Facebook Twitter

A Conservative’s Approach to Combating Climate Change

June 11th, 2012 |

Here is post made in The Atlantic, by Jonathan H. Adler, a professor at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law. You are encouraged to click through to read the article, as it is infused with many hyper-links which may be of interest. See: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/a-conservatives-approach-to-combating-climate-change/257827/

A Conservative’s Approach to Combating Climate Change

May 30 2012, 11:11 AM ET

No environmental issue is more polarizing than global climate change.  Many on the left fear increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases threaten an environmental apocalypse while many on the right believe anthropogenic global warming is much ado about nothing and, at worst, a hoax.  Both sides pretend as if the climate policy debate is, first and foremost, about science, rather than policy. This is not so. There is substantial uncertainty about the scope, scale, and consequences of anthropogenic warming, and will be for some time, but this is not sufficient justification for ignoring global warming or pretending that climate change is not a serious problem.

Though my political leanings are most definitely right-of-center, and it would be convenient to believe otherwise, I believe there is sufficient evidence that global warming is a serious environmental concern.  I have worked on this issue for twenty years, including a decade at the Competitive Enterprise Institute where I edited this book. I believe human activities have contributed to increases in greenhouse concentrations, and these increases can be expected to produce a gradual increase in global mean temperatures. While substantial uncertainties remain as to the precise consequences of this increase and consequent temperature rise, there is reason to believe many of the effects will be quite negative.  Even if some parts of the world were to benefit from a modest temperature increase — due to, say, a lengthened growing season — others will almost certainly lose.

Many so-called skeptics note that environmental activists and some climate scientists exaggerate the likely effects of anthropogenic warming, distorting scientific findings and overstating the extent to which contemporary events (hurricanes, etc.) may be linked to human activity to date.  But the excesses of climate activists and bad behavior by politically active scientists (and the IPCC) do not, and should not, discredit the underlying science, or justify excoriating those who reach a different conclusion.  Indeed, most skeptics within the scientific community readily accept the basic science.  They contest the more extreme climate projections, but accept the basic scientific claims. Take, for example, Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute.  In one of his recent books, Climate of Extremes: The Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to Know (co-authored with Robert Balling, another prominent “skeptic”), Michaels readily acknowledges that there is a warming trend and that human activity shares some of the blame.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/05/a-conservatives-approach-to-combating-climate-change/257827/



2 Responses to “A Conservative’s Approach to Combating Climate Change”

  1. Robert Clear Says:

    I have two concerns about Dr. Adler’s otherwise fine post. The first is that dramatic technological innovation is needed to address climate change. Adler claims that the U.S. would have to “reduce per capita emissions to levels not seen since Reconstruction”, with the implication that this would be a disaster to current standard of living, given our current technology. Not so. Our current technologies are in many cases orders of magnitude more efficient than those available during reconstruction. Lighting is a beautiful example. A gas or oil lamp has an efficacy in the tenths of lumens per watt, or even lower. Incandescent lamps have efficacies of about 10 – 20 lumens per watt, and modern discharge and solid state lamps reach 100 lumens per watt. Similar, although perhaps less dramatic, claims can be made for many of the other ways in which we use energy. I have made changes in my 70 year-old house based on my calculations of what was cost-effective: efficient lighting, added insulation, storm windows, energy efficient appliances to replace old ones that were wearing out, and so on. My job is within bicycling distance. Based on published estimates of sustainable carbon emissions, my per capita energy use (500 kwh and 50 therms of gas per year), is sustainable – or least it is sustainable as an average for 7 billion people. Although my lifestyle is not as lavish as that of many others, it is still way more lavish than almost anything expected 150 years ago. Furthermore, I have only made those changes that were cost-effective at current energy prices. Although it is still not quite cost-effective on a personal basis for me, I will be adding solar sometime soon – which should get my net electricity use down to almost zero.

    My second concern is with conservative’s belief that market regulations are not useful. Markets are great – but not all problems can be solved by market forces alone. Conservatives delight in describing regulations which are inefficient, or even counter-productive, but they seem to ignore all the cases where have had dramatic positive effects. Consider appliance regulations. Manufacturers fought them bitterly, and complained that they would cause dramatic increases in price. The reality was that manufacturers had not updated their designs, and manufacturing layouts for many years, and when forced to produce new efficient appliances, actually produced them at lower prices than for the inefficient models produced before. There are other market failures. One obvious one is that faced by renters, who do not buy the appliances that they use. Another major failure is that individuals tend to have much higher discount rates than society as a whole, which makes it very difficult to use pricing to get people to properly evaluate energy efficiency. I have no objection to carbon taxes, but I definitely disagree that actions such as “technology inducement prices” are sufficient to replace appropriate regulation.

  2. Bernard cronyn Says:

    May I just add a small point in reference to the article and Robert Clear’s comment; efficiency of household appliances is indeed important but another is their quality. I have had some experience in the industry and know that with a little more manufacturing cost an appliance can be made to last a good deal longer. Manufacturers still subscribe to a good deal of “planned obsolescence”. Here in the UK where appliances often have a life span of around 2 years we have mountains of refrigerators and other appliances to be “disposed of”. Doubling or even trebling lifespans of these goods would have a huge beneficial effect. Disposing of and manufacturing uses more energy and other resources than the energy used in the appliance’s entire working life. The same applies to motor vehicles.

Leave a Comment