Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Global weirding and the compromise class

Jerry Stratton, June 26, 2014

Sarychev volcano

Nature doesn’t compromise, and she doesn’t care how much money you’ve spent solving the wrong problem.

There is a certain class of republican who lives to compromise with the left. They may claim to support policy A against the left’s policy B, but if policy B falls out of favor they do not rush to implement A, they rush to revive B.

I first remember seeing this in 1994 when the 1994 gun ban failed, and Senator Bob Dole worked into the night to revive it. He couldn’t succeed by defeating the policy he claimed was wrong. Success only came by compromising and partially implementing the policy, in that case a gun ban.

Irwin M. Stelzer at The Weekly Standard is applying that same methodology to cap-and-trade:

Fortunately, there is little prospect that the call to arms will be heard: Polls show that climate change is low on Americans’ list of worries. But that does not mean the assessment will prove harmless, for it lays the basis for a more complete takeover of energy industries by a president who knows how to deploy the regulatory process to impose his vision on the country, to “transform” it, as he promised even before winning his first presidential election.

The president is fortunate in his opposition, which specializes in doing just that—opposing—but only that. Republicans and many of their conservative allies quite rightly question the science underlying the claims of the president but offer no alternatives to his call for more and more regulations on the production and consumption of energy. One is available, and should not be hastily rejected: a carbon tax.

The science behind cap-and-trade may be wrong, he says, and the public is realizing it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t compromise with the bad science by raising taxes. As a compromise with an inevitable cap-and-trade, this is not a bad idea. But as you can see above, Stelzer has spent the first part of the editorial acknowledging that cap-and-trade is dead: both public opinion and the scientific method have reduced the importance of global weirding legislation.

Now, Stelzers’s other idea is that we replace the myriad of regulations on energy production and use with this one tax. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, but there are two requirements which make it practically impossible1: it would require an enforceable constitutional amendment forbidding further regulations, and it would require dismantling and disbanding the EPA. Neither of these requirements are mentioned in his article.

Stelzer goes on to say that

Conservatives can maintain their skepticism about global climate change, but that does not mean that a bit of prudential action might not be appropriate should it turn out that carbon emissions are indeed having a negative effect on climate.

This is pure thinking of the anointed: that there are no tradeoffs. That the resources we use to fight non-existent threats might as well be used just in case those threats pan out. But those resources could just as well be used to plan against other global threats. At some point in the future—possibly the near future—there is going to be a magnitude 8 earthquake in California. Throughout the world, megathrust earthquakes are happening right now. The tsunamis that killed 200,000 people in the Indian Ocean in 2004 and 16,000 people in Japan in 2011 were caused by megathrust earthquakes. The United States is due for a megathrust in the Cascadia subduction zone in the Pacific Northwest.

The resources that currently go to politically-tainted research into global weirding could instead go toward better predicting such earthquakes, better forecasting the resultant tsunamis, building more resistant buildings, and providing more useful warnings.

Scientists have talked about installing an early-warning system in California for decades, but the political will is lacking. It may be that society still holds out hope for true prediction, a word I find causes most seismologists to take a deep, nerve-calming breath. Despite reports of prescient runaway pets, we remain unable to predict specific seismic events. Early warning is our best hope, but experts are pessimistic that the funding (at least $80 million) will materialize before another big quake hits.

This is the tradeoff when dealing with threats that haven’t been proven: there are threats that have been proven that will go unprepared for. And big earthquakes are not the only mega-disasters that nature has in store for us. Solar storms big enough to bring down our communications and electrical grids have happened as late as 1859. How common are they? As far as I can tell, we don’t know. Less likely in our lifetimes, but still geologically likely, are super volcanos whose eruptions will cover hundreds of miles with ash and reduce global temperatures for months, playing havoc with our food supply at the least. We seem to discover a new near-miss with comets and asteroids every few years.

And climate change itself is an issue, albeit not the way it’s being sold to us: our climate is always changing. The earth has recently been through far hotter and far colder eras. The more resources we throw away to solve a climate problem that doesn’t exist, the less we’ll have when real climate change hits us.

The “prudential action” is to address the threats that are happening right now and for which the science is solid. Not to impose a new tax scheme to prop-up a scam just as the scam is starting to fail.

In response to The Bureaucracy Event Horizon: Government bureaucracy is the ultimate broken window.

  1. Repealing the existing regulations is merely extremely unlikely.

  1. <- Jump to the Left
  2. Texas anointed ->