Sunday, January 28, 2007

Awwwww Crap

From today's Hartford Courant: Connecticut considering Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

For those unfamiliar with my position on global warming, let me just say I am a skeptic of global warming politics- that is, I am skeptical of any discussion of climate change that mandates immediate political action. I am a skeptic because beyond the very basics- it seems like it's getting warmer and it seems as though carbon emissions contribute to that warming- there no definitive science out there with which to craft a political solution.

The article describes what amounts to a cap and trade system. The idea is, that in creating a market for global warming pollution, there will be incentives to develop new technologies that are not so harmful to the environment. In some regards it's not a bad idea, as such systems have worked well in other environmental contexts. However, such a system fails global warming on several basic levels.

First, the system as it's described is inherently unfair, as it targets only energy producers. Energy producers produce energy to meet the demands of consumers, yet any cap and trade system ignores this demand end of the equation. Additionally, as we've all been made well aware by the media, cars are another source of carbon emissions, that are usually unaddressed by any of these sorts of plans.

The problem with cars is essentially similar to the demand problem discussed above, although there is a greater disconnect between the producers and the consumers. When it comes to cars, regardless of what the government does to limit the carbon emissions of vehicles produced by the auto industry, people are still free to drive as much as they want. Any way you a cut it, the dude that drives his new hybrid 400 miles a day is contributing more to global warming than the grandma who drives her new H3 50 miles a week.

Of course, I recognize the practical problems with limiting or directly taxing individual use of cars and energy, but if global warming was really the impending catastrophe it's made out to be, why wouldn't a system more along those lines be a better idea.

I realize this is some what nit picky of me- however, my second problem with these sorts of global measures is more wide reaching. Even if these sorts of programs really worked and really did cut down on our emissions in an efficient manner, it would still do absolutely nothing to reduce global carbon emissions. The dirty little secret, the real inconvenient truth has nothing to do with America- it has to do with the poor in the third world. As poor countries industrialize and develop, they're going to pollute more. It's just the natural order of things. Poor countries don't have the money for the state of the art technology we have in America. In order to develop, in order to raise people's standards of livings, these countries are going to pollute, and they're going to contribute greater and greater amounts of carbon emissions to the atmosphere. Whatever is done in the United States ignores the fact that over the next hundred years or so, poor countries and the developing world are going to become the biggest contributors to global warming.

Of course, you don't really hear this discussed, nor do you hear what's going to be done about it- telling Americans to sacrifice a little of our luxury can be made palatable. Telling poor people to remain in poverty will never be politically feasible.

Just one more interesting bit, before I leave this article:

"I'm doing my best to get the environmental world to understand the energy world is part and parcel of the environmental world," McCarthy said. She linked global warming's higher temperatures to the state's summertime electric power and air pollution crises and to the 2003 heat wave in Europe blamed for at least 22,000 deaths."

That's right, it's because of global warming that people died in a heat wave, and global warming is caused by the technology of our modern world. Of course, more technology means things like air conditioning, climate control, and more efficient means of adapting to inhospitable environmental conditions. Ahhhhh, the paradox.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is it assumed that as poorer countries advance they must therefore contribute to pullution and global warming. Given the current market place for energy and it's consumption this is what is happening and will continue to happen.

If we continue to be politcally cautious about the state of global warming we will caution ourselves right out of existence. If you ignore the political rhetic the scientists generally agree that there is a problem (who knows which singular events can be blamed on the GW).

The politicians must have the will to do something about the situation. Sitting back and waiting is a no win for everyone.

PS - isn't being a lawyer (Rules base on Law) sort of the opposite of being a libertarian (let it ride)?

2:27 PM  
Blogger QU 3L said...

I'm not sure I understand the thrust of your first comment- If you're disagreeing with my assertion, the evidence speaks for itself. The New York Times did a story back in December about a sulfur spewing power plant in China that produced some ungodly amount of global warming pollution. The cost of upgrading and replacing such plants is astronomical- we have problems affording such upgrades in the United States. Beyond the question of technology, the third world is going to produce more global warming pollution as they use more power in the everyday lives and as they drive more cars. Just imagine a billion or two more cars in China and India and what that would contribute to global warming.

The point of all my posting on global warming is that there is no scientific consensus on global warming. For one thing, scientists can't tell us definitively how or why climate changes naturally, nor can they tell us how much of our current trend is naturally occurring. Nor can scientists tell us what humanity contributes to global warming or what the future effects of global warming will be . When you read in the paper that sea levels will rise by twelve feet by 2050, you're talking about a hypothesis- there's no consensus for numbers like that. More importantly, there is no discussion of how the costs of dealing with global temperature increases in the future compare with the costs of reducing emissions today.

In my opinion, all this uncertainty precludes any rational policy making. What's the point of blindly implementing a policy if it may well end up hurting more than it helps?

As to your PS- I don't think the idea of being a lawyer is contradictory to the notion of being a libertarian. There are plenty of laws I agree with and many more that I oppose- I think all people, regardless of their political ideology are in that same boat. We're all bound to follow the law and we do what we can to change the laws we disagree with.

7:25 PM  

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