Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.


Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Donate

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe

Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...

Keep me logged in
New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts


Climate Hustle

The Libertarian Climate Conundrum

Posted on 21 March 2011 by grypo

According the first principle of the Libertarian Party 2010 platform, "No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government."  This is extended to personal property in the second principle, "Property rights are entitled to the same protection as all other human rights."  

CATO, a notable Libertarian policy advising body, describes the ice melt and seal level rise problem in Chapter 45 "Global Warming and Climate Change" of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers, 7th Edition (2009), as such:

The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC (which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Gore) projects sea-level rise of between 9 and 19 inches in the 21st century, for its ‘‘midrange’’ estimate of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.  

*(grypo's note: These projections are overly conservative, now obsolete, and under scrutiny moving forward to AR5, as RealClimate illustrates)

The chapter goes to make other popular skeptic arguments, detailed here at SkS, such as, It has stopped warming and It's not Bad.  Disregarding whether this may be the case, an adherence to basic Libertarian principles creates an ethical quandary.  And this is the problem that Jonathan Adler, noted Libertarian law professor, tries to balance in his paper, Taking Property Rights Seriously: The Case of Climate Change.  He states:

[I]t is not clear that the proper conservative or libertarian response to the threat of global warming is “do nothing.” To the contrary, this essay suggests, the consistent application of a stated commitment to property rights requires a complete rethinking of the conventional conservative and libertarian approach to climate change.

Later on, he responds to question of small changes in sea level:

[T]hose countries flooded by such an increase in sea level should not be forced to bear such costs if they are the foreseeable consequence of polluting activities by others.

Here is another example taken directly from another CATO publication, "What To Do About Climate Change", by Indur M. Goklany.

Through 2085, human well-being is likely to be highest under the richest-but-warmest (A1FI) scenario and lowest for the poorest (A2) scenario. Matters may be best in the A1FI world for some critical environmental indicators through 2100, but not necessarily for others. Either focused adaptation or broad pursuit of sustainable development would provide far greater benefits than even the deepest mitigation—and at no greater cost than that of the barely effective Kyoto Protocol.

Once again, setting aside that this argument does not assess the full range of possibilities and risk, is this really a libertarian argument?  Or is it a utilitarian one?  Is it consistent with the first two principles described by The Libertarian Party's platform?  Jonathan Adler says:

Such utilitarian analyses may be accurate, but they are not particularly responsive to the property-rights concern that underlies FME [free-market environmentalism]. Whether or not a given climate change policy would maximize net social welfare or have net positive effects on important social trends is less important than safeguarding the system of property rights upon which FME relies.

So how do Libertarians deal with the problem of climate change?  There is the possibility that particular people are ignoring the science, which, if that is the case, the IPCC and SkS are the best places to start reading.  Or there is the CATO approach of denying the existence of the upper bound effects and paying no attention to the possible risks, but even this method of cherry-picking still implies that the use of fossil fuels here will affect other persons and property elsewhere, violating the first two principles of the Libertarian platform. Furthermore, as a recent study says, adding to the already extensive literature, "populations contributing the most to greenhouse gas emissions on a per capita basis are unlikely to experience the worst impacts of climate change, satisfying the conditions for a moral hazard in climate change policies", supplying yet another dimension to the ethical problem.

What does Jonathan Adler suggest the free market environmentalists do to alleviate the issue?  One idea, he borrowed from a noted climate scientist:

A Fee-and-Dividend approach would be more transparent, less vulnerable to special interest pleading, more conducive to investment in technological innovation (because it would avoid the price volatility produced by cap-and-trade), would be easier to implement within existing trade rules (and would not require a new international agreement for this purpose), and — if implemented as Hansen suggests — be less costly to most Americans. (Emphasis mine)

Yes, a Libertarian agrees with James Hansen's free market approach to dealing with climate change.

So, as the evidence accumulates in past observations, present observations, and future predictions in accordance with theory and basic physical reality, how does the Libertarian resolve this dilemma of property rights and individual liberty?  How long can Libertarians place faith in a no consequences result from climate change?  Is there any law system in play at the moment that can deal with these issues on a global basis?  The answer is obviously, no.  

I would suggest they listen more to Jonathan Adler and less to policy handbooks from corporate funded Washington DC think tanks.  I would suggest they research real free market solutions that deal with the first principles of Libertarian thought.  Otherwise, this policy argument will move on without them.  It's time for Libertarians to get on board and bring their principles along too.


Chapter 45 "Global Warming and Climate Change" of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers, 7th Edition, 2009

Taking Property Rights Seriously: The Case of Climate Change, Jonathan Adler 2009

Geographic disparities and moral hazards in the predicted impacts of climate change on human populations, J. Samson et al. 2011

What To Do About Climate Change, Indur M. Goklany 2008

Further reading for libertarians on climate change policy:

Tokyo Tom "Towards a productive libertarian approach on climate, energy and environmental issues"  

1 0

Bookmark and Share Printable Version  |  Link to this page


1  2  Next

Comments 1 to 50 out of 80:

  1. The same argument can be made to Libertarians on the need to ban smoking in public places. But you don't hear them acknowledging it. Cato is more anti government than true Libertarian.
    0 0
  2. For some time I have persued a truly free-market solution for Climate Change. I mean a truly libertarian one, without any interviniance from government.

    Apart from the self-regulated common resource management studied by Ostrom, I did not find any. And none of these apply to air pollution, which usually involves many users and the impossibility to limit new appropriators.

    For air-related environmental issues, I don't know one single example of solution that goes without any kind of proper legislation.

    When you turn to these think tanks, the usual tactic is to deny or downplay the problem, again suggesting that this would be their only way out.

    The sad part is that by doing so, they simply keep themselves out of the debate. Cap-and-trade relies on market properties of efficient resource allocation, and neither libertarians nor conservatives are there to defend it. A carbon tax is also more a "free-market"(ish) solution than simply a Project Manhattan, government dictated industry. The presence of libertarians and conservatives in the debate could (in principle) help make it less "vulnerable to special interest pleading".

    But they're absent, unfortunately.
    0 0
  3. I always find one fundamental flaw with the whole Libertarian mindset. Markets just plainly have different time horizons that does broader society. Markets, and specifically publicly traded companies have very short time horizons, often limited to the next quarterly report. Private companies have slightly longer horizons, as long as the next CEO lasts. Family run companies can have a generational horizon. But governments, by definition, have multi-generational horizons.

    This is why climate change is an issue that is best managed through governments. Because it mostly affects the sovereignty of each nation in the future; the world our grandchildren must inhabit.

    Markets are fantastic and dealing with solutions, today. But it's the government that must set up the proper incentives that drive the solutions today to solve the problems of tomorrow.

    To have a Libertarian government is to remove exactly what governments are established for and puts it into the hands of those who should least have those powers. A Libertarian government is a contradiction in terms.
    0 0
  4. Thank you for introducing peer reviewed literature into the political debate. Give the overwhelming evidence, we clearly need to focus on solutions, and providing libertarians a face saving path to agreeing with progressives (the two groups find agreement in many, many areas) is a great start.

    Alexandre - the cap and dividend system IS the free market solution!

    Adding the missing price information is a valid and useful role for government, and that notion is accepted by conservatives and libertarians - you need only look to the building code.

    It would be cheaper to build poorly constructed buildings (first costs) - the building codes ensure roof trusses can support the weight of the roof, the snow load, the guy shoveling the snow off the roof (as well as a the odd solar panel). Without this code buildings would be cheaper (and unsafe), thus it is a "tax" (to use Tea Party nomenclature). But there is no outcry or concern.

    The same logic gets a libertarian or conservative into a cap and dividend system.

    The question I wrestle with is how do you ensure logic and facts are the basis for the actions and policy?
    0 0
  5. Rob: Nicely put.

    Speaking as an economist (no one hate me; I'm one of the good ones), I would add that a useful way to view this question of roles of the government and the market is: The government should set the overall strategy, as in "get off coal as quickly as possible" or (here in the US) "reduce oil dependence as quickly as possible". The market can be astonishingly good at resource allocation, including R&D funding, and to the greatest extent possible that's still consistent with achieving those strategies and more general goals of social justice, etc., it should be allowed to do its thing.

