Climate Change

After receiving some constructive criticism on my article Climate Change: A Different View, I want to clarify my position.  Poorly worded and edited it was justly critiqued by serval people whose opinions I value, and I have since removed it from this site.  My article did not convey my point clearly.  I have no doubt that climate change is real and man’s part in it may lead to catastrophic results.  My point was that those of us fortunate enough to live in countries with representative government need to hold our elected officials accountable and not jump on any bandwagon because it sounds right, it also needs to be right.  As voters, we need to be held accountable for those we vote for and to be a responsible voter carries the burden of doing our own research before we vote.

One criticism was that we need to leave it to the experts, because we are not experts.  Of course, we need the most guidance from the experts, but even experts are often wrong, and worse, they rarely look beyond their field of expertise to see how their recommendations can negatively impact other sections of our society such as our economy and mental and physical health.  That is why we need to elect leaders whose job is to filter out the chaff and balance what the experts want done with the impact on the reality that affects all of us.

Another criticism was regarding my point on the loss of jobs and how, like nature, business abhors a vacuum.   Ironically, one of the people that mentioned this to me is a dear friend, whom I recently re-connected with after 25 plus years, who grew up in the same small town I did and now lives near the Motor City.  In the early 80’s when we were kids the largest employer in town closed and the town was decimated economically.  That closure resulted in a huge decrease in population as people fled to find new jobs and led the town to be number one in alcohol consumption per capita in the entire country for a few years.  I often visit our hometown and 40 years later it has yet to climb back to its peak population or, by my observations, sober up. 

The same scenario can be seen throughout Michigan and other states that were dependent on the auto industry.  The decline of the U.S. auto industry may not have started with the energy crisis of the 70’s but that crisis pushed it over the edge.  And what happened with the energy crisis and auto industry is not completely unlike our concerns today in attempting to move towards alternate sources of energy.  During the gas crisis people drove less, purchased fewer new vehicles and wanted cars with better MPG.  American businesses did not respond to fill that vacuum.  It took the Japanese to fill that void and with it took the jobs.  I don’t blame the Japanese; I respect and applaud them for seeing an opportunity and maximizing it. 

When businesses that large suffer it affects more than just them, it affects all those who supply them, those in their supply chain and those who sell goods and services to their employees as well as the cities that rely on the taxes of both those businesses and their employees.  It was a failure of American business for not filling that vacuum and leaving hundreds of thousands out of work or underemployed.  Detroit has less than half the population than it did at its peak and was once the wealthiest city in the country and one of the wealthiest in the world.  

Pushing electric cars and green energy before they are ready for mass consumption could lead to many losing jobs.  California has already banned the sale of gas powered vehicles by 2035.  That’s just 15 years from now.  Will the jobs lost be filled by other industries in time to save families from financial devastation?  Will electric cars be affordable to middle and lower income families who depend on cheap transportation to get to work and school?  Will wind and solar energy be able to offset increased demand for electricity, or will we have to still rely on natural gas or coal power plants which negate many, if not most, of the benefits of electric cars?  How much will it cost to upgrade our infrastructure to meet the increasing demand and who will pay for it?  Will all this happen within just 15 years?  Vacuums are not always filled within a generation or even longer, leaving many behind and much worse off than they were before.  Like many cities, including my home town and throughout the rust belt, Detroit has never recovered. 

I read a comment on Brian’s Suszek’s article, Man Made Climate Change, stating that “the climate debate was akin to children arguing for the sake of argument.”  That is very, very true about some, but not for many of us arguing.  We are not arguing that nothing should be done, we are arguing on how it should be done and holding those who decide what is to be done accountable for any rash or poorly vetted decisions.  As a libertarian minded person, I understand that government rarely makes the right decisions and, even if we have the technology, there can be very damaging unintended costs and consequences of just doing it.

We may have the technology to act now, but in the process of transitioning to a greener world that cutting edge technology will cost money and jobs. Experts are not always right and although their consensus is that something must be done and done soon, they are far from agreement on just how much negative impact man has on climate change and how best to correct it.  There needs to be a balance between those sounding the alarm the loudest and those ignoring the alarm completely so we don’t destroy ourselves in others ways we didn’t see coming.  As with almost every topic, neither extreme has 100% claim to the truth.

The point of my original article, although poorly constructed, still stands.  Yes, manmade climate change is real.  Yes, we need to do something about it sooner rather than later.  But we need to determine how much of climate change is caused by man and how much is natural, such as from solar flares, sunspots, volcanic activity, etc.  There may even be possible benefits of limited climate change.  It can increase growing seasons for larger and, possibly multiple, crop yields per year.  The Sahara desert is shrinking, possibly opening more land for agriculture on a continent that desperately needs food.

We need to be skeptical of those saying New York will be under water in 10 years or we will all be starving within 20 years unless we over tax ourselves and waste that money through poorly thought-out agendas such as the Paris Agreement.  We need to question those who sound the alarm the loudest and vet their conclusions as maybe they have an agenda.  Think of Al Gore and others buying ocean front property and making millions off climate change, running for election or selling books while talking about rising sea levels.  There’s nothing wrong with monetizing climate change, quite the opposite; monetizing climate change can bring about the quickest and most cost effective solutions.  But it often appears that we are being sold a bill of goods by some of those demanding the most change in the shortest possible time.

