January 29, 2007

Driving "Myths"

Okay, I don't quite get the point of this piece, "5 Myths about Suburbia and Our Car-Happy Culture," by Ted Balaker and Sam Staley from the Reason Institute. They have some nice facts to share, but the moral of the story, it seems, goes something like this: As countries get wealthier, they'll drive more, so therefore we shouldn't do anything to reduce carbon emissions. Okay... On the other hand, it is nice to see a few libertarians admit that clean-air regulations have actually improved air quality in the United States since 1970. Baby steps, I guess.

I'm also a bit annoyed by the argument—first made by Bjorn Lomborg—that we shouldn't do anything to stop global warming because we could save more lives, in a more cost-effective manner, by addressing malaria and water-borne diseases. But why not do both? Where are the numbers that say curbing CO2 emissions will be so prohibitively expensive that the United States won't be able to address any other problems in the world?

Consider this: The Lieberman-McCain bill now under consideration in the Senate would come close to reducing U.S. emissions down to the levels necessary to for the country to do its part to avert drastic climate change. It's not perfect, but it's decent. The EIA estimates that the bill would take an $89 billion bite out of the United States' inflation-adjusted GDP in 2025. That's not nothing, but it's still less than a year's worth of occupation in Iraq. Alternatively, we could shutter some of our 700 (and growing) military outposts around the world and scrounge up some cash. It's not like there are only two choices here.

Honestly, I've read a lot of arguments of the form, "If we really cared about the poor, we'd be doing X instead of curbing emissions," but I can't say I see a lot of conservatives or libertarians lobbying hard for the United States to do X. On the subject of malaria, for instance, the only writings I can find by either of these Reason people is an interview Balaker did in 2005 with an opponent of foreign aid, who insists that Africans will figure out how to deal with malaria on their own, as soon as they're no longer "suffocated with aid."
-- Brad Plumer 5:06 PM || ||