Friday, April 25, 2008

rash decision-making: environment edition

Well, here's a prime example of "moralized" decision-making where the perceived importance of global warming/climate change made it seemingly every intelligent person's duty to support all initiatives aimed at limiting future warming. Al Gore, among others, pimped the ethanol hard -- which makes sense, since it has a ready-made farming lobby that loves subsidies -- and now biofuels are making it harder for poor people to eat.

Now, I'll be forthright, I am not convinced that man has had, or can have a significant impact on the atmosphere, though clearly he has a direct impact on the Earth's ecological systems (hence, methinks the environmental lobby might be a little lost...). Still, given the potential catastrophe if I am wrong, I am open to efforts to curb our atmospheric impact. Of course, if you think it's the US that's holding back environmental progress, you're kidding yourself. Sure, Europe makes a lot of noise, but they still love dirty energy just as much as the next American. Of course, all this is dwarfed by the two big-boned elephants in the room -- China and India. The US makes a convenient focal point for environmental, anti-corporate ire, but with weakened prestige and limited influence, I'm not quite sure what the US can do besides parrot the party line and flap its wings obnoxiously.

Yet many still think we should be trying every lame-brained environmental strategy lobbyists dream up, wasting precious political capital, and in this case, the meager amount of food of the poorest people in the world.

Also, if you'd like a summary that shows why I am still straddling the skeptic line, click here.


Lloyd said...

See Massachusetts v. EPA

Not that I'm necessarily a believer but I think the battleground for whether global warming is real has been lost where it matters.

Publius said...

True, but I still think the arguments put forth in the linked blog are relevant:

"There is no doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and it is pretty clear that CO2 produced by man has an incremental impact on warming the Earth’s surface.

However, recent warming is the result of many natural and man-made factors, and it is extraordinarily difficult to assign all the blame for current warming to man.

In turn, there are very good reasons to suspect that climate modelers may be greatly exaggerating future warming due to man. Poor economic forecasting, faulty assumptions about past and current conditions, and a belief that climate is driven by runaway positive feedback effects all contribute to this exaggeration.

As a result, warming due to man’s impacts over the next 100 years may well be closer to one degree C than the forecasted six to eight. In either case, since AGW supporters tend to grossly underestimate the cost of CO2 abatement, particularly in lost wealth creation in poorer nations, there are good arguments that a warmer but richer world, where aggressive CO2 abatement is not pursued, may be the better end state than a poor but cooler world."

Alex said...

While some of the science on global warming might still be "fuzzy," and I'm personally skeptical that whether all the science is “definitive” means that we should, therefore, do nothing, the dichotomy posed here of a carbon-based, dirty (i.e., warmer) but rich economy vs. a cleaner (i.e. colder) but poorer one is clearly a false one. Look up the National Apollo Alliance, a coalition of labor, environmental activists, environmental justice advocates, business leaders, etc, who have a plan for the US to invest $10 billion over the next 10 years in renewable energy, create 1 million high wage jobs, and sever the US's dependency on foreign oil. While this is a plan coming out of the US (a very rich country, obviously, that has benefitted from decades of polluting growth), this is not a plan that cannot be mimicked, followed, or improved-upon by other nations. China and India have millions (?) of poor people, but they also have a huge number of educated people, their economies are growing at a clip, and there are other global actors who believe climate change is real and want to help bring about the economic changes necessary to allow this growth to continue, but under a new paradigm. Dirty growth has been “great” to the West for over 150 years, and of course carbon-based capitalism has pulled millions out of poverty, but it also left millions impoverished and externalized its costs onto the already down trodden all over the world. The Apollo Alliance, and proposals like it, offers a new, viable way. It's time to consign the false dichotomy of dirty riches and clean poverty to the box of myths where it belongs.

Publius said...

Nice post.

I will have to take some time and review the national apollo alliance, as I am unfamiliar with them.

My initial questions are: What would be the goal of their plan? How will they be able to assess if they are making progress/if they should continue/double their efforts, etc.? What would be the byproducts of their plan? Is there *ANY* downside?

How else could the money be used? Is there any other evil that could be marginalized? How confident are you that you will marginalize the environmental evil, versus other potential targets.

I know these people see the environment as going awry, and needing someone to intervene. But I want to be sure that we have the resources and the plan of action to make a measurable impact.

If the best available plan and resources isn't good enough to make a measurable impact, then perhaps we should take a lesson from Lao Tzu, get our house in order, and bide our time.

Charging into the fray with a half-assed plan and no resources just gets you killed -- or more accurately, lets a lot of people in poor countries die.

NOTE: That does not mean *DO NOTHING*; it means make preparations, explore the issue more ourselves and win allies (China, India) so that we might have the resources necessary to make a difference once we come up with a workable plan.

Publius said...

And wait!

It's now global cooling decade!

So if it's colder over the next 10 years, we've now explained away that inconvenient truth.