    This is why either a cap and trade or carbon tax and rebate program would be so effective; it creates a disincentive to emit more carbon, which is another way of saying it creates an incentive to find lower carbon ways of doing things as well as using old and new techniques and technologies.

    But the very idea of government "forcing" individuals and businesses to do anything, even when it is demonstrably in their own best interest in the long run, is so repellent to some libertarians that they find any excuse possible not to support it.
    0 0
  6. Rob Honeycutt wrote: " ... governments, by definition, have multi-generational horizons. This is why climate change is an issue that is best managed through governments."

    If only governments did have long horizons, Rob. The unfortunate fact is, however, that governments have very short horizons, ie only as far as the next election.

    This is the failure of democracy.
    0 0
  7. Rob Honeycutt #3

    I don't think the market is so limited in planning the long term. There are examples of projects and investments done with decades ahead in mind.

    The problem is the externality, specially the diffuse ones. It's hard to convince a CEO or shareholder to cut some of its own result to mitigate a cost they would not pay for anyway.

    Having said that, I agree with all the rest you've said. Market's creativity is hard to beat. No one central planner would come up with so many ideas as thousands of individuals seeking solutions for themselves, driven by the right price signals.

    That's where the government role comes in: to set a price for the externality.
    0 0
  8. Lou... Economics is fascinating stuff! Along side the climate issue economics is one I've been studying a lot on my own. That, and peppering an old friend who is an economics professor with questions.

    I can't remember where it was but I saw a documentary a while back on the Chicago School of Econ (which to a certain extent, as I gather, you can equate with Libertarianism). They were showing how the Chicago School is built on the "rationality of markets" and how they naturally self correct. But the documentary showed how this is not actually true. More like Keynes' ideas, markets are rational to an extent but can act in very irrational ways.

    The example they used was auctioning off a $100 bill to a class of economics students. As the auction went on the bid price of the $100 bill went above $100. Why would someone pay over $100 for a $100 bill? Just the natural human desire to win at any cost.

    I get the sense that is what is going on right now with climate. Conservatives today have this drive to win at any cost.
    0 0
  9. actuallythoughtful #4

    Cap-and-dividend, as cap-and-trade, are forms to limit emissions using the ability of markets to allocate resources in an efficient manner. It's as close to free-market as it gets.

    What I meant in my first post was a 100% government-free solution. If you have a cap, someone has to set it - the market won't do it by itself.

    So a 100% market solution is not known. The next best thing (as freedom goes) would be the cap, I think. Personaly, I think the cap is complicated to control, and therefore vulnerable to cheating and corruption. I like the industry-based approach best. Some industries may work well with caps, others with a fuel tax, others (like our Brazilian rainforest) will need direct regulation and enforcement. If businessmen were more participant in this, instead of just hiding their heads in the sand (I'm one, btw), each industry could be self-regulating itself in this sense.
    0 0
  10. between the lines... If the government we lived under completely changed with each election cycle you would be exactly correct. But that is not what happens. Once laws take effect it's very hard to change them under our system of government. Ascribe that to the brilliance of the founding fathers maybe. Our system of government and our laws change very very slowly. The people who haggle the laws on a given election cycle change frequently but their capacity to change established laws is very tenuous. And their capacity to change our system of government is almost non-existant.

    In fact, the system of government we have moves slow and should, when it's working correctly, act to protect the longterm sovereignty of the nation and the continuity of our processes. Cap and dividend would be one such law that the government could enact that would do exactly this.
    0 0
  11. 'grypo' got SO close to identifying the fundamental contradiction at the heart of Libertarianism -- and then shied away from exposing it!

    But sometimes, I think it is just as well that people shy away from it, since Libertarians are so committed to their broken ideology, the fundamental contradiction does not bother them. Such behaviour is typical of the poisonous ideological climate prevailing in Washington DC these days -- even since before Bush II.

    Unfortunately, it is even worse than that. As long as the Koch brothers maintain such a stranglehold on the Libertarian movement, they will not tolerate any attempt to steer that movement towards a realistic position concerning climate change. Why? Because it would crimp their already bloated income.

    grypo mentions the Cato Institute: but he did not mention that Davic Koch was one of the cofounders of the Institute, and they both fund it heavily.

    Google "cato funding koch brothers" to see numerous blogs and other sources exposing how they fund the Institute, Libertarianism, the Tea Party and climate change 'skepticism'.

    It is very sad that any political system, in the name of "individual freedom", will allow two individuals to do so much damage to the whole world. But that is our system.
    0 0
  12. @Honeycutt

    "Once laws take effect it's very hard to change them under our system of government."

    That is the problem. Now we are up against a problem so severe, we cannot afford to wait that long. Since we did no act in time, the whole world is going to be faced with more stress than any of the world words, more harm than any since the Black Death. Democracy is not going to survive this huge sea change.
    0 0
  13. @MattJ

    I agree with you about the Koch Brothers. They have destroyed the individualistic movement in the US over the last 30 or so years. But it goes beyond them hijacking an idealized version freedom, it is about replacing the pursuit of maximizing individual liberty through principle with a over-reaching trust in market fundamentalism.
    0 0
  14. MattJ... But we aren't having to change any laws to do this. The solution only requires that the government enact a new law, which is far easier... given enough votes.

    No wonder the Koch-backed Libertarians are fighting this so hard! This is quite literally a new tax on their industry designed to make their product more expensive so that people will use less of it.

    The Koch's are being very smart business people. They know the only way to defend their prodigious business is to get like-minded people into Congressional and Senate seats and stop any votes that would enact any kind of carbon tax. Ultimately I think they are going to fail in that effort because they are having to go to such extreme lengths to do this. They are quickly alienating moderates in the US.

    My prediction is that Obama will be reelected in 2012 along with majorities in both houses again. That is when we are going to see, probably not cap and trade, but a cap and dividend law go into effect.
    0 0
  15. Rob, and MattJ, I can't speak about the USA, as I'm not in that country, but in one whose polity is considerably older.

    Yes, the general framework of laws moves quite slowly - far too slowly to keep up with accelerating technological, social and economic change, in sad fact. Seen from this angle, the slowness of change can be a problem.

    The interpretation of the laws is another issue superimposed on that, and I gather that in the US some are now trying to overturn the formerly deep-rooted separation of church and state, for example. Quite small alterations can have huge ramifications, rendering the polity vulnerable to organised lobbies.

    So I do not share your sanguine view of the stability of long-established laws.

    In the uk our politicians continually demonstrate that their main concern is for their own short term interests, and the voters, in the main, are no better. And so the ship of state is steered onto the rocks while the crew and passengers are busy partying.
    0 0
  16. between the lines... I think there are people here who want to reinterpret what the founding fathers meant my separation of church and state as a rhetorical tool used on the general population. But the rhetoric is little more than that (IMO). When you get into the legal precedence of separation and original intent (which ironically is more of a "constructionist" - i.e., conservative - position) it's very clear what they meant with the first amendment.

    The challenges we have today, in the US, are relative to monied interests having tremendous influence in politics. But even then I think it's unlikely they'd be able to over turn established laws, even Roe v. Wade, much less alter the first amendment in any serious manner. What they (means the Koch's) is delay any kind of vote on a carbon tax by influencing enough votes in Congress to kill it.

    We'll see if Obama can pull off a major upset in 2012 and pull along a long list of progressives into office with him. THAT is what will be needed in order to get any kind of movement on carbon limits.
    0 0
  17. MattJ
    "'grypo' got SO close to identifying the fundamental contradiction at the heart of Libertarianism -- and then shied away from exposing it!"

    I'm assuming the goal of this article was to show Libertarians that acting on climate change actually falls within the confines of their ideology, not that their ideology is "broken". I think you'll convince a lot fewer with the latter approach.

    I fear continual references to the Koch's funding will not help either, no matter how true it may be.
    0 0
  18. I thought this was supposed to be non political?
    "...less to policy handbooks from corporate funded Washington DC think tanks..."
    This statement is completely laughable. Corporations are in favor of capitalism, only in the competitors dreams.
    Libertarians agree if you damage some other person's property you owe them for the damages. The problem is, you have to measure all carbon emissions then if that is the pollutant you are targeting, even the emissions exhaled by humans and the animals they own. Out of curiosity has anyone ever measured how much CO2 each country puts out based on human population and the livestock and pet population? Only the countries that have water on the border would benefit from this, what about the storms, floods, droughts?.........It appears the litigation process would be impossible to determine the real cause and the real solution meaning, the problem has to be tackled from a market perspective of lowering emissions through the best technology......government can't pick the best, they only pick GE windmills in the states ...cough fascism...
    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    DB] Actually, human CO2 exhalations add up to 10 times that produced by volcanoes yearly, and about 10% of fossil fuel emissions. But since exhalations are part of the natural carbon cycle they have no net impact on atmospheric concentrations (yup, people actually look into this: people called scientists). Who's responsible for how much CO2 emissions is also tracked:

  19. siglerj... "... you have to measure all carbon emissions then if that is the pollutant you are targeting, even the emissions exhaled by humans and the animals they own."

    How do you come about this assumption? It would seem to me that natural processes in the carbon cycle are not the problem. It's the excess introductions to the atmosphere by industry.
    0 0
  20. If CO2 is considered a pollutant you can't discriminate what creates it as being bad or good. If an owner is responsible for some CO2, how can they not be responsible for all their owned emissions?
    0 0
  21. @siglerj
    "Corporations are in favor of capitalism, only in the competitors dreams."

    Corporations fund CATO and CATO does not want a tax on carbon emissions using utilitarian arguments under the auspice of libertarian principles. Perhaps you are discussing nanny-state conservatism? Crony capitalism? What does this have to do what I wrote?
    0 0
  22. Personally, I think Geo Engineering is the best solution until efficient green energy can become a reality.
    0 0
  23. siglerj... Virtually every pollutant occurs naturally as well as being man-made. Are you suggesting that we can't regulate ANY forms of pollution because they also occur naturally?
    0 0
  24. @siglerj

    This article should help you understand why the carbon in the ground is the important carbon, not the carbon already in the cycle
    0 0
  25. siglerj said... "Personally, I think Geo Engineering is the best solution until efficient green energy can become a reality."

    Great! Then we are there. Remove all subsidies from fossil fuel industries. Pull in the external costs of carbon on human health and the environment. At that point wind and solar beat oil, gas and coal hands down. And renewables are in the process of getting even cheaper.

    If Libertarians would agree to this then we have solved the world's problems.
    0 0
  26. @ grypo
    You make it sound like an organized conspiracy. Corporations are everywhere and in everything, including the green movement. Identifying CATO as being the face of corporations is an underhanded method to rally the fools who think all corporations are like ENRON and Skank of America. Yes some corporations believe in capitalism, but if a handout, bailout, subsidy or tax credit exists they'll gladly take the welfare or uncompetitive advantage, just like anybody else.
    0 0
  27. Where did the carbon in the ground come from?
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [DB] Carbon is naturally present in the Earth's biosphere (land+air+water), existing in many forms. There is a natural flux of carbon into and out of the atmosphere (see here, both versions). Mankind has upset that natural carbon balance by adding a huge bolus of long-sequestered carbon back into it (like adding more players to one team while keeping the other team's numbers the same), unbalancing the cycle. The net result is that the system is seeking to get back to that balance, which involves the biosphere retaining energy in the form of heat.
  28. Rob Honeycutt #3 Markets are fantastic and dealing with solutions, today. But it's the government that must set up the proper incentives that drive the solutions today to solve the problems of tomorrow.

    This is a contradiction in terms, first you state governments are limited by office and then make the statement above.

    One of the biggest problems with climate change is man himself, science and the many bantered ideologies. When I say man himself, I do not mean by his contribution to the atmosphere. Increase population without controls on ANY pollution is going to cause a variance in some structures. It will not undo the full process of mother nature and mans natural evolution within himself and technology will make new changes and advances and probably create another scenario further down the track.

    CO2 is cyclic as is precipitation, mankind has been on this planet for 10 million years or more, the last 150 years is but a mere second in time in comparison and will not reveal through scientific modelling what this planet has seen and whats more what has happened and is to come again. You don't have to be a scientist with degrees and phd's. Open your eyes and take a good hard natural look at nature

    There is nothing new under the sun my son.
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [DB] You were doing so well, too, up until your last paragraph. You really need to read the Newcomers, Start Here thread and the Big Picture thread. We know much more than models can tell us. Such as you're wrong about CO2 being cyclical in its upward driving of temperatures in this interglacial. Mankind, in your 10 million existence ascribed to them, has never been a factor in the carbon cycle before. Until now. So that IS something new under the sun (yes, Ecclesiastes is a fav of mine), my son.
  29. Maybe someone can help me with this......when more ground is available after more ice and snow pack deteriorates, how much CO2 will the new land/plant area absorb?
    Is there an estimate of how much CO2 an acre or square mile of prarie absorbs?
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [DB] Evidence tells us that the thawing Arctic is emitting methane and CO2 right now & increasing those emissions. By 2100, a thawing Arctic permafrost threatens to add about as much GHG to the atmosphere as mankind has. So don't count on that newly uncovered surface to be a carbon sink anytime soon.
  30. HuggyPopsBear... Not a contraction in terms at all. Government is not the same as elected officials.
    0 0
  31. I'm sorry if I am off-topic, but the use given to the term "libertarian" causes my stomach to turn awfully bad.

    The term "libertarian" was hijacked by the far-right to mean an ideology based on an unregulated, totally free-market economy/society.

    But the original meaning was politically quite the opposite. It originated from the anarchism, particularly from the COMMUNIST variant, "libertarian communism", or "anarchocommunism/anarchosindicalism".

    The term was particularly popular in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) by anarchists, where the libertarian communism of the CNT/FAI (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo/Federación Anarquista Ibérica)

    and the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista)

    was opposed to the authoritharian Stalinists of the PCE (Spain Communist Party) that finally took over the Republic in 1937-1938.

    How a term so identified with the far-Left, totally hostile to capitalism, popped up in the free-market capitalism Right, is a mistery to me.
    0 0
  32. siglerj - maybe none, maybe it will release rather than absorb CO2.

    Exposed soil allows the carbon content of that soil to be oxidised and become CO2 in the atmosphere. The reason why bad farming practices release CO2. If the ice/snow had been covering bare rock, it depends on what kinds of minerals the rocks are made of. If olivine or serpentine, then natural gradual weathering will make absolutely no difference on the decadal time scale, but will contribute a little to sequestration over millennia.

    The only real chance for absorbing carbon is if trees will grow. Grasses just become part of the carbon cycle. Trees, especially their roots, can accumulate carbon over time if growing conditions are favourable.
    0 0
  33. HuggyPopsBear... "mankind has been on this planet for 10 million years or more"

    I beg to differ on that point. Homo sapiens have been here maybe about 200k years. Human agriculture has been around for maybe 10k. Modern society about 150 years. And the Apple iPad has only been out a little over a year (of course, that being the latest major advance in human-technology interface). ;-)
    0 0
  34. @siglerj

    You make a fair point about me grouping *all* corporations into this. It's not really my objective. In fact, Koch Industries is a private business and they started CATO and other type organizations. The main point is that people/ corporations/ private business who profit directly in some way from an unregulated market are funding think tanks. These think tanks are using the libertarian ideology, of which they may have some values in common, to further their goals that are not inherent to the libertarian principles.
    0 0
  35. Thanks Moderator for the good response.........a shock to the system explains it

    Another question....who knows how much heat man is adding to the atmosphere via electricity? And does wave and hydro electric technology actually remove heat when it converts wave and head pressure energy into electricity?
    I would think wind and solar does.
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [DB] The CO2 cost of generated electricity is already factored into tracked emissions. The only way to remove heat from the system is for it to escape to space in the form of radiation (thermal). Until the radiative balance is restored, outgoing energy will remain less than incoming energy.
  36. "So how do Libertarians deal with the problem of climate change?

