Stop Global Warming – a Conservative Approach

Global warming: is it a real problem or a liberal hoax? I dislike the very question for two reasons:

  1. It is an insult to the scientific community. (I’m a scientist by training.)
  2. There is nothing inherently liberal about believing in climate change.

Today’s scientific consensus could indeed prove wrong. It is based in part on corrupted data and daring extrapolation using coupled nonlinear partial differential equations with many approximations. Doing a proper experiment would be truly dangerous! And we cannot make it a truly controlled experiment without a duplicate earth minus human industry to do a side-by-side comparison. But it is more likely to prove right than the uninformed harrumphings of biased radio talk show hosts.

I even suspect exaggeration, but not because the scientific community is liberal. I suspect it because many in the climate science community have seen enough evidence of possible catastrophic warming to alert the world. Even a 5% chance of a doomsday scenario is worth shouting about. Physical scientists are human – sort of.

(Conservatives do the same thing. I have a nifty collection of books by gold bugs warning of hyperinflation and other financial disasters that were supposed to happen in the 80s and 90s.)

Back when I was a physics grad student, most of my classmates were conservative. Equating physical science with modern liberalism is a recent phenomenon. Many scientists have become liberal because the Republicans want to ignore the possible dire scenarios. Meanwhile, the Left is eager to jump in front of the parade offering a host of expensive and bureaucratic solutions. The Left will win unless either the Right wakes up, or our planet is indeed gearing up for another ice age.

Conservative Conspiracies to Stop Global Warming

Today, many conservatives believe that all the concern about global warming is due to a sustained leftwing conspiracy. It does sort of look that way – because liberals have jumped on the issue first.

But it could have gone the other way. If conservatives had jumped on issue first, there might be talk of a massive right wing conspiracy instead!

For example, economic conservatives could use global warming as an excuse to:

Rugged individualist conservatives could use global warming as an excuse to:

  • Bring back the pioneer spirit of self-sufficiency
  • Remove power lines from rural areas
  • Make small farms profitable again

Nationalist conservatives could further their own agenda to stop global warming:

Then again, it could be social conservatives who get the job done. They could use climate change as an excuse to:

  • Get people to live closer to work in order to have more time with family
  • Encourage people to pursue leisure time, family time, and community over accumulation of material things
  • Fight crime in the inner cities
  • Reform the welfare system to be more family friendly

Finally, libertarian conservatives could advance several of the above agendas along with:

  • Legalize hemp (as a fuel and fiber)
  • Legalize recreational drugs (to make cities safer)
  • Reduce eminent domain (power lines)
  • Bring the troops home from the Middle East

Let us not forget conspiracy minded conservatives of the John Birch Society/Alex Jones listener variety. They have a particular dislike of John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil. Alternative energy could put the big oil companies out of business and move economic power back to the local level. Global warming fears provide a handy excuse.

Energy Conspiracy Books
Back when I was in high school I ordered a book of "free energy" patents from the back of a science fiction magazine. It came with a couple of scary conspiracy books thrown in for free, and a plan to put the Rockefellers out of business using home generated power. (The copy above of None Dare Call it Conspiracy is one I got from a used bookstore later. In grad school I sent the original to the Soviet Union by way of a Russian physicist. The Soviet Union fell soon thereafter. My bad...)

But is the Science Truly Settled?

Many conservatives when confronted with these ideas still say: “The science isn’t settled” or voice similar objections. Using a false alarm to further the conservative agenda would indeed be dishonest.

Here’s the deal. Part of the science is settled. Pump enough carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and Earth becomes an unlivable hothouse. Check out the weather on Venus – including the night side. With all those reflective clouds, the surface of Venus doesn’t receive any more sunlight than we get here on Earth. (That’s why many mid century science fiction stories featured a swampy, but habitable Venus.)

All else equal, the amount of carbon dioxide needed, however, is huge. The direct effect is logarithmic. It would take centuries at current output to make the planet uninhabitable. But all things are not equal. A warmer atmosphere holds more water – especially at the poles where the air is currently very dry. Water vapor is also a greenhouse gas. A warmed up Arctic Circle means thawed permafrost. Thawed permafrost will emit mass quantities of carbon dioxide and methane – a stronger greenhouse gas. Warmed oceans will release carbon dioxide just as warm sodas give up their fizz. There are many positive feedback loops to fear.

But there are also some negative feedback loops, else we wouldn’t be here.

But how much introduced carbon dioxide can these negative feedback loops counter? Without climate action when does human activity take the planet to a tipping point:

  • 20 years?
  • 50 years?
  • 100 years?
  • 200 years?

If we indeed have a couple of centuries, then we might just as well chill out. Eventually solar or nuclear fusion will become cheaper than fossil fuels. We could just wait for the market to do its thing.

But there is another issue: nature. At what point does human introduction of extra CO2 cause serious harm the environment?

  • 100 years?
  • 50 years?
  • 10 years?
  • 0 years??

Yes, zero is a possibility. Coral bleaching has me seriously concerned. This effect alone justifies taking some serious measures.

Will they be onerous measures crafted by socialists and tort lawyers?

Or will they be freedom and business friendly measures crafted by conservatives? Read this series and decide.

A Truly Conservative Approach to Stop Global Warming

Emergency measures make for bad long term governance. Premature panic is a very bad policy. Those who call for fighting global warming in every way possible call for some really stupid ideas.

But waiting until we truly do need to panic is also a bad idea!

A small-c conservative approach to global warming would be:

  • Implement the cheap and easy solutions soon, to buy time
  • Put money into research for later development of longer term solutions
  • Do some research into possible emergency measures (geo engineering, thorium fission) just in case the climate goes nonlinear before expected

In this series I will focus on how to find the cheap and easy climate solutions, and how to use the market to find them.