May 13, 2008 [LINK / comment]

McCain on global warming

Distancing himself from the Bush administration, and straining his already fragile ties with the Republican Party "Base," Sen. John McCain outlined his approach to dealing with global warming. It involves mandatory restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, and tradable credits for such emissions, similar to the provisions of the Kyoto Treaty. See Washington Post. The latter measure might work, and I would consider the use of tax policy to discourage excess hydrocarbon consumption, but as a matter of principle, I am dead set against any arbitrary limits. Global warming is the perfect excuse for a despotic government to take control of individual lives. In general, I think McCain's initiative is commendable, showing that if he is elected president he would not necessarily follow in President Bush's footsteps on every issue. We need some fresh thinking, and a true leader must be willing to take unpopular stands from time to time.

My position on global warming is "wait and see" -- but don't wait until it's too late. I saw Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth recently, and it's about what you'd expect, preaching to the left-liberal choir and foretelling imminent doom. Been there, done that. I don't deny that all those melting glaciers around the world are part of a serious trend that needs to be watched closely, but we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that it's all because of humans and their CO2 emissions. But even if that were the case, the idea that the nations of the Earth can all join hands and solve the problem in a cooperative fashion is too far-fetched for me to believe. The potential scope of the problem is so vast and overwhelming that it would be vain to think that clever scientists and political leaders could make things right. It may the case that Planet Earth is at the point of a major climactic shift, leading to mass extinctions that might even threaten our own species. As with the "Club of Rome" forecasts in the 1970s, when energy prices were skyrocketing and many people thought we were about to run out of natural resources, we are now living in an era in which talking about scarcity and limits is "cool."