Is there a Jewish responsibility to fight climate change? No! I don't think there's a responsibility for anyone to do that. For one thing, it would presume climate change is something new and totally due to fossil fuels, rather than to natural causes, and that we can control it by eliminating fossil fuels. Climate change has happened throughout human history. The core problem is the assumption that human beings and fossil fuels now play the dominant role in climate change, that we can somehow control the climate, and that what we're facing right now is unprecedented and cataclysmic. But when you compare the predictions with what's going on in the real world, and what's been going on for millions of years, you recognize that we aren't seeing anything new or any of the kinds of catastrophes some people are claiming.
We're being told we have to eliminate the fossil fuels that are 82 percent of America's energy, and switch to biofuels, wind and solar--which have their own human rights, environmental, even child labor problems. I don't think we can do that. Health and living standards didn't start improving until well into the 1800s, when we started using coal and oil. We are being told we have to accept major government interference in every aspect of our lives, and tell the most destitute families on the planet--in Africa and Asia--that they can improve their quality of life only to the extent that they can do it with wind and solar technologies. Some say those technologies are powerful enough, and that they're clean, green and sustainable, but they're really not.
What Jewish principles should be governing our policy choices? Tikkun olam is the principle everyone cites. But tikkun olam works both ways. If you assume tikkun olam means fighting man-made climate change, and we implement all these systems but they end up trashing our economy and rolling back our living standards, and people in the Third World have to go on burning dung and breathing the polluted fumes, and we're telling them they can only have enough power for a one-cubic-foot refrigerator and a light bulb in their hut--is that tikkun olam?
Jews historically have been really good at analyzing things. That's been key to our survival. When we were prohibited from certain livelihoods, we found new ones. All of that is part of Jewish culture--being able to analyze and innovate. Now we're being told not to think about this--to just assume that what some say about catastrophic climate...