Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Conversion on Gobal Warming

I was late in coming to the anti-global warming cause.

I am a conservative Republican. More“Conservative” than “Republican”. In my teens I was a Goldwater enthusiast and have considered myself part of the conservative movement my whole life; subscribing to the journals, reading books by conservative thinkers, and donating money. However, of late, I have become unhappy with the influence of the religious right in the party, with the fiscal irresponsibility of the party, and I was opposed to our going to war in Iraq. I am still a conservative and still a Republican but a disillusioned conservative Republican. Now to that, I must add that I am disappointed that Republicans have shown no leadership on global warming or energy independence.

When global warming first became an issue of public concern, I tended to scoff and tended to believe those who (1) said it was not occurring, and (2) if it was,then it was not caused by human activity. However, after a while it appeared to me that the consensus of informed scientific opinion was the opposite of what I had believed. In addition to the environmental concern, I believed that being less dependent on mid-east oil was a national security concern. So, I admit I was wrong about global warming, and now think we should get serious about dong something about it.

Once I became a “convert” I became appalled at people like Rush Limbaugh and those who still deny that global warming is occurring. Having switched sides in the debate however, I was equally appalled by what I perceived as the stupidity and naiveté on the part of the anti-global warming side. Many seemed to be on this kind of spiritual tree-hugging trip, and offered no solution other than “respecting mother nature”. I also saw lots of advocacy for alternatives such as bio-fuel, windpower, solar, ethanol, and hydrogen. While I believe all of these may have merit, it seemed so obvious to me, that for any alternative to flourish it had to be able to compete in price with current coal and oil. I am all in favor of wearing a sweater and turning down the thermostat, but believe people are more motivated by economics than exhortations to do the right thing. It seems that so many people in the environmentalist movement somehow have distaste for any solution that recognizes that the market has a roll to play in solving the problem.

While solving the problem of global warming or energy independence is not painless or simple, the starting place should be to increase the price of gas. When gas went to $3 a gallon here in Nashville, our bus system had the most ridership it had ever had. I content that if gas prices stayed high and gradually got higher, over time we would see alternatives flourish, conservation, occur, more efficient vehicles and a curtailment of urban sprawl. I believe that it is a fact, that if you want more of something you should can it and if you want less of something then you can tax it. It doesn’t matter a lot what the “something” is. We may not know the slope of the demand curve for energy, but surely we should not disagree about the direction. I am as appalled at the economic ignorance on the left, as I am at the remaining scientific ignorance on the right.

Since it is Democrats who have long warned of the dangers of global warming, I would expect them to be offering real solutions. However, prior to the recent election when Nancy Pelosi was talking about her goals for when the Democrats take over the house, she mentioned in the same statement both bringing down the price of gas and combating global warming. Is she just pandering or is it ignorance? Does she not see those are contradictory objectives? Where is the leadership?

I have been especially encouraged to see conservative journalist such as Krauthammer, Brooks, and Robertson,and the Libertarian publication Reason take the positions they have taken regarding global warming. As an anti-global warming conservative, I feel a lot less lonely, and I think they bring an understanding of economics to the debate which has largely been missing from the anti-global warming side until recently. Maybe overtime, some political courage will emerge.

Many liberals seem to want to keep the anti-global warming movement reserved for the pure of heart. Instead of welcoming the Krauthammers, Brooks, and Robertsons, they criticizes them for not speaking out earlier and think that their motives are suspect. Those who are concerned about Global warming need to welcome supporters wherever they come from. People do not have to agree on the minimum wage, health care policy, Iraq, or abortion to see the rationality of taxing carbon emissions.

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