pageok
pageok
pageok
Property Rights and Climate Change Revisited:

A few years back, I challenged the traditional "conservative" or "libertarian" approach to global warming. I wrote:

The scientific debate over global warming is not so much over whether anthropogenic emissions will affect the climate. Rather it is over the nature and magnitude of the likely effects. Even the most ardent global warming skeptics within the scientific community believe that the increased accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will have some effect. The policy question, then, is what (if any) measures are justified to prevent or mitigate such effects.

Most on the "right" argue that the best response is to do little or nothing. While some advocate various "no regrets" policies to improve the efficiency of energy markets (and perhaps pave the way for alternative fuels) -- as I did here -- few conservatives, libertarians, or other free-market advocates believe the most reliable climate forecasts justify drastic measures to suppress the use of carbon-based fuels. The costs of such measures, many argue, are likely to swamp the costs of climate change, and more direct measures to address global ills that could be exacerbated by climate change (disease, flooding, weather extremes, etc.) would be far more cost-effective than reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As an analytical matter, these assessments are probably correct -- it is hard to justify one Kyoto on economic grounds, let alone the dozen or so that would be necessary to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere -- but that does not mean the proper "free market" climate policy is to "do nothing."

If property rights lie at the heart of free market environmentalism (FME), then FME advocates should think seriously about the normative implications of human-enhanced climate changes that could disproportionately harm those portions of the world that have (at least thus far) contributed least to the problem. Even if a modest warming were, on balance, beneficial, the impacts would not be uniform. It may well be, as some argue, that increases in crop productivity and reduced energy costs in temperate regions will be greater than the costs to tropical regions, but this does not address the property rights concern absent some system whereby industrialized nations would compensate or indemnify less-developed nations. No such system exists -- nor is it likely that existing international institutions could implement such a system -- but that does not mean it would not be the first-best approach to climate change from an FME perspective.

Various folks, from Tyler Cowen to Brad DeLong to Carl Pope, responded favorably to this approach. My FME allies, not so much.

This week, the Reason Foundation is hosting a roundtable on the issue, featuring an exchange between me ("Climate Change As If Property Rights Mattered") and my friend Indur Goklany ("Climate Change: No Harm, No Claim"), with an introduction by Shika Dalmia. Ronald Bailey comments on Hit & Run here. I'll also be drafting a response to Goklany in the next few days.

Randy R. (mail):
Out west, the climate is certainly getting dryer. Lake Mead is at its lowest levels since the 60s, and most experts say it will never to go the full level ever again. Many of the water managers say that global climate change is at least partly responsible.

Regardless, there will be a fight for water in the coming decades, between the west which needs and doesn't have it, and other parts of the country, such as the Great Lakes areas that have it and want to keep it.

My feeling is that if you want water, its much cheaper to go to the water than to bring the water to you. However, I suspect that many free marketeers will find a way to convince the gov't that spending billions to make the water go to the property owners of the west is the traditional American way.
6.13.2008 11:30am
Sk (mail):
The worst part of climate change discussions is that they generally take place in terms of legal or political debates, without any science. For instance, both McCain and Obama have climate change policy that are mathematically impossible.

And so with this post.

"The costs of such measures, many argue, are likely to swamp the costs of climate change, and more direct measures to address global ills that could be exacerbated by climate change (disease, flooding, weather extremes, etc.) would be far more cost-effective than reducing greenhouse gas emissions." Absolutely none of this is known (i.e. how much carbon will cause how many floods which cost how much money over the next 50 years? Every relevant fact necessary to quantify this statement is unknown and unknowable).

"Even the most ardent global warming skeptics within the scientific community believe that the increased accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will have some effect." But not how much, or if that effect is even statistically significant. Everytime you exhale you have an 'effect' on carbon dioxide. It does not follow that human exhalation is therefore a problem.

