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GHG emission mitigation solutions - a challenge for the Right?

Posted on 22 August 2011 by scaddenp

This article is an enlargement on a comment I made here on the "Are you are genuine skeptic or a climate denier" thread. It concerns the thorny issue of right-wing political values and climate change, but rather than discuss the politics, I am interested in possible solutions to GHG mitigation that don't offend the political Right.

In particuar, I've been thinking pretty hard about the question of mitigation policies for libertarians. Scratch a skeptic and you tend to find a right-wing/conservative. Furthermore, I struggled to find  libertarians that are not somewhere on the not-happening/not-us/not-bad spectrum. The conundrum faced was discussed here by Grypo along with some solutions from libertarian thinkers which didn't find favour with commentators. While I guess that it's possible that right-wing genes somehow provide a better understanding of climate physics than climate scientists have, it seems more likely to me that a clash with political ideology inhibits a proper evaluation of scientific evidence. Some of this might be simply a conservative resentment of a changing world, but I am hypothesising that for many (most?), the first inkling of global warming comes from hearing about an unacceptable proposed solution. If it is better to mitigate GHG emissions rather than adapt to rapid climate change (which certainly appears to be the case), then we need effective proposals that don't offend these values.

I am taking right-libertarian political theory in a nutshell to be:

  • The right to individual liberty of action providing it does not infringe on the rights of other rights-respecting citizens.
  • Individual responsibility for the consequences of these actions.
  • Government is as minimal as possible with roles of protection from external aggression, maintenence of legal system to enforce contracts, and such police as needed to protect citizens from rights violation by theft, fraud or force.

The solutions to climate change most acceptable to this group are ones that also promote the libertarian agenda. Suggestions I have heard so far include insurance companies regulating safety and privatization of roads with appropriate cost. Unfortunately, these mostly dont seem to be very effective solutions - they depend on somehow getting alternative energy costs below coal without raising coal price to be effective. But what if you can't? The problem is that the costs of producing power from coal don't include external and future costs, but there is no easy mechanism that I can think of for adding in uncertain future costs. What does right wing political theory do in these cases?

"Cap and trade" attempts to add these cost to carbon emissions, but it is an anathema to the Right for which it is designed to appease (even though cap and trade was originally an invention of free market conservatives). It is quite rightly pointed out that these schemes are complex and costly to administer with abundant opportunities for cheating, even with Big Government oversight. Pigovian taxes (much like Hansen's "fee and dividend" scheme) are another possibility but these also don't seem to find much favour.

Another popular proposal is to leave it to market to solve the problem with more energy-efficient products. This also fails the test of effectiveness. There is only so much that be gained from improving efficiency and market forces have already pushed many technologies (like planes) to close to their theoretical limits. In the USA, less than one quarter of energy use is residential anyway, and only about one third of that drives gadgets. Transportation, industry, and commerce are roughly equal consumers of the rest. Focusing on personal energy use will not effect major saving except in transport.

Killing subsidies on fossil fuels should be a no-brainer - in fact killing all industry subsidies and returning the savings as reduced taxes should be more than acceptable, since subsidies imply coercive support of government-favoured industries. Libertarian think-tanks like Heartland and Cato Institute should be waving this banner, but I suspect that subsidy removal would cut deeply into the pockets of important donors to these institutions. A bigger sticking point, however, is likely to be that subsidy removal is proposed by a Democrat president.

Government action is portrayed as theft of the rights of fossil fuel-rich property holders, but is their situation any different from asbestos-containing property holders? Our knowledge of the ill effects to the public has improved in both cases (and both cases, met with industry denial).

As far as I can see, libertarian theory struggles with issues where the free action of many individuals results in a violation of the rights of another. Examples would be passive smoking, pollution control, and yes, climate change. How can a citizen with say, a lung condition, sue those who choose to smoke in public, or not buy emissions-control for their vehicles? No one individual is at fault, and no mechanism exists for rights protection that I can see. It is interesting to see libertarians responding with denial of the adverse health effects caused by passive smoking, too.

Government action is permitted by the Right in the case of external aggression, so it seems self-preservation values override those of liberty. This I think explains the ghoulish preoccupation by AGW-activists with ice-melt and extreme weather. They are trying to trigger a self-preservation response. But suppose your country won't suffer too badly under the effects of climate change, and the really bad stuff happens elsewhere? Does rights-respecting only apply to citizens of your country? Your state even? If not, then how is this rights-conflict arbitrated? Do libertarians truly think that one group of people are free to create a problem while others should pay the cost of adaption?

