Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Reflections

Wednesday was Earth Day, which is perhaps the least observed event on the calendar. It is supposed to be a call for action, an alarm reminding us that our Earth is delicate, sustainability is good, and all the rest of the environmentalist clichés. In reality, the only people who celebrate it are eccentric environmentalists and people who look at their calendar, say “hey, it’s Earth Day!” and then forget about it.

Even if no one pays attention to Earth Day, though, it’s lessons are still worth thinking about. Earth Day is a holiday invented and promoted by environmentalists, and the loaded label “environmentalist” sometimes obscures the substance of what they say. Conservatives usually oppose environmentalism, while liberals usually support it, both sides almost always without thinking.

The most pressing issue for environmentalists, of course, is global warming. Liberals, proving that perhaps Al Gore’s infamous condescension may be justified at times, simply accept that man made global warming is a threat, and that something must be done immediately. Most of them are willing to wait for government regulations, while the more enthusiastic and asinine try to “do their part” by performing useless penances like recycling or taking cold showers.

Conservatives, on the other hand, reject global warming as impulsively as liberals embrace it. To them, climate change is a hoax designed to let the government into their wallets and lives.

Conservatives are partially right, but mostly wrong here. Global warming is real, and humanity is causing it. Virtually every climate scientist agrees that that is true. Unless there is some massive conspiracy to promote global warming, or the science is incredibly wrong, global warming does exist.

How to stop it is the tricky part. In 1998, almost every industrialized country—with the rather notable exception of the United States—signed the Kyoto Protocols, which put limits on carbon emissions. Then all those countries ignored the Protocols and emitted as much carbon as they wanted.

The industrialized world couldn’t implement the Kyoto Protocols. It would take twenty-five Kyoto Protocols to make a significant dent in carbon emissions. If humanity can’t be bound by the rules it has now, could it ever hope to follow rules twenty-five times as stringent?

Even if it could, it wouldn’t matter anyway. China didn’t sign the Kyoto Protocols either, and their economy is a) growing rapidly, and b) based largely on coal burning plants. China would never dream of slowing its economy for environmental reasons, and won’t reach a stage where they could consider going carbon neutral for several decades yet. If the Western world decides to sabotage their economies in order to save the earth, other countries will pick up the slack. (India hasn’t signed the Protocols either).

Barack Obama wants to make the United States do its part by implementing a cap and trade plan where companies and individuals can buy and trade carbon credits. This plan will fail. It would severely hurt the economy (everyone agrees that you simply don’t raise taxes in a recession), would destroy what is left of American manufacturing, and wouldn’t help the earth much anyway because China and India would keep pumping out carbon dioxide.

The Maldives are a tiny island nation that will be one of the first affected by global warming. They are barely above sea level, and any change in sea levels would flood them. The Maldives’ president, Mohamed Nasheed, has announced that he will set aside an investment fund, so that his nation can buy a new country if the worst happens.

That kind of thinking should be America’s answer to climate change too. Global warming is happening, and there is no practical way to stop it. The U.S. should invest its resources in preparing for a warmer world, not in futilely trying to prevent the inevitable.


At April 23, 2009 at 6:11 AM , Blogger Beth said...

Can I add your final paragraph to my Earth Day posting? Although I am not sure if people can handle such a reasonable comment.

At April 23, 2009 at 6:22 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

In rebutting your charge: "Global warming is real, and humanity is causing it."
The global temperatures have not risen since 1998. Additionally, we don't have enough of a historical record on global temperatures to make a factual statement or assessment as to what constitutes the "normal" global temperature. What is more, the "models" as it were are inherently flawed as has been pointed out on a number of occasions. Such "flaws" have included omitting wind circulation as a factor, the jet stream, et al.

Additionally, when the models are reverse engineered, the results that they produce show further evidence of these flaws.

As for credibility on this "issue", we are often referred to James Hansen of NASA fame. However, James Hansen himself has admitted to overplaying or hyping the subject to get policy makers to act.

Consider this statement from Hansen in his own document called “Can We Defuse the Global Warming Time Bomb?” [published in the journal Natural Science] in August of 2003.

Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue, and energy sources such as "synfuels," shale oil and tar sands were receiving strong consideration.What I find to be most alarming with respect to this issue is the "solutions" to resolving this "crisis". It is no mere coincidence that the apparent solutions are an attempt at command and control by a governmental body wrapped up into a neat little package called mother earth.

Can we be better stewards of the environment? Can we be more responsible with our energy consumption? Can we embrace and explore newer, cleaner, and more efficient energy technologies?

The answer to those and many others is a resounding YES.

However, I would caution that we do not need a government mandate to do it. Free Market principles can and do work if we allow them to.

We didn't need government mandates and authorities to give us the lightbulb, the combustible engine, etc.

At April 23, 2009 at 9:54 AM , Blogger Daniel Ruwe said...

Sure, Beth. Glad you like it. :)

At April 23, 2009 at 12:08 PM , Blogger Beth said...

Thanks, Daniel, and while I agree with Soapie that there is no way we can say global warming is a man-made problem, your last paragraph doesn't mention that, which is why I would be willing to use it.

At April 23, 2009 at 6:28 PM , Blogger BB-Idaho said...

I saw 'free market principles' and their effect on the environment..paper mills running sulfuric acid into rivers, nitrogen dioxides streaming red from stacks, slag heaps, clean-cuts, fishkills, raw sewage, industrial wastes, acid rains, dioxins..dumped because it was cheap. Now we have exported 'free market principles' to China and they are ravaging their own land. I was in industry for 40 years, been on both sides of these things..and it wasn't until logic and reason and ethics took on
'free market principles' that even a minimum of environmental responsibility began. So, since industry and their stooges seek to discredit anthropomorphic global warming...I'll go with the science.

At April 26, 2009 at 8:24 AM , Blogger Listen To John said...

Oh was it Earth Day?
Had I known it, I would have recycled a plastic bag ...

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