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Global Warming

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Sphairon posted on Sun, May 6 2012 7:28 PM

Is there a viable libertarian solution to the problem of man-made global warming?

"Viable solutions" don't include appeals to critics of AGW. Let's assume for the sake of argument that it is real.

They don't include cursory cost-benefit calculations either; let's make this about the protection of property affected by AGW, which, by libertarian standards, rules supreme over such considerations.


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Simple. Gather whatever property or 'stuff' man uses that causes this "warming". Then give it back to him. It's really just recycling. Call it Post Consumer Pollution and repackage it in a pill or powder form. Soon, everyone who cares will be re-ingesting their own PCP, working toward a greener future.

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Sounds like a recipe for Soylent Green, if you ask me.  smiley

 

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Suggested by Autolykos

The first problem is having to demonstrate GW actually caused property damage. It's one thing to say so and completely another to demonstrate it beyond doubt. For example let's say I am convinced my neighbor is causing damage to my cabbages and ask compensation. The court will then order an inquiry. If they aren't biased and are doing their job (defending my property but also my neighbor's innocence until he's proven guilty) they will order an inquiry and discover the damage is actually caused by wood pigeons. Since the court has no rule over pigeons, we'll be back to square one but at least my neighbor won't be forced to pay for damages he didn't cause. GW is exactly the same thing: until you prove beyond doubt it's the cause of property damage you risk violating another person's rights by forcing him/her to pay compensation (or spend money to reduce impact, whatever).

Even assuming the phenomenon is proven to be right there's the spiny issue of how to divide the blame. Let's say I am charged with contributing to GW and hence asked to pay compensation for damages caused to another person's property. At that point I can hire experts who will prove I am not actually contributing because, say, I am a farmer and the CO2 emitted by my car and tractor are more than offset by that absorbed by the corn, vegetables etc I grow. Same thing about an airline: they may show proof they have purchased "carbon credits" from Russia or Brazil and hence they are carbon neutral. As far as the experts are concerned they do not contribute to GW and hence to the damage done. In short the court would need to spend incredible amounts of time (not to mention ungodly sums of money) to go through this procedure for every single person, shop, factory etc in the world. Why? Because if you charge somebody unjustly you are violating his/her rights. If a person hasn't caused damage, you cannot force him/her to pay reparation.

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John James:

Notice that I didn't frame the thread in such a way, but instead asked a general question that might intrigue others for reasons other than my particular debate.

But alright. Let's take Woods by his word. In the time it takes to carry on a Facebook debate, you could be reading. You could be making yourself a formidable debater one or two years from now.

So I'm reading what mises.org has to offer me when I search for "climate change". An article from a non-climatologist that comments on climate science and posits that we should embrace the pro-life philosophy of the free market. Another article informing us that AGW is slow and manageable enough for us to ignore a likely root cause, human GHG emissions; by the same token, we could argue that factory pollution is predictable enough (if someone builds a factory near you, sell your lot!) to adjust without having to get into messy externality questions. A Reisman blog that effectively says nobody is responsible for a death by a thousand cuts. A Murphy article attacking an econometric model for climate change control based on projected GDP figures without addressing the core point - violations of property rights through man-made changes in the climate. Finally, a paper arguing that seeking legal redress against the few major corporate GHG offenders for property rights violations would be enough to restore climate justice.

Hence, the libertarian solution looks suspiciously like the progressive call for redistributive taxation on "climate offenders", with the difference that "taxes" would be called "damages" and they would be imposed by (presumably market-based) judicial bodies and not some political entity - based, however, on the same "expert opinions" on climate change.

Your threads don't add many new facets. "A Non-State Solution to Global Warming" argues that people will subject themselves to a rigorous green certification regime out of concern for their social capital. If you consider that many self-styled progressives are perfectly happy driving a Prius and donating a little money to green charities every once in a while to fulfill their perceived duty of saving the Earth, this notion becomes questionable.


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Kakugo, are you suggesting a free-market emission market?

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"Global warming" is probably the least of our problems.

 

 

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Spharion, here's an interesting, if not strictly libertarian, solution that's based on market pricing and doesn't involve trading carbon credits or other complicated schemes:

http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2009/20090226_WaysAndMeans.pdf

Basicaly, the idea would be to have a carbon emission tax that is transferred into a dividend payment that is paid out ot each individual, regadless of need.  Obivously this has lots of issues and isn't consistent with the NAP, but it does minimize the problems with regulatory capture, and uses the power of the price system to work things out.   Food for thought.

