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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/11311/privatizing-climate-policy/

Privatizing Climate Policy

December 24, 2009 by

Climate-change policy ought to be privatized. All government policy instruments — including taxes, subsidies, regulation, and emissions trading — to mitigate climate change ought to be abolished. FULL ARTICLE by Graham Dawson


Gil December 24, 2009 at 9:00 am

That’s the daft article to read – privatise the ‘commons’ so they can be protected yet the atmosphere is part of the ‘unhomesteadable commons’. Is this article no more than TokyoTom appeasement or smugness that no one can sue another person for ‘acts of God’? On the other hand, if the author claims people might be able to sue other people for carbon emissions then this will have the anti-progress, anti-technology initiative as a Global Climate Treaty. Suppose petrol cars were scrapped in the late 1800s because private pollution torts? Would this have meant those who did have cars would be steam-power cars? Would the Industrial Revolution not have happened because the factories would have been shut down by private courts? What of coal-fired power stations? Would everyone have to be like the Amish where it is better to be safe than to be sorry to a private court?

Alex December 24, 2009 at 9:09 am

Hmmm. Suppose it is demonstrated that CO2-induced global warming is a real phenomenon.

Individual A wants to sue the coal-fired electricity plant for the harm it will cause. Due to the expected time lag, this means A thinks, not that she will not be directly harmed, but that individuals B, C, and D will be harmed maybe 70-120 years in the future from the relatively small contribution from the coal plant. So she has to try and sue on behalf of unidentifiable individuals across the globe who will exist 70-120 years in the future.

I’m not a lawyer, but to sue someone for harm don’t you have to show that you will be harmed. Maybe others know the answer to this.

Alex December 24, 2009 at 9:17 am

By the way, earlier at this website, I was alerted to an article by Gerlich and Tscheuschner in the March 2009 International Journal of Modern Physics that argues that the CO2 greenhouse effect violates basic laws of thermodynamics. I read what I could of that article and a couple of others supporting that contention. Does anyone know of any physics articles that challenge this contention? Clearly if there is no such thing as a greenhouse effect, then end of story.

Stephen Grossman December 24, 2009 at 10:00 am

Capitalist industry is man’s only method for surviving climate change, as shown by a rational view of history. Non-industrial cultures were/are devastated by droughts, floods, and shifts to a cold climate. Environmentalism is a nihilist demand for the destruction of the allegedly evil human race.

As for for private climate change, there are often good and bad effects. Shall private individuals who change climate sue free-riders who benefit from more wood and food and longer life? If you dont like your local climate, move, as people do now.

As a New Englander suffering from the current freeze and unusually big snow, I welcome the alleged global warming. In the meantime, I can only wish to turn Al Gore upside down and use his hot air as a snow blower.

ABR December 24, 2009 at 10:14 am

Regarding the Industrial Revolution: factories in the middle of nowhere might homestead the neighbouring atmosphere as a receptacle of smoke. But if a factory were built nearby a human settlement, a tort would occur. The settlers there could either seek an injunction or make a deal with the factory, granting them the right to pollute to a set degree in exchange for money.

The automobile in a city presents a trickier problem, since there are so many polluters. The first enthusiasts would be exempt because their pollution would be too trivial to matter.

That same line of reasoning might apply to global warming. The first emitters are exempt, but at some tipping point any new emitters are liable.

Fascinating subject. Definitely worthy of subsequent articles that go into more detail.

Allen Weingarten December 24, 2009 at 12:05 pm

I deny each and every one of the 4 major planks of Global Warming:

1. There is no proof that there exists appreciable warming, compared say to the Medieval Warming period.
2. There is no evidence that the little warming that has occurred is attributable to CO2, let alone to man’s small contribution to it.
3. There is little reason to believe that the amount of warming that might occur is harmful, and more to conclude that colder weather is harmful.
4. The proposed methods for reducing CO2 would have little effect on the developed countries, and even if they did, would not impact the far greater development of the developing countries.

There are many refutations of the Global Warming hypotheses, aside from their fabrications within Climategate. So I am surely not in favor of any action to prevent Global Warming. Nonetheless, suppose there were an emergency whereupon America would be destroyed, and the government had the ability to prevent it. I aver that *this would fall within the proper role of government*, such as for example containing a plague or a forest fire.

