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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/5850/britains-stern-review-on-global-warming-it-could-be-environmentalisms-swan-song/

Britain’s Stern Review on Global Warming: It Could Be Environmentalism’s Swan Song

November 6, 2006 by

Here I examine the latest warning that the end is nigh, unless we reform our ways. How easy and simple it is all supposed to be, if only we will do as we are told, and get started doing so right away. All we have to do is sit back and leave the direction of our lives in the hands of the government. It will solve the problem of changing the global technology of energy production with the same success that the Soviets and the British Laborites pursued their respective varieties of socialism and with the same success that our own government has conducted its wars on poverty, drugs, and terror, and in Vietnam and Iraq. FULL ARTICLE

{ 66 comments }

Jim November 12, 2006 at 9:07 pm

TT,

We are living at an age when CO2 output from humanity can not compare to what the natural processes such as vulcano, forest fire produce or micromial outgassing. Talks of low CO2 air as some kind of tangible property is just silly. It’s like debating who owns which planet outside the solar system, when we can’t even get regular commute service to the moon.

Recorded human history over the past couple thousand years seem to indicate that higher global mean temperature meant prosperous times, whereas declining temperature co-incided by barbarian invasions and fall of civilizations. Until proven otherwise, all the apocolypse predicted by the GW alarmists is little more than religion, not unlike the Aztec belief in that the sun would fail to rise if they stopped human sacrifices. Unwillingness to hand over one’s own kids to that kind sacrifice is certainly no “free-riding” . . . although I can certainly see that the high priest might proclaim that those not handing over their own kids are benefitting from other children being sacrificed at the alter. Not all claims of “common good” are true. The “hand me your choicest lamb now for judgement is nigh” type is especially suspect.

TokyoTom November 12, 2006 at 10:36 pm

Mr. Monckton:

To us American rabble, it hardly matters whether your peerage is life or hereditary, though one might suppose that a peerage that was awarded for one reason or another might tell us more of your abilities than one that you received simply by being born.

By the way, did you have a chance to review the comments made here on your article:
http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/11/chinese_navy_disproves_global.php?

By the way, were your comments reviewed by any “peers”?

TokyoTom November 12, 2006 at 11:09 pm

Jim, I am afraid that your post betrays a woeful lack of understanding of science, history, economics and metaphor. But I’m a sucker for this, so let me give it a brief shot:

- CO2: http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/03/natural-emissions-dwarf-humans.html

- Religion/History: In the absence of any domesticated large mammals, the Aztecs used their religion to justify their cannibalization of other defeated, captured peoples, not their own children. The may be some environmentalists who feel a religious-like need to protect the natural environment, but such simplistic, “black box”-type explanations are clearly insufficient to explain the widely perceived support for action on climate change.

Metaphor: Who is making the “hand me your choicest lamb now” demand? What we have is simply a recognition that in the absence of effective property rights, common resources are frequently over-exploited by market economies, and a discussion of how we “enclose the commons” in a manner that prices GHG dumping at the least cost to economic freedom.

- Rent-seeking: You are surely correct that “not all claims of “common good” are true.” But has it ever occurred to you that those who have most strongly declaimed that climate change is a problem and one in which the use of fossil fuels plays a crucial part might have as there motivation private objectives in protecting either partisan political benefit or the right to use the atmosphere freerly as a dump for GHG emissions?

Jim November 12, 2006 at 11:24 pm

TT,

It was not a metaphor, but a recount of historical precedences. The intermix of Aztec’s fear of sun not rising and the Judeo-Christian sacrifice of first-born and handing over of the choicest lamb to the high priests was quite deliberate. It goes to show that, wacky religious sacrifices to ward off imaginary end of the world as “we” knew it have a long historical tradition of being popular.

Rent-seeking: Have you ever noticed that those making the most noise about end of the world have their fundings and careers tied to collecting the imaginary rent?

I will leave the ad hominim attacks alone.

Jim November 12, 2006 at 11:30 pm

BTW, that link about metaphysical “balance” regarding CO2 is quite laughable. The author obviously did not realize that the primary sinks of CO2 on this planet, the depositting of limestones at the sea floor, is very much a function of CO2 concentration in the air. That is, the more CO2 in the air, the more it’s removed by limestone depositting. That’s why the nature can cope with not only much greater absolute amount of CO2 emission than human ever put out, but also absorb year-to-year variations, the variations alone, that dwarf the total amount put out by humanity.