Like religion and politics, debate about climate change can be volatile and misunderstood and needs much more discussion and action than articles like this to fully be resolved.  Change can be difficult and painful, but inevitable. But we can minimize the pain with rational thinking and solutions. I relearned a very valuable lesson; words matter.  Many, many times over the years l have told people “it’s not what you’re saying, it’s how you’re saying it.”  Unfortunately, I don’t always practice what I preach.

I agree with everything Brian Suszek stated in his article, but I also felt it needed some expansion.  In today’s world of 15 second sound bites and attention-grabbing headlines most people rarely think beyond that, and they vote with results that can be just as devastating as climate change.

10 thoughts on “Climate Change

  1. My biggest problem: I have little / no evidence that the right side of the political aisle has any proposed agenda or even any movement toward an agenda. Instead, they seem to feel that criticizing the left’s agenda is an agenda. It is not. Since republicans are the closest thing that Libertarians have as a proxy for them with any power politically, we are being let down. Let’s hold them accountable.

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    1. Guilty as charged. The Republicans lack a serious plan and even token plans like the Trillion Trees Act have little support from other Republicans and do too little. The left justly needs to be criticized, but with a realistic alternate plan to counter along with solid reasoning as to why the left is wrong; I don’t see that very often from the right and even I didn’t include anything in my article. Being fan of limited government I believe the best plan to implement immediately would be to encourage innovation through huge tax breaks to incentivize current large energy producers with the money to develop competing sources of green energy and let the free market do what it does best.

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  2. We need the energy generation market to be the focus of the government. It is heavily regulated and most Americans are stuck with little choice about where we get it. Everything that I have seen would suggest that nuclear power is the likeliest solution and making it easier and cheaper to install new nuclear plants would be viable with the cooperation of the regulators. However, I am no expert.. Could it be solar or wind? I don’t know. Let’s get the best and brightest in industry, government, and academia working together on it.

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    1. There is no single solution in the near future. It has to be wind, solar and nuclear. All technologies that currently exist and already plugged into the grid. Long term, cold fusion? Or more realistically, hydrogen power plants?

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  3. Using vehicles as an example:
    If the United States lets other countries with large auto markets like China, Japan, France, Italy, India Germany etc. innovate in green technologies, they will get the jobs when the market shifts. I am not sure how that helps Detroit, Michigan or the United States.
    China already leads the world in the number of electric vehicles manufactured (4x the US and Germany). When consumers shift their preference, once it is too big to ignore, who will manufacture the vehicles in response? Answer: Those that have robust solutions. in the same manner the Japanese did in the 70s for the energy crisis.
    Will the innovation needed / most efficient be electric cars? I have no idea. That is where we need to consult with experts in the auto industry and scientists in the government, academia and in private business.

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    1. Tax breaks and hydrogen cars. I sincerely believe there would be at least 2-3 times if not more “green” cars on the roads today if the focus had been on hydrogen instead of electric. Existing gas stations could have been converted to hydrogen much quicker and without the strain and cost of upgrading the electrical grid. The biggest stumbling block for electric cars has always been range between charges and the time it takes to charge. Electric cars have been around since at least the 1880’s and there’s a reason internal combustion engines won out. Tax breaks are far more effective in encouraging innovation than direct funding or forgivable loans from the government. With direct funding or forgivable loans there is not as much incentive to be efficient or respond to market demands. If we want the government to fund industry tax breaks might bring in foreign investment and maybe those cars made and developed outside the U.S. would start being made and developed in the U.S. bypassing short sighted American businesses and keeping jobs in the U.S.

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  4. Regarding your worries about Detroit and your hometown:
    A simple point to show the resilience of the market is to say that… Yes, the populations of your hometown and Detroit have not rebounded to peak levels. That is not how free markets work. The market adapts… not geography. However, the unemployment rate has rebounded nicely in both places:

    Hometown Unemployment- 1990- 11.5% / October 2020- 3.7%
    Michigan Unemployment- 1976- 9.9% / Pre Pandemic- 3.6%; Even Mid Pandemic Oct- 6.1%

    These situations are failures of business leaders, businesses and industry. US auto manufacturers failed to counter innovations in manufacturing and shifts in consumer preferences driven by the energy crisis. In a way, I am asking for the government to facilitate a discussion with industry and academia about how they can avoid that in a shift to green transportation.

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    1. You agree with me on the failure of American business. I understand that free markets are not linked to geography. But change brings pain and there are ways to limit the pain by being rational and looking for solutions that won’t unnecessarily devastate industries and communities. I hesitate to use the saying, but most people “work to live, not live to work.” Most people have never found that passion in their work to keep them from being static and they never will. They set down roots, raise families and build their lives in the hopes of remaining in the same area as their family and friends until death. Who wants to be in 40’s, 50’s looking for a new job? How realistic is it for someone in their 60’s, who still can be very productive, to be retrained and move for a new job? Judging solely by your last sentence I think we are in agreement that the pain of transition can be mitigated. And I’m assuming that we both agree the cure of the Green New Deal would be worse than the disease. Again, tax breaks to incentivize foreign investment and bring that innovation to the U.S. If the Fair Tax were implemented in the U.S., companies around the world would be begging to open shop here. Not sure about including academia in the discussion because I agree with Drunk Uncle, “educated peopled never learned a damned thing accept how to look down on us that’s smarter than them”;)

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  5. We agree. My article “Optimal Mix of Science and Politics” from October 20th makes your point about how scientists should be incorporated into political debate. See if you feel that it covers it.

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