Global Warming: Man or Myth?

Scientists can also wear their citizen hats

How to Talk to a Conservative about Climate Change v.2

with 10 comments

(Update: April 29, 2010 – 33 Generals, Admirals: “Climate change is making the world a more dangerous place” and “threatening America’s security”)

After a long hiatus, I have finally gotten back to this thread.  Ironically enough, my family and I were in Orlando when they had the record cold.  Of the ten days we were there, five low temperature records were set!  My wife ran the Disney Half-Marathon and there was snow and ice pellets at the start of the race.  Ugh.

Thank you all for helping me with this thread.  I have tried to incorporate as many of your comments as I could in version 2 and your comments have made this version much stronger.

I spend a lot of time posting comments on blogs to convince people that humans are causing global warming (AGW) and that immediate reduction of GHG emissions is required to prevent tragic consequences.

There are three choices the world has to deal with the consequences of AGW:

1)  A really statist, tyrannical approach to climate stabilization would be to create a new international agency with broad powers to micromanage the world’s industry and transportation sectors.

2)  A regulated, market-based solution such as a carbon tax or a cap and trade system with concessions to developing countries such as China and India.  Solution #2 has enjoyed great success in Europe but has faced fierce political opposition in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, namely by conservatives. 

3)  A business-as-usual solution where reducing GHGs is optional.

I have noticed that people of conservative/libertarian political orientation are generally unconvinced about the science of climate change so only solution #3 is acceptable.  Conservatives that do trust the science may not trust their governments to efficiently govern a cap and trade solution.  The concern by these conservatives is that, because we are a fossil fuel-based economy, regulation of emissions will increase taxes and hurt the economic standing of their nation.  These conservatives also endorse solution #3.

Am I picking on conservatives?  No.  Research supports my experience.  In their 2008 national survey titled A Deeper Partisan Divide Over Global Warming, The Pew Center for the People & the Press show that only 27% of Republicans believe that global warming is being caused by humans compared to 58% of Democrats. Even more disturbing, only 19% of Republican college graduates say that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming and it is caused by human activity compared to 88% of Democrats who are college graduates.  A study by Kahan, et al. (2007) called The Second National Risk and Culture Study: Making Sense of – and Making Progress In – The American Culture War of Fact ( reveals that people of conservative or libertarian ideology are the most skeptical of global warming and its consequences.  Kahan, et al. further conclude:

“Individuals’ expectations about the policy solution to global warming strongly influences their willingness to credit information about climate change. When told the solution to global warming is increased antipollution measures, persons of individualistic and hierarchic worldviews become less willing to credit information suggesting that global warming exists, is caused by humans, and poses significant societal dangers. Persons with such outlooks are more willing to credit the same information when told the solution to global warming is increased reliance on nuclear power generation.

Few people, conservative or liberal, would endorse solution #1 for obvious reasons and solution #3 certainly cannot mitigate the negative effects of AGW.  We must send the message to conservatives that solution #2 is in their best interest.  Perhaps in doing so, some of the skeptics may begin to accept the science because the solution has become acceptable.   The blurb below is what I thought would resonate with conservatives:


Military and intelligence organizations from the U.S. have concluded that global climate change poses a serious national security threat for many nations.  For more information see the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) study titled The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change and the Center for Naval Analysis study titled: National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.  Gwynne Dyer in his book Climate Wars also details the geopolitical impact of climate change.  He paints a dire picture.

There are three choices the world has to deal with the consequences of AGW:

1)  A really statist, tyrannical approach to climate stabilization would be to create a new international agency with broad powers to micromanage the world’s industry and transportation sectors.

2)  A regulated, market-based solution such as a carbon tax or a cap and trade system with concessions to developing countries such as China and India.  Solution #2 has enjoyed great success in Europe but has faced fierce political opposition in the U.S., Canada, and Australia, namely by conservatives. 

3)  A business-as-usual solution where reducing GHGs is optional.

In the “business as usual” solution #3 where emissions of GHGs continue to rise, the following consequences are realistic: China and India pass the US as economic superpowers, increased immigration, higher food costs, greater government subsidies (higher taxes), higher insurance rates, increased authoritarian governments, increased terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and regional and global wars between countries with nuclear weapons.