"If property rights lie at the heart of free market environmentalism (FME), then FME advocates should think seriously about the normative implications of human-enhanced climate changes that could disproportionately harm those portions of the world that have (at least thus far) contributed least to the problem. Even if a modest warming were, on balance, beneficial, the impacts would not be uniform. It may well be, as some argue, that increases in crop productivity and reduced energy costs in temperate regions will be greater than the costs to tropical regions,"

They "could disproportionately harm...". They also could NOT disproportionately harm. "It may well be...increases in crop productivity and reduced energy costs in temperate regions will be greater than the costs to tropical regions." It may also well be that those costs will be LESS in tropical regions. If global warming is true, and if it is caused by human beings, and if it continues, will global warming benefit Nebraska but harm Indonesia in 2050 (hint: if we don't know the weather in Nebraska 10 days from now, we don't know it 42 years from now)? Or the opposite? Or neither?

The sheer absence of facts isn't simply a minor weakness. It converts the engier argument into empty speculation.


Sk
6.13.2008 11:38am
Sk (mail):
"Out west, the climate is certainly getting dryer. Lake Mead is at its lowest levels since the 60s, and most experts say it will never to go the full level ever again."

Is 'at its lowest levels since the 60s' bad? Doesn't the fact that it equals the levels of 40 years ago imply its pretty routine?

Sk
6.13.2008 11:41am
Houston Lawyer:
There is no global warming solution from the free market because the free market doesn't believe it to be a problem. All of the proposed solutions are of the "one world order you must do what we say" variety, which is a feature, not a bug, to the proponents. There's got to be some constitutional penumbra that would prohibit our government from regulating every aspect of our lives solely in order to prevent some imaginary problem.
6.13.2008 11:57am
astrangerwithcandy (mail):
"Out west, the climate is certainly getting dryer. Lake Mead is at its lowest levels since the 60s, and most experts say it will never to go the full level ever again."

I agree with SK, couldn't that mean its cyclical. Also, there has been a population explosion out west since the 60s. Maybe you have heard about that? I think that population explosion might be more to blame than some grand evolution of the earth's climate.

PS - Before the "you're an idiot skeptic" fest begins, let me say - Lake Mead is only one instance that is easily explained away and does not support or take away from either side's argument.
6.13.2008 12:00pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
" ... hint: if we don't know the weather in Nebraska 10 days from now, we don't know it 42 years from now)?"

This statement confuses climate and weather. We can't make short term predictions of weather, but climate being long range is a different matter. First the weather. In the 1960's Edward Lorentz discovered the butterfly effect, which led to chaos theory, and the understanding that we can't predict the weather even with a complete theory because of sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Now climate. Some climate scientists, in particular those who believe in AGW, assert that climate (as opposed to weather) is not chaotic and in the long run the short term fluctuations average out. In other words, the long term predictions won't be plagued by the butterfly effect.

The advocates of AGW have good reason to fear chaos as that would lead to chaos in their funding. Should the climate turn out to be chaotic, then our measurements might be samples from some stable distribution. Here "stable" does not be unchanging; it refers to a special class of probability distributions that have no moments, not even an averages. Example-- the Cauchy distribution is a stable distribution.
6.13.2008 12:09pm
cjwynes (mail):
The southern hemisphere's corrupt, ineffectual governments are always looking for another way to get handouts from the north. While I've no doubt your approach is grounded in true concern for property rights, your proposed remedy just plays right into their hands.

If you wanted to truely give effect to your idea, you would propose that payments go directly to individual landowners in nations where private property rights are firmly respected, and only when they can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they have suffered damages as individual landowners, traceable to the GHG emissions at issue. This would of course require that we wait and see what the damages actually are. At least your idea makes more economic sense than some, as there's clearly an externalities problem if GHG really go lead to damaging climate change. I'm not suggesting I agree with this, but that would be more in line with your concerns than just proposing yet another massive wealth transfer from the north to the south.
6.13.2008 12:36pm
Ben P (mail):

Is 'at its lowest levels since the 60s' bad? Doesn't the fact that it equals the levels of 40 years ago imply its pretty routine?



