Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Dialogue Between Robert and Todd

Todd and I were discussing the election, and our conversation turned towards the subject of greenhouse gases, but then to regulations and taxes in general. I asked him if I could share our conversation to show our two different, but intertwined points of view. I hope it makes sense and makes for interesting reading. It all came out of one conversation we had over chat, but I broke it up into five posts. Hope everyone enjoys it.

Robert: Meaning complying with Kyoto will do a lot of damage to our economy.
Robert: What we NEED is the Fair Tax, and then some serious deregulation.
Todd: I think that a modified Kyoto compact among more developed nations has to be implemented soon. The ability for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions MUST be coupled with aggressive public investment in private research into new technologies that can affordably and profitably bring our emissions lower. It is quite easy to draft a plan that works for developing nations who do not have the private energy infrastructure that the US of A has. What is more difficult and less palatable to the extreme environmentalist is that we have to make "going green" an attractive business proposition.
Todd: Once we do that, we now have solutions that businesses will be more than happy to accept tougher government standards for. Regulation must always be married with the benefit of the corporation in mind. To do so otherwise is to simply ignore human nature and is a recipe for policy failure.
Robert: Tell me honestly, are you suggesting you believe in Global Warming as a human-caused phenomenon?
Todd: I would not even approach Global Warming as an end goal to alter when we know that emissions have such harmful public health effects on even the smallest scale. Here in Phoenix as our population grows our per capita rates of Asthma-related hospital discharges have erupted.
Todd: Harmful emissions in our atmosphere are a public health concern that government rightly should be concerned with. We must carefully study climate change data and if we are to accept the postulate that global warming is being caused by anthropogenic emissions, and we know that these emissions constitute a public health threat even in the short term, then I believe we have steady ground on which to make policy changes. Even if we don't accept that global warming is anthropogenic, we should continue to fund research into it to be certain. We do know that period s of global warming are occurring now. We believe that they have occurred in the past. We disagree on its possible effects. We KNOW that carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrous oxide and particulate matter emissions are harmful to humans.
Todd: Let's start with what we know.... that's all I'm suggesting.
Robert: Right now, there is no viable alternative to oil that works on a large scale. Emission reduction must come as a function of the economy, or in the end, it will just continue to wreck our economy.
Robert: Right now our standard of living is being stilted by government policies regarding oil restrictions and emissions.
Todd: Well there are two schools of thought on this, and I'm not certain I'm willing to subscribe to one of the other. One school says that humans invariably are going to have to change their behavior if they want to change the amount of harmful emissions we generate. Okay, that sounds logical. The other says that maybe humans don't have to change their behavior if we simply bring the most serious offenders in line with newer technologies.
Robert: There's also the school of thought that humans are somewhat arrogant to assume they can truly influence the whole environment in the way people like Al Gore think we do.

(to be continued tomorrow)


Gwen said...

The truth about global warming and emissions is probably somewhere muddled between all our ideas about it. Al Gore and his ilk are concerned with marketing potentially unpopular ideologies. I mean, everyone is for a better tomorrow, but not if it involves too much personal sacrifice. This is why I'm suspect of carbon credits; it seems like a way to throw money at a problem without addressing the underlying use issues.

(don't get me wrong, though; I believe global warming is real and I think humans have some responsibility for it, both retrospectively and in the future).

Robert said...

I don't think humans have nearly as much responsibility for global warming as we like to think we do. We do, however, have responsibility for the smog that hangs over major cities, which is something I definitely agree with Todd about. I think, though, that global warming is the marketing strategy to get people to do the things they need to in order to reduce that smog. My main problem with that strategy is that it is disingenuous if not dishonest, and whenever the reason given is not the right one, the public has a problem with following suit on what needs to be done. Making gasoline engines produce less emissions does not seem like the real answer to me, nor does the electric car which is simply remote emissions and inefficient. Hybrids at least speak to reducing the carbon from a gasoline engine, but what we need is truly alternative power sources that are renewable and reasonable to use. We need those, assuming we want our society to continue to grow and expand. If we want to take a large step back in our advancement for the sake of the environment, then I'd like to see evidence that the people of this country are invested in that idea. I don't see it. I especially don't see it in large cities filled with cars - many of them driven by the environmentalists who are so keen on stopping everyone else from damaging the enviroment. I don't see it from political candidates like John Edwards who claim to be for the environment but fly around on personal jets and own massive homes, either. I'm honest about the fact that I tend to worry about my own interests and my children's before I worry about how I'm damaging my environment, but I'm not a naturally wasteful person who intentionally harms the environment. I just don't worry, for instance, that it's probably bad for the environment that on many nights I have to drive my son around for fifteen minutes to get him to sleep at a reasonable hour. It matters more to me that he sleeps than that I'm burning fuel.

