Thursday, July 06, 2006

Global Warming

Global warming is always a fun subject. It's the Left's abortion, i.e. it's an issue that progressives are as passionate as fundamentalists are on abortion. Actually I don't think that's quite fair. I think progressives are less passionate in general than fundamentalists -- it's jus the nature of the doctrines and the basis of their appeal. I digress.

Anyways, I guess Al Gore's video has really generated a lot of interest in global warming. To me, it's one of those topics where both sides have substantial evidence. It does seem like more scientists are convinced of global warming than are not. I was particularly interested in seeing Stephen Hawking's comments in China recently about global warming.

Much like abortion, there is an easier way to assess the issue than trying to sift through mountains of evidence. The connection that most scientists make is between air pollution and global warming. If there is no connection in these things, then there's not much that can be done about global warming. Opponents say either that the connection cannot be made or that global warming is not occurring.

Personally, I don't care. Pollution is a problem, a big problem. My wife is from Bakersfield, part of California's San Joaquin Valley. Air pollution there is awful. She suffers from asthma, as do many people in the valley. An estimated 16% of all children in Fresno suffer from asthma. That's one out of six. That's a lot of people, particularly children, suffering because of air pollution.

I'm one of the last people you'll find to appeal to the government to solve a problem. The government stinks at solving problems. On the other hand, I'm not a devotee of laissez faire above all. I do believe in freedom, and a corollary of freedom is capitalism. It is ridiculous to think that capitalism can solve all problems, and air pollution seems like one of those.

What disincentive is there for those who pollute the air in San Joaquin Valley? Some of the pollution is from farms, but a lot of it is from large trucks hauling cargo from the ports in Los Angeles and Oakland. If I run a trucking company, why would I care about the health of children in Fresno? For capitalism to work in this situation, there would have to be a reason for the polluter to care about the environment. But there's not. A truck that produces less pollution is not going to be cheaper or more efficient than a conventional truck -- not unless oil hits what $200 or $300 a barrel?

And thus air pollution is one of the rare cases where govnerment intervention is needed. Freedom must be reduced to reduce air pollution. This may well lead to a reduction of global warming -- but probably not. The United States is a huge producer of air pollution, but hardly the only one. Other nations will likely continue to produce air pollution, and thus the reduction from the United States may make little difference in aggregate. But it will make a big difference in the lives of people who live in areas of significant air pollution. It will make a big difference to the lives of children in Fresno and Bakersfield.

technorati tags:, , , , ,

Blogged with Flock

No comments: