Since the brouhaha over Secretary Kerry’s remarks about climate change is continuing, viz. here, I thought I’d repeat my views on the subject.
First, I think there are pressing geopolitical reasons for the United States to reduce its oil consumption. I have thought that for more than 30 years and the reasons for it today are, if anything, more pressing than they were decades ago. Even if all of the other reasons we might want to reduce our carbon emissions turned out to be balloon juice, those geopolitical reasons would constitute enough reason for us to consume less oil. A good place to start might be to trim our subsidies for oil consumption. I’m not a big fan of carbon trading schemes—too much opportunity for gaming the system which, presumably, is why they’re so highly favored in some political circles. After trimming subsidies a good, stiff tax on gasoline consumption would be my second alternative.
The earth as we know it has been around for, what, a billion years or so? (I know that the age of the planet is about 4.5 billion years; it wasn’t much like the earth we know then.) The climate has been changing all of that time and it will continue to change regardless of what we do.
Climate change, regardless of its cause, presents a problem for us. It’s not just the dire conditions under which the planet becomes inhospitable to human life that we need to worry about. 10,000 years ago when the climate changed, people just picked up and moved. That’s a lot harder than it used to be. There are a lot more of us, just about every place already has people in it, and over the last millennium or so we’ve developed something called “robust property rights” that makes it even harder to pick up and move than it was ten or twenty thousand years ago.
Robust property rights are Good Things. They’ve produced more prosperity, happiness, and well-being than just about anything else I can think of. They’re worth preserving. So, climate change, preserving the lives of millions (or billions) of people, robust property rights. You can’t have all three.
My preference for coping with climate change (whatever its cause) would be technological solutions. I’ve posted on any number of them over the years. For one thing, you don’t need every other country in the world’s cooperation to put them into effect.
I don’t think the models of climate change due to human-produced emission of greenhouse gases are robust enough to make detailed predictions of the sort that warmist alarmists are trying to make. See the linked op-ed above for more on that. And, as Glenn Reynolds has pointed out any number of times, it would be a lot easier to take their predictions seriously if they were behaving as though their predictions were true.
The notion that every country and every place in every country should have exactly the same energy needs, ways, and means is baffling to me.
I think that the failure to build more nuclear generators to produce power, a decision made 40 years ago, was an enormous error. I thought so then, too. I have great hopes for very small scale nuclear power generation, especially small scale power generation using thorium as fuel. Note that most of the electrical power that I use was generated by a nuclear power plant. California, however, is a lousy place for nuclear power plants. California is a lousy place for a large population but that’s a completely different subject.
I’m a lot more worried about ocean acidification than I am about climate change.
I’ve rambled on long enough. That should be something to chew on.