I agree with SK, couldn't that mean its cyclical. Also, there has been a population explosion out west since the 60s. Maybe you have heard about that? I think that population explosion might be more to blame than some grand evolution of the earth's climate.


I don't want to be the one to start the "you're an idiot skeptic fest" you mentioned, because this really has little to do with being a skeptic and more to do with the nature of the lake itself. But you might want to check your facts a bit.

There have been droughts before, so in some senses it is cyclical, but this one is more sustained.

Water Levels

Lake Mead is artificial. Hoover damn was finished in 36, and the lake filled from from then until about 1939/40.

With a fairly significant seasonal variation, it stayed roughly around the long term average from 1940 until 1954.

Water levels took a steep dive in 54/55 and had returned to above average levels by 57/58.

They took another steep dive in 1964, but this time slowly returned, hitting long term averages about 1973.

From 1975 to 2000, the Lake was consistently above it's long term average, hitting it's absolute high water mark in 1983.


However, since 2000, (with the exception of 2005 where they took a slight tick upwards) lake levels have fallen every year.


The nature of the graph makes me wonder if there's some artificial event that caused the '55 and '65 drops in level, or if those were just exceptionally dry years. But there's still really no precedent for a continued (on average) 8 year decline in water levels to nearly record lows.
6.13.2008 1:10pm
Ben P (mail):
Actually, reading on the page I linked above. The author theorizes (but doesn't really present absolute proof) that the sharp decline and slow rise from 1965 to 1973 ish was the result of the construction of lake powell, which diverted water flowing into lake meade as Lake Powell Filled. Lake powell completely filled in 1983.
6.13.2008 1:12pm
CDU (mail) (www):
Out west, the climate is certainly getting dryer. Lake Mead is at its lowest levels since the 60s, and most experts say it will never to go the full level ever again. Many of the water managers say that global climate change is at least partly responsible.


You don't have to believe in global climate change to be concerned about the water future of the west. Looking back at rainfall levels over the past thousand years, it's pretty clear that all the droughts we've had in the past century (including the current one) have been fairly mild, relatively speaking. Historically, droughts have been much longer and more severe, including some that lasted for decades. Sooner or later the west is going to be screwed by natural variability, with our without global climate change.
6.13.2008 1:17pm
B Dubya (mail):
There is a theory that posits that, as long as Antarctica sits astride the South Pole, this planet is in an Ice Age, with long periods of glaciation in the North, interspersed by relatively short (<50000 years) warm periods when the ice recedes. Given that adaptation to warming is relatively easy, and that adaptation to a 1 to 5 kilometer thick ice sheet is limited to migration to the equator, I say make more greenhouse gas.
And, unless I miss my guess, Antarctica will be humping Mother Gaia's southern leg for another hundred million years or so, give or take a geological age or three.
6.13.2008 1:21pm
Sk (mail):
"But there's still really no precedent for a continued (on average) 8 year decline in water levels to nearly record lows." Notice that there must be a precedent: if they haven't dropped to record lows, but have only dropped to 'near' record lows, well the time when they were at record lows is a precedent, isn't it?

Your own data says it was low for 9 years ("They took another steep dive in 1964, but this time slowly returned, hitting long term averages about 1973"), high for 25 straight years ("From 1975 to 2000, the Lake was consistently above it's long term average"), and very low for 3 years ("a steep dive in 54/55 and had returned to above average levels by 57/58"), plus the last 8 year period of drought. All with a total life of the lake of 68 years.
Thus, out of 68 years, it has been noticeably off 'average' for 45 years.
And you believe only the last, 8 year period (2000-2008) is unusual enough to be noticeable? Furthermore, that the unusual period is absolutely explainable by global warming (and not, for instance, natural variations, or increased water use caused by increased population, or increased irrigation, etc etc etc)?

