Earlier this year, I was playing golf with a guy, my partner in a match against another club. Good player, successful businessman, about 60, father of kids in Ivy League schools. A solid citizen. For some reason we were discussing the weather, and I interjected some global warming worry, as I am wont to do. He replied that the data he sees show that the polar ice caps are actually expanding.
Again, we had a match to win, he was my team-mate; I let it slide as if I didn’t hear. I knew he was a Republican, in a country-club, worry-about-entitlement-spending kind of way. But I ruminated over the comment, mentioning it at dinner to my daughter. I have doubts whether we’ll get enough of a handle on global warming to turn over a temperate planet to our children and grandchildren, whether democracies are even capable of that kind of necessary intra-generational sacrifice of present consumption for the future. Still, it surprised me to see that global-warming deniers have their own set of facts and often give few other indications of being delusional.
This comes to mind after reading this New York Times report — stunning, I thought. And also this by Stephen Walt. I’ve been around a while, and generally understand why opinions on issues go together in a psychological or ideological sense — why liberals are generally liberals across the board, etc. So it doesn’t surprise me that the person I believe has few peers in foreign-policy wisdom in the U.S. right now seems also to be on my global-warming page. But I admit to being a bit at sea about the mechanism by which opinions about the issue are formed. For people like my golf partner, it can’t be as simple as “if Al Gore says it, it must be wrong.” Can it?