade to cajole and coerce the world — including the not-especially-cajolable gentlemen in Beijing — into reorganizing the entire human race’s means of sustenance in accordance with not especially well-defined atmospheric metrics. Or we could insist that California get its act together on the matter of water infrastructure.
California not only is effectively a single-party state operating under Democratic monopoly, its Democrats are impeccably progressive, almost spotlessly so. The progressives are forever insisting that they are the ones who know how to handle infrastructure projects, that they are the ones who care about them, and that their broader understanding of public goods will contribute to general prosperity. In reality, California has the worst water infrastructure situation in the country, with the EPA in 2013 calculating that the state requires nearly $45 billion in improvements. A more liberal view of California’s real possibilities would identify an even larger deficit. California’s recent lack of precipitation is nature’s doing; its inability to weather the ordinary variations of life on Earth is entirely man-made.
The actual challenges presented by the threat of global warming look a lot more like California’s current situation than Waterworld or The Day After Tomorrow. As a matter of political rhetoric, it is attractive to frame the choice as a matter of affiliation: Cast your lot with the truth-speaking scientists on one side or the oil-addicted pre-Enlightenment goobers on the other. The actual choice is between making a naïve attempt to reorganize the world’s economy — an attempt that certainly will fail — and embarking on a series of discrete, manageable adaptations, such as improving the water-management facilities of millions of people who live, let’s remember, in a desert.
The Left’s potted moral outrage notwithstanding, that isn’t a brief for denial, but a brief for adaptation. And if the Left really believed half as much in global warming as its rhetoric suggests, its leaders would be moving forward with a robust program for adaptation — especially in California, a large and prosperous jurisdiction that is under nearly complete progressive political control.
Instead of making those improvements, what California has in reality experienced under one-party progressive rule is little more than wealth transfers, largely from the private sector to the public sector — which, through its labor unions, dominates California politics — or from private-sector constituencies with low political value to Democrats to private-sector constituencies with high political value to Democrats. The Democrats have been filling up their campaign coffers, not California’s reservoirs.
The same people who saw to their own political and financial interests while shortchanging California’s water infrastructure argue that they should be empowered to act on a global scale in response to global warming. Having failed to deal with the relatively mild problems of California — which has almost everything in the world going for it — they believe themselves ready to take on the hairier challenges of Bangladesh and Sudan.
The global-warming debate is, at its heart, about risk management. Maybe we should let Governor Brown et al. prove that they can make things work in California before we risk taking their methods worldwide.