Humans certainly do things to harm environments, but we have a lot less control or influence on the global system than we imagine. We just need to continue to research real alternatives to oil and coal that are viable. Subsidizing ethanol is not viable, as it stands, and needs a lot of infrastructure change to the food system if we are to even make good use of it instead of creating inflation (which is all it is doing right now).

Thanks for the comments.

Julie Pippert said...

Clearly Todd needs to read my blog. :)

I can't speak as any expert to global warming, but as he pointed out the pollution has an immediate and discernibly negative effect on the small in the here and now.

Must. Quit. Sickening. Off. Population.

If that doesn't appeal to hearts, we can make it about the bottom line. Easily.

That said, we have a big problem and perhaps starting small will help that as well.

BTW my husband thinks the Global Warming battle cry was a tactical error. So I think you two agree.

I also believe the "fine them" approach does not work. Obviously. So a more positive approach might have better success.

But then I will go all bleeding heart on you about using a positive approach versus negative and the better success of the "do this" instead of "don't do this" an dhow parenting only reinforces that notion.


Julie Pippert said...

P.S. Fully support driving children to sleep. Much better than the other, which would be the not sleeping driving parents to drink. It levels out in the end, somehow, if you are conscientious about it. For example, I spent ten years not driving a car. I figure that balances the one year I spent driving my daughter to sleep.

Robert said...

Todd barely gets time to read this blog, so I can't distract him yet. He's been busy training for a half marathon (now finished) and getting ready for a wedding, besides the new job he started. I'm just glad he takes the time to comment here.

Yes, it sounds like your husband and I would agree. Global Warming is not what really matters regarding pollution. Americans definitely don't seem to care about either (global warming or pollution) based off the continuing increase in available styles of SUV.

Yes, positive parenting and positive governing are VERY intermingled. Slamming someone's hand in a door to teach him not to open it might work, but isn't it better to show him what's on the other side of the door and help him understand why it's bad to go through it?

One thing I find, when I really discuss things with "liberals" or "bleeding hearts" is that there is a lot more common ground between "conservative" and "liberal" than the media ever wants anyone to admit or even realize. Most of my problem with the "liberal" form of government is the design of fine and tax to compel behavior over educate and encourage through tax breaks. That's not an open attack on anyone in particular, so much as a statement of my perspective on the difference in philosophy. I think there is common ground to work from to educate each other on ways to answer the problems facing this country.

Thanks for the support on driving my son to sleep. The swing quit working very early, but the motion effect seems to have carried over with the car. Otherwise, his mother has to put him to sleep every night, or I have to just wait until he passes out.

le35 said...

Thanks Rob on the driving him to sleep thing. It helps tons on the nights when I CAN'T get him to sleep. Can't, can't, can't. (If I left out the contractions, I'd sound like train in The Little Engine that Could). ON the global warming thing, I am not sure whether temperatures would change or not based on how much polution we put into the air. The fact remains, though, that we do put a whole ton of polution into the air, and it isn't good for us. There has to be a balance though. Do we give up flying on planes and driving cars all together for the sake of the environment? In many ways, no. I would never get to see my family. Families are more important than anything else to me. So, again, we have to find the balance.

Robert said...

Balance is definitely the key, and so far the market response has not been to demonstrate any real concern with reducing pollution. The government has forced it somewhat, but if the market - that is consumers, individuals - does not want to make those sacrifices, then either education has to improve on the pollution, or we have to face the fact that people do not really care so much as they pretend to about the environment.