Wednesday, January 7, 2009
In Sunday’s Washington Post, James R Lee suggests that rising temperatures will lead to a U.S.-Canada conflict over newly exploitable natural resources. That’s a preposterous prediction if there ever was one.
Rather than fanciful warming scenarios, international security experts like Mr. Lee should concern themselves with the harmful effects of global warming policies.
Expensive energy policies to fight global warming could cost trillions more than the cost of rising temperatures. That would dramatically inhibit global economic growth (see part 2 of Global Warming 101, “The Costs“). Of course, poverty and political instability go hand in hand.
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To prevent carbon “leakage” (ie, the outsourcing of energy intensive industry to countries that don’t have expensive carbon rationing policies), many policy makers advocate trade restrictions. But history shows that trade wars are prone to becoming real wars.
In fact, a global warming policy has already led to instability in the developing world. Only a couple years ago, environmentalists promoted ethanol as a “green fuel.” They were wrong. It turns out that ethanol production leads to land use changes that release more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere than is saved by ethanol use.
Worse, ethanol is made from food—corn and soy in the U.S., palm oil and wheat in the European Union. In 2008, ethanol production policies in the developed world contributed to steep inflation in the price of food, which caused urban unrest in developing countries dependent on the international grain market.
Lee needs to take a step back and ask himself what’s worse, the warming or the policy?
This article was posted: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 6:56 am