In an ideal world, it should be possible for a person to choose to take no mitigating action in belief that science is wrong, provided that person is also willing to take their share of the responsibility for liabilities for adaption and compensation. However, I cant think of any mechanism by which this could work for a multi-generational problem like climate change. People object to paying for the "sins of their fathers" (though the same people appear to be quite happy to pass the costs to another generation).

This is a tough problem. We are born with a desire to do what we like and an instinct for self-preservation, whereas respecting others' rights and taking responsibility are learned behaviours. I would really like Right-wing supporters, and libertarians in particular, to face up to the problems above with some workable solutions instead of denying such problems exist. Solutions that would get whole-hearted support are needed, and for that I think values other than liberty/preservation need to be invoked.

So here is the challenge:

If you were convinced (this is a hypothetical question) that it was cheaper to mitigate GHG emissions than to adapt to rapid warming, what effective methods of doing this are compatible with your political values?

My definition of "effective" would be something equivalent to phasing out coal-fired generation over a period of 30-50 years but I am open to alternatives. Anything that would hold CO2 below 450ppm really.

If a skeptic cannot this (or the answer is "none, I'd rather pay the cost"), then it is hard to accept that their skepticism is truly based on a dispassionate appraisal of the scientific evidence.

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 164:

  1. Dikran Marsupial: SkS opened a Pandora's box by posting this article. Whether or not Tom Curtis looses his patience over what's being posted on this comment thread is somewhat irrelevant.
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  2. If the solution is nukes/renewables/whatever, the question isnt really about what is the technical solution - its about the political solution. If the solution is there, then why isnt it happening and what needs to change to make it happen.
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  3. If Libertarians wanted small govt they should use soalar /wind then we could do away with lot of governmental agencies that have to watch out for polluters..solar energy,no govt supervision need for the fuel
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  4. To scaddenp @52 I assume it's not happening for other reasons: e.g, because fossil fuels are plentiful and some companies are making a lot of money selling those resources right now. So the other question is: would a technically feasible compromise be politically possible? I hate to say it, but probably not in the current US political environment of "drive-by" legislation.
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  5. I have to agree with Badgersouth@27&51 This article seems out of place on SkS and is likely only to result in acrimony rather than discussion of real solutions.
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  6. I'd try and sell to the 'right' the business opportunities on offer for those who can make money in the new clean energy technologies. My fear is that those who stick rigidly to reliance on coal and fossil petrochemicals will miss the renewable bus. Companies who invest in renewables now will be at the forefront in 30 years time and by then it will be too late to get on the bandwagon - too late to be a major player that is. A great opportunity to be at the leading edge of both business and technology is being squandered thanks to political ideology holding businesses back by denying science. Go figure.
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  7. Badgersouth @51, scaddenp has asked a legitimate question. However, there will be no possibility of receiving a legitimate answer if the thread becomes a venue for a slanging match between left and right. As it happens I often find myself biting my tongue on left/right political issues at SkS. I do so because global warming is a far greater threat to the human race than any of the normal left/right antagonisms. Indeed, the only political issues that are more important, IMO, are the retention of the rule of law and of democracy. If, of the other hand, you feel it is more important to score cheap political points, by all means derail the thread. You might, however, want to give consideration to the fact that the plainly inadequate responses of the right on this thread is already scoring a far stronger political point than any consideration of who said what to whom first.
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    Response:

    [DB] One has to remember the scope of this thread:  to see if those of certain ideological leanings can offer up substantive, solution-oriented discourse.

    Consider this a Stand-and-Deliver (Put Up or Shut Up) challenge.

  8. KR @49, in response to your respondent: 1) The very obvious point is that the cost benefit analyses have been done, and have decidedly come down in showing that the costs of limiting global warming are significantly less than the benefits; 2) Saying you would act if the cost benefit analysis comes out the right way does not say how you would act. In fact Scaddenp's challenge is this: Assume the cost benefit analysis is clearly in favour of mitigating climate change. On that assumption, what policy is believed by libertarians to both be effective in mitigating climate change and consistent with libertarian principles? Given that, Twodogs' response must be considered an evasion as an answer to scaddenp's challenge, however appropriate as a response to your actual question. 3) In that Twodogs' cost benefit analysis gives no consideration to who bears the costs, and who gains the benefits, it is far from clear his is a libertarian response as distinct from a politically conservative response or a classical liberal response.
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  9. John Donovan @50, it is a reasonable presumption that economic pressures alone will not drive the replacement of all fossil fuel usage by 2050 in the US (or the world) renewables and nuclear power. Given that, saying that the solution is renewables and nuclear does not face the specific problem posed - how, under libertarian principles, can we drive the replacement of fossil fuel use by nuclear and renewable power and a transport fleet powered by electricity or biofuels at significantly faster rates than that transition would be made based on commercial decisions alone?
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  10. JD - exactly. So to stop FF use, something about that environment must change. The challenge is what.
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  11. It is the democratic party, not the democrat party. Obama is a democratic president. See Wikipedia. ""Democrat Party" is a political epithet used in the United States instead of "Democratic Party" when talking about the Democratic Party.[1] The term has been used in negative or hostile fashion by conservative commentators and members of the Republican Party in party platforms, partisan speeches and press releases "
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  12. So do we have a "Challenge for the Left" article in the works? You can't post an article like this and then prevent people from talking about the reasons why solutions might be a challenge for capitalism.
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    Response:

    [DB] Are you offerring to write one...?

