Monday, December 6, 2010

The REAL skeptics: climate-skeptic skeptics

My "treasonous" acceptance of anthropogenic global warming doesn't get me invited to a lot of libertarian cocktail parties these days. I've made it loud and clear that I am a climate-skeptic skeptic, and am tired of seeing the same lame (and thoroughly debunked) junk science rehashed over and over again from the global warming deniers. For a comprehensive refutation of skeptic arguments, see here. To be honest, I suspect providing this link is pointless because I've never met a global warming denier willing to read or consider anything--ANYTHING--that goes against the dumbassery fed to them by corporate-funded rightwing think tanks.

So what's my solution? Well, let's start off with something basic: just because a problem is difficult doesn't mean you should simply deny it. Most libertarians have apparently not learned that much. Now that that's out of the way, I'll start by giving several solutions that shouldn't be controversial in the libertarian community, followed by a few that *will* be controversial.

Solutions no libertarian should disagree with

First and foremost, we need to end the military-industrial complex, which is an enormous source of carbon emissions and pollution in general. See here and here. As the environmental website Futurism Now puts it:

Wars and militaries do so much environmental damage every year that an individual’s contributions to climate change pales in comparison. That makes events like 10-10-10 very anemic. It’s not individuals doing most of the greenhouse gas emissions and it’s not individuals who can stop climate change — it’s businesses and governments. Until the military’s pollution and contributions to climate change end, our efforts remain negated. Not entirely, but blaming the individual for climate change, as the video talked about here does, is nonsense. We can’t even keep up with the climate change and environmental damage the military does.

Next we need to phase out all subsidies to fossil fuels, which dwarf those given to clean energy. And we need to immediately lift whatever red tape and taxes the government has placed on those sources. Finally, we should promote ethical consumerism and green capitalism, despite its obvious limits.

Solutions that are going to be more controversial for libertarians (especially the right-leaning ones)

A strong case can be made that excessive CO2 omissions impose costs on society that are not reflected in prices. These are known as externalities. Downsize DC, a libertarian organization that Harry Browne was associated with until the end of his life, has admitted as much:

Even if you accept that human CO2 emissions are causing problematic global warming, a government run "cap and trade" system is not the way to deal with this problem. There is a better way. Here are some points to consider . . .

  • Fossil fuels create massive amounts of air pollution, quite apart from CO2.
  • This pollution causes health problems, none of which are reflected in the price of fossil fuels.
  • Fossil fuels enjoy a "free ride" in terms of pollution costs that make it hard for alternative sources of energy to compete.
  • Air pollution is a form of trespass, and a case can certainly be made that dealing with such trespasses is a legitimate function of government.
The federal government could do this by . . .
  • Taxing fossil fuels
  • Cutting other taxes so that your overall financial burden would remain unchanged

Finally, the government could place heavy restrictions on strip mining, hydrofracking, and drilling, which are pretty much all inherently destructive to the environment as well as other people's property. This will drive up the price of fossil fuels. Before you shout "statist!" until your face turns blood red, let me ask:

-How can a mountain, which is a product of nobody's labor, be considered "private property" (and thus destroyed) anyway? And how many other people's property is impacted in the process via flooding, toxic waste, and ruined streams?
-How is hydrofracking--which is notorious for contaminating drinking water--a "natural right?"
-How can ocean areas loaded with marine life, none of which is a product of anyone's labor, be considered "private property" fit for drilling and destruction by anyone who wants to claim arbitrary ownership over them?
-What about the property rights of those living on islands, near the coasts or in other affected areas? What about the property rights of those who are going to have their homes destroyed by the increasingly intense weather (which is a result of these industries)?

Libertarians have not given these questions any serious thought. They side with corporations and conservatives out of habit, rather than justifying their beliefs with strict libertarian theory.

(The solutions given here are most applicable to a minarchist state, since we live under a state and will for a long time. In an ancap society society, perhaps the fossil fuel industries are sued into oblivion due to their nonstop polluting of other people's property.)

These are just a taste of possible solutions, and I'm certain that more will arise with time.


  1. The libertarians position does confuse me, because dealing with externalities like pollution should be one of the few things the government actually does under libertarian principles.

    How do you feel about the idea of the government subsidizing pollution controls? Often, the complaint is that regulation overburdens industry, and it does, but if the government protects business by footing the bill, the cost can be dissipated across society, rather than being shouldered exclusively by industry.

  2. "Libertarians have not given these questions any serious thought. They side with corporations and conservatives out of habit, rather than justifying their beliefs with strict libertarian theory.”

    I don’t think that is completely true, I certainly do not support corporations as I am very anti corporate-personhood.

    I tend to be anti-corporate in almost a knee-jerk way, and conservatives often use christianity to back positions and I am also an anti-theist.

    I also clicked your link and I am reviewing it, I cannot say that I am convinced. I certainly am not pro-polution.

  3. How do you feel about the idea of the government subsidizing pollution controls?

    Not quite sure what you mean by this, Ginx.

    I cannot say that I am convinced

    You may not be convinced, but all of the world's top scientists are.

  4. Cork: Let's say there's a piece of technology that, if installed, will reduce pollution. If the government wants to regulate that all people who can use it must use it, the government would pay for it. This way, regulation is paid for by by those benefitting from it: the citizenry.

  5. "You may not be convinced, but all of the world's top scientists are.”

    I don’t know is a valid answer.


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