Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Are you ready to subsidize pollution?

Yesterday's Globe and Mail Report on Business ran the regular column of Gwyn Morgan. His opinion is always worth reading and frequently puts a different spin on issues of the day. The issue of the day is the potential power and money grab being orchestrated in Copenhagen. How much more are you prepared to pay for fuel? Clink.


  1. I don't understand Gwyn's point. If Quebec will profit by using hydroelectric power why is that considered a "money grab"? I thought libertarians were all for letting people take advantage of profit?

    The other provinces can become "money grabbers" too by simply installing Water, Wind and Solar. Nova Scotia has ample tidal and wave power as well as wind and solar. These provinces can invest in non-carbon sources now and reap the benefit later.

    As for subsidizing polluting countries, why would we do that? Countries based on cheap oil will be forced to pay carbon taxes but to us. We can also prevent their importation of needed raw goods unless and until they begin to comply with emissions targets.

    In the past we helped people with little restrictions. The rule for the future is that help will come at a price. You see, if we help a country to grow more food or find more water and don't insist they manage their population we don't solve their problems.

  2. Libertarians believe that people are entitled to the wealth created from the un-coerced exchange of the goods and services they produce by their own efforts. I have no idea what Gwyn Morgan’s politics are, I just known I’m frequently in agreement with him.
    As for Quebec, the most government regulated province in Canada (ie. least free), by an accident of geography they are blessed with abundant hydro power compared to the rest of us and it’s no sweat for them to be considered green as a result. A cap-and-trade system forced on all of us advantages Quebec because they can sell their carbon credits to the rest of Canada who are mostly dependent on fossil fuels for energy. That transfer of wealth to Quebec is a money grab – not earned and coerced by government.
    There is nothing “simple” about investing in wind, solar, tidal etc. The startup costs are enormous; the power is intermittent and successfully “smoothing” out the demands of consumers is an engineering nightmare unless you use nukes (really expensive). Our weather is cold and hot and unpredictable, the country is huge and rugged and forcing the people to make changes they don’t like will just create a large underground economy and a resentful and likely violent populace. It’s time to be realistic and stop dreaming about some green la-la land.
    As for subsidizing polluting countries, think about this. What countries have the cleanest air, cleanest water, and healthiest people with the longest life spans? Is it the countries where governments have the most control or the least? Is China a model for cleanliness? Russia? No it’s the evil western countries (us included) the ones that have contributed the most to humanity now are the evil ones.
    The only way the planet is saved is where people are free to choose; where people are governed by the rule of laws that protect their freedoms and rights and not by laws that limit their freedoms and force them to do dumb things. This whole thing (AGW) is about politics and complex economics and has very little to do with saving the planet. No one acts in their long term interests because we don’t live that long, it’s a money grab and you will pay.
    You call yourself a humanist, so I will assume atheist, like me. How is it that much of the planet has religious leanings? Is it possible that they are wrong and we happy few are right? Is religion a lie? I think it is. I thing the green movement has achieved the level of a secular religion. I think it is the new lie. The greens think they have evidence and climate models to back them up (unlike religions), maybe so but they still believe in Armageddon in some hazy future. If AGW tyranny succeeds be prepared for the backlash by those who like their freedoms. BTW, if you want to read a libertarian journalist at the Globe try this guy: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/belching-cows-and-the-greening-of-big-business/article1393697/ He was head of the LPC back in the day.

  3. I've read all your responses, but I'll limit replies to this one as it gets too confusing to follow three threads.

    What I am reading from you is the response to AGW will cost money and freedom. What I am NOT reading is an alternative approach if AGW models are correct. It's the same with Lord Monckton who agrees the world is warming but offers no solutions because he doesn't seem to think one is warranted.

    However, what science knows, with a high degree of certainty, is that a global temperature change of only a few degrees is catastrophic to many areas in the world. I believe the temperature drop during the last ice age was only 5 degrees cooler than today.

    Increases of even 2 degrees will significantly impact water. Arctic melt will increase ocean levels and literally submerge some island nations. It also will decrease the amount of snow and ice on mountains resulting in lower fresh water levels in streams and rivers fed by high mountain snow. Greater rainfall will increase erosion. Warmer temperatures will likely increase the number and strength of storms, hurricanes, etc. This is not seriously in dispute.

    However, this will present a huge problem of less arable land with the same or greater numbers of people. Even if the world warms no higher than this, we still have an expensive problem and real lives being negatively affected. Lord Monckton seems to think, "oh, well."

    He seems to be ignorant of the impacts of coal plants. They produce CO2 but also significant amounts of waste by-products. In fact, coal plants produce more radioactive waste than nuclear plants!

    Again, even if AGW is a myth (almost as unlikely as Yahweh, I believe) the benefits of switching to clean energy are not a money grab for the next generation, they are the greatest gift we can give them. It is your generation that inadvertently reaped the huge increase in living standards on the back of dirty energy so it's only reasonable they be the first to pony up the money fix it. This isn't an economic issue, it's a human health issue which trumps money every time.

    Oh, and yes, my furnace is failing and I did look very hard at installing geothermal to replace it. Having a home run on clean energy is an investment that will increase my home's value in the future.

