Hung up on the Science

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Via Arts and Letters Daily is a perfect example of what is wrong with the global warming "debate" -- and no, I'm not even going to discuss the fact that basing this tax on carbon emissions is scientifically debatable:

Suppose each country implements something called the T3 tax, whose U.S. dollar rate is set equal to 20 times the three-year moving average of the RSS and UAH estimates of the mean tropical tropospheric temperature anomaly, assessed per tonne of carbon dioxide, updated annually. Based on current data, the tax would be US$4.70 per ton, which is about the median mainstream carbon-dioxide-damage estimate from a major survey published in 2005 by economist Richard Tol. The tax would be implemented on all domestic carbon-dioxide emissions, all the revenues would be recycled into domestic income tax cuts to maintain fiscal neutrality, and there would be no cap on total emissions.
In other words, you get a new income-redistribution scheme layered onto our already-bloated welfare state (and forget about repealing the income tax in the meantime) that will still waste everyone's time and resources on climate research. And, oh yeah, this is touted as a "free market" measure, too!

This is what happens when everyone in a "debate" is actually in full agreement on the essential issue, yet refuses to discuss it, instead electing to prattle incessantly about something entirely tangential. In the misnamed "global warming" debate, both sides agree that the government ought to "do something" about climate change. This fundamental premise is almost never questioned or even named.

But laymen all over the place are arguing themselves blue in the face over whether climate change is occurring and, if so, how. Unfortunately, this second debate would remain (properly) confined to scientists if more people understood the proper role of government, namely the protection of individual rights. Not setting the Earth's thermostat.

Believe me, I appreciate Ross McKitrick's desire to end this tedious, acrimonious, and very annoying discussion. Unfortunately, simply failing, as he does, to address the question of whether the government has the right to violate our individual rights (and moving directly into how it will) may indeed end this particular debate for the moment. However, it will do more than just leave the door open for yet another such attack on our rights: It will invite another because the real purpose of the loudest faction in this debate is to extend government controls over the lives of ordinary citizens using any expedient excuse. The excuse du jour happens to be called "global warming".

Not only is it immoral for the government to levy taxes, it is not even necessary for the purpose declared here. If, say, sea levels were to rise, would not private citizens and businesses react accordingly? And if not, why should they worry about the earth's temperature (or their emissions) beyond the degree they already do? When there is an economic need for something, the private sector will see a business opportunity and address that need.

To have the government pointing a gun at our heads as it gauges a tax to some hypothetical future economic condition is gilding the lily at best -- even if we ignore the fact that the government is not supposed to take our property or dictate our actions. For example: If my company should build a shipping terminal twenty miles inland fifty years from now, you won't need to point a gun to my head to get me to build it. If not, why are you pointing that gun at me at me now and saying I might need to?

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

The primary reason for the GW reaction is not humans. The primary reason has never been humans. It's always been pitched as a "battle" between man and nature. The overarching consideration is the loss of biodiversity of plant and animal species.

Gus Van Horn said...

Are you speaking about the political debate we should be having on whether global warming would merit government action, or the ongoing scientific discussions about whether there is warming and, if so, about how it is occurring?

Anonymous said...

Sorry for not clarifying. I'm speaking about the political debate -- the political reaction, spurred on by a group of scientists, especially biologists.

As you said, people will find solutions. However, the concern about GW (and for that matter, any environmental issue) has ALWAYS been for the protection of biodiversity. It is only now that possible losses to humans are being brought into the debate, perhaps to get more people emotionally involved.

Gus Van Horn said...

And ironically, all this results in one species, Homo sapiens, endangering itself!