Saving climate change solutions from the bureaucrats

Via Andrew, here’s Ezra Klein responding to Jim Manzi:

“Even if Manzi is right that the costs [from global warming] are manageable into 2100 — a
century, after all, is a long time for a human, but not for the atmosphere — what does that do to our descendants who have to deal with a scorching planet between 2100 and 2200? And then into 2300, and then 2400?

I think Manzi's answer is that technology will save us by then. And maybe he's right. But maybe he's not. And if he's not, then we've let the problem become unimaginably bad for our descendants. If you bet on technology and you're wrong, it's not like we've got another of these planets waiting in the back somewhere.”

I come down on Manzi’s side of the argument – I think global warming is more than likely happening and I believe that humans are more than likely a contributing factor to that warming. There are many other factors, and I’m far from certain that the doom and gloom scenarios presented by climate change doomsayers are accurate. But I do think we’re seeing climate change and that we are in part responsible for it.

We’re prone, I think, to wildly exaggerating our fears. End-times advocates have always done this, and always will. Science and technology just give us lots and lots of new and fascinating ways to make our predictions of the future more catastrophic. That used to be the realm of God, and now it’s the realm of science. Fair enough.

But I think technology will be the great saving grace in the end, if we allow innovation and entrepreneurship to flourish. This means not only avoiding expensive, economy-sapping cap and trade schemes, but keeping government out of the business of innovation altogether.

Government should pave the road that innovators drive on, but should be wary of investing too much in green technology directly. Creating a good business climate for the development of sustainable energy, and tweaking our regulatory structure to allow for a more competitive distribution model for that energy are about as far as government should go. Anything more and you start to see diminishing returns.

In any case, when I think about where I should place my faith, I need look no further than the iPad or any of the other marvels of modern technology. Why would I put my trust in the burgeoning ideas of a bunch of politicians? Whatever cap and trade nonsense they do devise, I imagine it will be so riddled with loopholes and so prone to capture, all it will end up doing is transferring wealth from taxpayers to special interest groups and the energy industry. I’m betting the iPad saves the world before the House Energy and Commerce Committee does.

If we really want to curb carbon usage, perhaps we should consider implementing a very small carbon tax that could be raised each year indefinitely. That way we could apply some pressure on fossil fuels and encourage consumers to look to other technologies, while giving those technologies time to catch up with demand.

And please – let’s not have a green-tech race with China. Let’s have a green tech race right here in America. Competition is great, but there’s no reason our government should compete with China. Our businesses should compete with one another instead! Why we need to race with China over anything is beyond me, when we still have the most innovative entrepreneurs in the world right here at home.

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