Remember that the discussion over there is very focused on real practical problems, and they don't share the theorectical framework of libertarianism.  That is, the moral grounds, praxeology (95% of the posters there have a poor understanding about it's role), etc.  It can therefore be pretty tricky if you're attempting to talk about hypotheical theory and they keep hammering away about "how to fix problem X".  Remember that theory is the framework that we work within while dealing with the "real world".  As such, climate change and human production of greenhouse gasses can be framed as sort of a "lifeboat situation", where a 100% just outcome may not be possible in the real world.  If emitters are allowed to continue unabated, then those affected by that aggression are being treated unjustly.  If we implement a state solution, then those who are being regulated aren't being treated justly.  It's a lose-lose.  The question then is, how do we come up with the best, most moral, and most economically efficient solution with the tools that we have.

We're living in an imperfect world and starting from an unjust starting point, remember that.  Also, remember that the peope you're talking to over there have a totally different moral and economic theory.  Keep that in mind as you formulate your arguments, otherwise you'll lose them.  For example, I'm of the belief that anarchy/voluntarism is the morally best system we can have, but I don't neccessarily advocate for exploding the state in one day, as that would lead to a large amount of injustice.  Practically speaking,  I'm in favor of rolling back the welfare and regulatory state and implementing a universal basic income in it's place.  IF we are stuck with a state, and we have to deal with the unjust mess that is human history and current capital/property distribution, then we simply have to do the best we can within it.  Jessica Flannigan over on BleedingHeartLibertarians had a good peice on this the other day:

http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2012/04/bhls-ubis/

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I think the economic effects of global warming in a libertarian world would consist of the following:

1. Declining property values in significantly affected areas - this includes most coastal areas and other areas that become (more) susceptible to flooding, severe weather, and drought. Property values in other areas will increase.

2. Increasing insurance premiums in significantly affected areas - this includes property, health, disability, and life insurance, if not others.

3. Shifting patterns of food production and distribution.

4. Shifting patterns of human habitation.

Even if it were established that global warming is primarily, if not solely, caused by human activity in this libertarian world, I don't think it could be reasonably established that any resulting economic damages constitute torts, as those require specific individuals (however many) to be held liable. The logistics alone of conducting lawsuits against thousands, if not millions, of individuals would be cost-prohibitive. However, I think insurance companies could pass the cost onto wanton CO2 emitters by increasing their own risk premiums. This would be akin to charging a person who refuses to get vaccinated higher health-insurance premiums. But would this amount to a "carbon tax"? I don't think so, because the wanton emitters would be free to not pay for (as much) insurance. Of course, that would bring its own consequences.

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  • However, I think insurance companies could pass the cost onto wanton CO2 emitters by increasing their own risk premiums. This would be akin to charging a person who refuses to get vaccinated higher health-insurance premiums. But would this amount to a "carbon tax"? I don't think so, because the wanton emitters would be free to not pay for (as much) insurance. Of course, that would bring its own consequences.

Two problems with this. 

Firstly, emitters not in areas affected by the negative effects of climate change will see little direct costs.  Insurance companies that cover costal areas or other hazardous regions do not have to be the same that are covering, for example, inland emitters.  In your vaccination example, the insuree is directly reducing thier own potential for disease, and as such it makes sense for ANY insurance company to give a discount.  However, if you're insuring a factory in Denver against flooding, it's not going to matter how much CO2 they emit directly, so an insurance company not heavily invested in areas made hazardous by climate shifts doesn't have much incentive to give a discount to an inland factory that reduces it's greehouse gas emissions.

Secondly, and more importantly, while insurance could hypothetically increase costs for the emitters, those funds are not transferred to those who are affected by negative climate shifts.  It's like the government fining an organization for fraud and using the money for whatever purpose it wants.  Instead, it should be going to the victims to redistribute resources to the rightful owners.  This is key if we want to claim that any solution will lead to a just society.
 

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Sphairon:
So I'm reading what mises.org has to offer me when I search for "climate change". [...]

I'm sorry, I must have missed the part where Woods said "you could be reading Mises.org for articles on climate change".   I thought he said "you could be reading."

If Mises.org offers such poor resources in the way of information, why are you here?

And second, I'm curious as to your implication that someone has to be a climatologist before they can legitimately comment on climate science.  LogisticEarth asked if I was trying to pull some same old defense tactic...could you be the one pulling the old "you're not an expert, and if you offer information from experts, they're not experty enough, and since you're not an expert you can't understand their expert information in the first place, so...shut your face about stuff you don't know about, you ignorant rube."?

 

based, however, on the same "expert opinions" on climate change.

Huh?  Didn't you just get through telling me these were "non-climatologists commenting on climate science", and imply that that makes a person unqualified to do such a thing?  Maybe we should listen to what "real" experts say in private.

 

Your threads don't add many new facets.

Thanks, but they're not "my" threads.  In fact, you'll find, I have absolutely no input in possibly any of them.

 

Finally, it's interesting how everyone focuses on changing behavior instead of the actual problem, which allegedly is changing the climate.  I'm sure you'll come back with some reason the experts these guys consulted aren't experty enough, but here ya go...

 

 

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Wheylous:

Kakugo, are you suggesting a free-market emission market?

 
No, I was only replying to the original question by making some very generic and stupid examples for the scenario involved. 
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Thanks, Kakugo and Autolykos, for your ideas and thank you, LogisticEarth, for that paper. I'll be sure to incorporate your suggestions into my future answers. The ideological climate on SA is certainly completely different from the libertarian blogs and forums that I usually frequent, so I'm trying hard not to alienate them by fixating on concepts they either don't understand or generally reject.

 

John James:
I'm sorry, I must have missed the part where Woods said "you could be reading Mises.org for articles on climate change".   I thought he said "you could be reading."

Yes. I assumed that reading the self-styled primary internet resource on libertarian theory could yield a thoughtful libertarian solution to a problem that is a major concern to anybody who isn't living under a rock. How silly of me.

 

John James:
And second, I'm curious as to your implication that someone has to be a climatologist before they can legitimately comment on climate science.

I'm sorry to inform you that a non-climatologist who writes about climatology without even referencing his sources will not be taken seriously by anyone who isn't just reading it to validate their own world view.


John James:
Didn't you just get through telling me these were "non-climatologists commenting on climate science"

The paper I referenced uses the scientific consensus, which does appear to be in favor of AGW, as an orientation point for the judicial process. In that sense, it is drawing from the same sources the statists use to prescribe taxation and bans. That was my point.


John James:
Finally, it's interesting how everyone focuses on changing behavior instead of the actual problem, which allegedly is changing the climate.


Geoengineering is an interesting concept. It shouldn't be dismissed a priori, though it does come with a number of pitfalls.


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xahrx replied on Mon, May 7 2012 3:57 PM
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Sphairon:
a problem that is a major concern to anybody who isn't living under a rock.

Oh I get it.  So anyone who isn't suing in court to get their climate change beliefs legally declared a religion, or making/spreading propaganda featuring children to who aren't motivated to go along with it being literally blown up by their teacher is "living under a rock".  Got it.

 

I'm sorry to inform you that a non-climatologist who writes about climatology without even referencing his sources will not be taken seriously by anyone who isn't just reading it to validate their own world view.

I think I'm probably more sorry to inform you that there are many world-renowned scientists (even in the field of climatology) who do not live under rocks, and nonetheless do not find "global cooling/global warming/climate change" to be a "major concern"...rather in fact, refute the claims made by expert climatologists like Al Gore and assert that the entire concept is largely a result of unfounded hysteria, political persecution, and fraud.



The paper I referenced uses the scientific consensus

I'm sorry, there's a "scientific consensus"?  When did this happen?  Where did all the climate scientists sign such a thing?  Surely you're not talking about the IPCC reports...

 

drawing from the same sources the statists use to prescribe taxation and bans.

I fail to see how accepting an assertion for the sake of argument implies anything other than a hypothetical extrapolation...for the sake of argument.


though it does come with a number of pitfalls.

...kind of like the entire AGW assertion.

 

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LogisticEarth:
Two problems with this. 

Firstly, emitters not in areas affected by the negative effects of climate change will see little direct costs.  Insurance companies that cover costal areas or other hazardous regions do not have to be the same that are covering, for example, inland emitters.  In your vaccination example, the insuree is directly reducing thier own potential for disease, and as such it makes sense for ANY insurance company to give a discount.  However, if you're insuring a factory in Denver against flooding, it's not going to matter how much CO2 they emit directly, so an insurance company not heavily invested in areas made hazardous by climate shifts doesn't have much incentive to give a discount to an inland factory that reduces it's greehouse gas emissions.

That's a very good point, and one that I, in my haste, admittedly did not consider. A partial way around it would be for regional and/or global consortiums of insurance companies to agree to charge higher premiums for wanton emitters, but in the absence of paying out global-warming claims themselves, I don't think it makes good business sense for them to do that.

LogisticEarth:
Secondly, and more importantly, while insurance could hypothetically increase costs for the emitters, those funds are not transferred to those who are affected by negative climate shifts.  It's like the government fining an organization for fraud and using the money for whatever purpose it wants.  Instead, it should be going to the victims to redistribute resources to the rightful owners.  This is key if we want to claim that any solution will lead to a just society.

Another very good point. It's true that the higher premium payments wouldn't go to people already victimized by negative climate shifts, but it would help insurance companies pay out such claims in the future, which is better than nothing IMO.

Your point about a "just society" is intriguing to me. What would you say that is?

Regarding the redistribution of resources to the rightful owners, I think an analogy can be drawn with smoking. Assuming that definite causal links have just been found between smoking and later dying of certain diseases, do you think tobacco companies are now liable for past deaths from those diseases? If so, which ones - or all of them?

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