Pete Geddes on climate change

by Jay Stevens 

Old friend and “free market” advocate, Pete Geddes, writes today in New West about climate change.

In the past, he and his FREE buddies have fought tooth and nail against instituting any meaningful reform in trying to reduce carbon emissions, once going so far as to say that trying to solve the problem would damage the economy and cost millions of lives, especially in the developing world.

Today Geddes trashes greens and environmental activists:

I find it interesting that green activists and their political allies uniformly favor dramatic and draconian action to avert climate change. Serious policy analysts are different; they generally favor less dramatic action applied over the long term. What explains this difference?

So, what are these “dramatic and draconian” actions Geddes writes about? Curious, I went over to Green Peace’s website for some radical solutions…but all I could find was this:

The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that hundreds of technologies are now available, at very low cost, to reduce climate damaging emissions, and that government policies need to remove the barriers to these technologies.

Implementing these solutions will enable people to usher in a new era of energy, one that will bring economic growth, new jobs, technological innovation and, most importantly environmental protection.

However, for green solutions to global warming to find a foothold in the market, governments and corporations need to shift away from polluting technology. In most industrial countries, conventional electricity is heavily subsidised, and the negative environmental impacts of its production are not reflected in the cost to end-users.

The time has come for us end our addiction to fossil fuels and other climate damaging technologies. Here you can discover how clean renewable energies, like wind, solar, bioenergy, hydroelectric, and other sources can combine to create a clean energy revolution….

Um…a call for an end to subsidizing the oil and gas industries? Lifting government barriers to the use of alternative technologies? Er…this sounds pretty reasonable to me, doesn’t it? And, I might add, would employ the free market to solve the problem.

So…who exactly is advocating “radical” proposals to stop climate change? Well, according to FREE chairman, John Baden, it’s people like this, an ignorant, but well-meaning movie going liberal friend. In other words, a straw man.

(Worse still, the friend had never heard of — *gasp* — MIT professor Richard Lindzen. You haven’t heard of Professor Lindzen? Shame on you! He’s the…well…only…“reputable” scientist who denies that human activity was a major component of the 20th-century spike in global temperatures…Except that he does admit human activity does cause CO2 emissions, and that a high level of CO2 would cause global warming. Oh, and Lindzen has received a fortune from the oil and gas industries.

So…on one side you have Professor Lindzen, and on the other you have the scientists of the Academia Brasiliera de Ciências (Bazil), Royal Society of Canada, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Academié des Sciences (France), Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Germany), Indian National Science Academy, Accademia dei Lincei (Italy), Science Council of Japan, Russian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society (United Kingdom), National Academy of Sciences (United States of America), Australian Academy of Sciences, Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts, Caribbean Academy of Sciences, Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Royal Irish Academy, Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Academy of Sciences (NAS), State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), American Geophysical Union (AGU), American Institute of Physics (AIP), National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), American Meteorological Society (AMS), and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS).

The question shouldn’t be, “who’s Richard Lindzen?” but “why does Richard Lindzen get so much attention?”)

So on one hand, you have semi-fictitious movie goers suggesting NASA’s Jet Propulsion labs should solve climate change, and on the other you have “serious policy analysts,” who one must assume includes Pete Geddes himself. So what does the “serious policy analyst” propose to reduce carbon emissions?

Currently, the price of fossil fuels does not reflect their social costs. One solution is to place a “green tax” on our energy consumption, e.g., a $3 per gallon tax on gasoline. This gives consumers incentives to reduce consumption. Producers would have incentives to bring innovative and climate-friendly alternatives to market.

Another option is carbon emissions trading, with a cap on global CO2 emissions. Companies are then given emission credits, allowing them to emit a specific amount of CO2. Companies that emit beyond their allowances must buy credits from those who emit less. (This worked well for greatly reducing lead and SO2 in our air.) The European Union has implemented just such an approach.

First note that a $3-a-gallon tax is far more draconian than anything Greenpeace suggested.

Next, note that a tax affects the consumer first and foremost, and that both the tax and trading carbon emission credits are policy changes that don’t lead big corporations away from the feeding troughs of government subsidies.

Still, I find these suggestions eminently reasonable – though the tax is, of course, politically infeasible.

So why all the fuss from Geddes? You know…I have no idea. I’m glad he’s finally come around to calling for real action to combat climate change. Of course, I’d suggest he doesn’t even begin to mention all the different ways we can combat carbon emissions…from promoting local agriculture, to raising automobile and (especially) SUV mileage standards, from capping emissions, to investing in alternative energies. None of these things are “dramatic and draconian,” yet all of them would help slow climate change.


  1. Steve Lohr of the NY Times did a good job examining the promise and peril of the cap-and-trade system, which I have always figured didn’t really have a downside. As an allocative mechanism, it’s better than mandating across the board changes, however it also amounts to giving polluters something that is essentially a cash equivelant. In that sense, it is a hidden subsidy, something the FREEers should loathe with all their being if they are doctrinaire libertarians. Industry should be made to buy the permits in the first place so there is a cost being assigned to all pollution then the permits can be traded to allow individual firms to optimize.

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