Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why the “War on Global Warming” is a “War on the Poor”

Haven’t you written about global warming before?

Yes. Click here for a link to that post, which contains more details than are given here, and would be a good background for this post.

The reason for this new post is that Congress is currently considering what is called a “cap-and-trade” tax. This is a form of a carbon tax that taxes industries that emit CO2. The purpose of this post is to show that any such tax will make everything more expensive, and yet do nothing to prevent global warming. So the poor will be harmed, and it will be for nothing.

Why will such a tax make everything more expensive?

Whenever we burn oil, natural gas, or coal to obtain energy, CO2 is given off. So any sort of carbon tax would increase the cost of energy since we obtain most of our energy from these sources. We frequently think of energy in terms of gasoline and electricity, and the price of those will certainly increase. But keep in mind that the chair you’re sitting on took energy to make. So the price of everything will increase with such a tax.

Won’t a cap-and-trade/carbon tax cause us switch to more “sustainable” forms of energy such as solar or wind?

Probably so. But these forms of energy supply only a small fraction of our energy needs, and they are still expensive. As solar and wind and other forms of energy become inexpensive, we will naturally start generating energy from them. But it will take decades before they become a significant source of energy. Until then, why create poverty?

But if a form of carbon tax will reduce our CO2 emissions, won’t that reduce global warming, and benefit all?

No, if the United States decreases its CO2 emissions, it will have no significant effect on global warming. There are many reasons for this. First, a few years ago, China became the leading emitter of CO2, and the amount they are giving off is growing substantially, whereas we are not substantially increasing our CO2. Likewise, India, other Asian countries, Africa and South America are all increasing their CO2. So even if we were to decrease our CO2 emissions by say 30%, this would have little effect on global CO2 concentration.

Even worse, projections from the last 30 years indicate that global temperatures would rise about 3 degrees Fahrenheit (F) by 2100, which may actually have a net benefit to humanity. The reason for this is that plants absorb CO2 during photosynthesis, and give off the oxygen that animals (and humans!) breathe. Atmospheric CO2 has gone from about 315 parts-per-million (ppm) in 1958 to 385 ppm in 2008. (This is about 38 molecules of CO2 per 100,000 molecules of air). Many greenhouse owners prefer to use 1000 ppm in their greenhouses because their plants grow better with that concentration of CO2. This indicates that increasing CO2 in our atmosphere will increase plant and tree growth, thus making food more plentiful and affordable.

And even though you’ve heard otherwise, the truth is that we still don’t know how much global warming manmade CO2 emissions are causing. You’ve certainly heard the almost hysterical pleas from Al Gore and others who consider manmade CO2 emissions an apocalypse waiting to happen. But what has happened?

Trends indicate a 3 degree F increase over the next century and a 1 to 2 foot rise in sea level. Does this sound apocalyptic to you? Have you noticed that dearth of articles in the last few years about how much global warming is occurring? The reason is that for a decade or so, there has been no global warming. How many articles have you seen about that? Have you noticed that instead of the term “global warming”, alarmists are using the term, “climate change.” This is safer for them since they can still talk about climate change when no global warming is happening. It’s also safe because the climate is always changing. But don’t be fooled. When you hear “climate change” that is almost always a euphemism for “manmade global warming.” Scientists and journalists who have done this ought to be ashamed, for they are hiding the truth.

Are there other reasons for not having a CO2 cap-and-trade tax?

Taxing CO2 will cost us money that we could be using for something valuable. There are “clean coal” initiatives that involve burning coal for electricity (of which the U.S. has hundreds of years’ worth), but that give off much less pollution. This sounds reasonable, except that these initiatives always involve removing the CO2 given off, which is expensive to do. If we eliminated the CO2 requirement, because it has no value, we could redefine “clean coal” as burning coal for energy and giving off very little pollution, such as sulfur dioxide, lead and mercury. This would be of benefit to us since these substances have been shown to be harmful.

Furthermore, the only current cost-effective way we have of generating pollution-free energy is with nuclear power. Streamlining the process for approving and building more nuclear power plants would have tremendous value. As well doing more research into more efficient and less expensive nuclear power plants would be of value. We have over a million years worth of nuclear fuel, mainly uranium and thorium. It would also make us less dependent on foreign oil, once we have good battery-powered cars.

What’s one more good reason for not having a CO2 cap-and-trade tax?

Because it will create poverty, it will do the opposite of what is intended: to make humanity better off. If global warming occurs to a harmful extent, then, just as when other disasters happen, the most prosperous countries will fare much better than the poorest countries. The lesson of the 2010 disastrous earthquake in Haiti was that it wasn’t the earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, it was poverty. Haiti did not have buildings or roads or the various types of infrastructure able to handle a 7.0 magnitude earthquake. In 1989, San Francisco had an almost identical earthquake, and around 60 people were killed. Prosperity matters a great deal, when it comes to dealing with any kind of disaster.