  13. I have been busy and unable to reply: 1. I will again assert that there are workable solutions right now to reduce co2. And they are very cost effective. Thorium is one of them, nuclear is another. Yes, thorium is nuclear but not uranium. Co2 is an environmental concern, but it looses credibility as a concern because hard core environmentalists will not look at current tech solutions that are viable. Robert Kennedy shot wind in the foot with his resistance to the off shore towers on Martha's Vinyard. Al Gore { - gratuitous 'what Al Gore does' complaints snipped - } These are all important issues. The idea that you conserve { - more Al Gore complaints -} so therefore the message is lost. By not agreeing to known tech, the co2 message is lost, as the immedicacy of the problem becomes something not important. This for certain is not a right/left issue. It has become politicized, but in the general public it really isn't. People look at solutions, see them, see they are not being pushed for....and once again..the problem becomes 100th on the list of problems.
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    Moderator Response: [mc] The problem with your argument is that the 'you' referred to (meaning us) don't conserve, largely because of denials clouding the issue. Nor has wind been 'shot in the foot;' come to Sweetwater, Texas and see wind power in action. And no, the general public does not see solutions because they are constantly being told there is no problem.
  14. The right/private sector has a track record on large-scale engineering projects - and (after looking at two examples) it's decidedly mixed. Exhibit A: The Pickens Plan. The crux of the plan was to build a massive, $1 trillion network of wind farms stretching from Texas to North Dakota, which would replace domestic natural gas used to generate electricity. The excess natural gas would then be used to power millions of American trucks and cars, thus freeing the U.S. from the shackles of OPEC oil. Even some environmentalists swooned over the Pickens Plan, with Carl Pope, then executive director of the Sierra Club, saying, "To put it plainly, T. Boone Pickens is out to save America." Within a year, however, the wind-power scheme was all but dead, and soon Pickens - and his multimillion-dollar ad campaign - had largely faded from the airwaves. Exhibit B: Trans-Alaska Pipeline, which took a crisis to get started. On October 17, 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries announced an oil embargo against the United States in retaliation for its support of Israel during the Yom Kippur War. ... The price of gasoline shot upward, gasoline shortages were common, and rationing was considered. Most Americans began demanding a solution to the problem, and President Richard Nixon began lobbying for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline as at least a part of the answer. It would be interesting to look at a number of such grand scale projects and see what the track record of the private sector really is.
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  15. [DB] Are you offerring to write one...? Hah! I'll just leave this alone. Because the logic of the economic Right is currently expressed in actual relations over most of the world, talking about solutions for the Left requires first addressing the context provided by the Right. That requires working through the "why" I mentioned above. I just wonder why capital would favor mitigation rather than war, migration, food and water shortages, and that wonder drug for productivity and driving down wages: desperation. Ray Anderson was anomalous. The historical development of capital is an extraordinarily nasty business, and it leaves me with too much pessimism to engage on this thread--even when I itch at the sight of straightforward silliness.
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  16. Camburn, are you claiming noone is building Thorium reactors because the environmental movement wont let them? The environmental movement has enough clout to block nuclear but not enough to block coal? Can you point to a proposal where the investors are lined ready but are blocked by environmental movement? (I could be wrong but I dont think this is the case - I dont think you could get investor for nuclear let alone thorium because of economic issues but I am happy to be shown wrong).
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  17. I note that among our regular skeptics, only Camburn (and eric (skeptic) earlier) have stepped up to challenge so far.
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  18. @Tom Curtis #57: You and I obviously disagree on the merits of this article and whether it should have been posted on SkS. Let's leave it at that.
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  19. Regarding reactors, thorium ones in particular,the Australian situation is that since we don't currently have the expertise or experience to build commercial reactors locally we would have to import the designers and builders and thus have a likely 20 year lead time from calling of tenders to going live. So, at least for us here,a nuclear solution is going to be too late to be of any use unless other new energy solutions start to be built in the much nearer future. Sorry Camburn, but seldom do trite, one word solutions bear scrutiny - even if they are well intentioned.
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  20. scaddenp: The nuclear industry has been burned often, so they are reluctant to build. Disclaimer: My 1st cousin is a quality control engineer at Prairie Island in Minn. Even the old tech at Prarie Island is working well. He feels absolutely no threat to himself/or his family. He thinks it is crazy that we are not on a mission to have all of our energy produced this way. When asked, as he is also part of a project manager team, he says the regulations, the hoops, etc...required to build a plant now make it virtually impossible. The US Navy has been using nuclear for decades. Anyways, the tech is here, the will is here, but the regulations etc are also here. My point being again, the immediacy of the problem gets lost. I proposed that the state of ND try and get permits etc to build a plant next to the Missouri River. We looked into it, and after exaustive study.....decided that it was impossible to do. And the heck of it is....we WANTED to do it. WE know that lignite will last only so long. WE have all the infrastructure in place to export elect, which we do. So......instead of a nuclear plant, we got another coal plant..........go figure.
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  21. "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." ~ Arthur Schopenhauer
