Daily Archives: February 5th, 2008

The Economics of Climate Change

While I was trolling (or trawling) along the InnerTubes yesterday, I ran across this little ditty at Charlie Stross’ Blog:

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the modern environmentalist movement is a puritan religious movement in secular drag. But that doesn’t mean that fixing our environmental problems isn’t a good idea. Nor are we going to get there by wearing sackcloth and ashes, mortifying the flesh, and trying to live like mediaeval subsistence-farming peasants.

That statement would make my buddy Highwayman happy, purely on the grounds that Charlie says environmentalism is a “religious movement”, but that’s not what I want to concentrate on. Charlie is a damn good futurist/writer, but he knows he lives in the here and now. I’m talking about an article he linked to at Depleted Cranium titled The Top Ten Things Environmentalists Need To Learn. The essay reads like a Dave Lettermen Top Ten List giving the various reasons the environmentalists’ proposals aren’t even close to being economically viable, let alone feasable given human nature the way it is. I have to agree with the article sadly enough. If we were going to do any of the things environmentalists propose like solar energy, electric cars, mass transit and all of that stuff to cut down on our dependence on oil, we should have done that thirty years ago after the Arab Oil Embargo. But of course we all know why that didn’t happen, so I’m not going to mention it. Then, as now, most so-called environmentalists say we need to live a simpler life-style like no cars, no TVs, no computers, natural foods, etc., ad nauseum. But who gets to determine who lives that simpler “lifestyle”? Most of these people making such proposals talk the talk, but rarely walk the walk (The Gore-acle, anyone?). As Depleted Cranium’s essay states, “…the governments claiming a carbon tax imposed on fossil fuels would cut down on the use of them, stop people from driving SUVs, motor boats and pay for alternative energy sources…”. Well guess what, the only people who will cut down on their driving will be people like me and other working people! The folk driving SUVs and other fossil fuel guzzling goodies who knock down six or seven figure salaries a year wouldn’t even blick if they had to pay $10-$12/gal. of gas or diesel. But I would stop driving, you better believe that!

Yeah, some people who troll by here would say I don’t give a crap about the environment and “Mother Earth”, claiming I’ve turned selfish and that I should “sacrifice”. Well, you’d be dead wrong. I was in high school during the Nixon years and the Arab oil embargo. I remember the long lines, angry people and the violence. Being the science/science-fiction nerd I was even back in those days, I knew we had to get past the fossil fuel crap or we’d be screwed in the future. Sure, I liked nuclear power because most sci-fi authors liked it, but I liked the solar mirror/farms ideas and the related O’Neill Space Colony concept to supply power and materials to Earth. So in my mind, I was an “environmentalist” (for you HW) before this present generation of “people must die to save Gaia” and “people must sacrifice” yahoos came along. Depleted Cranium and Stross have this thing pegged down and right-on.

In short, me and my family will probably have to “… wear sackcloth and ashes, mortifying the flesh, and try to live like medieval subsistence-farming peasants…” through no fault of our own, only because we (and others like us) can’t afford to pay a carbon tax and purchase modern “green tech” goodies. If we decided to live to that way because we wanted is one thing, but to be forced to live that way would, well, let’s put it this way, not be conducive to maintaining my good nature.

And that is economic reality.