Monday, June 1, 2009

Global Warming

I recently blogged over to this page about global warming:

I found that while I agree with most of what he writes, the tone he wrote it in made me constantly fight what he was saying.  As I read I kept having to tell myself that I agree with his main(and just about only) point that increased carbon dioxide has increased in the atmosphere and that increased carbon dioxide leads to increased heat. In any case, this professor's arrogance really turned me off from his message and I kept trying to find holes in it. 

Some thoughts on global warming:

1. Most of the references I hear about global warming are anecdotal and therefore not extremely useful. 

2. Carbon dioxide has increased in the atmosphere and while there a lot of scientific research out there, I do not know of any conclusive evidence that ties the increase to human activity. My guess is that human activity is a substantial contributor to the increase. 

3. The above author seemed miffed when people refer to global warming as a religion. I also consider it a religion in a sense, but not with the same meaning as he refutes. I suppose that I do not think that calling anything a religion discredits it. I am a 'scientific' thinker but am also religious. I think that my religious believes are based on a scientific type method (See Book of Mormon, Alma 32). Nothing about carbon dioxide levels requires faith, but to change one's actions due to the belief/understanding of global warming does require a moral stand. 

Even at the most extreme of generally accepted estimates, the benefit of taking measures to reduce greenhouse gases  does not outweigh the costs when discounted over time. The effects are too slow and too far into the future to justify current action. Also while substantial evidence supports an increase in carbon dioxide and heat, there is much less conclusive evidence about the extent of the effects.  Therefore the moral stand is for the benefit of others (future generations.) 

I think those who change their actions to reduce global warming are acting in faith and due to a moral position. This statement is not intended to discredit anything or anyone, but to express their motivation more precisely.

4. Should this moral stand be legislated and enforced? I do not think so. I think before laws are enforced to make people act against personal time preferences, people should try social influence. Television networks, celebrities and many many people are doing just that and it is great. I do not oppose missionary work or trying to share the positive effects of moral actions.

Since greenhouse emission has a significant negative externality, it seems wise to in some way tax the bad activity or subsidize the good. I think this type of legislation is less preferrable than societal influence, but it is better than outlawing consumer products or certain car colors. I think that this type of legislation should be within reason. I know that is subjective and I would not know where to draw the objective line, but extreme taxes could severly limit personal liberties.

Sometimes taxes can erase societal influence though, and that would be bad. So really, stay away from tax and subsidy if you can!

5. Lastly, I think it is funny how much contradiction exists due to political party stances on various issues. When people try to paint things black and white, they are bound to contradict themselves at some point. In this topic, I consider the typical liberal stance, which is to enforce as many laws as possible to protect the environment and in so doing, limit personal freedoms (like owning a black car or buying certain types of lightbulbs.) I think that these are decisions based on a moral position. The same typical stance would think it bigotted and cruel to not recognize same-sex marriage, which is also a decision based on a moral position. 

Please notice that the inverse is true of the typical conservative viewpoint. 

I also believe that government legislation is easy to create, but harder to eradicate. So if in doubt, I lean to the libertarian side of non-implementation. 

But in all things, there is so much gray area. In order to treat others as you would be treated, how does this apply here? Should we treat future generations like we would like to be if we were them? Or should we treat others now the way we would  by allowing people to consume according to their own morals and preferences?

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