An attempt to think some current questions through:
I've been a green conservative for as long as I can recall. Perhaps my first ecological feelings welled up as a boy when I saw the copses and fields of my rural Sussex neighborhood torn up for new housing developments. The sense of dislocation I felt at seeing familiar places altered, of trees uprooted, ponds drained and woodlands paved was, I realized later, a conservative impulse. I liked the world as it was. It was a home of sorts and I was happy in it. And when it was changed by the forces of market capitalism, forces that seemed utterly indifferent to the human impact of their upheaval, the cultural contradictions of conservatism became much clearer in my mind.
That was a long time ago, and I can appreciate now the parochialism and narrowness of my childhood perspective. But the contradiction - or, perhaps, more accurately the tension - between conservatism and environmentalism endures. You can pet as many huskies as you want, and you can rebrand the Tory party all you want, but green growth is not an easy concept. In practice, it's hard and costly and in a recession, much easier said than done.
In America, there is, alas, some residual and powerful forces on the right that still want to insist that climate change is not real. For myself, I cannot see how an empirical and skeptical review of the data can lead one to the conclusion that warming is a hallucination. And the good news is that, increasingly, the old conservative debate about whether warming is occurring is being replaced by a much more interesting one about what to do about it if it is.
Should we bear the heavy economic and social costs of trying to mitigate it in the teeth of a global depression? Or should we find creative ways to adjust to and live with it and hope that the faster growth of a less green world might be the long-term key to developing the new energy resources and technologies to restrain it?
To be perfectly honest, I'm unsure. But a lack of certainty does not seem to me to be a crippling disadvantage in this debate. For one thing, the scientists are themselves unsure precisely how much warming will occur and what its potential effects could be. If you read the very careful and much hedged IPCC reports, you find that good scientists do not proclaim total disaster with the zeal of Al Gore. They forecast a range of possibilities, with another range of effects. And they freely admit the difficulty of judging which is the likeliest. And economists, at least the good ones, in turn exercize the same sort of empirical caution.