Friday, March 6, 2009

A Third Way on Climate Change

I believe that climate change is a reality, and I think humans are causing it. I am neither a "chicken little" alarmist nor an "ostrich" who thinks we should just ignore the evidence because it is all part of a "liberal agenda." I know this puts me at odds with many of my readers, and I am cool with that. If you've read this blog more than once, you probably realize that I don't shy away from the controversial issues.

It seems that almost every week I get an email from another climate change skeptic with a link to some weatherman living in Wyoming who says it all a hoax that the underground socialist movement has hatched in dark, smoky alleyways. While I read and respond to every email, I don't spend a lot of time arguing with people about the existence of or the causes of global climate change anymore. Perhaps most humorous is the fact that people are putting their trust in meteorologists to begin with. Weathermen have a hard enough time predicting the weather tomorrow. What makes you think they can predict 100 years out? Don't get me wrong. I think there are some very capable and well-intentioned scientists who disagree with the majority opinion. I just disagree with them.

I have been fully persuaded that something seems to be happening, and even if by some slim chance that it isn't, we should still act. Most of the things that would reduce the effects of climate change if it does exist are things we should be doing anyway--purifying the air, reducing consumption, protecting forestland, restricting the astronomical amounts of toxic gases that we are pumping into the air. I paraphrase Thomas Friedman: If global warming is a hoax, it is the greatest hoax that has ever been hatched. Who doesn't want healthy forests, clean air and water, and cutting edge green industries?

The big problem I have with the climate change conversation involves proposed solutions. Due to the fact that conservatives abandoned environmentalism long ago, the only ones proposing solutions to this very real problem are liberal policymakers. They are proposing a system called "cap and trade," which basically means that the government would place a cap on the amount of carbon emissions that industries would be able to emit through the selling of "carbon credits." If an industry developed a way to reduce their output, they could sell their carbon credits and make a profit. The problem is that all the money generated by this massive legislation would--you guessed it--go right back into the pocket of big brother.

Don't get me wrong, I support capping carbon emissions. I even support the government imposing the caps. But simply funneling the money back into government to create and fund more programs is counterproductive and will not stimulate an already weakened economy. Don't be fooled--this legislation will become a reality unless conservative environmentalists can speak loudly for an alternative solution.

A common ground solution may be "cap and dividend," a legislative solution laid out in GOOD Magazine's article, "The Third Way: Carbon Cap and Dividend." Cap and dividend does corrects the mistakes of cap and trade by setting more realistic caps on emissions and taking all the money generated and returning it to the taxpayers. Capping carbon emissions will certainly result in higher energy costs. Paying the dividends to everyday individuals offset this increase while working toward a healthier life, a more vibrant creation, and a more sustainable lifestyle. If you care about environmental problems and the world's poor that are hit the hardest by these problems, I would encourage you to give this solution some serious thought.

If you had a chance to read this article, what are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

I am, for various reasons, a bit more agnostic than you are as to whether or not it is human induced. But as a fellow Christian and conservative environmentalist, I couldn't agree more with the sentiment you express in your third paragraph:

"Most of the things that would reduce the effects of climate change if it does exist are things we should be doing anyway--purifying the air, reducing consumption, protecting forestland, restricting the astronomical amounts of toxic gases that we are pumping into the air."

That's what I've been telling friends when I tell them I'm going to graduate school this fall to study cultural and environmental geography, and in particular, the influence that one's religious views have on one's views of nature and, coincidentally, environmental policy.

All that to say, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts on climate change.


C3 said...

Since you asked for responses on this subject, here are some facts to think about.

1. Climate change happens naturally. It gets warmer, then it gets colder. There is a science called paleoclimatology that documents and describes these changes. This happens and will continue to do so and we all need to accept this natural reality.

2. During the Medieval Warming Period it was some 2 degrees warmer than now, and you know what, the world, nature, and humans survived by adapting. Same for the Little Ice Age that followed.

3. Man can't stop climate change or even diminish it. Man can't stop a rainstorm; can't stop hail; can't stop snow; can't stop fog; can't stop wind; can't stop a hurricane; and etc. But we're going to stop (mitigate) climate change! Does anyone really believe this? Come on, this will not happen and to accept this as realistic is wishful thinking- this is called terra-forming and only true in science fiction.

4. Human CO2 does not cause climate change - human CO2 is about 12 ppm, which is only 0.0012% of atmosphere by volume. BTW, over the last 10 years the correlation between CO2 and temperatures is actually negative. Does this now mean an increase in human CO2 might cause temperatures to go down? (I don't think Al Gore would appreciate that getting around.)

5. Speaking of which, since 2001 global mean temperatures have not increased, and actually declined over last 2 years, and at a time when CO2 has significantly increased. Uh-oh.

6. Climate models are almost solely dependent on CO2 as the critical input. The models diminish the impact of solar, cosmic particles, clouds, precipitation, dust, water vapor (95% of all the GHGs), and etc. Is it any wonder these models failed miserably to predict temperature trends over the last 10 years?

7. AGW theory has not been proven or validated by a single experiment- nada, zilch, zero. It is a theory that has been very successful though, in turning otherwise smart people into hysterical, irrational fear-mongers.

If you desire more info & data that reveals how weak the AGW theory actually is, and why the world is not about to end as-we-know-it go here:

C3H Editor

Anonymous said...

Isn't it ironic that after you talked about climate change skeptics, you get a blog comment from a climate change skeptic?

Whether you're a skeptic or a believer, I think we can all agree that our environment isn't as it should be, and if we don't act know there's no telling what the world will be like for future generations.

The cap and dividend idea sounds good, but there's always that question of "Will it work?"