  1. The fact that China does not support a strong international agreement to reduce GHGs should be an alarm bell to those who feel threatened by the rise of China as a world superpower.  In a business as usual scenario, China becomes the next superpower using cheap, dirty coal and global warming worsens.  It is a lose-lose proposition for the West and the world.
  2. The United States’ trade deficit is approximately $800 billion with $350 billion of this due to imported fuel oil.  Because a large portion of this $350 billion is being sent to Middle Eastern governments, it is a certainty that some of these funds are finding their way into the hands of terrorists.  Reducing the use of fossil fuels is a win-win: the US decreases its trade deficit and reduces the indirect US funding of terrorists.
  3. Due to expanding drought, ever-increasing numbers of immigrants enter the U.S. and Canada from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean creating political turmoil and dividing these nations.  Securing the border will be expensive and will divert military resources from abroad at a time when tensions are running high around the world.
  4. Due to increasing and wide-spread drought and frequent flooding, crop failures increase the cost for food to the general public and massive government subsidies (charity) must be used to prop up the collapsing agriculture industry thus increasing taxes on the general public.
  5. Agriculture may end in central California as rivers fail due to the lack of summer snowmelt from the Sierra and Rocky Mountains.
  6. Inexorable decline of ground water reserves, particularly in India and China, but also the USA. If agriculture is hit in places like California due to AGW, this will only increase the pressure on things like the Oglallah Aquifer under the Plains states.
  7. Fisheries worldwide collapse as oceans acidify, corals bleach and die, and coastal wetlands are destroyed by inundation.  Food costs rise and there will be political pressure to subsidize the failing fishing industry – a cost that average citizens will bear.
  8. Rising sea levels flood our largest ports.  Stronger hurricanes batter the coast and heavy floods inundate cities and communities along our major rivers.  Insurance rates rise and taxes increase to pay for the recovery and to move ports inland.
  9. In Latin America, severe climate change will likely lead to fewer democratic governments and more “Chavez-like” ones.
  10. Authoritarian regimes will become increasingly popular in Europe, especially in Russia, as these types of politicians will exploit people’s misery and direct anger toward the US which caused much of the global warming.
  11. Fundamentalists Islamic groups will increasingly gain support from desperate people who wish to punish the US for causing their misfortunes.  What costs will we bear to combat the terrorism that undoubtedly results?
  12. Increased regional and global wars are likely.  Will the US stand by and watch or will we be plunged into several wars?  Areas of concern:
  • Nuclear-armed India will be under ever increasing political pressure to shut down the mass emigration from Bangladesh as that country increasingly gets inundated by sea-level rise and increased storm surges from stronger cyclones.  As India moves troops toward the east, will Pakistan saber-rattle to the west?
  • Iraq, Syria, and Turkey fight over Turkey’s control of the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, further destabilizing the fragile Middle East.
  • Arab countries increase their nuclear capabilities to desalinate water and, in doing so, proliferate nuclear weapons to protect their dwindling resources.
  • Rivers fed by glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau (Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow) will initially flood due to rapid glacial melt but will eventually dwindle thus causing water shortages to billions of people during summer when needed most.  This will lead to food shortages and cross-border conflicts between NUCLEAR nations such as China, India, and Pakistan. 
  • Will India redirect water away from Pakistan to feed its own people?  Will Pakistan use nukes to rest this resource back?
  • When China faces massive food shortages, will China move on a Siberia made agriculturally more productive from global warming?  China needs to feed its billions and Russia must defend its borders.  Tensions will be high between these two nuclear superpowers.
  • Also, China along with a number of other countries is buying/leasing land and other resources around the world. Not just to meet its needs now but as a safeguard for the future. What happens in the future when they start to use this to supply their own country with resources from these holdings in preference to the host country. What sort of political, military and civil disorder issues arise then?

When countries are fighting over dwindling resources there is little hope that the world will come together to fix the problem. That is why action is required now.

Mitigating the impact of climate change will be expensive but it appears that doing nothing at all could be far more costly in terms of food costs and more taxes, increased terrorism against the US, and the lives of our sons and daughters as they are sent to fight in the increasing numbers of conflicts around this warmer world.

