Adorable grassroots activism.
Humans can be pretty useful fellows at times.
Adorable grassroots activism.
Humans can be pretty useful fellows at times.
Environmental issues are the natural preserve for the (classical) liberal. Yet, this is not well understood among us "on the right".
In countless contributions to this blog, I have argued that ecological order is emergent order. The idea of evolution has been discovered by (classically) liberal thinkers. It underlies their ecological vision, according to which not only extra-human nature but human society too represents an ecological habitat.
The species of free, peaceful, and affluent humans is a constantly endangered species; it is in need of environmental protection. Looking after and protecting our free society is a matter of environmental awareness.
'The environment' has no meaning independent of human conceptions of it.
A free society is the best basis for (i) a genuine discourse about the environment as well as (ii) responsible and effective comportment vis-à-vis nature, whose central and most important agents are human beings capable of understanding, demanding, and practicing freedom.
If man does not assert his role as integral part of nature, the rest of nature will not do the job for him. Extra-human nature is indifferent to the fate and well-being of man. In fact, it is remarkably hostile to human needs, unless man subjects extra-human nature to his requirements.
In the modern world, this task requires us to realise that the ecological order of a free society is supremely capable of keeping the entirety of nature (i.e. men amongst themselves and their relationship with extra-human nature) in proper balance. Yet:
For many people, “conservative environmentalism” sounds oxymoronic. Since the rise of environmentalism in the 1960s, the Left has mostly managed to claim the moral high ground. They get to be for clean air, clean water, and saving the whales; for harmony with nature; and against pollution, deforestation, species extinction, and other bad things.
In response, conservatives have often let themselves be cast as the heavy in the Left’s morality tale, stuck talking about cost-benefit analyses and questioning whether low level exposure to some unpronounceable chemical compound is really so bad. But while these arguments and intellectually sounds and even controlling, they sound cold and bloodless.
The idea of a “conservative environmentalist” can raise skeptical hackles from those on the Right as well. All too often, self-described conservative environmentalists have quickly devolved into Me Too-ism, in which liberal policy prescriptions are simply repackaged as conservative, with an occasional quote from Burke or Hayek thrown in for flavoring.
Yet there is also a tradition of authentic free-market environmentalism, represented by such notables as Terry Anderson, Julian Simon, Bruce Yandle, and Robert Gordon. They have sought to use free market principles and insights to address and solve pressing environmental concerns.
Furthermore, in addressing free market solutions to environmental challenges, Jesiah Neely presents an argument analogous to my position with regard to civil society and art expressed in Gains Crisis and Gains Enhancement in the Arts.
It’s an economic commonplace that people tend to take better care of things they own. There is a reason why cattle, unlike the buffalo, are not at risk of extinction.
Entrepreneurship, innovation, and response to consumer demand have historically proven to be much better at meeting people’s needs than government command and control. That is as true when it comes to environmental goals as when it comes to economic goals. While new technologies and increased efficiency contributed to massive declines in harmful pollutants in the U.S., the old Soviet Union created some of the world’s greatest environmental calamities.
The free market is such a superior system, that oftentimes it can beat government regulation without even trying. In 2009, the U.S. Congress declined to pass a massive cap and trade bill. Yet the U.S. is now on track to meet the reduction targets contained in the Kyoto Protocol not through any government action, but through ordinary market developments. By contrast, the European Union’s cap and trade scheme has been beset by numerous problems.
Despite a sound theoretical and empirical case, many are reluctant to apply market principles, as well as Public Choice insights into government failure to environmental policy. Today, more than one billion people lack access to clean drinking water and reliable electricity. This is not because of industrial pollution, but because those services are provided by corrupt government-run monopolies.
There’s a reason millions in the developing world have cell phones (a late 20th Century technology) but not reliable electricity (a late 19th Century technology). One is provided chiefly by the market, while the other is provided (or not provided) chiefly by government.
This must change. Conservatives and libertarians should not be afraid to stake out the moral high ground on environmental issues, and to show how their principles can produce a positive vision that is both environmentally friendly and authentically free market.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 04/08/2014 at 06:22 AM in "Goin' Green", Books & Media, Economics, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Republicans, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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The power of myths is as strong today as it has ever been. One of the great catastrophes of our lifetime is the demonisation of nuclear energy and the attendant neglect of research and technological development in this area of science. However, things may be changing.
Researchers in California made a great leap toward creating a source of virtually unlimited energy this past year as they strive to harness the power of nuclear fusion—the same process that powers stars like our sun.
Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) announced that in the last year “for the first time the energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel.” This is a significant step toward an energy source that would be plentiful and environmentally friendly.
Currently, nuclear energy is produced through fission, where the nucleus of an atom is split apart, releasing enormous amounts of energy. In nuclear fusion, the nuclei of atoms fuse together and create massive amounts of energy. While scientists can create fusion; for example, a hydrogen bomb which is also known as a fusion bomb uses the power of nuclear fission—so, a nuclear bomb—in order to achieve fusion. The holy grail in nuclear fusion research is to find a method of causing fusion that takes less energy than the fusion reaction creates, which they call “ignition.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, attempting to replicate the condition inside of a star has been no easy task for scientists.
If they can find a way to utilize the power of nuclear fusion, however, the implications for human progress are greater than the power of a thousand nuclear bombs. First of all, nuclear fusion would be effective; Just one gram deuterium and tritium—the fuel used in fusion— produce nearly 10 million times the amount of energy a gram of fossil fuels produces and there’s enough deuterium (found in water) on earth for tens of thousands to millions of years. By all accounts, fusion is a safer form of energy production, as there is virtually no chance of a meltdown and radiation is non-issue. As Dr Alejaldre, a researcher working at Iter—a French project attempting to produce controlled fusion, described it “a Fukushima-like accident is impossible at Iter because the fusion reaction is fundamentally safe. Any disturbance from ideal conditions and the reaction will stop. A runaway nuclear reaction and a core meltdown are simply not possible.”
Additionally, the radiation produced by fusion is many orders of magnitude less than with nuclear fission and unlike with fission, fusion requires no shipments of radioactive material into or out of the plant—it is created and burned within the power plant. Furthermore, while the waste produced by nuclear fission remains dangerously radioactive for millions of years, fusion reactions produce no radioactive waste and the radioactive elements used in fusion have a much shorter half-life—only 12.3 years.
The researchers at the Lawrence Livermore lab aimed the world’s most powerful laser at a pea-sized target containing nuclear fuel and created a fusion reaction, but only for a fraction of a second:
The NIF uses a system of 192 laser beams to heat deuterium and tritium atoms held inside a capsule the size of a ball-bearing, which is placed inside a cryogenically cooled, pencil-eraser-sized cylinder called a “hohlraum” (German for “hollow room”). The energy from the laser’s pulse subjects the deuterium-tritium fuel to pressures and temperatures approaching the conditions at the center of the sun.
In essence, they created a mini star in their lab. While they weren’t able to produce more power than the experiment consumed—they didn’t achieve ignition—they are getting closer with each experiment. Whether it’s the United State’s project, the French experiments, or another country, creating a viable controlled fusion reaction would be a huge leap forward for all of human kind.
The most unnerving experience for a critically inquiring mind today is the overpowering regime of "truth" by repetition, a regime based on the habit of turning untruth into truth simply by uttering a proposal at a frequency exceeding by several orders of magnitude the number of occasions to refute it. It's a matter of quantity trumping quality. Combine this with an uncontrolled explosion of supposed rights, and what you get is large-scale corruption in the service of greed. Avaritia for all, ranging from privileged access to sought after jobs for women to billions in indulgence payments to unecological ecologists.
It simply pays to be bigoted.
The reason this case is so important is because it very nearly didn't happen. Though environmental activists like Michael Mann, James Hansen and Al Gore often like to claim that their enemies are in the pay of Big Oil, the truth is the exact opposite.
Few corporate entities pump quite so much money into environmental causes as the Big Oil companies - Shell sponsored the Guardian's environment pages; BP invested heavily in renewables as part of its Beyond Petroleum rebranding under the card-carrying greenie CEO Lord Browne - because for years they have been running scared of the green movement, because they're big enough to wear the additional costs of green regulation and because it suits them to "greenwash" their image.
What none of them seems to have learned is that when you pay Danegeld to your natural enemy it only makes him greedy for more of the same.
This is why we should all be applauding the decision by Chevron's CEO John S Watson ... to fight this case.
Make sure to read the article.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 03/07/2014 at 10:51 AM in "Goin' Green", American Culture, Books & Media, Current Affairs, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Grassroots Activism, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Germany’s much ballyhooed Energiewende (transition to renewable energy) was supposed to show the whole world how switching over to green energy sources could reduce CO2 emissions, create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, provide cheap electricity to citizens, and heroically rescue the planet.
Ten years later, the very opposite has happened: Germany’s CO2 emissions have been increasing, electricity prices have skyrocketed, the green jobs bubble has popped, and tens of thousands of jobs have disappeared. Worse: tens of billions are being redistributed from the poor to the rich.
Other countries around the world have noticed and are thus having serious second thoughts about industrializing their landscapes with green energy systems like wind, solar and biogas. Germany has proven that green energy does not work well after all.
The methodological core of liberty-averse thinking is rationalism. The hallmark of rationalism is an exaggerated trust in the powers of reason to command and control human affairs.
Rationalism is probably the most popular intellectual attitude in the West - not surprisingly for it is thoroughly intuitive, and indeed useful and appropriate in many applications of everyday life and even in more arcane activities such as engineering or the natural sciences dealing with relatively simple types of order.
Rationalism is rooted in the tradition of anthropomorphic reasoning, which seeks to explain phenomena by analogising them to situations that man is used to and capable of handling successfully.
Instead of ascribing order to a transcendental creator, modern rationalism shifts responsibility for any kind of admissible order to the human mind.
There is an entire array of reasons enticing us to take this stance, which I will not go into here - but first and foremost, rationalism is a view point that is unacquainted with modern methods for comprehending orders of higher complexity. These methods could only be discovered when the evolutionary paradigm emerged, which opened the human mind to the possibility to self-creating order, i.e. the kind of orde that does not depend on personal authorship and synoptic mastery by a single intelligent originator.
The importance of cybernetic order is lost on most people, including, I'm afraid, most liberals.
Politics benefits hugely from our cerebral addiction for rationalistic linear causality. It's a great format to make things look intellectually clear cut, easy to comprehend and amenable to direct human control.
In fact, important strands of liberal thinking rely on rationalistic arguments, which Locke for instance takes over from Aquinas highly rationalistic thoughts on natural law. See Natural Ends and Prudential Judgement. The anarcho-capitalists wallow in the crudest rationalism, and the growing fringe of liberals (European sense) who have a hard time distinguishing themselves from anarchists tend to be of a rationalistic bend, unsurprisingly.
On the more mainstream front of rationalism, Keynesianism e.g. is a great relief for the popular mind (and, of course, politicians), because it divests the dismal science of uncomfortable, counter-intuitive features as epitomised in the invisible hand. The Keynesian mindset teaches us that the economy depends on only a few variables that can be handled by government and comprehended by any but the most obdurate minds.
Similarly, reducing the world climate to one factor - CO2 - is one of the great political feats that has been highly successful for a long time as it neatly panders to our rationalistic addiction.
Liberals make a big mistake in not arguing that theirs is the ecological world view. But even if they understood this all-important point, they are not likely to make much of a difference in a world with an insatiable demand for easy solutions geared to the control freak in us.
The folly of command and control is inextinguishable as it feeds on perhaps the most favourite among the patterns for which the human mind is on the lookout.
I have been arguing along these lines for years, and have never ever made a convert to my position. It is simply astounding how well insulated the rationalistic modern mind is against truly ecological thinking. So much for the age of ecological awareness.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/19/2014 at 12:59 PM in "Goin' Green", Barack Obama, Books & Media, Current Affairs, Education, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Grassroots Activism, History Lessons, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Presidency, U.S., Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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If the greens or those with a green agenda (which most political parties have) were truly interested in ecological issues, they would jump on insights like the below one (explaining how global climate operates as a viable self-creating order) - insights that require a veritably ecological way of thinking, and hence the ability to appreciate that ecological orders cannot be comprehended by ordinary deductive reasoning.
Ecological causality is complex and cyclical - the comfortable idea that an effect is always preceded by a cause does not hold. Complicated, constantly emerging feedback loops create a type of orderly system very different from simple causal mechanisms.
This, however, is beyond the green mind.
Ironically most liberals (European sense of the word) don't get it either. Worst are the anarcho-capitalists, who are given to the most naive rationalism, trying to reduce freedom to first principles, instead of understanding her as an emergent order, an evolutionary product that waxes and wanes with no need of an axiomatic origin to please the vanity of rationalistic control freaks.
Modern green thinking is simplistic, mechanistic, relying on causal relations simple enough to make command-and-control solutions appear credible. Nature is a machine, with the greens at the operating desk. For nature to be in a healthy state, she must obey the schemes that the green planners deem right. The communist penchant for command and control has been transposed by the green movement from the (hoped for but unsustainable socialist) economy to what they call nature (which is suffering at their hands as she did under outright socialism). In both efforts they are bound to fail for the same reason: neither do the greens understand the ecological nature of an economy nor of nature. They just want to be right - so as to be powerful. Intricate stories - as told by the genuine ecologist - are of little help on the march toward power.
If we lived in a truly ecological age (which politically we don't), the below story would be all the rage - and soon people would begin to realise that a free society and a free economy are ecological environments deserving to be respected and protected by us.
Ironically, we seem instead to marshall increasing amounts of societal wealth to uphold and cover-up anti-ecological untruths.
The fact that this has occurred is obvious from the 'basic physics' of the Stefan-Boltzmann Law, which states outgoing radiation from the Earth increases to the fourth power of temperature. This serves as a very strong negative feedback and acts as an automatic thermostat regulating Earth's temperature, relegating 'tipping points' and the 'runaway greenhouse' theory to the dust bin.
This may sound to some like an abstract question of scientific research. It is not. There are many, including the President’s science czar, who would like to make fundamental changes in our way of life — even dictating how many children we can have — in order to combat the threat of “man-made global warming.”
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/13/2014 at 02:56 PM in "Goin' Green", Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Current Affairs, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Media/Media Bias, Presidency, U.S., Pure Politics, Religion, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Depending on the subject matter, benefit-cost analysis (bca) may come more or less close to the precision insinuated by its numeric results - like the benefit-cost ratio of 50 : 1 (or even higher) estimated in the below bca concerning CO2 emissions.
Irrespective of its numerical precision, the one great virtue of bca is that it forces you to look at the vital issues of a project and attempt to determine to what degree of precision and confidence benefits and costs are ascertainable. It requires one to make his assumptions explicit and gives others a chance to acquaint themselves with these assumptions and probe into them.
In a word, if properly done, bca is a commendable auxiliary for a realistic, comprehensive and fair look at a project. It can be the basis for a critical discourse. For that reason, I tend to think, it is an important means to ensure transparent government decisions. We should ask of government agencies to disclose the bca underlying their proposals or decisions.
Bezden and Driessen demonstrate what a critical look at government bca can bring to light.
The IWG process hypothesizes almost every conceivable carbon “cost” – including costs to agriculture, forestry, water resources, forced migration, human health and disease, coastal cities, ecosystems and wetlands. Yet it fails to estimate any carbon benefits. Even more incredibly, the agencies have done this in complete disregard of EO 12866 and a recent OMB declaration that careful consideration of both costs and benefits is important in determining whether a regulation is worth implementing at all.
Bezden and Driessen conclude:
Prodigious amounts of fossil fuels will be required to sustain future economic growth, especially in the non-OECD nations. If the world is serious about lessening the need for human, animal, wood and dung energy, maintaining and increasing economic growth, reducing energy deprivation and human poverty, improving human and civil rights, and increasing standards of living, health and longevity in the non-OECD nations – then massive fossil fuel utilization will be required, for decades to come.
Achieving these benefits for billions of poor people worldwide – while also maintaining them for American, European and other developed nation families – translates into a simple fact: the benefits of fossil fuels far outweigh any conceivable costs, and will continue to do so for decades to come.
Similarly, the benefits of carbon dioxide emitted in the process of producing this energy also overwhelmingly outweigh the claimed and estimated costs associated with that CO2 – no matter which SCC estimates or assumptions are used. In fact, compared to the benefits of carbon dioxide for forest, grassland and food crop growth, the SCC cost estimates are relatively so small as to be in the statistical noise of the estimated CO2 benefits.
In this context, there is also a critical need far more a balanced, broad-based and honest assessment of “dangerous manmade climate change” claims. Literally thousands of scientists do not agree that human carbon dioxide emissions are a primary cause of climate change, or that any changes in our weather or climate are bound to be harmful, dangerous or even catastrophic. However, their views have been deliberately and systematically ignored and taken out of the policy-making process, because the process has unfortunately become political and ideological, rather than science-based and analytical.
These facts must be used to inform energy, environmental, and regulatory policies. Otherwise, the regulations will continue to be far worse than the harms they supposedly redress. For the Interagency Working Group, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior and other Federal agencies to continue ignoring the true costs and benefits, the requirements of law under EO 12866, and sixty years of informed benefit-cost protocols and practices, is illegal, unethical and contrary to the best interests of our nation, its citizens and all humans.
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/11/2014 at 09:53 AM in "Goin' Green", Congress, Economics, Electoral Prospects, Film, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Media/Media Bias, Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, State/Nebraska Politics, Supreme Court, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Make sure to read more on complex adaptive systems at the source of the above image.
As for this little chap, I couldn't agree more:
The global warming hype is a prime example of how bad politics is necessarily anti-ecological, and so is politicised science.
Ecological systems are complex, their intricate manner of functioning does not lend itself to sensational story telling with mass impact. Hence, demagogic politics will almost certainly reduce genuinely ecological issues to simple, improperly mechanistic formulae. Our social democratic age - based on a denial of the ecological nature of modern human civilization - is of a distinctly unecological spirit.
Having discovered "the visible hand", i.e. self-generating order, the philosophy of freedom is asking us to treat human society as an ecological order. Inconveniently, however, orders of the self-generatig kind are counter-intuitive, hard to understand and hard to "sell". This is the root cause why liberty is generally rather unpopular, often laughed at or even despised. People like simple stories. People like to think about society, the economy, in fact, everything the way they think about most matters that concern them in their daily lives: that is, they expect simple causal relations easily mapped by ordinary deductive reasoning.
Thus, the greens - communists who've forgotten their origins - will tell the ordinary propaganda consumer that CO2 emissions, temperatures, and industrialisation have increased in tandem, insinuating a simple story line: capitalism creates catastrophic warming.
By contrast, consider some of the key facts that strip the thesis of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming of its credibility:
CO2 is following global temperatures, now and consistently since several hundred of thousand years.
96% of CO2 emissions are of non anthropogenic origin (volcanoes, animals, rotting vegetation, and especially oceans). Why should the tiny contingent of CO2 generated by humans be the culprit?
Most of the warming occurred well before industrial emissions began to skyrocket in the 1940s, after which temperatures, in fact, fell for 4 consecutive decades, starting to climb again only when global recession set in in the 1970s.
Most CO2 emissions are registered in areas without human populations or industrial activities - especially the oceans.
In the past, world climate has been much hotter with substantially more CO2 in the atmosphere than today. These much higher levels have elicited no catastrophic results - polar bears had a good time as well as the vikings who at the time had good grounds to call a certain land mass Greenland.
We still live in an ice age that has been in decline, i.e. warming, since the 1800s. The present warming trend is part of a perfectly normal climate cycle.
Only 1% of all species live in the Arctic zones - creatures thrive under warmer conditions.
Higher temperatures and more CO2 are beneficial to life on earth, not only to human life.
Science changed dramatically in the 1970s, when the reward structure in the profession began to revolve around the acquisition of massive amounts of taxpayer funding that was external to the normal budgets of the universities and federal laboratories. In climate science, this meant portraying the issue in dire terms, often in alliance with environmental advocacy organizations. Predictably, scientists (and their institutions) became addicted to the wealth, fame, and travel in the front of the airplane (quoting Garth Paltridge, one of the world’s most respected atmospheric scientists):
“A new and rewarding research lifestyle emerged which involved the giving of advice to all types and levels of government, the broadcasting of unchallengeable opinion to the general public, and easy justification for attendance at international conferences—this last in some luxury by normal scientific experience, and at a frequency previously unheard of.”
Every incentive reinforced this behavior, as the self-selected community of climate boffins now began to speak for both science and in the service of drastic regulatory policies.
The view from the White House:
Broadening the picture:
Pouring it down the rat hole:
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/07/2014 at 01:09 PM in "Goin' Green", Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Current Affairs, Economics, Education, Film, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Laura Ebke, Liberty Laid Bare, Media/Media Bias, National/International Affairs, Presidency, U.S., Pure Politics, Social Philosophy, Socialism Gone Wild, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Beforehand, a brief and rather entertaining introduction to the broader issue:
Climate scientist Dr. Murry Salby [not the gentleman in the above video], Professor and Climate Chair at Macquarie University, Australia explains in a recent, highly-recommended lecture presented at Helmut Schmidt University, Hamburg, Germany, why man-made CO2 is not the driver of atmospheric CO2 or climate change. Dr. Salby demonstrates:
Posted by Georg Thomas on 02/05/2014 at 03:28 PM in "Goin' Green", Barack Obama, Books & Media, Congress, Current Affairs, Education, Electoral Prospects, Film, Georg Thomas, Goin' Green, Grassroots Activism, History Lessons, Media/Media Bias, Presidency, U.S., Presidential Race--Then and Later, Pure Politics, Taxes and Spending, Technology, Internet | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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