What do the Internet and global warming have in common? Neither was invented by Al Gore.
Gores deep involvement in publicizing the dangers of global warming has been a two-edged sword. On the one hand, his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," has brought the issue to the attention of a mass audience that otherwise might not have given it more than a few minutes of thought.
On the other hand, it was inevitable that his high-profile association would give the issue an ideological tinge that does not serve the broader public interest.
Global warming skeptics -- who, by the way, hate being called skeptics -- can take advantage of that. By demagoguing human-caused global warming as a figment of Gores imagination, they can poison the well for fence-sitting conservatives who otherwise might be persuaded to consider the risks of climate change and the tangible benefits that developing cleaner energy technologies could deliver.
Forget Gore. Remember Burke and Kirk Its time for conservatives to forget about Gore and examine climate change in the light of conservative traditions.
Start with prudence, which conservative founding father Edmund Burke called the cardinal conservative virtue.
Burke likened society to an intergenerational contract among past, present and future generations. The present generation is duty-bound to protect our inheritance from the past on behalf of those generations yet to come. We are obligated to be good stewards of the inheritance with which we have been entrusted.
When a sober assessment of evidence shows that our inheritance faces serious risks, prudence dictates that we act.
Talk radio blowhards masquerading as conservatives loudly dismiss such sentiments as pantywaist liberalism, and call for Americans to indulge in energy-intensive consumption as if there were no tomorrow.
That sort of advice sounds a great deal like the libertine counterculturists from the 1960s, whose mantra was, "if it feels good, do it."
A corollary conservative virtue is taking responsibility for our actions. As Russell Kirk, a leading light of 20th century conservative thought, put it, "Every right is married to a duty, every freedom owes a corresponding responsibility."
Kirk, by the way, was one of Ronald Reagans favorite authors.
It Really Is the Economy, Stupid
Finally, there is a practical political reason for conservatives to quit letting their dislike of Gore cloud their vision. There are signs, as revealed in recent polling and campaign contribution trends, that the Republican Party is losing its grip on business-oriented voters.
While those voters have many complaints about todays GOP, one is that knuckle-dragging on climate issues is causing regulatory uncertainty and stifling opportunities to grow clean energy technology markets.
There are compelling reasons for conservatives to care more than Gore and get out in front of the climate issue.
Lowering oil dependence would be good for security.
Developing new energy sources would boost the economy.
Ceding the issue to liberals is dumb politically and an irresponsible abdication of leadership.
And, good stewardship is every conservative's moral obligation.
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