Ed said...

Jonathan -

Your comments are really interesting... As it happens, "cap and trade" is a very conservative, not a liberal, solution being proposed for the CO2 problem because it uses market forces to allocate resources and leaves individual companies free to decide what is best for them. Revenue is secondary - cap and trade can be set up with no revenue at all - the permits are simply handed out to industry based on a predetermined "cap", which then trades them with each other on an open market. More efficient companies can sell their extra permits for profit; companies who find it more expensive to reduce CO2 output can choose to buy these permits.

Alternatively, the government can choose to auction the intial permits, which is where the potential revenue comes in. Given the enormous cost to society that excess CO2 has already caused, and that it will continue to cause, it would be foolish for government to forgo such a revenue source. Someone has to pay, and again, it is a conservative principle that the entity generating the cause should be the one that pays. Otherwise, you are in fact engaging in a most unconservative practice of "income redistribution" - but in this case TO industry and the wealthy rather than to the poor.


Ed Brown

Ed said...

Should have proofread more carefully - "the entity generating the *cause* should be the one that pays" should read the entity generating the *cost* should be the one that pays

Jonathan Merritt said...


I don't see cap and trade as a conservative solution, but if you say it is, maybe I need to do some more research.

For those readers who don't know Ed, check out his awesome book, Our Father's World:


Jonathan Merritt

Kim Pittman said...

Was just reading about the 2009 International Conference on Climate Change taking place now in NY, and found what Dr. Lindzen said to be pretty interesting... "The MIT professor, one of the world's most respected atmospheric physicists, said that many of his good friends and colleagues have subscribed to global warming alarmism because they either fear for their jobs or see it as a way to get funding for scientific projects. He also discussed the use of supposed "climate models," and quipped that as scientists debate intelligent design, climate models are an example of "unintelligent design."

I typically steer clear of the "climate change" conversations, but found the "climate model" comment to be pretty interesting :-)

Ed said...

Maybe I should have been a bit more precise in my terminology - Cap and trade is a market based approach, therefore favored by economic conservatives... Social or political conservatives may have reasons for disliking it that have nothing to do with economics...


Zack said...

I would respectfully dissent from Ed’s contention that cap-and-trade policy is necessarily an economically conservative solution (to use his terms). While it does in fact operate within a market system, this particular market system is not one of naturally occurring origins. Rather, this is more a microcosm of a market system, created by a government with clear and indisputable regulatory intent. While it may be more preferable to economic conservatives than other proposed alternatives, (such as “direct” regulation), I doubt very much that such artificial, indirect regulations would be accepted by the classical liberalism school of economics, (here, I’m using the terminology of political and economic theory—-not American politics). Furthermore, while much of the criticism of cap-and-trade policy does appear to be from the political left, these criticisms are more of a moral or political reaction to the influence of market systems on environmental public policy and the risk of failure cap-and-trade in achieving certain environmental goals. A truly economically classically liberal position, (again, to use the terminology of economics, and not politics), would simply accept the negative effects of free markets on the environment as merely a freely-chosen, market-driven outcome, regardless of its conflicts with environmental policy. Under such a system, the market itself would have to dictate a decrease in carbon emissions, without the imposition of an artificial, governmental regulation.

That’s all I’ve got.

Ed said...

>>>A truly economically classically liberal position, (again, to use the terminology of economics, and not politics), would simply accept the negative effects of free markets on the environment as merely a freely-chosen, market-driven outcome...<<<

Zack, it sounds like you may have more formal training in economics than do I; if so, I might accept your alternative explanation. However, I would still challenge the line above. The "negative effects...on the environment" are nothing but externalities that the market has failed to capture in the price of the products or processes in question. Negative effects on the environment are costs that the producer is hoping someone else will pay; cap and trade is one (among many) attempt to try to ask the market to be more accurate in pricing goods and services.

My thoughts for the day...


Anonymous said...

I've gone back and forth on the issue. I don't ride the fence so much on the question of climate change or no climate change. The facts as I see them, are that climate change is real. However, where I struggle to a solid stance is in regard to whether it is just a cycle of nature or whether we actually are causing the climate change.

That being said, I tell you exactly where I stand when it comes to the overall issue of environmentalism, as well as the policies pertaining to it and that is we have an obligation to be good stewards.

We (especially Christians) have got to stop getting hung up on what is of little importance. The environmental issue (regardless of the science of it all) should have led those who have an opinion on how it is caused, to enough evidence telling us there is a problem.

All that we consume in our consumer driven society produces waste that ends up somewhere. Most of the time in the front yards of those living in the poorest regions of the world.

I also agree with the "cap and trade" issue you brought up. But at the same time, it's worth noting that some of the most polluting production facilities would not even be affected by US policy, because we have moved the production facilities into the same poverty stricken regions we dump our waste in, and hire the people who live in all of that to make our goods at 1/10th of the cost it would take to do so here in the US.

"Cap and Trade" is just another way for fascists to facilitate their power grab, and it would further weaken our economy and wouldn't change a thing environmentally.

Hotter or colder? I don't know. An irresponsible trashiness that is socially unjust? We cannot avoid the facts!

The statement I was most drawn to in this post was when Jonathan wrote: "Most of the things that would reduce the effects of climate change if it does exist are things we should be doing anyway--purifying the air, reducing consumption, protecting forestland, restricting the astronomical amounts of toxic gases that we are pumping into the air.".

It's time to end the argument on what does or doesn't cause temperatures to rise, and focus on the issues of importance that these questions lead us to. A more thoughtful stewardship of what God has given us and a greater awareness of the great injustices that have gone unnoticed for far too long.

James said...

I'm not totally sold either way.