Battlepanda: Global Warming prevention for the selfish and lazy


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Global Warming prevention for the selfish and lazy

(This post is inspired by the Libertarian Guy, whose made a series of comments responding to my post on global warming. TLB accuses Al Gore of hypocrisy because he's agitating for reduced overall carbon emissions, yet Gore has not personally cut his emissions down to zero yet. I guess in Libertarian Guy's world, the only people allowed to advocate for lowering the emission of greenhouse gasses are ascetics living in the wilderness hunting wild woodchucks with a spear. Of course, there probably are plenty of guys like that. But who wants to listen to weirdos who don't even have air conditioning?)

The scientific community is united. The evidence is present and correct. We know there's a pretty good chance that if we keep burining fossil fuel at this ever increasing clip, we are going to set into motion some global changes that will likely prove to be calamatous and well-nigh irreversable.

So, why am I still burning fossil fuels? Why am I jetting willy-nilly from continent to continent, eating apples from China in the States, then apples from the States in Taiwan? Why do I have the AC on right now in beautiful Vancouver B.C., where the the natural temperature in the hotel room is but a couple of degrees above the ideal? It's because, to echo this post by the Oracle of Las Vegas we know as Josh, I'm selfish. I like my comforts. I care about getting around and not being sweaty indoors and having useful stuff in general. Currently, achieving all these goals involve burning scads and scads of fossil fuels. So burn it I will. If that makes me a bad person, oh well.

Do I not care about the planet? My children's future environment? Heck, my personal survival if I live long enough? Of course I do. However, given the magnitude of the problem, my contribution pales into insignificance. My children are not going to be any less dead if I forego flying or eat more locally produced veggies. What percentage of the population do you think need to shut down their lives before we drive emissions down to the point where we'd make a difference? I don't know. Because I predict that if demand goes down due to our efforts, the price of petroleum would go down too, causing the remaining population to burn more of it.

The Libertarian Guy and other libertarians are not going to like this at all. But the only way that I can see to overcome the crisis is through c-c-c-collective action, with the government to keep us all in line. TLB implicitly assumed this when he said that "compared to the emission levels from the days of the first auto emission equipment, they're much cleaner-running, by far, and there are probably even-tougher standards to come." Exactly. Without CAFE standards, our autos would be even dirtier and more inefficient than they are now. And with tougher CAFE standards, they could easily be a lot more fuel efficient. Thank you, Libertarian guy, for making my point for me.

If there's one idea I think has been very damaging to the climate changing reversal cause, it is the old environmentalist idea that the way to save the world is by turning the clock backwards on technological advances. That's not going to happen. I don't want it to happen. There are lots of things we can do as individuals that makes us feel better about ourselves. I recycle and make a point of brining my own reusable bags to stores. But I have no illusions that they are little more than a token gestures and I would really be a hypocrite if I developed an holier-than-thou attitude towards people who don't do those things. The most important thing any citizen of the world can do is to agitate for political changes that will set up ground rules in such a way as to lower carbon emission. Come, all ye SUV drivers, AC addicts, frequent flyers. Demand higher fuel efficiency standards for your Canyoneros. Demand better insulation standards for buildings so that you can kick that air con up a notch in the height of summer. The goal is not to turn our backs on modernity, but to actively manage it in such a way as not to wreck our habitat.