Prosperous countries will be in the best position to deal with whatever negative effects there might be due to global warming. Not only will these countries suffer less if significant global warming occurs, they will suffer less if any disaster occurs. In addition, prosperous countries rarely go to war with each other. It is easier just to trade with each other than to go to war.

I’ve heard from more than one good-hearted person that the Earth would be better off with fewer people, and that they don’t want the rest of the world to have the amenities that we have in the U.S. because it would “destroy the Earth.” This is truly a terrible attitude. Good people should want all other good people on Earth to be prosperous and to have access to the same products that we enjoy. If we do it right, there are plenty of natural resources to provide for all of us, and in a sustainable manner.

In a previous post I gave an environmental policy for the United States that will reduce pollution and CO2 emissions by at least 80% by 2050. And the surprising news about this is that it will create prosperity at the same time. This is about the most anyone could ask for, and it can be done without any form of carbon tax.

There are cost-effective ways to reduce global warming if we need be. (Click on the link at the start of this post to find out about them). But having a carbon tax is not one of them.


A cap-and-trade tax or any form of carbon tax will not benefit the environment, and will create poverty. Congress should reject any such taxes. Rather, it should endorse environmental policies that reduce pollution, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and create prosperity.

Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.


Anonymous said...

So carbon dioxide, the gas necessary fo plant life, IS BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?!
(Calms down) Yeah, that makes sense.

Tim Farage said...

The general lack of science knowledge in our country is a disaster. Most people think that carbon dioxide is bad, as you mentioned above. And the lack of science knowledge includes our politicians. Worse, to make laws about pollution, global warming, etc., requires not only science knowledge, but economics knowledge, specifically how to do a cost-benefit analysis. If they could do this, they would see the harm in carbon tax laws.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid there's more to the story than this view.

Let's narrow the variables down so as to be able to easily track our discourse. We look at what is happening on the reefs. These aspects of earth have been around for millions and millions of years. A single atoll can take up to 30M years to form.

Now, fortunately, this allows us to take core samples to examine levels of C02, nitrate levels, etc. Lo and behold, right now is the highest on record. This leaves a thoughtful reader to conclude:

1. MASSIVE coincidence.
2. Humanity is culpable some how.

#1 seems implausible. #2 looks more reasonable.

So, I'm not inclined to dismiss global warming quite yet.

Tim Farage said...

When I’ve looking at the data, it’s shown a global temp. increase of about 3 deg. F per century. The most recent data shows 2 deg., but I consider that “about 3”. I’m not sure how much of that is anthropogenic, but it seems like some of it is. But I am not an anthropogenic global warming denier, just one who thinks that any form of carbon tax will be worse than useless.

My main points were that:

1) Who’s to say what the ideal temperature is for humanity? Let’s say that it’s 3 deg. F more than it is today. Certainly, there will be negative consequences to that (e.g. the coral reefs), but there will be positive ones as well, such as longer growing seasons in the Midwest, Russia, etc. We won’t really know until after things have stabilized to see if such an increase is a net positive.

2) No matter how much (or little) global warming occurs, the U.S. implementing a carbon tax or some sort is about the most ineffective thing we can do. This is mainly because developing countries such as China and India will keep increasing their carbon output. So why cost us more money for no benefit?

3) If global warming does occur to a significant extent, there are geo-engineering techniques that can mitigate it, and are very inexpensive.

4) My blog entry on Environmentalism gives ways to reduce pollution (and CO2) by 80% by 2050, while creating more prosperity, rather than poverty.

One thing that remains a very sore point with me is that any rational scientific analysis of nuclear power would find that (done properly) we can use it to generate electricity from Uranium and Thorium for at least a million years, and with no pollution. France did this starting in the 1970s and now they get 80% of their electricity from nuclear power, and are even selling electricity to England and Germany. We are idiots for not doing the same. But our emotional response to “The China Syndrome”, a fictional movie, Chernobyl, a reactor built and run by Communists, and Three Mile Island, in which not a single person died, kept us from building more reactors. Pathetic.

(The nuclear wastes are much less of a problem than most people think. For instance, we are constantly finding new ways to use what used to be nuclear wastes, and using them as a source of energy. For instance, breeder reactors, and the up-and-coming Thorium reactors are able to extract energy from our current wastes, leaving very little nuclear waste left. What is left would be radioactive for about 200 years, which can be easily dealt with. Actually, even that waste should be stored so that we can get at it. We may soon be able to extract its energy, and leave no waste at all).

Soon we’ll have cost-effective battery-powered cars, and if our main source of electricity were nuclear, even our cars wouldn’t be giving off pollution.

Unfortunately, only a tiny per cent of those in the U.S. understands science and economics. And until that changes, our irrational policies will continue. And as usual, the poor will suffer the most.

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