Sunday, June 15, 2008

Libertarians and global warming

Libertarians and global warming

John Quiggan analyzes the bizarre libertarian reactions to global warming.


James M. Jensen II said...

This reminds me of a letter I ran across from a disgusted libertarian to an anarchist mag on the hypocrisy of the LP. I think his conclusion is applicable to this situation: they're frauds who care more about Big Business than their principles.

(The server's having trouble at the moment, but it's still accessible via the Wayback Machine and Google's cache.)

Climate Chaos said...

It would be better to read the LP positions and then a couple of the leading libertarian think tanks. The article really shows a lack of knowledge

Mike Huben said...

Ah, a vague denunciation by somebody who at the top of his blog writes:

"Our world is full of misinformation driven by political agendas...."

Entirely missing the point that global warming denial is financed by economic agendas.

Also at the top of his blog:

Junk Science
Cato Environmental
Heartland Institute
AEI Climate
Global Warming Org"

It would be difficult to find a better list of climate denialists than these organizations, which receive large amounts of money as part of the public relations programs that industry sponsors to protect their business-as-usual.

I recommend that you argue directly with John Quiggan. He's dealt with your ilk extensively.

Mark Plus said...

I've wondered what would have happened if scientists had framed global warming science (GWS) as "climate control technology" or words to that effect. If they had pitched the science as a new tool to increase man's dominion over nature, I suspect that the opposing ideologues would have changed sides. Would conservatives and libertarians then support GWS the way they've embraced nuclear power, pesticides and genetically modified foods (even though I know libertarians who buy organic produce)?

After all, what self-respecting advanced capitalist civilization wouldn't want the technology to control our planet's climate?

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

On this issue, I'm a skeptic all around. I don't see that 6 billion humans couldn't have an impact on the Earth's climate. I also don't see how people who assert that the Earth is warming and that humans are the cause can be so certain. What bothers me most about the discussion of human-induced global climate change is the consistent alignment by political orientation on a matter of (theoretically) verifiable empirical fact.

Where I live, there's a 24-hour warming and cooling cycle and a 365-day warming and cooling cycle. Solar astronomers tell us that there's an 11-year sunspot cycle, and longer-period cycles caused by precession of the Earth's axis, changes in the angle of the axiis with respect to the plane of the ecliptic, and changes in the eccentricity of the Eart's orbit. Additionally, aperiodic events such as meteor strikes, volcanism, shifting continent orientation, and mountain-building across wind currents will all affect the distribution and retention of solar heat. How the limited and unreliable current climate data allow generalization of any trend with confidence, I don't understand (note, a sneer is not an explanation). Steven Gould wrote that we have more to fear from a new ice age than from global warming.

I would be more inclined to accept the case if advocates for the view that human-induced climate change is real and serious acted as though they believed it: investigate methods to sequester CO2 in topsoil or ocean sediment, as Freeman Dyson proposes, and endorse nuclear power generation.

I am neither a libertarian nor a Libertarian. I part company with my libertarian friends practically over environmental protection and population control. Eventually, expanding human numbers must have some impact on Earth's climate.

I part company philosophicaly over the concept of "rights", especially property rights. Customs, law, and morality evolve.

Many libertarians exhibit reflexive suspicion over the global warming issue. To me this seems justified by the above considerations and the convenient fit between the supposed urgency of the issue and the political implications (if CO2 sequestration is off the table).

(Huben): "He's dealt with your ilk extensively."

People don't normaly appreciate being addressed as a type. And why do people use "ilk" as though it's somehow worse than "type" or "kind"?

James M. Jensen II said...

@malcolm: I agree that the ability of humans to effect the earth on such a scale does seem incredible, but then so does the idea that time can pass at different rates for different objects - but that's the theory of relativity.

The political partisanship on the issue is, so far as I know, a pretty distinctly American thing. The American Right is also pretty much the last political side in the Western world that still coddles Creationists and other fundamentalist Christians.

I admit that I cannot judge the issue on scientific grounds. But when I look at who's saying what, I quickly find that I have much more reason to trust those who say we are causing the warming than those who say we aren't. While there is a distinct political aftertaste to anthropogenic climate change, it's still the opinion of many experts and scientific organizations.

Meanwhile, the denialists are acting very much like Creationists: camping outside the mainstream, holding themselves accountable only to each other, and pitching their arguments to people not qualified to judge the issue. They use every argument they can, including arguments that have long been answered, in what strikes me as an attempt to dazzle and bewilder their nonexpert audience. And their fallback argument is always that there is a conspiracy against them based on political bias.

So whatever my reservations, I think the safer and more rational choice is to accept the idea that we are causing warming and to support action against it.

Malcolm Kirkpatrick said...

James, Thanks for a considered response. I'll dispute only two of your points:
1) I don't consider planet-wide, human-induced climate effects "incredible". Quite the opposite. I began my last comment (one sentence in) with: "I don't see that 6 billion humans couldn't have an impact on the Earth's climate." That is, I accept the possibility. As human numbers grow, some impact is inevitable.

Seems to me, erring on the side of caution implies a policy aimed to get human numbers down to somewhere around .5 to 1.5 billion over a few hundred years (I'm not "pro-choice"). This would reduce the human impact and allow mass migration toward the equator in the event that global warming theorists have miscalculated and we're in for another ice age.

2) Human-induced global warming may be the opinion of many experts, but so is the agnostic position the opinion of many experts. All sides pitch their views to an audience incapable of evaluating the evidence. That's required in democratic politics. One aspect of the debate which inclines me against the "it's happening and it's serious" view is the thuggish tactics of that position's advocates, such as editing out contrary claims of reputable climate expertts from Wikipedia, and mis-reporting the "consensus" of articles from per-reviewed journals (Naomi Oreskes (sp=?)). If they had a good case, why lie?

miggs said...

What a lot of libertarians don't realize (if they care) is that by simply opening the energy market in the right way, we could vastly reduce power costs and greenhouse pollution at the same time. I’m associated with Recycled Energy Development, which produces power through a highly efficient process called combined heat & power — low emissions, low cost. Only problem is that regulations protect monopoly utilities, making it hard for more efficient options to emerge. Loosen the restrictions -- or create a true cap-and-trade system that rewards clean power -- and you’ll see a lot less global warming pollution.