  4. I admire your charity, empathy and selflessness but for me those qualities have always been associated with religious commands.
    Actually I do have a response to AGW or whatever you choose to call it. Years ago I installed a high-efficiency furnace, CFL light bulbs, a setback thermostat, double-glazed windows, and extra insulation. Did I do that to save the world? No. I did it because it was in my rational self interest, strictly selfish reasons that in the long-term (I hope) it will save me money. I was un-coerced and did it of my own free will (and my spouse) and I drive a fuel efficient car too. Why am I telling you this? Because that’s my solution, imagine if everyone acted that way in North America and everywhere else. Why wouldn’t they, why don’t they now? Because people just want to be free to live their lives the way they want and ultimately there is nothing wrong with that. Should people feel guilty about the poverty and despair in other parts of the world? I don’t think so. Should the wealthy help out the poor? Certainly they should be free to do that if they wish.
    Everywhere I look in the world where there are laws that protect individuals from force or fraud and allow them to trade freely, I see wealth. Where there is no respect for the rights and freedoms of individuals there is poverty, hunger and an inability to adapt to any environmental change. Those are the people whose lives will be negatively affected (as you say) by the consequences of AGW not you or I or our children, we will adapt.
    So here is where we really differ. My solution to the threat of AGW is to do nothing until it becomes a problem (if it becomes a problem) and then adapt or react in the most cost effective way to mitigate the problem and do that at the local level where people actually live and benefit from solutions. What cleaned up the pollution of the industrial revolution? What brought clean drinkable water to Western nations? What prevents sewage waste from despoiling our lakes and rivers? All these were tackled at the local level under a framework of laws and rights.
    Your solution to the threat of AGW involves global action because you will say it’s a certain future global crisis- actually it may be many local crises- but I won’t quibble. So because you and the IPCC and the governments and the special interest groups and Al Gore etc. think you know better (because you have tons of wonderful manipulated evidence) then you will suspend individual liberties, reframe our entire economy, increase our taxes and do this in the midst of the worst recession in 80 years. The purpose will be to transfer our wealth (as reparations – we will be happy to pay because we have been convinced by the media and special interest groups that we are guilty) to the afflicted totalitarian states so that their leaders will give it to their people. How naive is that?
    Copenhagen has nothing to do with fixing AGW its all about money and power, and this “problem” will not be fixed through global action. But I know you don’t believe that and you won’t believe it until years from now and then you will likely put the blame in the wrong place. Good luck with your furnace and you may want to check out Margaret Wente in today’s Globe.

  5. "My solution to the threat of AGW is to do nothing until it becomes a problem"

    I think what you mean is when it's a problem for you. This is ridiculous. The best time to solve a problem is before it happens. By the time AGW directly harms us in Ontario there will be no way to reverse the damage in time. It's like the asteroid about to collide with earth - deflect its path early and you are safe, however if it passes a crucial point there's nothing you can do.

    "think you know better (because you have tons of wonderful manipulated evidence)... suspend individual liberties... transfer our wealth"

    Ahhh, here's where you've stepped from thoughtful debater to conspiracy theorist. There is no manipulated evidence. ClimateGate is a non-issue. You are no longer using evidence, you're ranting under a tinfoil hat.

    Look, if I want to know about how my car works, I ask a mechanic. If I want to know more about my teeth, I ask a dentist. If I want to know about climate science, I consult a climate scientist. Climate scientists have a consensus on AGW but they are not unanimous. However, that's a good thing. It means people are still thinking, learning and asking questions.

    It's wonderful you've tried to reduce your energy usage but unless everyone else does, it won't accomplish anything. That's what Copenhagen is all about. How do we pay to fix this problem and how do we change the economics so that polluting energy production is vastly more expensive than clean energy? Until this happens, people will work for their own best interests and buy cheaper products produced with dirty energy. The earth doesn't give us an invoice for what we take and the garbage we dump. But the earth does have the power to recall us.

  6. Did you ever see the Tom Cruise movie "Minority Report" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/quotes)? It concerns the concept of "pre-crime", using people with the gift of predicting the future to arrest someone before they commit a crime. A future government has decided that this ability should be used no matter how it affects individual rights.
    We are not and have not been talking about the same thing. In the midst of the hysteria bubble which has become the argument to save the planet it’s difficult to have a rational and objective discussion. I’ve been talking about how big government and big international treaties are not the solution, and you are saying that they are and telling me that doomsday looms to scare me. What I see is a loss of rights, freedoms, disposable income and big government solutions. Governments NEVER getting anything right; the more powers they take on the more corruption we can expect. Let me repeat “Copenhagen has nothing to do with fixing AGW its all about money and power, and this “problem” will not be fixed through global action.” In fact I predict it will be made worse!

  7. I did see Minority Report but I interpret it differently. In the movie there was no evidence of a crime except for an assertion from a psychic. With AGW we have real evidence suggesting a crime is occurring and will get worse.

    Can governments solve the problem? I don't know. But when we deal with countries, we deal with governments. If the Chinese decide to go 'clean' which raises their prices, they may lose business to countries that remain 'dirty'. The agreement, essentially, is one where global governments agree to keep the playing field level - punish the dirty energy users with high prices to ensure the clean energy remains the least expensive option. As I said before, the earth doesn't charge us for the coal and oil we take or the mess we make. It's time to put a price on this mistake.

  8. "With AGW we have real evidence suggesting a crime is occurring and will get worse." That's an interpretation too, one with which I disagree.