Sk
6.13.2008 1:30pm
Ben P (mail):

Given that adaptation to warming is relatively easy, and that adaptation to a 1 to 5 kilometer thick ice sheet is limited to migration to the equator, I say make more greenhouse gas.


I think you're vastly overstating how "easy" that adaptation would be, particularly in light of the strain humanity puts on other natural resources. The fossil record shows significant die offs of species occurred at the same time as significantly warmer periods. Our current oil reserves are the result of one or several such massive oceanic die offs.

If there were no potential for shortages of food and water from other sources, we could probably handle climate change.

I'm admittedly talking likely worst case type stuff here, But suppose a climate event of that scale reduces the yield from Ocean fishing world wide by 70% over 50 years. How many people would that push to the very edge of survival? Where are the replacement calories going to come from?And even for people who have enough, what will it do to the price of food?
6.13.2008 1:35pm
Kazinski:
Ben P

I don't want to be the one to start the "you're an idiot skeptic fest" you mentioned, because this really has little to do with being a skeptic and more to do with the nature of the lake itself. But you might want to check your facts a bit.


Yeah we might all want to check our facts a bit. You are referencing short term climatic conditions. The Southwest has been the site of century long droughts that have wiped out whole civilizations. A 40 year, 60 year or 200 year period does not set a regions normal weather pattern in stone. Here's a bit about the regions natural history and impact on man:

We start with a look at one of the famed cliff cities in the U.S. Southwest, known as Chaco Canyon, in New Mexico. It was occupied by Pueblo and Hopi Indians between 850 and 1250 A.D., then largely abandoned (about the same time the the Anastasi Indians disappeared (experts think that a prolonged drought caused abandoment of many sites and migration to better climes).
6.13.2008 1:52pm
Ben P (mail):

Thus, out of 68 years, it has been noticeably off 'average' for 45 years.
And you believe only the last, 8 year period (2000-2008) is unusual enough to be noticeable?


Did you even bother looking at the graph in the link? or did you just read what I wrote with the intention to twist it?

I was talking about the year to year cycle. If you look at the graph, you see a significant variation from year to year, but that variation has a pretty consistent center around 1180 feet. (1173 is the long term average)

One long term deviation from that average is from 64-73, which is consistent with the filling of lake powell. The lake dropped very suddenly and filled back up gradually.

But apart from that, you see very little long term trend in the graph, except at the present. If you were to chart 5 year averages, you'd not see them changing drastically apart from the one exception above except for the last 10 years or so.
6.13.2008 1:54pm
B Dubya (mail):
There has always been a water sdcarcity in much of the West.
Aside from the climate, increasing human habitation has tended to drain aquifers, eliminate watersheds, and the like. Look how much of the Colorado makes its way into Baja these days (a muddy trickle that doesn't quite make the gulf); a direct result of water use/diversion from the river.
One day, whether Gaia is warming because of capitalism and other human institutions or not, much of the West will depopulate, because of water. The Las Vegas craziness will stop when the last faucet goes dry. Phoenix and Santa Fe will go back to being hot and dusty spots in the desert. (Unless, of course we figure out how to de-salinate the amouint of water it would take to sustain these kind of places.)
One of the next things that will get chased, just as the Soviets did with the Aral Sea input, is that the dry western states (California, Nevada, maybe Arizona and New Mexico) will try to divert water from the Northwest, specifically the Columbia/Snake River systems. Hollywood versus Microsoft and the Vente Snooty Latte Seattle crowd. That will be entertaining (my environazism is better than your local environazism kind of a thing).
6.13.2008 1:55pm
Ben P (mail):

Yeah we might all want to check our facts a bit. You are referencing short term climatic conditions. The Southwest has been the site of century long droughts that have wiped out whole civilizations. A 40 year, 60 year or 200 year period does not set a regions normal weather pattern in stone. Here's a bit about the regions natural history and impact on man:


You might be fine with abandoning Los Vegas, but I suspect many people would feel differently and would demand solutions.
6.13.2008 1:56pm
Could we:
re-label all of the aid that we send (or in some cases, try to send only to be rejected by a junta) as payment for our use of fossil fuels? Wouldn't that meet our "obligations" while not actually causing any net loss? I believe the US is the most generous nation in the history of the world, which is one reason I get miffed when some failed state talks about our obligation to send them money. When people from my own country do so, I wonder why.
6.13.2008 2:06pm
Kazinski:
Ben P.