Mark December 24, 2009 at 12:20 pm

With (1) the temperature of the surface of the sun estimated to be 5,510,000 Celsius and its core more than twice that at 13.6 million K; and, (2) with the earth’s core temp estimated to be c. 5,400 C — the question becomes why are we evenly remotely concerned about the impact of man on this planet?

Our impact will be lost in a matter of years once we no longer exist (apparently a goal of many on the left).

What we do can impact local environmental conditions, but these are only supperficial scars to the overall environment.

David White December 24, 2009 at 1:09 pm

According to a recent study by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine — http://www.oism.org/pproject/GWReview_OISM150.pdf

There are no experimental data to support the hypothesis that increases in human hydrocarbon use or in atmospheric carbon dioxide and other green house gases are causing or can be expected to cause unfavorable changes in global temperatures, weather, or landscape. There is no reason to limit human production of CO2, CH4, and other minor green house gases as has been proposed.

We also need not worry about environmental calamities even if the current natural warming trend continues. The Earth has been much warmer during the past 3,000 years without catastrophic effects. Warmer weather extends growing seasons and generally improves the habitability of colder regions. As coal, oil, and natural gas are used to feed and lift from poverty vast numbers of people across the globe, more CO2 will be released into the atmosphere. This will help to maintain and improve the health, longevity, prosperity, and productivity of all people…

Human activities are producing part of the rise in CO2 in the atmosphere. Mankind is moving the carbon in coal, oil, and natural gas from below ground to the atmosphere, where it is available for conversion into living things. We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of this CO2 increase. Our children will therefore enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life than that with which we now are blessed.

Alex December 24, 2009 at 2:39 pm

David White:

If you haven’t seen the Gerlich article I referred to above, check it out. You might also wish to Google “American Thinker, CO2 greenhouse” on this issue.

Walt D. December 24, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Alex said:
“Clearly if there is no such thing as a greenhouse effect, then end of story.”
No such thing as a greenhouse effect, no Santa Claus? No Easter bunny? No tooth fairy? Please don’t tell my grandchildren.

Walt D. December 24, 2009 at 3:30 pm

Judging from the chaos that had been caused in Europe and the Eastern US, the AGW movement is probably ruing the day when the changed over to a warming as opposed to a cooling hypothesis. This change over was undoubtedly due to the biblical influences such as the great flood and Noah’s Ark, and the fire and brimstone depiction of hell. The truth of the matter is that it is much easier living in Phoenix Arizona, where summer temperatures are 115 F, that living in the winter in Fort McMurray, Canada, where temperatures go below 0 F. Had they been a little better read, they would have been aware that Dante’s 9th circle of hell had people frozen in ice. It is a lot easier to get people upset about something that is actually happening , colder weather.

Ribald December 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm

I don’t think the specifics of global warming science are very relevant to the issues brought up by the article. In theory, the role it plays could be played by any harmful externality, so long as its effect is global.

I disagree with the article’s contention that tort litigation is the way to go on the issue, on the grounds that the burden of proof denies the compensation of those who lack the scientific acumen or the funding to pay for the scientific work. On top of that, the reward for harms is often not commensurate with the harms. This sort of thing is akin to allowing tort litigation to be the solution to food safety issues–in theory it works, but in practice there is a far more efficient and workable mechanism. Tort litigation is a last resort.

In the case of a global externality, there’s a gigantic barrier in the way of a private solution, and it’s a practical one. Simply put, all of the people who are affected can’t negotiate a deal with all of the people who create the externality, even if there were only one such person. A conventional approach–those affected pay the polluters to be clean–can only be undertaken locally and as a result, the costs are high because the cost can’t be spread between everyone who has a stake in preventing the harm caused by the pollution. The problem is even further complicated by the fact that the harm may not be uniform and direct. It’s difficult or impossible for an individual to assess the cost of the harm to himself, and those who have the opportunity to negotiate a contract may not be the same people who are harmed.

We need a solution to the many-party problem. My rough idea is that an entity could service those who are affected by the externality. They would pay that entity to negotiate a contract with the polluters. When the contract is finalized, they would pay the fees demanded by the contract through that entity. The difficult bits are in damage estimates and payment collection. I guess only the most obvious damage would be usable to negotiate an acceptable price.