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  22. >>CBDunkerson at 01:34 AM on 23 August, 2011 Lloyd, polls in the United States showed for many years that majorities on both the 'left' and 'right' supported more nuclear power... unless it was going to be located near them. So, most people (more than 50%) on 'the left' WERE "advocating the building nuclear power plants (sic)". Of course, that changed with Fukushima. Support for nuclear power has dropped sharply this year...<< Losing support for nuclear power because of problems with 50+ year old designs and technology really shouldn't be relevant to the new melt-down proof systems of today. It's like abandoning cars because your Stanley Steamer's boiler blew up.
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  23. CV2 wrote: "Losing support for nuclear power because of problems with 50+ year old designs and technology really shouldn't be relevant to the new melt-down proof systems of today." What 'should or should not be' is a question for philosophers. I was talking about what is. Many human beings fear things that can kill alot of them at once... and don't get too fussy about the particulars. That said, your answer suggests its own solution... shut down the 50+ year old designs (many of which were supposed to have been retired years ago) so that they can't melt down. There will then be no melt downs for many years, public support will increase, newer designs can be built, and nuclear power can go forward. Instead, what we've got is plants that we KNOW have safety vulnerabilities continuing in operation long after they were originally supposed to be decommissioned. Accidents are inevitable. Essentially, the nuclear industry's policy of continuing to squeeze money from outdated power plants is preventing them from making vastly more money from safer new power plants. And will continue to do so unless they get lucky and there are no major accidents at old plants for a few decades OR they finally wise up and shut down the old plants.
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  24. Just a thought on the Libertarian front. The link with the religious right and radical individualism which seems to be the common thread is the implicit belief in souls and the presumed spiritual autonomy and accountability (to God). Just me and God. Social and political institutions have to be negotiated between autonomous individuals. This goes back to Hobbes' version of the social contract. A secular evolutionary approach recognizes the irreducible social character of the human species (along with other primates and mammals). We are in fact so social that we can say without serious contradiction that our identities, moral, religious etc shapes the basic genetic endowment each of us has and produces our phenotype (behavioral traits). This is fundamental genetics 101. Interestingly, this is how moral identities are constructed by those of us who feel obliged to take responsibility for the welfare of the planet and seek cooperatives ways of doing so. Same process - different outcomes. This in part explains many of the characteristics of the conservative right. Suspicious of difference and change, a strong instinct for territoriality and a reluctance to submit fundamental beliefs to rational scrutiny.
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  25. I will agree with those who support building thorium reactors. The technology is readily available, and the idea that we do not have the expertise to build these reactors is ludicrous. Compared to existign reactor designs, there are fairly simply, and could be build in a relatively short time frame. CV2 has pointed out that both left and right supported more nuclear power before Fukushima. In reality, only the radical environmentalists were against nuclear, although there are a splattering of individuals mixed throught the general populace who are against nukes in any way, shape, or form. The Japanses crisis will fade, and support for nukes will resurface, just like after Chernobyl. The bigger push will come from energy prices. If oil and gas prices start rising again, then people will be more willing to build these plants, although NIMBY thinking will still permeate. That is why the smaller, thorium facilities could be built locally. The biggest obstacle is not fear, but government regulations as mentioned by Camburn. Utilities are reluctant to build plants because of the potential costs of the government regulations. If the feds were to present a design (or a choice of designs) which could be built with specified safeguards and requirements, then we may start to see some nuclear proposals being put forth. Currently, this appears to be the biggest bang for the buck in power generation. Which is what will drive alternate energy.
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  26. The question that is asked in this thread is "What actions to solve the problem are compatible with your values?". But the answer to that depends on what those values are. There is a difference between conservative and libertarian values. For libertarians the market and property rights are fundamental and inviolable. For conservatives they are valued but not all important. If you can persuade a conservative that the danger is real and grave then you can get them to support pragmatic measures to deal with the problem. The problem with conservatives is the sheer antipathy towards the left that has developed in many of them. There is a reflexive opposition to anything the left proposes. Denialism is part of this and is basically rationalizations supporting this antipathy. The problem is not ideology. It is the use to which ideology is put. With libertarians it is an ideological problem. I think they have a moral and ideological framework which need considerable modification to deal with climate change. They are less likely than conservatives to demonize the left but they are indulging in wishful thinking and to support this they are seeking out reasons to deny that they have a problem. Some are realistic but not many. Unfortunately conservatives and libertarians are listening to each others bad ideas. Rob Murphy and I both frequent a site populated by conservatives and libertarians. It has a denialist majority but not perhaps as big as it seems. The denialists are louder than others. Most physical scientists on the site are not denialists. Most of the rest are I think. It is quite plain that the primary reason their for deialisim is that they refuse to believe anything said by any of the left. Too many let politics trump all. Some are looking for any way that they can to support market purism and clutch