You might be fine with abandoning Los Vegas, but I suspect many people would feel differently and would demand solutions.


Might as well abandon Las Vegas if the Luddite warming crowd gets its way. There are three things that make Vegas work: bright lights, air Conditioning, and easy air travel. Just being a few hundred miles away from LA by freeway doesn't hurt either.

But we do have a higher technology base with which to work with than the Anastasi did, so I don't think it will come to that. The point I was trying to make which evidently you missed, is that looking at 100 year weather patterns as a guide to what is "normal" on a 4 billion year old planet is ridiculous. 150 years ago we were just coming out of the little ice age and have been warming in fits and starts since then. "Normal" sea levels have ranged from 400ft lower to more than 200 ft higher than current levels.
6.13.2008 2:48pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):
Ben P -

guy, the only fact i put forward is that there was been a population explosion in the west. unless you dispute that, you are arguing with yourself.
6.13.2008 2:51pm
Curious Passerby (mail):
I want to know how man-made CO2 is causing global warming on Mars and Jupiter. Give it up.

Read this for where the argument is going. Hint: Algore is going to be sued for fraud.
6.13.2008 2:55pm
Ben P (mail):

The point I was trying to make which evidently you missed, is that looking at 100 year weather patterns as a guide to what is "normal" on a 4 billion year old planet is ridiculous.


If you want to go that route, comparing the weather during the entire history of human civilization is a bit ridiculous. After all, what's 10,000 years in 4 Billion?

You simply can't say that a "small change in gelogical perspective" is equivalent to a "small effect on humanity." All of human history sits in a relatively short interglacial period between ice ages that have regularly occurred for the last Million years or so.

I'm making an assumption that Humans could not have flourished outside of the relatively recent (geologically) warm temperature period, and that humans have a relatively narrow range of temperatures that we as a species can truly flourish in. But I think that's a relatively safe assumption.

So, yes, geologically 100 years is insignificant, but how much more insignificant is it than 10,000 years? It doesn't take a terrific amount of variation to put us outside the range where a substantially smaller population of humans could be supported.

If the present trend continues, Lake Mead will be essentially empty by 2025 or so. Lake Mead may not matter on the large scale, it will make watering a city the size of Los Vegas much more difficult and expensive, but people can move a few hundred miles without major problems.


But what happens if that starts occuring everywhere. It's easy to dismiss "a few degrees" or "100 years" as being insignificant, but even 20 years of sustained drought could make not only Vegas but a substantial part of the world essentially unable to support their current populations.
6.13.2008 3:09pm
Ben P (mail):
Read this for where the argument is going. Hint: Algore is going to be sued for fraud.


I'm sure thousands of experts world wide will be fascinated to learn that a San Diego Weatherman has categorically proved them wrong. Am I right?
6.13.2008 3:14pm
Sarcastro (www):
Hey - it might still be natural, so we should assume it is and change nothing about our lives at all.


What's the worst that could happen?
6.13.2008 4:37pm
New World Dan (www):
It seems to me that the FME approach to AGW really is to do nothing. I don't buy into the extreme weather scenarios. The potential sea-level rise issue, if true, takes place on a multi-century timescale. Won't markets price that in as long term risk?
6.13.2008 4:37pm
Kazinski:
Ben P:

It's easy to dismiss "a few degrees" or "100 years" as being insignificant, but even 20 years of sustained drought could make not only Vegas but a substantial part of the world essentially unable to support their current populations.