    I believe it was the late Milton Friedman who once said that externalizing business costs (which he justified) could be compared to the following.

    A coal burning power plant releases soot into the atmosphere and it dirties your white shirt. You have to clean your shirt more often. Even though it is the coal company's fault that your shirt is dirty, they do not pay the price of taking it to the dry cleaner's.

    Since the corporation, in his view, does not have any social responsibility but only the responsibility to itself of maximizing profits, they could "externalize" their costs all they want.

    All hail the Libertarian prophet!
    0 0
  37. Protecting The Global Commons

    I agree with Adler that the first and second principles of the Libertarian Party 2010 platform are not inconsistent with a united international effort to control climate change. Where I believe the libertarians need to go further is to recognise that property rights are not just the private interest of individuals, groups, and governments. Nation states have been with us for thousands of years, but their borders end at the sea. The major portion of the Earth’s surface, the oceans together with Antarctica, are not the property of any individual nation. Neither does our precious atmosphere belong to any one nation.

    That leaves us with just two alternatives. Either the oceans and the atmosphere are the property of no-one, in which case everyone can pollute them as they please, or they are the common heritage of mankind, often referred to as the global commons, in which case nations must act together to protect them.

    For nations to effectively act to protect the global commons, I believe some kind of global governance is needed. We have the beginnings of that in the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, but as we saw at Copenhagen, if this remains just a forum for nation states to protect their own self interest, our common interest will be compromised. How global institutions for protecting the commons develop remains to be seen, We already have a World Bank and a World Trade Organisation. Perhaps we need something like a World Carbon Bank. I think Hansen’s tax-and-dividend approach is a good option. At some point in the future I would like to see it implemented by all nations, perhaps even as a global system.

    Where libertarians can make a positive contribution, as we work together to combat climate change, would be to provide checks and balances to help ensure such global institutions are grounded on democratic processes that respect the principles of their platform.
    0 0
  38. Rob Honeycutt #34 And the Apple iPad (of course, that being the latest major advance in human-technology interface). ;-)

    LOL, I suppose it depends on how you view technology and how ones mental image interprets a statement made or what reference material you use. I am of course referring to solar, electric cars, the advent of reverse gravity which would be great to replace present day aircraft and in my humble opinion see as the biggest default for pollution and the probable pollutant effect of CO2 in the upper atmosphere. Is this in the calculations we are being fed Mr Moderator?

    Anyway Rob for fear of being vetted I better cease here by saying again it depends on what reference material we use for how long mankind has been on the planet.
    0 0
    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] 'Tis far better to cite reference material than to make vague reference to it.
  39. How do you measure the effects of non industrialized nations where the people burn fecal matter, candles and wood for heat and light energy?

    Does it actually make sense to wood that has no pollution prevention vs using a light from a monitored fossil fuel technology? Should the light user pay for carbon damages while a wood burner user does not and also contributes to soot and other pollution?
    0 0
  40. Wood is not a fossil material, it's part of the carbon cycle, as are dung and candle wicks and waxes.

    We know it's a bad idea to burn wood and dung in badly designed stoves. There are 2 options. One is to provide high quality stoves which burn more efficiently and thus produce less soot. This has the double advantage of reducing the lung cancer rate in countries where women who cook in unventilated homes over smoky stoves die unnecessarily early, painful deaths from lung diseases.

    The other option is to also provide better stoves, but with 'better' fuels. Unfortunately, most such programs tend to be expensive both for the providers and for the people who have to, some time or another, start paying the full price of that fuel.

    I suspect wider use of programs like the Sahel approach of growing smallish trees within crops allows production of fuel, both for home use and for sale, as well as improving cropping. The right kind of wood also provides building and fencing materials. Teaching those who don't yet have the skill about drying wood for best burning results and better placement and design of cooking stoves can take care of the rest of the problem.
    0 0
  41. The Sahel reference I omitted earler. Sorry
    0 0
  42. Earth Hour, candles and carbon

    Candles being apart of the cycle doesn't mean it is a better option.
    0 0
  43. And I just saw this item about Bangladesh on a discussion elsewhere.