at any scientific straw they can find. And some are overgeneralizing from their experience in their own professions and not seeing .the differences between climate science and their professions. But the big thing is the political polarization. What policies to deal with global warming would gain their support if you could get them to see the danger as urgent? OK, I'm on the left of the site seeing myself as a centrist who used to be libertarian. I regard replacement of coal as the principal priority right now. It is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas increases and it is the problem that has the most mature replacement technologies available. Construct a smart grid and build renewable and nuclear generation capacity as quickly as possible. How to finance it? You probably will need a lot of government involvement there though I could be persuaded otherwise if someone came up with a convincing alternative. Institute a carbon tax to push the market towards lower carbon choices. This will reduce the need for regulatory pressures though it will not eliminate them. Still any attempt to deal with the problem through regulation should only be tried after careful consideration of the costs and benefits. No gestures to show how concerned you are about the problem! Identify and eliminate any subsidies or tax incentives that encourage unnecessary carbon emissions. Continue work on developing alternatives to petroleum for transportation as the next step in emissions reduction. Not all of these will be things that I would prefer but I would prefer ripping off future generations even less. How much of this would those with stronger libertarian or conservative tendencies than me support if you could convince them of the urgency of the problem? I think you could carry most of them. However the more doctrinaire libertarians would try to find non government alternative solutions if possible and try to frame some quandaries in terms of property rights even when they are a poor fit.
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  27. "Just a thought on the Libertarian front." Other than Ron Paul (and he has his own issues), libertarians on the Right are few and far between. I've seen Palin, Bachmann, and even Glen Beck (of all people!) called libertarian. The word loses meaning when it used so indiscriminately. Libertarianism is opposed to the theocratic impulses of much of the Right. Most libertarians I know are atheist/agnostic. Most are pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-evolution, and opposed to censorship. I know libertarianism is the new bogeyman label for the Right, but libertarianism is mostly dead in the USA. "Social and political institutions have to be negotiated between autonomous individuals." The horror! That almost sounds like freedom. "We are in fact so social that we can say without serious contradiction that our identities, moral, religious etc shapes the basic genetic endowment each of us has and produces our phenotype (behavioral traits)." Our genes shape our genetic endowment. This genetic endowment has to be expressed in the totality of the environment it finds itself in, resulting in phenotypes. Nothing we do or believe will change that genetic component. It is what it was at our birth(barring mutations). "This in part explains many of the characteristics of the conservative right. Suspicious of difference and change, a strong instinct for territoriality and a reluctance to submit fundamental beliefs to rational scrutiny." Pop psychology isn't very helpful here; for what it's worth I see a lot of the above in the hard Left. It's nobody's monopoly.
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  28. "I think you could carry most of them. However the more doctrinaire libertarians would try to find non government alternative solutions if possible and try to frame some quandaries in terms of property rights even when they are a poor fit." That's the problem with an absolute libertarian view. Some issues have no clear property rights solutions; the tragedy of the commons problems. There comes a point where realism has to trump ideology. I think strong libertarians feel any compromise means that ALL of their beliefs have to be jettisoned. This reluctance to compromise isn't restricted to them of course, but it's the heart of this problem, I think. "Rob Murphy and I both frequent a site..." I can't go back there now; I burned too many bridges, and besides I scrambled my password with a throwaway email address so I won't be tempted. I don't fit into an easy political box any more, I and try to stay out of purely political debates online as much as possible. I'll be leaving this thread for that reason in fact. I prefer the science discussions over the political musings.
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  29. Schmoepooh, the religious right and libertarians are joined by a perceived common enemy. Without they would be each others main enemy. Most libertarians that I know are not religious and those that are religious are not zealots. I disagree with your interpretation of how different sides see society and social bonds but giving my interpretation would be long and off topic.
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  30. Rob, I think you hit the nail on the head about why libertarians are reluctant to compromise. They try to take an analytical rather than an emotional approach to problems. This leads to them being good at identifying the costs and undesirable effects of others proposals. However they try to create philosophical and political systems by logic from a few basic principles. Parsimony is a good idea in science. It is not in ethics. They end up with systems that ignore or underemphasize a lot of aspects of human nature. These are systems that don't lend themselves to compromise.
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  31. This comment thread is turning into an extension of the Medieval debates about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin.
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  32. 81, Badgersouth, I suppose the modern analogy, however, would be how many angels can fit on a CO2 molecule, and when they try do they singe their wings? But yes, the conversation has turned more to why they don't, rather than actual suggestions of what they should do, or practical, defensible, considered answers to the challenge.
