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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Moving Beyond the Global Warming Debate

I rarely comment on global warming, because 1)I don't understand the science of it and 2) both side's arguements generally turn me off. On the one hand, proponents of global warming insist that there is no global warming debate and that the only debate left is how much time we have left before we melt. Their insistence is so absolute that I am always reminded of Shakespeare

thou dost protest a bit too much

On the other hand, opponents of global warming find any nook and cranny to disprove global warming. If New York City had an unusually cold week there is all the proof they need that global warming doesn't exist.

To me, the global warming debate has been mostly framed by two separate events in my mind. First, there was this debate between John Kerry and Newt Gingrich on the topic. Second, I went to an event featuring the CEO of Exelon last year on the topic of global warming. There, the CEO, much like most proponents of global warming, framed the issue as one that was resolved. After he cited a couple of studies that purported to prove that global warming exists, he went on to enumerate a plethora of regulations that he felt were absolutely vital in order to combat it. He was in favor of nuclear power (and as one person pointed out likely in self interest as Exelon was a leader in the field). He enumerated the many benefits of nuclear power and glossed over the one and only problem. The problem is one of cost. It costs a "mere" five billion dollars to set up one nuclear power plant and he figured the country would need 100 in order to be effective. Only the government is in a position to spend such money and so I can only assume he expected the tax payers to pick up that tab.

To me the debate shouldn't be about whether or not global warming is or is not real. First, whether or not it is or isn't, we all must strive to be eco friendly. Furthermore, attacking global warming often means finding alternative sources of energy which is vital in the GWOT. The debate must move to how we attack global warming.

Now, those like Exelon's CEO and John Kerry would have the government force government regulations that would exponentially increase energy bills. Those like Newt and myself would use targeted tax cuts to encourage private industry to create energy that is eco friendly and doesn't contribute to global warming.

The issue really comes down to whether or not this is a settled matter. That is the crux of the arguement for proponents of the phenomenon of global warming. I was stunned by how calmly John Rowe, Exelon CEO, enumerated regulation after regulation and proceeded to calmly proclaim that yes this would increase energy bills by three and four times. To him, this was of small issue because we are working against the clock before we all melt.

In much the same way, John Kerry saw regulations as necessary to beat the ticking clock. He felt that we simply didn't have time to wait for entrepeneurs to come up with solutions. Government, in his opinion, must mandate solutions and force them upon the population before we melt away.

I am struck by how symmetrical the global warming debate is to the general economic debate. The same folks that proclaim the reality of global warming and subsequentally propose a plethora of regulations to solve it also propose a plethora of solutions to solve much everything else. Most of the same folks that believe the free market is the best solution to other problems also believe the free market is the best solution to this problem.

That is where the debate must be moved. We need to stop arguing over whether or not global warming is real. Unless you are a scientist, that is not a debate you are qualified to have. On the other hand, debating whether or not the free market is the best source of solutions to global warming, eco friendly, and alternative energy sources is one that needs to be had. The nexus between the free market and whether or not global warming is a settled matter has been reached, and now it is time for a vigorous debate on how we move forward to deal with these issues. Free market believers everywhere had better heed my warning. End the debate on the existence of global warming and begin the debate on whether or not the free market is the best place to resolve it.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it would be best to get past the global warming debate. The question is how. This is a personal and cultural issue.

I for one am torn. When I research global warming, it is clearly a hoax. However, elimating CO2 emmisions would be a dream come true. In 1980 I drove a diesel volkswagon rabbit with dual gas tanks. I was getting ~50mpg. Now, 28 years later, hybrids are just hitting those marks.

The market needs a sense of urgency to move this forward. Global warming gives them that urgency. As does rising gas prices.

So how do we reconcile the difference between the principal of being truthful and the reality that the market will not act without a need?

mike volpe said...

First of all, if you don't believe in global warming but still believe that reducing CO2 emissions dramatically is important, then there must be a reason. Maybe, it is that reason that will drive the market to change. I agree that one of the reasons this hasn't been dealt with yet is because there has been nothing to move the market urgently.

I proposed that we find alternative energy sources by reducing the capital gains tax on alternative energy sources to zero. I would be in favor of much the same thing for anything that reduces CO2 emissions as well.

Anonymous said...

It is important whether global warming is real or not because global warming is the reason they want us to make all these sacrafices. I am not going to let this up until my dying breath.

Anonymous said...

So building off my question above then, how do we get past the cultural issue?

I live in Seattle and Global Warming is a religion. It has inflitrated every part of life. Every time I hear "Global Warming" I reacte as if they are my ememy. Which, in reality, they are simply sheeple who have been misled.

Logically, I should care not and simply figure out how to make money off of them.

That is exactly what Al Gore has done. And that is exactly what every quality CEO in the country is already doing. They do not care one iota whether it is true or not. They say "how can I use this to advantage my business, motivate my employees and appease my community".

So there must be a way to spur the market towards greater innovation, reduce reliance on mid-east oil and reduce visible pollution (i know, CO2 isn't pollution). And there must be a way to shape the argument to gain "conservative" advantage and get away from the cultural war.

mike volpe said...

I don't know that you will find so called common ground. My point is this. I think that trying to argue the existence or lack thereof of global warming is the wrong arguement to have.

Whether you believe in global warming or not, you should want to be eco friendly, reduce C02, and find alternative energy sources.

Thus, the question is how do we do it. Do we cede that part of the arguement to the other side and just let them list a plethora of regulations and mandates and force us into it like John Rowe and Al Gore want or do we fight back and present free market solutions with meaningful tax cuts. I think that this is where we make the arguement.