Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Friday, July 30, 2004

Global Warming?

If you listen to Neal Boortz long enough, you'll hear his thoughts on global warming - basically, that it's just a myth touted by eco-freaks who want to cripple America economically by scaring people into things like the Kyoto accords.

This story is all about certain birds near the UK which have not been nesting, and therefore not breeding, and therefore the population will take a major hit. The story quotes "scientists" as linking the failure directly to global warming. I put "scientists" in quotes because only five people are actually quoted. Two of them - one a warden and one the director of Friends of the Earth - may be, but aren't necessarily, scientists. The story doesn't present anything like a dissenting scientific view. And I somehow doubt that the director of a group named "Friends of the Earth" is after objectivity.

I mention the story to reject Boortz' reasoning, at least in part. Boortz argues that, although a lot of scientists have signed on to UN-sponsored research regarding global warming, there is reason to believe that many of the scientists were basically bullied into signing it. He cites researchers who a) reject most critically the UN research, and who b) are therefore the subject of ad hominem attacks and professional ostracism. Boortz' research is good as far as it goes, but I think it only goes so far as to prove that there are, in fact, dissenting opinions.

We are, therefore, faced with a choice, and I will analogize that choice to another of Neal's favorite topics: the War in iraq. Neal argues that we had intelligence suggesting Saddam had WMDs. There was always the danger that the intelligence was faulty. But Bush did the responsible thing by erring on the side of caution. Because it's much better to invade Iraq and depose modern history's bloodiest tyrant and discover you were wrong about WMDs than to not invade and discover he had them, he sold them to al-Qaeda, and a nuke goes off in Boise, ID (because you know that's where they're going to strike next).

But Neal abandons this logic when it comes to global warming, in spite of much wider-ranging potential effects. If al-Qaeda blows up Boise, we lose 5 million people (my best estimate of the population of Boise), and that's a tragedy, but that's as far as it goes. If the whole Earth turns into a charred raisin, we lose everybody. Oops.

I am not encouraging panic. I am not even encouraging the Kyoto accords, because I don't even know what they say (and I suspect many proponents of the accords also don't know what they say). I certainly am not encouraging people to watch The Day After Tomorrow and try to shape national policy around a fictional disaster movie. That would be just plain nutty.

I am saying that I'm perfectly comfortable with the directly competing forces of eco-nuts who don't actually commit crimes, and the capitalists who want to use natural resources. As long as we have both, I think we will strike the proper balance between unfettered capitalism, which I suspect would kill us all rather quickly, and unfettered hippy-ism, which would have us living in trees and hemp pants. On the microscopic level, there will be problems. Some companies will pollute, and people will get sick. Some environmental regulations will be foolish, and people will lose their homes or lives in California wildfires. These are tragic consequences, most people will agree (I know some eco-terrorists aren't the least bit disappointed with California homes being destroyed, but I don't exactly respect their opinions). But faced with the choice between government micro-management to strike the perfect balance in every case, and letting the capitalists butt heads with the enviros, I definitely prefer the latter.