Can you balance right and wrong?

For your average closet climate change denier or otherwise-stuck-in-the-mud politician, the Balance is a great weapon to deploy against evidence-based policy. “Of course we want to tackle climate change”, the argument goes, “but we must strike a balance between this and [insert contradictory aim here]”.

If they understand the science of climate change, and have read the work of the Committee for Climate Change, they’d quickly realise they were asking for a balance between right and wrong, or more correctly and plainly for the wrong policy; you can’t really find a middle ground.

So lately we see lots of senior Tories running this trope in an attempt to rein in the green public face of the Conservative Party (despite the party demoting most of its green lights to the back benches). Riding the resurgence of denial in the Telegraph and Spectator, these MPs are boldly defending their right to ignorance. Three years after Stern put a conservative estimate on the cost of unchecked climate change at 20% of GDP, they decry mitigation efforts costing 2-5% of GDP which might “see the whole economy destroyed”, and call for a Balance to be struck.

It’s not just the neophyte Tories, either. In a London Assembly meeting today, Labour member Navin Shah joined the motorist lobby in pressing for weakened car parking controls in outer London. We need, he suggested, to strike a better balance between the needs of business and sustainable transport. Not the most exciting policy, I’ll warrant. But half an hour reading up on transport emissions would convince a moderately brainy 10 year old that we need to significantly reduce car usage in outer London; a further half hour would be enough to grasp that more car parking will do exactly the opposite. Promoting a balance between sustainable transport and business is nonsensical in the long term; the only option is to promote business within the constraint of sustainable transport policy.

It all brings to mind Ben Goldacre‘s rants against “humanities politicians and journalists” who have no proper training in the sciences or scientific method. Those politicians that want to put politics and economics before basic scientific evidence could take a lesson from Cnut, one of the wiser politicians to have graced this country.

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  1. […] I was beginning to wonder if the BBC wasn’t about to go back to it’s old damaging balance position. It hasn’t exactly won the public’s affection over its stance on giving the BNP […]

    10th December 2009

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