    Very encouraging.
    0 0
  44. villabolo #37
    about that white shirt...

    Was originally white by dumping used bleach into the environment, which externalizes costs as well, or is this not so?
    0 0
  45. rsvp @45. Only if it was chlorine. Other methods don't have quite the same impact, though they do have some.
    0 0
  46. alan marshall 38

    And when we should have this "Climate Protection Agency", I suppose it is up to them to best decide how fast or how slow climate needs to change, since there will always be some target. Or will they take climate back to how it was in 1850?
    0 0
  47. RSVP @ 47

    Human beings are the only species with the capacity to destroy the Earth. We are also the only species with the capacity to save it, but only if we act as one. As a species, we therefore have a duty of stewardship.

    Dr Tim Flannery, author of “The Weather Makers”, is well known to those who follow climate science. In his latest book "Here on Earth", he has a vision of what is needed:

    The immediate challenge is fundamental - to manage our atmospheric and oceanic global commons - and the unavoidable cost of success in this is that nations must cede real authority, as they do whenever they agree to act in common to secure the welfare of all. This does not mean the creation of a world government, simply the enforcement of common rules, for the common good.

    Even if the current disorganised national efforts succeed in stabilising the concentration of CO2, it will not be enough. If we are to ever reduce atmospheric CO2 to a safe level, we need to extract the bulk of what has been emitted from 1750 up till now. That will require either carbon sequestration on an industrial scale, or geo-engineering. Both these solutions will involve decisions we make as a species, not as competing peoples. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu warned at Copenhagen, nations will "sink or swim together".

    That does not imply draconian control of our everyday lives. I am a believer in markets. For example, rather than ration gasoline, it is much better to price it in a way that gives people an incentive to use less, while providing compensation so that their overall standard of living is not reduced.

    Some of my thoughts on economic and political solutions are published at
    0 0
  48. alan_marshall 48
    "For example, rather than ration gasoline, it is much better to price it in a way that gives people an incentive to use less..."

    ...and in this way give the rich the break they deserve? making "draconian control" almost sound attractive. But aside from what might be envisioned here, think about this one moment...

    If climate were taken back to 1750 conditions, as per hockey stick graph, the world could only need more, not less energy considering the increased winter heating costs that will be needed. (At the same time, less AC waste heat (assuming cooler summers) will also have to be made up in the cooler season.)

    So it looks like this whole focus on CO2 is pointless. We need more energy period, and if it can be supplied by so called alternate sources so much the better.
    0 0
  49. RSVP: "So it looks like this whole focus on CO2 is pointless."

    Come again? CO2 is one of the main culprits of climate change. It is a stand in for the other gases, as they are minor, or in the case of methane, break down to CO2 anyways.

    Not sure where you are going there. Also, a cap and dividend is actually a tax cut for the poor because everyone spends the same at the pump, but it is a much higher percentage of a poor person's income. If it is kept completely neutral (ie dollar for dollar) - it has no impact whatsoever, other than providing the missing price information in a painless way.

    Twas a smart Republican who thought that up.
    0 0
  50. RSVP @ 49: and in this way give the rich the break they deserve?

    You have the consequences of market-based pricing of carbon back to front. In economic terms, it would benefit the poor, while in environmental terms, it would benefit everyone.

    Both the Cap and Dividend solution (which caps CO2e production), and the Tax and Dividend solution (which taxes CO2e consumption), put a dollar value on each tonne of CO2 equivalent. Both solutions are capable of being implemented as either national or global systems. If implemented globally, there will be a net transfer of wealth to the developing countries because of their much lower per capita emissions. To those who object to this, I answer that if we really believe in equal rights, this is natural justice. It does not mean our living standards would fall, but it would see hundreds of millions in the developing world lifted out of poverty.

    In relation to your other remark, when I said we need to extract the bulk of CO2 emitted since 1750, I was thinking of a target ultimately of about 320 ppm, the level we had around 1965.
    0 0

1  2  Next

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.

The Consensus Project Website


(free to republish)

© Copyright 2019 John Cook
Home | Links | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us