Sunday, April 15, 2007

My diatribe against the global warming fuss: 10 reasons why I dont care.

1. The only thing capable of pulling the poorest 3,000,000,000 people out of poverty is global economic growth. While there is definitely some room to cut excesses, a lot of anti-warming propositions would neuter the global economy. We already have a high standard of living in the West, so apparently economic stagnation doesn't concern us.

2. Many are suggesting we begin to make the transition to biofuels. Biofuels are derived from crops. What happens when demand for farm products goes through the roof? The price of food goes up. That might be a good thing for Americans. It would be a bad thing for Africans.

3. Al Gore has shown us that one can lead a carbon-neutral lifestyle with the technology we have today. Irrelevant! Humans derive no satisfaction from emitting carbon dioxide (aside from respiration). We get satisfaction from using energy, which happens to be coupled to CO2 release in most cases. Al Gore with his millions has proven that he can be carbon neutral, but he has unfortunately revealed that he cannot cut his energy consumption. In fact, he requires 20 times the energy than the average American.

What does this mean? Al Gore is proof that you can't ask people to reduce their energy consumption. The challenge is to get them energy that doesn't come from buring fossil fuels. The only real option we have here is nuclear power on a much grander scale. Unfortunately, the environmental movement has opposed any expansion of our nuclear power sector. So what, do anti-warming crusaders expect the average American to cut their energy usage while Al Gore uses twenty times the norm? Not going to happen. People need to get serious about nuclear power, or there isn't even a chance!

4. No doubt, there is a lot of things we could do to streamline our energy consumption. More public transit, hybrid cars (nevermind the enormous energy costs in making them, or the environmentally destructive mining process to harvest the minerals for batteries), solar power. These things are at best delaying the inevitable, unless we come up with a miracle source of energy. Don't forget - regardless of what we do in the 1st world, the poor farmer in the Amazon is going to still need to choose whether to feed his family or burn down a forest. It would be awefully pompous for us here in the West to blame him for doing the latter.

5. Speaking of the third world. What if we in the West stopped using fossil fuels tomorrow? The price of oil, gas, etc would plummet, which means that people in the third world could afford to use more of it. The fossil fuels are going to get used, unless we start building nuclear power plants all over the world. Not that we have enough uranium for that sort of thing.

6. Disregarding the fact that we've all been wrong before, there are just too many unknowns with the warming hypothesis. How severe will the warming be? A few degrees might even be pleasant. How long do we have? If the answer is a few hundred or thousand years, who cares? Is it too late to stop it? Nancy Pelosi suggests that "the next ten years are crucial". That is total speculation on her part. Nobody could possibly know the consequences of inaction over a ten year period. In fact, its far more likely that we either have many years yet to turn the process around, or that its already too late to reverse what we've started. In either case, the panic is unwarranted.

7. Have people forgotten how policy in this country works? We are a reactive society, and we always have been. You would think that something as obvious as putting enough lifeboats on a cruise liner would be obvious, but it took the Titantic and 2000 dead to get it in our heads. You'd think that some airport security would be a no-brainer, but it took 9/11 to get that one going. You'd think that if levees are the only thing protecting your city from the ocean, maybe make sure they work? But Katrina came and went, and now we know better. I'm not usually a pessimist, but lets face it, we will never do anything serious about climate change until an iceberg slaps us in the face. Its fad, and it will pass. When's the last time you heard about bird flu? That threat is still lurking, and is definitely a bigger threat than global warming. The last serious flu pandemic killed 100 million people in 1920. Think about how many more people there are today, and how much faster everyone travels. Another pandemic could kill hundreds of millions, and it could happen next year.

8. Here is another reason to be pessimistic about countering global warming. The two biggest CO2 emitters, the USA and China, will be affected the least by warming, according to climate models. Actually, due to warming China may have increased productivity. Hmmm. Two hugely bloated bureaucracies face an enormous challenge with little incentive. Yes, lets be optimistic!

9. What species are we talking about here? We are talking about homo sapiens! Name a climate that we cant survive in. Name a situation we cant adapt to. Some of us, thousands of years ago, decided it would be a great idea to live on the ice caps in igloos, and others thought that the desert looked like fun. We are the most adaptable single species that this planet has ever produced. Sure a little climate change might shake things up, wash away a city here or there, cause a bunch of people to move inland a few miles. It'll likely happen over decades. We'll survive. Civilization will survive. Our cities are dirty anyway.

10. Humanity faces plenty of problems for which we can develop strategies that will actually produce tangible results. The third world continues to be ravaged by diseases like malaria, and yet we continue to outlaw DDT. Environmentalists will throw a fit when one discusses usage of DDT, but unfortunately I have moral qualms about valuing the lives of animals above humans. If it were their children dying of malaria, they might think differently. Hunger is still a major problem. The population explosion is an issue, and its a problem with only one cure - economic growth. Finally, a Middle Eastern nuclear arms-race is right up there at the top of my list of things we should be avoiding.

In short, why spend so much time and money, on solutions that may not work - for a problem that might not even be one?

After all of that, one might be surprised to learn that publicly, I'm to some extent supportive of the anti-warming campaign. I would like to see a great reduction in our use of petroleum in particular. There wouldn't *be* a war on terror if we weren't reliant on gasoline. I'm sick of American dollars going to Saudi Arabia, funding the most intolerant (Wahhabi) branch of Islam there is. I'm sick of American dollars funding Hugo Chavez' Boliviarian Socialism. Thus I would support some 'anti global warming' measures for purely geopolitical reasons.

We have the solutions right in front of us. The most obvious as I mentioned is nuclear power. Another fantastic solution has been put forth by economist Greg Mankiw: The Pigou Club. Alas, not a single politician will sign up. I really am an optimist - just read my Iraq posts if you don't believe me. But not about all of this.

No comments: