Monday, February 05, 2007

A balanced view on climate change

There is a lot of hysteria circulating right now through the mainstream media, political circles and global regulatory bodies such as the U.N after last Friday's alarmist IPCC report which said that anthropogenic (man made) global warming is "very likely".

Most people swallow up the headlines and unfortunately, accept the IPCC report as being solid scientific evidence. But the IPCC is highly politicised, to say the least.

Senator Inhofe today commented on the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Summary for Policymakers. "This is a political document, not a scientific report, and it is a shining example of the corruption of science for political gain.
Instead of providing raw data and a basic statistical analysis, the report is very selective about the data it chooses, refuses to acknowledge huge uncertainty and unknown quanitities, and spends a great number of words suggesting policy prescriptions for governments to follow. In fact, it seems it really does revise the scientific conclusions to suit its policy recommendations:
The IPCC concedes it alters the underlying scientific conclusions on page 4 of "Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work": "Changes (other than grammatical or minor editorial changes) made after acceptance by the Working Group or the Panel shall be those necessary to ensure consistency with the Summary for Policymakers or the Overview Chapter.
All of these prescriptions are based on reducing industrial output and household consumption, which will reduce living standards, life expectancy, wealth and economic growth.

Of course, its kind of pointless and a massive waste of resources to focus all discussion on what kind of policy and regulations need to be implemented immediately. It is simply folly to assume that there is any kind of overwhelming scientific consensus.
To support Kyoto or other policy frameworks, one must bend their mind to assume all of the following uncertainties and doubts as their set of religious truth:
  • The planet is warming (highly probable) and will continue to warm every year in the future (highly unlikely seeing as 2006 was colder than 2005, 2004, and 2003.
  • The warming is largely due to human activity (very unlikely) and not related to solar cycles, clouds or natural variations.
  • Future warming is, overall, a bad thing that has more costs than benefits (also uncertain, seeing as some people including Russian farmers benefit from warmer tempertures)
  • The economic cost of regulation is much less than the economic cost of global warming.
  • The warming can be stopped or lessened by governments implementing regulation (very bloody unlikely, government regulation always has side effects and perverse incentives).
There should be more doubts echoed about global warming. The invaluable Greenie Watch blog reports all sorts of scientific debate and uncertainty about the issue, and should be read before anyone gets too hysterical or alarmist about what gets reported in the papers.

In the end, I ultimately and wholeheartedly oppose any form of environmental regulation. If indeed the scientific evidence does point to costly and deadly man made global warming, then free markets will innovate and provide the solution. Past history reveals that the wealthier and more economically advanced and free societies are those which have the smallest impact on the environment and are best at preserving natural wonders for future generations, because they can capitalise on them for tourism, or because property rights bestow ownership upon a party who has an interest to preserve the value of land/resources for the future.

Most socialists and greens have invented the Orwellian phrase "sustainable growth" to suggest that without regulation, economic growth is harmful, unsustainable and will lead to some kind of giant economic collapse. This entails running out of resources and energy, lower air and water quality and other hysterical scenarios. But in truth, free markets driven by entrepeneurs, are dynamic and adjust to new technologies and new methods of production much faster than any bunch of regulator and Soviet style technocrats ever could.

Climate change is indeed a big issue. But there is no role for governments to get involved and make our lives worse.