Friday, April 06, 2007

What The Response To Global Warming Says About Us

Hearing the responses to the Supreme Court's global warming decision this week from academics, media personalities, and fellow students has gotten the juices in my brain flowing yet again. But rather than focus on the Court's decision or any of the usual rigmarole, I wanted to comment on what proposed solutions to the "problem of global warming" says about us as a people.

Remember, the Supreme Court case was not about the regulation of all greenhouse gas emissions, only the emissions from new automobiles. Most of the regulation sought in regard to auto emissions are in regards to new cars, not cars that are already on the road. And when it comes to other sources of greenhouse gas emissions- such as coal fired power plants and other energy producers- proposed regulations are geared at the producers of energy, not the users. Now why is this important? Well notice where regulations designed to curb the effects of global warming are aimed- at industry and at energy producers. Regulations are not aimed at you and me- they are not aimed at individual Americans.

No one is proposing that the amount of driving we do be limited. No one is proposing the amount of energy we use in our homes be limited. And why not? Because even though such laws would actually be more effective and combating global warming, they are far too draconian to be politically feasible. Quite simply, we wouldn't put up with such constraints on our freedom.

So instead we look to regulate the auto industry and energy producers. These sorts of laws do take away our freedom, but they do so in a far more indirect way. Maybe the types of cars we use (or light bulbs for that matter) may be restricted, but our use of what we can still purchase is not restricted. Unfortunately, we seem more and more willing to accept limitations on our choices as consumers.

The fact that we are generally unwilling to accept limitations on our personal energy uses and behavior indicate how much the global warming hysteria and much environmentalism is more about feeling good than actually accomplishing anything. The fact of the matter is that man-made global warming is caused by human activity, and until better and cheaper technology can be developed, halting the spread of man-made global warming can only be achieved by a decrease in human activity. Older cars and older power plants tend to produce more greenhouse gas emissions than newer cars and newer plants. And who tends to have older cars? Poor people. Who tends to rely on older power plants for energy? Poor people and poor countries for that matter.

For the global warming fanatics out there, what do you say to the billions of Chinese and Indians who may be able to afford cars in the next 50 years? What do you say to them when the only cars they are able to afford can't meet the emission standards we want here in the United States? Of course, this is why global warming rhetoric tends to focus on the developed world and not on people living in third-world or near third-world conditions.

As I mentioned, the interesting thing about proposed global warming laws are how divorced such laws are from individual energy consumption. People like the idea of "doing something" about global warming, yet the same people are loathe to consider jailing or even just fining those individuals who produce greenhouse gas emissions at "too great" a level. Some of us can deal with being told what light bulbs to buy, but the idea of taxing energy as to double or triple the cost as a means of encouraging conservation is frowned upon.

Following his Oscar win, Al Gore has made news win with the "carbon offsets" he has purchased in order to compensate for his use of energy. This is indicative of the response to global warming. The rich will always have the means to maintain their lifestyles, which means that either the brunt of global warming regulation will be felt by the poor, or global warming regulations will have no real effects.


Post a Comment

<< Home