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  33. LloydFlack#80: "good at identifying the costs and undesirable effects" The US Libertarian Party platform (sec 2.2) states: Free markets and property rights stimulate the technological innovations and behavioral changes required to protect our environment and ecosystems. We realize that our planet's climate is constantly changing, but environmental advocates and social pressure are the most effective means of changing public behavior. This strikes me as a difficult framework for marshalling the funds and engineering expertise necessary to solve a climate-related problem, which will demand a large scale international effort. I wonder if there are examples of success in such projects when conducted without active government support. Of course, 'climate is constantly changing' is most likely code for 'natural cycles' -- in which case, they don't believe that the problem is ours to solve.
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  34. @Sphaerica #82: A rather in-depth answer to the challenge question can be found in a blog post by a self-proclaimed libertarian. The post is: "Towards a productive libertarian approach on climate, energy and environmental issues" by Tokyo Tom. It is posted on the website: "TT's Lost in Tokyo: Unconventional analysis from a right-leaning enviro-libertarian." To access the article, click here.
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  35. PS to Badgersouth #84: Tokyo Tom's tome, "Towards a productive libertarian approach on climate, energy and environmental issues" was suggested reading by Grypo to his SkS post, The Libertarian Climate Conundrum. As it trns out, Tokyo Tom actually posted on the comment thread to Grypo's article.
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  36. Some thoughts and possible approaches:- Appeal to the individualist I can imagine a pitch of micro-generation which emphasises independence (from government and from large power supply corporations) which could appeal to suburban and rural dwellers. Disadvantages: 1. You can’t sell micro-generation to people living in city apartments. 2. It’s an individual sales pitch, competing with all other sales pitches. Appeal to patriotism This is the large-scale version of the appeal to the individualist - we want a country that is independent from foreign sources of a critical supply. (This is a justification for a national underwriting of a smart grid mentioned by Lloyd Flack and others.) Approach to subsidy In general, the Right has a philosophical dislike for state subsidies. The difficulty here is that any new technology starts off expensive and only gets cheaper as volume expands (the manufacturing learning curve), so substituting a new technology for an old is difficult when the new technology is not inherently cheaper. Some technologies get cross-subsidised (I’m thinking of nuclear, kick-started for military reasons). There may be good reason for subsidising others - particularly things like a grid that need to be done at a national level - the issue is making a good enough case for national interest overcoming the distaste for state intervention. The other part of the subsidy issue is to ensure that existing technologies are not given unfair advantages by the state (by means of tax breaks, grants, etc.)
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  37. Camburn - so what change in regulation is needed? When someone says regulations make it impossible, I really dont know what that means. In Australia, there is a law which says you cant build nuclear plants. That's straightforward but not the case in US. Do you mean regulations dont make it economically feasible? When I have seen this argument, the proponents are mostly arguing for relaxation of laws which make operators responsible for plant safety. But libertarian ideals emphasis responsibility for consequences. In short, tell me what you would like the government to do that would making replacing coal with nuclear plants of some form a reality.
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  38. Followoing Badgersouth's links to Tokyo Tom, I find his proposed solutions are as follows:
    "4. Is a small-government, libertarian climate/green agenda possible and desirable? So what is a good libertarian to suggest? This seems rather straight-forward, once one doffs his partisan, do-battle-with-evil-green-fascist-commies armor and puts on his thinking cap. From my earlier comment to Stephan Kinsella: As Rob Bradley once reluctantly acknowledged to me, in the halcyon days before he banned me from the "free-market" Master Resource blog, "a free-market approach is not about “do nothing” but implementing a whole new energy approach to remove myriad regulation and subsidies that have built up over a century or more." But unfortunately the wheels of this principled concern have never hit the ground at MR [my persistence in pointing this out it, and in questioning whether his blog was a front for fossil fuel interests, apparently earned me the boot]. As I have noted in a litany of posts at my blog, pro-freedom regulatory changes might include: [1] accelerating cleaner power investments by eliminating corporate income taxes or allowing immediate depreciation of capital investment (which would make new investments more attractive), eliminating antitrust immunity for public utility monopolies to increase competition, allow consumer choice, peak pricing and "smart metering" that will rapidly push large potential efficiency gains (as identified by McKinsey), [2] ending Clean Air Act handouts to the worst utilities (or otherwise unwinding burdensome regulations and moving to lighter and more common-law dependent approaches), [3] ending energy subsidies generally (including federal liability caps for nuclear power and allowing states to license), [4] speeding economic growth and adaptation in the poorer countries most threatened by climate change by rolling back domestic agricultural corporate welfare programs (ethanol and sugar), and [5] if there is to be any type of carbon pricing at all, insisting that it is a per capita, fully-rebated carbon tax (puts the revenues in the hands of those with the best claim to it, eliminates regressive impact and price volatility, least new bureaucracy, most transparent, and least susceptible to pork). Other policy changes could also be put on the table, such as: [6] an insistence that government resource management be improved by requiring that half of all royalties be rebated to citizens (with a slice to the administering agency), and [7] reducing understandable NIMBY problems by (i) encouraging project planners to proactively compensate persons in affected areas and (ii) reducing fears of corporate abuses, by providing that corporate executives have personal liability for environmental torts (in recognition of the fact that the profound risk-shifting that limited liability corporations are capable of that often elicits strong public opposition and fuels regulatory pressure)."