JIm November 12, 2006 at 11:44 pm

TT,

The pseudo-market argument about “common resource” in this case is quite absurd. The solar-earth system’s capacity to vary earth’s surface temperature (and consequently CO2 level, due to CO2 soluability as a function of temperature) is on a far greater scale than what feable contribution the humanity can make.

You may as well claim entropy in this universe to be a “common resource” and demand tax on every speech ever made and every action ever taken. Heck, why not tax people for breathing; that’s CO2 production after all, and entropy increasing.

Daniel M. Ryan November 14, 2006 at 7:04 am

My mistake: Lord Monckton is actually a hereditary peer, the third Viscount of Brenchley. I mistakenly assumed that he was a professional/political figure raised to the peerage, like Lord Rees-Mogg, Lord Harris and Lord Bauer were.

This actually says a lot if you’re a Britophile. Hereditary peers are supposed to be up to not much nowadays.

TokyoTom November 14, 2006 at 9:59 pm

Jim, sorry, I should have been more gracious.
1. Yes, I understand that there is a long history both to fears of the unknown and uncontrollable and to exploitation of those fears by elites through religion. However, I think your point has little bearing on this topic, on which the predominant voices of warning have been rational scientists and include a big dollop of national and business leaders, including Republicans. You throw this out simply to help you discount the evidence.
2. Rent-seeking:: Have you ever noticed that those making the most noise about “enviros” proclaiming the end of the world and denying that there is any reason to be concerned with AGW have their funding and careers tied to collecting the actual economic rents? Who has benefitted politically from denial (viz. Luntz memo), and who has benefitted economically?
Where do you fit in libertarian skeptics such as Ron Bailey, who now acknowledge there is a problem, but struggling over what the policy response should be? BTW, this is not my job, just a matter that concerns me.
3. the primary sinks of CO2 on this planet, the depositting of limestones at the sea floor, is very much a function of CO2 concentration in the air. That is, the more CO2 in the air, the more it’s removed by limestone depositting. That’s why the nature can cope with not only much greater absolute amount of CO2 emission than human ever put out, but also absorb year-to-year variations, the variations alone, that dwarf the total amount put out by humanity.
Jim, you are right, but only in the very long run – that’s the whole reason why warnings on CO2 and other GHG emissions have been going on for decades already. Sinks are not removing these gases quickly enough to prevent them adding a persistent greenhouse effect. Atmospheric levels of CO2 are 33% greater than pre-industrial levels and the annual increase continues to accelerate. How did you manage to miss this key point?
4. The pseudo-market argument about “common resource” in this case is quite absurd. … Heck, why not tax people for breathing; that’s CO2 production after all, and entropy increasing.
Jim, the atmosphere is undeniably an open-access resource, with predictable results and problems that Miseans should be familiar with. One can dispute whether the costs of government action are ever warranted by the problems, but it is actually a denial of the Austrian understanding of property rights to deny that there are no negative consequences to unmanaged open-access resource regimes. As to solutions, pragmatism is key, though of course your point has some theoretical basis.

TT

M E Hoffer November 14, 2006 at 10:32 pm

TT,

you posit: “One can dispute whether the costs of government action are ever warranted by the problems, but it is actually a denial of the Austrian understanding of property rights to deny that there are no negative consequences to unmanaged open-access resource regimes.”

of which: “…unmanaged open-access resource regimes.”– As I have asked before, please point to a specific instance of this, at/on a specific point/place, on the Globe.

Jim November 15, 2006 at 1:51 am

TT, thank you for tuning down the stridence of the debate. I will address the issues that you raised one by one:

1. Religious leaders are always respected “wisemen” of their era, so long as the religion is in vogue. GW theory and predictions are not “falsifiable” therefore it is not science, but mere conjecture, just like all the other religious predictions. Floods do happen, is it due to us sinners burning fossil fuel and incurring the wrath of mother nature, or is it due to us sinners fornicating and incurring the wrath of the fatherly god? Since we do both and we are not about to stop doing either, there is really no way of testing which theory is more correct, is there? Not sure why you think the Republicans are saints. They party was founded upon the “2nd awakening” mellinialism of the mid-19th century.

