Global Boring

Tuesday , 20, March 2007 Leave a comment

Tyler Cowen, who must be some sort of libertarian, wrote an article called “The Paradox of Libertarianism.” I don’t have much to say about Libertarianism, though the article is a great read. I think a lot of conservative-ish people who maybe don’t go to church a whole lot are attracted to it for a variety of reasons. It’s also fun to call yourself one, because it means you can always always always complain about the government guilt-free. “Sure I voted for him, but I voted for him in the hopes that he wouldn’t really do anything!”

Like I said, I have nothing intellligent to say about any particular political philosophy right now, but I think the article makes one interesting point about global warming. My feeling is that it shouldn’t be a political issues, that we have to trust scientists to do their job and listen to their advice. Otherwise we get people like Ted “internet is not a dump truck” Stevens making important decisions. A lot of people don’t have trust in the scientists for whatever reason, and therefore they insist on washing their cars with gasoline and turning on both their heaters AND ACs when the weather is nice. They don’t buy it. That’s fine. The interesting point I’m so slowly navigating toward is this:

Yes, I know some of you are climate skeptics. But if the chance of mainstream science being right is only 20% (and assuredly it is much higher than that), we still have, in expected value terms, a massive tort. We don’t let people play involuntary Russian roulette on others with a probability of 17% (one bullet, six chambers), so we do need to worry about man-made global warming.

Bingo. I’ve always said that the position that Exxon has had on global warming, contrasted against BP or other big oil companies to a small extent, is like the tobacco company and cancer debates of decades past. “There’s not definitive link between X and Y” according to the Company Z that make X, even though all people in the know not employed by Company Z say otherwise. The people that are suffering from Y might sue them if they admitted it, right? So Company Z insists it has done nothing wrong, people argue about whether anything is even happening, and Y is allowed to casually destroy the world!!!

Also like the lung cancer argument is that even if there’s no conclusive evidence, it’s still obvious that smoking was bad. Maybe it didn’t give you lung cancer, but it made it harder for people to climb stair and stained their teeth yellow. I think with warming its the same thing. Maybe it’s not our cars and our power plants that are doing it, but if we can use more efficient energy sources and get 100 miles/gallon in our cars, who loses? Third world countries that can’t afford the improved technology? I’ve heard that line of argument before, but it’s so far down the road its stupid. Just because we know some people will probably always smoke doesn’t mean we all should. And now I guess I mean smokin’ carbon…. in combustion engines.. and whatnot.