    (Numbering introduced to facilitate ease of reference) I will discuss these proposals myself when I have a little more time, but in the meantime, what do our resident libertarians think of them; and more importantly, how will they bring about a reduction of CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 (which is frankly not apparent in most cases)?
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  39. scaddenp@87: I didn't get involved in the regulatory burden/process. I studied the stream flow of the Missouri, and determined that there was enough flow to cool a large plant without large scale alterations of stream temperature. My Senator, who is my neighbor, got the development part of the State to start the process. After about a year, it was determined that the length of time to get permits, the seemingly changeing permit requirements etc made it not practicle to proceed. To me we are in an ideal location. Remote, tetonics are very stable, water supply was not an issue, transmission lines are already in place, or the corridors for such in place to allow expansion. Seemed like a win win to me. There was a lot of NIMBY. People are familiar with coal fired power plants. They do not fear the pollution from them, and we do have very clean emissions as the state PSC is diligent about that. To me, nuclear is such a clear cut solution. I would not mind living next to a plant at all. Of course, my cousin has an influence. If he feels safe having his family live 10 miles from where he works, then I feel safe is one was located near me. As far as liability, I have no problem having the federal government guarantee that as I think it is very very much in the publics interest to build these, whether they agree with that assumption or not. Kinda funny about libertarian views. I am a Ron Paul supporter, as I deem President Obama ineffective and not understanding basic economics. The present batch of Republican Candidates are really bone heads, and not critical thinkers. So, I hope I am wrong, but it looks like the USA will have 16 years of idiots occupying the White House.
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  40. camburn, interesting but still ducking the question of what policy you would support that will effectively change the balance. You have proposed an effective technology, no doubt about it, but not a means by which it can be introduced quickly, if you were convinced that it had to be.
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  41. Scaddenp: The policy is apparant, or so I thought. I would support a program of building nuclear to replace coal as electrical generation stations.
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  42. Okay, I am not in the US so maybe things are different but simply having a government wish it does not make it happen here. Are you proposing the government builds them? You say there are huge barriers now - so what does the government do to allow this happen?
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  43. 91, Camburn, I'm curious, but why are other options not on your radar, such as wind and solar, improving mileage on new vehicles, energy efficiency in building, and other methods? Why is the solution restricted to building as many nuclear power plants as we possibly can (while knowing that, like fossil fuels, radioactive fuel is also a limited resource)? After that... I'm with scaddenp... how do you propose that we move beyond just letting the free market not bother to build those new nuclear power plants, and get into a mode where the cost of fossil based energy reflects the actual cost, and not just the extraction, preparation and delivery cost of the product?
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  44. I would like to know what type of reactors Camburn would support. Thorium reactors are much smaller, can be built locally, have significantly less shielding needs (hence less government regulations), and thorium is much more plentiful than uranium. Economically and safety-wise, these make more sense than uranium reactors. On a cost basis, I do not know how they would compare to other options such as wind or solar, but the size requirements are less. Efficiency upgrades are fine, and we should continue to to make strides in that direction. But that is only a marginal reduction. In fact, these are ongoing as people replace older vehicles, furnaces, etc. with newer models.
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  45. 94, Eric the Red, See comment 63. That's where Camburn started, with Thorium reactors.
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  46. 94, Eric the Red, I would like to point out that almost everything in our current society has a lifespan of five to ten years (with the major exception of buildings). If we simply committed to improved efficiency for those new products that are already destined to be manufactured and consumed to replace existing tools, within that five to ten year span we could make a huge, huge dent in the problem. But we can't do that while people are still wedded to driving huge, 12 mpg SUVs just to commute sixty miles to and from work, or to get to the grocery store. And getting there requires a political commitment from the Right, as well as stopping foolish resistance to proven science so that people know whom they can and should trust, admit to the problem, and act in their own future as well as present interests.
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  47. Sphaerica, Many of the improvements have passed their maximum savings growth. For instance, a new furnace today will not result in as much natural gas savings as it did 20 years ago. Replacing all the really old, greater than 20 years or so, appliances mightl. But how many of those really old appliances are still working? Insulating older homes or replacing doors and windows would probably generate significant savings. But I still do not see this making a huge dent. Vehicle fuel economy has increased from ~13 mpg in 1975 to 32.5 mpg in 2009. Again, much of that savings was reaped between 1975 and 1985, with only marginal increases since. That must be a really poor SUV to only get 12 mpg. Do people really commute that far to work? Unless they live in the Yukon, I cannot image going that far to the grocery store. On the flip side, improved fuel economy has allowed people to drive further, so how much was really gained? Technology has allowed many to work from home, thus eliminating some commuting. All our improvements in efficiency have not stemming the rise in atmospheric CO2.
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    Response:

    [DB] "Vehicle fuel economy has increased from ~13 mpg in 1975 to 32.5 mpg in 2009."

    In the usual absence of a cited link, the inescapabale conclusion is that you are again making things up with impunity.  A quick Google:

    2009 Cafe

    [Source]

    So now the onus is on you to furnish a reliable cite to back up your seeming bald-faced assertion.  Remember, your continued participation in this forum is contingent upon this

    The regular reader will recognize that assertions without foundation are a staple in this poster's repertoire.

    From the US Federal Government:

    Reduce Climate Change
    Climate change is widely viewed as the most significant long-term threat to the global environment, and man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are very likely the cause of most of the observed global warming over the last 50 years. 

    Burning fossil fuels such as gasoline and diesel releases carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change. CO2 is the most important humanmade GHG, and highway vehicles account for 27% (1.5 billion tons) of U.S. CO2 emissions each year. 

    Every gallon of gasoline your vehicle burns puts about 20 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere—the average vehicle emits around 6 to 9 tons of CO2 each year. 

    Unlike other forms of vehicle pollution, CO2 emissions cannot be reduced by pollution control technologies. They can only be reduced by burning less fuel or by burning fuel that contains less carbon. 

    One of the most important things you can do to reduce your contribution to climate change is to buy a vehicle with better fuel economy. The difference between 25 miles per gallon and 20 miles per gallon can prevent the emission of 10 tons of CO2 over a vehicle’s lifetime, more than a year’s worth of use. 

    You can also reduce your contribution to climate change by getting the best fuel economy out of your car

    • Using a low-carbon fuel, such as compressed natural gas (CNG) or electricity from a renewable resource such as wind or hydropower

    • Walking, biking, or taking public transit more often

    • New fuel economy and CO2 tailpipe emissions standards will go into effect starting with model year 2012 vehicles.

  48. EtR: "All our improvements in efficiency have not stemming the rise in atmospheric CO2." Complete the thought, EtR. Is it A) "and so we shouldn't address the problem through efficiency," or is it B) "but efficiency allows any other additional solution to work that much better, so all of this work on efficiency is a good thing"?
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  49. 97, Eric the Red,
    All our improvements in efficiency have not stemming the rise in atmospheric CO2.
    All of our improvements in efficiency are trivial compared to what we can and should be doing. We've barely started, and so you're declaring it a failure. I would also point out that once again you are falling victim to fuzzy thinking, imagining the general numbers instead of researching them and carefully quantifying them. As far as cars and driving. I live outside of Boston, and visit NYC often. A lot of people are living well away from such large cities these days due to sheer congestion... as much as 60 miles away. At the same time an embarrassing number drive huge SUVs like a Chevy Tahoe (15 mpg city) in the stop and go traffic of rush hour. It's embarrassing that you would take a firm stand against efficiency. Absolutely embarrassing. That anyone would do such a thing is emblematic of denial in the extreme.
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  50. Sphaerica, Did you read my last post. I am totally in support of increased efficiency. What fuzzy thinking? I linked to the government report which supports my earlier post.
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