Granted. But what has that got to do with anthropocentric global warming? There is no clear agreement that doubling the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will, all other things being equal, raise the temperature at most 1 deg C, more likely .04 - .06C. One degree is not going to affect anything and is well within the range of natural variation. All the rest of the hype are about the effects of global warming are based on models that are shown to be faulty, because they do not match what has happened, or what is currently happening. They focus on positive feedbacks when it as least as likely for negative feedbacks to cancel any rise. It is likely that solar activity, and natural cycles like the pacific oscillation will trump any marginal effect from CO2 forcing.
6.13.2008 5:21pm
Randy R. (mail):
One of the points of my original post was not to argue about whether global climate change is real or manmade. Rather, it was that the west needs much more water than it has or ever will likely to get.

So what are they going to do about it? I suppose you could charge or tax it so high that consumption will fall. but water is too essential -- no matter how high it's price, you still have to use a certain amount every day. And with the population growth, it still won't have enough.

My prediction is that all these free marketeers will suddenly turn socialist and demand that the gov't "do something". Because if they gov't doesn't do something, then inevitably growth will slow, stagnate, or even reserve, having an adverse effect upon property values.

And we all know that free marketeers are happy to have gov't stay out of the market when the value is going up, but they want gov't intervention to keep if from falling down. so they will demand that the gov't will pay billions to transport water from the Great Lakes or other regions to keep Las Vegas and Phoenix growing cities.

Me, I think it would best to let them die on the vine, and people and industry can move to where the water is, and hopefully revitalize those cities that have been losing population in the past few decades, like Pittsburgh, Toledo, Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit and so on.
6.13.2008 6:17pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Looking at the issue of water in the west as one of population alone is I think wrong. More worrying is losing the California central valley as THE source of fruits and vegetables, and then, of course, the grapes in Napa and Sonoma. . . .
6.13.2008 7:06pm
Porter:
Randy R., please do not give those on the wrong side of the Continental Divide any ideas as to where they can snake their next pipeline, and besides Mr. Rabett has an increasingly more important aspect to consider, the grapes.

To me, the whole crux of AGW being dependent upon .038% of total atmospheric content is at best silly (that's the CO2 component only), if you throw in it's Plandt #, I just don't see how it can possibly impact temperature the way it's being promoted. Unless of couse it's the real source of fusion energy.
6.13.2008 8:53pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Well that'll teach Eli to keep it serious. Of course Porter dear, you do eat the carrots from Bakersfield, the lettuce, the fruits and the nuts. Agriculture in the Central Valley depends on irrigation, which in turn depends on the yearly snow pack. The Central Valley produces about a quarter of the food consumed in the US, so it's loss would be a large disaster. LA on the other hand (OK, gotta control the snark)

OTOH, your troll about CO2, the 0.038% becomes a bit larger when you realize, as you undoubtedly do, that a bit less than 99% of the atmosphere consists of nitrogen and oxygen which do NOT absorb infrared light. Water vapor is on average about 1% at the surface, but decreases exponentially with altitude as it cools and precipitates.

You can read all about the relative importance of CO2 and water vapor here, along with why water vapor is a positive feedback factor rather than something that forces climate trends. Water vapor produces an effect bit more than twice as strong as CO2 in the tropics, which is the wettest part of the atmosphere.
6.14.2008 12:11am
justanotherguy (mail):
Of course- why bother with science at all in this policy discussion. AGW is all about socialist control of more and more industry- the watermelon issue (environmentalism is green on the outside and red on the inside.) This is still true and any policy will always find some "psuedo-scientific" backing regardless. Give enough grant money and you will find scientist will say anything and keep saying it.

