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Why Climate Change Should be a Conservative Issue

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From flickr.com/photos/24662369@N07/8145406407/: The Passage of Sandy
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The following piece has run as an op/ed in newspapers in my conservative area of Virginia. My wife, April Moore, has been running for state senate in this area, and climate change is one of the issues she feels most passionately about. Her opponent in this week's election is a right-wing incumbent who has been dismissive of climate change and obstructive of efforts to meet that challenge. The district -- located in the conservative Shenandoah Valley -- generally runs 70-30 Republican.

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The word "conservative" means something different today than it used to.

Conservatives have traditionally understood the importance of stability--and the dangers of disrupting the established order. They considered it a responsibility to preserve their heritage and pass it down intact to the next generation.

Conservatives have been the guardians of tradition because they saw that what our forebears created is a great achievement, built with difficulty over time.

They understood that it is harder to improve on the order handed down to us than many people of a more liberal mindset realize. Disrupting the existing order tends to be dangerous, unless it is done with great care and wisdom.

This fundamental conservative insight, which I respect, applies not just to our cultural heritage but also to the natural order on which all life on earth depends. Destabilizing any part of that natural order--including the planet's climate system -- creates dangerous disorder.
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All life on earth is adapted to the environment as it has been. Sudden environmental change can only be destructive. If we destabilize the earth's climate, the havoc we create will adversely affect the lives of our children and grandchildren.

As a wise conservative would know, one form of disorder fosters other kinds. Already, we can see -- in the Syrian Civil War -- how disorder in our climate system can generate disorder in the international political system.

The whole Syrian crisis has its roots in a drought that struck Syria's farmland -- a drought that's part of the growing pattern of extreme weather unleashed by the disruption of the earth's climate. This drought drove hordes of people off the land and created chaos that led to war.

The Syrian conflict has generated the migration crisis of this summer, which is putting a great strain on the nations of Europe. The disorder in Syria has also fostered the emergence of ISIS, and opened the door to the unwelcome intrusion of the Russian military.

We are still in the beginning stages of the destabilization of our climate, and international political disorder threatens to get much worse. Imagine how dangerous the world will be for our children and grandchildren if the international order is torn apart by perhaps even a dozen simultaneous conflicts like the Syrian Civil War.
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And it is not only such international disorder that threatens their future.

" Food may well become scarce.
" Important coastal lands will certainly be submerged beneath rising seas.
" Fresh water may be hard to come by.
" Many more species will disappear forever in a wave of what is already being called "The Sixth Extinction."

Unlike previous waves of extinction -- precipitated by collisions with asteroids or massive volcanic activity -- this one will be caused by one of earth's species: humankind.

Our religious tradition tells us that we are the only creatures that possesses knowledge of good and evil. We humans are the ones who are required to make moral choices. And now -- virtually all the world's climate experts agree --we are morally obligated to take action against further disruption of the earth's climate.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
 

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