Cap-and-Trade is just one of the many ways in which the federal government will try to be restricting the freedoms of individuals and businesses in the name of fighting global warming (now being conveniently called climate change). Environmentalism was once a fuzzy feel-good plank of the left, however in recent years many such as Thomas Friedman and Van Jones have realized the possibility of using broad public affinity for things like parks and animals as a tool to have government control the economy, and therefore our daily lives.
When debating any issue, the biggest weapon available to someone is that of framing the debate. Too often Republicans like John McCain allow themselves to be sucked into a discourse about global warming where the only subject up for debate is how the government can save the planet. Not only is this poor debating and weak politics, but it completely ignores and sidesteps some very important considerations. Its very hard for conservatives to win a debate about global warming in a culture where the inevitability of ecological Armageddon is seen as a foregone conclusion and all who dare question the orthodoxy of Henry Waxman are seen as flat-earthers. A set of rational questions must be asked of the proponents of government solutions to global warming, none of them at all inflammatory or ludicrous. I believe before we can say "Yes" to any climate legislation, we must also answer "Yes" to each of the following five questions:
- Is the Earth warming?
- Is this due to human activity?
- Would global warming, on the whole, be bad?
- Is prevention a more effective response than adaptation?
- Should government be the one coordinating humanity's response?
Make no mistake, I am not a scientist or any kind of climate expert. But I am skeptical by nature, and I find the simplicity in which liberals and environmentalists treat something as complex as the global climate appalling. Here are my thoughts on the five questions above:
- Is the Earth warming? - Is the average temperature of the globe warming, cooling, or staying about the same? Is the way in which we're measuring this objective and not subject to geographic-bias, such as in urban areas with a lot of asphalt?
- Is this due to human activity? - There are far smarter people than I to answer this question. However, it is an important one. Does any warming trend present on Earth coincide with human industrial activity, or is it in line with long term ecological cycles? Have factors like volcanic or other geo-thermal activity been ruled out as a cause? What about solar activity? Is the Earth alone in warming, or are other planets experiencing similar phenomena? Are we confident enough in our knowledge of the global climate and things like the chemical makeup of the atmosphere, the interaction of solar heat and plant life, and the worldwide system of ocean currents to make policy decisions based on such knowledge?
- Would global warming, on the whole, be bad? - If we are entering a period of global warming, it would not be the first time humanity has been subject to significant climate change. There are marks left on the Sphinx of heavy rainfall in a place that is now an arid desert. The human race survived then, and in fact flourished. Currently, there are many places on earth too barren or cold to support the agriculture and industry necessary for human survival. Would any negative effects (i.e. loss of land due to rising sea levels) be greater than any positive affects (i.e. more arable land) of an increased global temperature?
- Is prevention a more effective response than adaptation? - Let us not forget that we already live in a world of severe natural disasters and climate extremes. Yet the chief human response to things like tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes has been not to prevent such things, but to adapt to them. Advances in human knowledge and technology have made buildings more resistant to such events and societies better prepared. Why not apply the same principles to global warming? Is it better to alter the economic and energy policies of the entire earth to combat rising sea levels, or just build a bunch of levees and call it a day? Trade-offs, costs, and benefits must be considerations made when regarding issues so important to the state of humanity.
- Should government be the one coordinating humanity's response? - Let us say that we have answered "yes" to the five preceding questions, that yes, the planet is warming, yes, it is due to human activity, yes, it is bad, and yes, it would be better to prevent global warming rather than to simply adapt to yet another climate shift. Is government really the entity that should be in charge of something so important and threatening? Or should we have a system built on property rights and personal responsibility to mitigate the dangers posed by global warming?
Human beings live on every continent, under the ocean's depths, and in outer space. We have met extremely arduous challenges over the relatively brief time we have been on this planet, and managed to not only survive, but thrive. To see global warming as any different, as environmentalists seem to, is not looking at the situation rationally or with perspective. But to look at it simplistically is even worse.