That looks more like a free market, libertarian approach. I haven’t yet heard or seen any such business, and those most affected by such externalities would very likely refuse to pay those fees on the grounds that it isn’t fair (ethically speaking, that’s probably true) or because they’re too poor to afford the costs.

We should keep looking for a business model that can actually do the work of fixing these issues.

Douglas Chalmers December 24, 2009 at 4:21 pm

So pathetic that you have human rights so quickly reduced to “property rights” + especially at Christmas, uhh (ref. Amnesty International’s 2009 campaign “Demand Dignity” launched by Irene Khan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=roMSUYgctng ).

Governments are not only “failing to protect property rights…” but human rights as well. But LEGALISM is no kind of answer whatsoever, in fact it is the very reason why the Copenhagen climate change conference was such an abysmal failure.

It is necessary to get rid of the legalists from the equation to find a solution through genuine co-operation….. That is, relying on actual moral values, the desire to do the best for ones’ country’s citizens/peoples + to positively contribute to the global community going forward into a sustainable future.

Legal ‘mechanisms’ + compulsively forcing compliance to other peoples’ ideas + imagined imperatives is NOT a way to ensure co-operation in the longer term. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnFfOXEAfJM

Merry Christmas!

Chris Cook December 24, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Ingenious though Graham Dawson’s suggested approach is, I much prefer simple solutions.

I’m surprised that the acute observers on this site have not observed (perhaps they did, and I missed it) the striking parallels between the deficit basis of CO2 and emissions trading, and the deficit basis of our banking system. What I mean by deficit basis is that both systems attempt by political and administrative fiat to attribute value to something intrinsically worthless.

I have been advocating for some five years now – based upon 25 years in market regulation and development, for six of them a director of a global energy exchange – a simple but radical complementary approach to energy markets generally and carbon markets in particular.

This is simply for energy producers to create Units redemable in payment for energy supplied, and to issue these to investors in return for value received. This concept of ‘unitisation’ should be comprehensible to anyone familar with (say frequent flyer miles or store loyalty points.
The outcome is potentially to monetise the energy value of carbon, which has intrinsic worth, and it opens up some interesting policy options.

For instance, a carbon levy could be applied to carbon fuel use, gradually increasing the gasoline price to (say) $5.00 /gallon or more. The population is then compensated with an ‘energy dividend’ of Units, which they may exchange in payment for gasoline, and continue profligate use, or alternatively they may conserve gasoline use,and exchange Units for accommodation, goods or something else of value to them.

Unitisation of energy is, I submit, a simple but radical market-based solution that would actually work in practice. This recent presentation in Scotland focused on the unitisation of electricity, but the principle is the same.

Energy Pools

Timothy Vukomanovic December 24, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Even Libertarians believe that legislation should be used to protect the environment.

A legislation type model would however would not work for a number of reasons, and the Authors limited reflection on global legal procedures is the undoing of his argument.

1 As stated by the Author the climate effects everyone on the planet. For a legal system to be effective every one who was effected would need some type of equal representation in the legal field. Clearly those effected in certain countries do not have any access to legal process and definitely not to systems that would be able to sue companies in China or the US. We do not have a legal system that effectively deals with international legislation.

2 The climate is changing even without the help of man, and it is impossible to quantify the exact effects of putting a tonne of CO2 or other greenhouse gas into the Atmosphere, as there is a so many factors effecting the climate from year to year and decade to decade. It would therefore be impossible to estimate the effect that a certain amount of CO2 has contributed to the warming.

3) Much of what is dished out in payments in legal cases is emmotive and can vary significantly from case to case depending on the whim of the judge. In fact the judge becomes a legislator.

4) The first thing we need to do is kill all the lawyers. The system would be such a money making enterprise for the legal profession that there were be serious bias in the legal profession to make desputes continue.

On another point which is mentioned here. Yes it is proven that CO2 has a different conductivity of infra red radiation from the earths surface, and therefore it is perfectly reasonable from an engineering point of view say that CO2 in the atmosphere has an effect on the cooling rate of the earth. The problem in saying how much effect as the earths Climate is effect by a number of other factors as well.

