Saturday, November 19, 2011

Climate, Capitalism and Human Greed

In "The Nation," Naomi Klein's article, "Capitalism versus the Climate," portrays corporations and white males as the villains in climate change, and outlines a utopian socialist vision of the future.  It's not hard to agree with part of her assessment.  Climate change mitigation will require a lot less consumption and a lot less human reproduction.   But human greed, human desire for comfort, stimulation and stuff, is innate, and not a product of corporations.

For Klein's socialist vision, here are a few inconvenient truths:

1. Nearly all greenhouse emissions are caused directly or indirectly by consumers. Those emitted by corporations are caused by the production of stuff consumers want. You can't change people's behavior by going after corporations.

2. A carbon tax, the one most essential element of a climate policy, would be regressive, not redistributional. It will be hugely unpopular, even if you put the Koch brothers and their ilk before a firing squad. But the most effective way to get people to consume less of a substance is to make it more expensive.

3. You can't put Humpty Dumpty back together in the Horn of Africa. The population is over carrying capacity, and people will continue dying. Do you really want to import millions of radical muslim refugees and potential terrorists who practice clitoral mutilation?

4. Immigration restriction would reduce both the consumption and the reproduction of the potential immigrants, as well as reducing the social costs of assimilation. Allowing the US population to increase to 500 million through immigration would effectively negate any carbon savings we could otherwise accomplish in this country.

5. NIMBYism is a sacred cow of the green left, and a serious barrier to green investment. Whether the project is solar, wind, nuclear, high speed rail, smart grid transmission corridors or smart meters that the lunatic fringe is sure will give them cancer, we can't afford to delay with years of litigation. We must accept that a few low income neighborhoods will be displaced, a few tortoises killed, and some scenic vistas altered.