2. Libertarians are human, too; they can make mistakes, and occasionally some of them get bamboozled by wacky psudo-science, too.

3. You are not reading what was explained. If the year-to-year variation in natural CO2 output is orders of magnitude greater than the entire human output, the ability of the CO2 sinks to absorb is certainly much greater what human race have been able to put out. CO2 level increased in the last century and half for the same reason it did long before human race came along, which was long before civilization came along, which in turn was long before industrialization came along: when temperature rise, CO2 solubility in the ocean drops, so more CO2 is in the atmosphere. Are we experiencing the hottest climate in planet hisotry? Not even close. Eric the Red and his band of merry vikings were able to farm in Greenland in the 10th century. Try that in Greenland today . . . you can’t even grow grass or shrub in Greeland, much less farming of grains. Don’t tell me Vikings were running coal burning power plants ;-)

4. Atmosphere is an open-access resource in the same way that rain water is an open-access resource, or entropy of the universe is an open-access resource (depending on whether you believe the resource is naturally renewing or ever diminishing). In either case, there is no justification for regulation or taxation being placed upon the use.

Disciples of the CO2 religion is making the same mistake that disciples of historical religions always made: thinking too highly of their own power . . . somehow human action has a measurable effect in the grand scheme of things in this universe far beyond our immediate surroundings. No we don’t. We are just pathetic little creatures scratching a living in this corner of the universe. Self-flagellation has about as much effect as masterbation, only a lot less pleasant.

TokyoTom November 15, 2006 at 3:47 am

Mark, sorry if I missed a question of yours at some point.

“…unmanaged open-access resource regimes.”– As I have asked before, please point to a specific instance of this, at/on a specific point/place, on the Globe.

How about any resource, before it was privatized by homesteading? How about resources for which homesteading just doesn’t work, and community or governmental propoerty rights exist but are very difficult to enforce to to information costs? Many natural resourses fit the bill, especially when technological change allows exploitation of a previously unavailable resource or more efficient exploitation of an unmanaged resource. How about the cod fishery in the George’s Bank? Commercial whaling? Most pelagic fisheries today? Natural resource exploitation in the US when native regulatory regimes collapsed? How about use of bodies of water and the atmosphere as dumping grounds?

In the context of interntional resources, the discussions here may be useful:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common-pool_resource
http://www.law.duke.edu/journals/delpf/delpftoc10n1.htm
http://www.law.duke.edu/news/colloquium5papers.html
http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/solutions/colloquia-8th.html#publications
http://www.env.duke.edu/cgc/seminars/marketssaveclimate.html

TokyoTom November 15, 2006 at 4:20 am

Jim, thanks for your comments.

Your comments about religion are entertaining, even if self-contradictory. Are those concerned about climate change simply afraid and trying to propiate the gods, or arrogantly thinking too highly of their own power?

We are just pathetic little creatures scratching a living in this corner of the universe. Self-flagellation has about as much effect as masterbation, only a lot less pleasant.

I suppose Dr. Reisman would strongly disagree with the first, even though he may agree with your second statement, given his disdain for what he sees as a sackcloth and ashes approach by enviros.

GW theory and predictions are not “falsifiable” therefore it is not science, but mere conjecture, just like all the other religious predictions.

Pathetic creatures might feel the need to continue to run an irreversible, global scale climate experiment, but its clear that AGW theory is science, and that there is enough evidence already to confirm it:

http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=258

The remainder of your comments show you do not understand the basic facts of the rise in CO2 levels or the property rights aspects of open-access resources. This might help with the first: http://www.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/co2_data_mlo.php

On the second, you might see the links I just gave to Mark Hoffer, although this is a good start: http://mises.org/daily/1760

M E Hoffer November 15, 2006 at 7:25 am

TT,

With these: “How about the cod fishery in the George’s Bank? Commercial whaling? Most pelagic fisheries today?” Would you not agree that these areas are, today, ruled under the auspicies of many different and overlapping “Governmental” authorities? If so, Have they been successful in reversing the tide that is the continued onslaught of those rapidly and continuously declining Fisheries? No? But, their Kin will be much more able to handle a larger and more ephemeral problem? Yes?

TokyoTom November 15, 2006 at 9:33 am

Mark, these links on fisheries might make a start on your questions.

http://www.reasonmag.com/news/show/36839.html
http://www.reasonmag.com/news/show/34998.html

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