N. Joseph Potts December 25, 2009 at 10:14 am

An objection that comes to mind apropos of this article’s suggestion is that proceedings at equity have a tendency to fall victim to “junk science.”

At this point (post-ClimateGate), however, we can take comfort in the demonstrated fact that academic (government-funded) science produces results fully as “junky” as anything produced in a courtroom.

Alfredo Polin December 25, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Hi!. Thinking about this, and thinking about what is reliable science and what it isn’t, science and economics (praxeology!), let me recommend a pair of articles:
Please, don’t forget to click on:
Letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Members
Just below in this article.
Plus these informations, please also don’t forget to visit:
Abstract: the theory is not mankind hand, but solar cycles activities.
Is this planet going to regulate Solar Activity?

David White December 25, 2009 at 12:35 pm

@ Alex

Thanks for supplying yet another nail in the coffin of AGW:


How fun it is to be a knowing “driver” of new life on the planet.

(Oops, forgot about Peak Oil. Dang.)

Marc Salvatini December 25, 2009 at 9:14 pm

While I share some points of view expressed, I am reminded of another “theory”, and that is Chaos theory. Climate on very shortened “time leash” is weather. Science prediction of simple weather in one small geographic location for an extended forecast of 5 days out is less of a 5% chance of accuracy. When we see a hurricane in the Atlantic and say it will come ashore somewhere between Miami and New England I chuckle at this whole dialogue of man-made CO2 planet wrecking emissions storyline.
Chaos theory, I guess no longer in vogue, would argue that both sides of the Climate argument/CO2 issue don’t have a clue, just a point of view and are both incorrect about a planetary event that will need some attention.
They’ll all be proven wrong, but none of you reading this post or me writing it will be around to know the outcome.
It has been from the start, a financial scheme, creating a new commodity (carbon credits) and an ability to make a few bucks. It has also been a statist/socialist way to move wealth from one part of the globe to another. Very common human behaviors throughout history.
That any sovereign state would allow the “clown car” of the UN to support a “law” put into place that supersedes any sovereign nation’s rights, has lost their perspective that “Serenity” , Star Wars”, and “BattleStar Galactica” were just entertainment.
We’re all going to buried on this planet while chaos theory is at work, and the living will have to deal something unforeseen that may actually give us “planetary citizens” something to worry about, but it certainly isn’t going to be the current view of CO2 emissions.
Enjoy the Holidays!

Shay December 26, 2009 at 1:22 am

Marc Salvatini, chaos theory can’t trump thermodynamics. If for example you have a fire in a closed box, the box will get hotter over time. If it’s a huge box with lots of obstructions, you might not be able to exactly predict the heat flows, but you can predict the overall temperature. The issue of global warming simply has to do with the heat-producing energy into and out of Earth and its overall effect, not the locations of particular clouds or storms in the short-term. Perhaps you could claim that there might be odd patterns of weather which affect the overall energy input/output, which other weather patterns wouldn’t do.

Jay Lakner December 27, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Not a bad article.

I have a problem with the statement:
“If carbon emissions are indeed causing dangerous climate change, it does not matter where they are reduced; wherever the reductions occur, the global atmospheric carbon concentration will eventually be reduced.”

The author seems to forget to look at the ‘unseen’ effects. Reducing carbon emissions in one part of the world could simply end up increasing carbon emissions in another. The overall effect will depend on the efficiency of the local industries.
For example, in general Australia has ‘cleaner’ factories than China. If Australian factories reduce their emissions, and this reduction increases their costs, then Chinese products will be relatively cheaper. The result: Chinese factories will produce more and Australian factories will produce less. Since the Australian factories are ‘cleaner’, the increased production in ‘dirtier’ Chinese factories will result in a net increase in global emissions.

Apart from that, I do agree with the general arguments made in this article.

Gil December 27, 2009 at 11:19 pm

Or should it be said that ‘polluting’ industries are making pro-active use of the atmosphere and if anyone has a claim to ‘own’ the atmosphere it’s ‘polluters’ as they are ‘homesteading’ it with their ‘waste’? People whining about the ‘unclean’ air are more-than-not second-comers who are breathing in air that has already in use. If anything industries should be charging everyone else to pay for using their air.

Tennessee Suboxone Physicians July 16, 2011 at 2:01 am

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