According to subscribers of man-made global warming/climate change theory, if you don’t believe the consensus among the scientific community you’re anti-science. The issue has been settled, they say, and we’d all best get on board. Failing to join with them means you’re not only anti-science, but you’re obviously a misanthrope, since the very future of humanity is at stake.
Recall, there was a consensus on the issue of earth being the center of the universe in the 15th Century. It was the dissenters who finally showed the truth. And what of the hair-brained notion of the earth being round, and not a flat surface, as virtually everyone believed? Even modern science is not immune to such revision in light of new information. It was only last year that scientists made a discovery that could change everything – regarding the speed of light – they previously held as undisputed fact. True science is not consensus based, but instead involves a healthy amount of skepticism and curiosity.
Contrary opinion notwithstanding, there’s probably no question that humans could contribute to rising temperatures. Millions of cooking fires, furnaces, vehicles, etc., produce heat, so it follows that these could raise surface temperatures. The question then becomes to what extent does this warming cause harm, if at all, and how might we alleviate the problem?
Pigouvian taxes, like all taxes, are always popular among politicians, having been told by their court economists that the taxes will offset the negative externalities associated with fuel consumption. There are numerous problems with this idea. The first of which is that if harm does result from fossil fuel consumption, a tax that is paid directly to the state doesn’t relieve the victims.
We’ve come to accept that those who commit a crime must “repay their debt to society.” This is rubbish. The only debt a criminal owes is toward his victim. Conflating “society” with a single, identifiable victim is nothing more than a form of collectivism which obfuscates the issue further. If pollution from fossil fuels does cause harm in the way we’re told, then individuals should be able to seek redress from polluters who violate property rights.
Another popular solution is a carbon credit scheme where a certain amount of pollution is acceptable, but any amount exceeding the arbitrary limit must be “offset” by paying for a special permit, or credit, to pollute. This will supposedly create a market for carbon credits, which can be traded between firms. Then, we are told, businesses which cause pollution will be incentivized to reduce their emissions, allowing them to sell their credits to polluters who have yet to curtail their damaging behavior. Firms who don’t eliminate pollution will then be forced to pay and this will tend to reduce overall carbon emissions over time.
Again, we’ll assume that one’s energy consumption can be directly linked to the ailments of another. This seems about as moral as allowing individuals to steal up to a certain amount of someone else’s property, but requiring a special permit beyond some limit. Imagine if a similar program was in place to reduce other property crimes. The analogy would go as follows: Thieves would be able to steal up to a certain dollar amount, the details of which would be established by industry insiders. But, if they wanted to make off with more than the maximum allowable limit, they’d be required to buy a special “credit” to do so. This is clearly outlandish.
Either an action harms someone or it doesn’t. Violating someone’s property should never be acceptable. If it can be found that one individual’s consumption creates a negative externality on another, than the offender should compensate the victim. Until such time that it can be concluded that one has harmed the other, the issue should be laid to rest. These disputes should not be between individuals or firms and government bureaucrats; only those with an ownership interest in the outcome have any business being involved.