Both Sides Backward on AGW

The latest temperature trends look grim. And the person saying so is not some Gore-sniffing alarmist lunactic — it’s Ron Bailey, a “good skeptic” on climate change. And yet the GOP remains less informed on the issue than on online humor magazine.

That Cracked article, in addition to being funny, outlines many good points on the debate. Specifically, the potential positive effects of global warming but the necessarily dangerous risks we are taking. In the end, that’s what the issue comes down to for me. The planet is pretty habitable right now. It’s certainly possible — in fact, very likely — that the deleterious effects of global warming are exaggerated. But do we really want to find out what how bad AGW is by irreversible experimentation? Again, I’m not on board with radical solutions. But a carbon tax combined with an overhaul of the corporate tax code and investment in R&D that is doled out by scientists (not politicians) seems a low price to pay to mitigate a potential danger.

That having been said, I think the science community is wrong in praising the decision to let the EPA start setting global warming policy. Yes, the Court decided that this was within the purview of the Clean Air Act. But with such a contentious issue, i would much rather have Congress be making the decisions. Not because they will do a better job, but because Congress is accountable and the decisions it reaches have to come from something approaching a consensus. Putting these decisions into the hands of an unaccountable bureaucracy that can rule by fiat is a recipe for political, if not scientific, disaster.

Moreover, pawning this off on the EPA is Congress trying to weasel out of their obligations and pawn difficult choices onto an unaccountable bureaucracy. This is simply the latest iteration in their general refusal to govern. Congress won’t pass a budget this year. They notoriously punted the decision on the Iraq War to the President. I’m disinclined to allow more of this nonsense. They need to govern, if it means occasionally means doing something unpopular and getting unelected.

One aspect of my libertarianism is that I am obsessed with process. The reason, a Megan McArdle likes to say, is that if you govern with a good process, you will, on average govern better. Too many people are focused on the goal — doing something about global arming — and not focused enough on the process. The Iraq War is a perfect example of what happens when you ignore the process. If Congress had done its Constitutional duty — debated the War and then issued a declaration of War — we might have gotten a better result than we ultimately did.

I doubt those applauding this decision would applaud Bush if he’d authorized HHS to regulate abortion. Or would cheer if he’d given the military authority over all national security issues, including habeas (although, in the latter case, they’d probably have defended the Constitution better than Bush’s Legal Creeps). And therein lies the dilemma. People cheer when their side “does something”. But they shudder when the other side does. If we respect the process, these problems are mitigated.

For several decades, the liberal agenda was advanced by judges, not legislatures. And while some of the causes were worthy (civil rights, for example), the manner in which the agenda was advanced hardened the opposition; made them feel like the were being controlled by an unelected and unaccountable judiciary.

If we go the same route this time, it will simply give the Right more ammunition to claim that AGW is all a big conspiracy to empower government. Do we really need more of that?

One Response to “Both Sides Backward on AGW”

  1. jmh says:

    The Clean Air Act, it was passed by congress right? So it was legislated. Perhaps you might argue that this wasn’t the intent of that legislation, but that’s essentially what the courts are for. So it went to the court and they found that it was. I agree that the process can be important, but the process here seems to go along with what you want.

    It’s not like the folks in congress on the right are saying: So the courts decided that the Clean Air Act covers greenhouse gas emissions, but because global warming poses a threat we should probably take up some legislation to address it directly. The right is in complete denial with regard to global warming. Nothing about the process is going to convince them otherwise. Whatever change happens will be perceived as being “crammed” down their throat. Or what ever.

    Basically what you are proposes requires two rational actors, but that is not what we have here. The folks on the left can be bad, but to say they are on the same level as the people on the right is a false equivalency.