Of course if we can keep from doing anything too damaging to our economy for just a few more years- AGW will blow over- it has been almost a decade since warming stopped.
6.14.2008 2:02pm
Sam Hall (mail):
"The scientific debate over global warming is not so much over whether anthropogenic emissions will affect the climate. Rather it is over the nature and magnitude of the likely effects. Even the most ardent global warming skeptics within the scientific community believe that the increased accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will have some effect. The policy question, then, is what (if any) measures are justified to prevent or mitigate such effects. "

Does the climate change? You bet it does, but the question is not if it changes, it is does man have a measureable effect on the changes?
It has never been proven that CO2 is very much of a greenhouse gas. In fact, the ice core evidence says strongly that it is not.
6.14.2008 8:41pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ben P.
Is there such a thing as a world-wide drought? Or do rainfall patterns shift? Global warming, if it ever happens--we're in a cooling phase since 1998--if it ever happens, as I say, will not reduce the amount of water in the world and will increase the evaporation from the ocean, thus increasing the water in the atmosphere, which will probably go someplace.
So if the Southwest suffers one of its periodic droughts, that's tough on the Southwest, but is that necessarily the same as a world-wide drought.
Read an obscure book some years ago about the late nineteenth-early twentieth century settlement of eastern Montana. Turned out to be one of the wettest periods in that area's history. Lots of people moved there to farm and shortly afterward went bust. You can ranch, especially buffalo, but you can't farm there. This stuff happens. But this was not a world-wide phenomenon.
6.14.2008 10:52pm
Toby:

It seems to me that the FME approach to AGW really is to do nothing. I don't buy into the extreme weather scenarios. The potential sea-level rise issue, if true, takes place on a multi-century timescale. Won't markets price that in as long term risk?

Not at all. As we have seen recently with Hurricane insurance, the Florida legislature will fix things by merely declaring them to be fixed by a risk pool, thus preventing markets from curing people of the idiocy of settling in hurricane areas.
6.15.2008 2:48pm
Smokey:
Globaloney fearmongers notwithstanding, the global temperature is in a sustained decline

Human activity most likely has almost nothing to do with the climate. This is, by far, the principle cause of climate change.

For an educated discussion of global warming -- oh, 'scuse me, "climate change," see here.
6.16.2008 1:08am
TokyoTom (mail):
Jon, thanks for drawing our attention to your debate with Indur Goklany, but I think it is far too academic and fails to seize common ground (and climate change concerns) to push for liberalization of agricultural trade and other areas that would materially improve wealth (and ability to adapt to climate change) in poorer nations.

My sense is that you both agree on the fundamental, Lockean-based principles underlying your discussion and would probably agree that even though the nations that benefit most from climate change (and from the long period of GDP growth when GHG emissions have not been priced) have at least a moral obligation to be concerned about an uncmpensated shifting of costs to other (largely poorer) nations, that it is nigh impossible to build a legal case mandating compensation.

I suppose you both probably also agree that (1) climate change is likely to further bedevil the development problems in poorer nations, which are capable of adapting to such changes, (2) development problems in such countries is largely related to the failure of governing elites to protect property rights and capital, and (3) traditional development aid has in large measure failed and instead served to benefit well-connected elites from both sides.

I am curious (4) what both of you think about proposals that do not amount to compensation, but recognize the interest that the West has in aiding growth and climate adaptation in the developing world, such as the proposal reported last Friday in Osaka by
Treasury secretary Hank Paulson for the Group of 8 industrialized nations to back a special $10 billion fund to help developing countries fight global warming
and (5) why you and Indur (and other libertarians) do not seem to see that climate change concerns in many way present golden opportunities to urge positive governmental changes, such as greater free trade (and roll back of domestic agricultural subsidies and import restrictions), greater freedom in domestic energy markets, the desirability of allowing accelerated depreciation and lowering capital gains taxes, etc.

