Selling the crisis of climate change

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The Obama Administration is again making noises on regulating climate change and, as usual, some are selling it as a crisis.

In talking with farmers and ranchers who have been on the land for multiple generations, I’ve seen a reluctance to agree that droughts should be blamed on manmade activity. Their family history reports many droughts, some more severe than the current batch. Farmers are also suspicious that they will be the first to feel the pinch of aggressive efforts to regulate carbon emissions. There is something to that. Great strides have been made with conservation tillage and no-till, but very few have found a way to produce a crop without driving across a field.

The public may no longer be listening on climate change. I, on the other hand, am still listening, but I get the ambivalence. I also know the reason for it. Among Texas dove hunters, there is always the guy who “shoots up in the air and claims what falls.” Every environmental calamity, both real and imagined, has been laid upon the altar of climate change.

I’ve been involved in environmental debates for more than 30 years. I know that the green left is always selling a crisis. There’s never much fundraising potential in “We’ve made a lot of environmental progress,” or “Things are much better now than in decades.” We can only hear so many cries of, “Wolf!” before we tune it out.

I am encouraged that the environmental movement is getting its act together on some of the conflicting portions of the green agenda. For example, some of them have discovered that biotechnology has sharply reduced the need for carbon-emitting products produced from petroleum.

We should pay attention to the consequences of climate change and look for cost-effective and market-driven solutions. But we should not forget about the dangers of punitive and out-of-control regulation that will cripple our economy and our ability to grow our own food.



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Kyle Sager    
Atlanta, GA  |  March, 21, 2013 at 05:07 PM

It was never "wolf." When NASA scientist Jim Hansen sounded the alarm thirty years ago he never claimed the impacts would be immediate. Now we are well into the 2nd decade of the millennium and the first canaries in the coal mine are actually beginning to fall earlier and harder than expected (certainly than Hansen expected). Runaway permafrost melt with methane release is very likely at this point. Market-based approaches are a great idea as long as we acknowledge that markets left completely to their own devices will inevitably take the path of least resistance (and most destruction). Enterprises actively seek out risk-return scenarios that permit them to push risks/damages onto others while reaping rewards. A revenue-neutral well-head / mine-site carbon-fee is probably the best approach. Place a fee on the destructive resource as it is extracted and then simply return that fee evenly distributed to tax-payers. This is not a "big government approach." Look at the fee as compensation for emissions. Exxon has even said it would prefer a "carbon tax" above other approaches.

taxpayer    
nebraska  |  March, 22, 2013 at 08:17 AM

"revenue neutral ...fee...evenly distributed to taxpayers" WOW a 21st century Robin Hood. Paying ranchers and farmers to sequester carbon is probably not on your list of acceptable options.

Will    
California  |  March, 22, 2013 at 08:02 AM

Great article with a refreshing common sense perspective. Thank you!! Climates come and climates go but the green air raid sirens never stop squealing. I recommend ear plugs.


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