Instead, we are offered continued scares about the man-hating enviros. Why not try a positive agenda that woukld actual do some good?
6.16.2008 2:51am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Strikes me that the property rights issue only arises when the anthropogenic piece is proven.
So we either establish it by fiat, make it a matter of faith that anthropogenic is all, and punish apostates, or it becomes a matter of argument in every proceeding.
And since what happened to you particularly and personally can't be assigned an anthropogenic or Deigenic cause, we have...bupkus.
Or we have a level of unquestioned faith that would embarrass medieval clerics.
6.16.2008 10:44am
Smokey:
Tokyo Tom, may I translate? Thank you:

"The ee-e-e-vil United States has caused CO2 to go up and built a wealthy society, but now the U.S. is telling poor countries not to emit CO2. Therefore, U.S. taxpayers are morally obligated to fork over more of our earnings through the UN to make everything fair."

Is that about it? OK then, a couple of points:

1. In 2008 there is only one [1] reason that any country is poor: bad government. With economic freedom, and property rights guaranteed by a legitimate government, citizens quickly cease being poor. Compare the Israelis and the Palestinians, or North Korea and South Korea, or the U.S. and Mexico, or Mexico and Cuba. See? It's a corrupt government that makes people poor, not lack of resources. By shoveling money at countries with bad governments, we become the enablers of bad governments, entrenching their failure and guaranteeing that their citizens will remain destitute. That is exactly what is being advocated whenever someone tries to play the 'morally obligated' card from the bottom of the deck.

2. CO2 is very beneficial; doubling carbon dioxide would be more beneficial. The CO2 scare is totally bogus. [See Coleman's clear-eyed report again here]. Geologically speaking, we are at the very low end of atmospheric CO2 concentration today. When CO2 was much more abundant in the atmosphere [up to twenty times today's concentration], plant and animal life flourished to a much greater extent than it does now. And there was no runaway global warming. None. Gore, and the UN/IPCC, are lying.

3. "Climate change" is always occurring. Without it the Earth would be a dead planet. Carbon dioxide has essentially nothing to do with climate change. If it did, the UN/IPCC and Al Gore would debate that position in a neutral, agreeable venue such as a university. But they never agree to debate; in fact, they absolutely run away and hide out from any proposed debate. That is what scamsters do. Psychic Uri Geller would never agree to bend a spoon in front of a professional magician -- and the UN/IPCC will never agree to debate their fraudulent CO2/global warming hypothesis with legitimate, skeptical climatologists.

If the UN wants to actually help countries to lift their citizens out of poverty, the most straightforward way would be to give poor countries a copy of the U.S. Constitution. Instead, the UN presumes to tell the U.S.A. to subsidize failure, thus guaranteeing continued failure while robbing U.S. citizens, who are doing things the right way.
6.16.2008 3:52pm
Ryan Waxx (mail):

I am curious (4) what both of you think about proposals that do not amount to compensation... such as... a special $10 billion fund to help developing countries...


Some people are self-refuting.
6.16.2008 5:29pm
Graeme Bird (mail):
Look Jonathan. The fact is that industrial-CO2 release is a postive externality. You ought to have checked before you wrote up this thread.

Industrial-CO2 release is a positive externality which enhances the biosphere. This is a scientific fact and you ought not be basing this sort of thing on mindless anti-evidence lunacy.

Since industrial-CO2-release is good for the environment it is obvious that no Pigouvian matters arise. This Pigouvian extremism has gotten so out of hand that our economists are drooling at the mouth to tax a positive externality.

This is truly a horrible state of affairs where the science does not matter to our economists anymore. Such extremists have they become that they no longer care about the scientific facts of the matter and are just in a hateful lust to tax something in Pigouvian fashion in total disregard as to whether it represents a positive or a negative externality.

Young Mankiw from Harvard has been most disgraceful in this matter. But its caught on in this country like a wildfire. We cannot be basing economic policy on evidence-free CO2-Bedwetting.

The case for taxing CO2 is not only an evidence-free-case. Its BELLIGERENTLY evidence free. Its supported by a contempt for evidence and a willingness to engage in a pandemic of lying.

Get it together man. Get back to reality.
6.17.2008 12:49am