A few good links regarding climate change impacts:

IPCC WGII: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

IPCC WG II – Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability- Chapter 14 – North America

Global Climate Change – Impacts in the United States (U.S. Global Change Research Program)

Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate (CCSP, 2008) (brouchure)

National Security and the Threat of Climate Change (Center for Naval Analysis)

Solution #2 is the least costly solution and has enjoyed success in Europe, especially in Denmark.  Please see:  The Copenhagen That Matters by Thomas L. Friedman in today’s NY Times

An excerpt:

Although it still generates the majority of its electricity from coal, since 1990, Denmark has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent. Over the same time frame, Danish energy consumption has stayed constant and Denmark’s gross domestic product has grown by more than 40 percent. Denmark is the most energy efficient country in the E.U.; due to carbon pricing, through energy taxes, carbon taxes, the ‘cap and trade’ system, strict building codes and energy labeling programs. Renewable resources currently supply almost 30 percent of Denmark’s electricity. Wind power is the largest source of renewable electricity, followed by biomass. … Today, Copenhagen puts only 3 percent of its waste into landfills and incinerates 39 percent to generate electricity for thousands of households.

Surely if Denmark can do the right thing and still be profitable, so can the United States, Canada, and others!

Cap and trade has also worked in the US with regard to sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions. SO2 emissions lead to acid rain and during the 1980s, acid rain was devastating lakes and forests in the east. In 1988, Congress passed a cap and trade scheme to reduce these emissions by 50%. By 2004, regulated polluters reduced their emissions by 40% more than required! The Dept. of Energy estimates that the cost to limit emissions ended up being a mere 0.6 percent of the polluters operating expenses.


Written by Scott Mandia

January 21, 2010 at 11:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. […] See original here: How to Talk to a Conservative about Climate Change v.2 « Global … […]

  2. Nice fill someone in on and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you for your information.

    WP Themes

    February 1, 2010 at 6:37 am

  3. You try to merge together libertarian and conservative but it’s not clear the same arguments would work against both. Most obviously, your point #3 comes across as silly to this (and probably any) economics-minded libertarian – immigration is a good thing and more is better up to some level far, far above current levels. Allowing more immigration is the best way to improve the lives of more of the world – provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people – and tends to be of net benefit to all parties involved. So if I granted your premise that more immigration would happen in a warmer world, we could trivially avoid the extra costs you posit by just letting all those extra people in.

    Your point #2 seems dicey too; if we buy less oil from Arabs somebody else will buy more; I don’t see how it’s going to much affect the amount of money “funding terrorists”. Besides, if our chief concern is reducing the funding source for terrorists, we’d be better off legalizing drugs. The drug war does far more to promote corrupt governments that shelter criminal organizations than does the sale of energy supplies.

    (note also that your logic in point #2 seems to suggest anything we do to reduce US or World GDP would be beneficial. But trade has both positive and negative effects on security; it’s not at all clear that the negatives dominate. Maybe if we bought *more* oil that would give us more clout with the governments and more goodwill with the businesspeople of those nations. At best it’s an empirical question, but as a default guess I’d be inclined to fall back on “when trade can’t cross borders, missiles will”.)

    …and so on. Too many objections to list. Wait, one more: Why, exactly, should economically-literate Americans regard it as a bad thing if China and India “pass the US as economic superpowers”? Would we not benefit from their improved economic progress? (Also: how would solution #2 prevent this allegedly-bad outcome?)

    Mandia: Although I do not disagree with some of your points, just about every conservative I have heard speak disagrees with all.

    Glen Raphael

    February 9, 2010 at 10:03 pm

  4. […] Business leaders, lobbyists, and politicians are reluctant to accept any of these choices and would prefer a business as usual approach with regard to GHG emissions claiming that any other course of action will hurt their bottom line and “wreck the US economy”.  These claims are without merit and the costs of doing nothing certainly outweigh the costs of doing something. […]

  5. Arctic ice melting could cost global agriculture, real estate and insurance anywhere from $2.4 trillion to $24 trillion by 2050 in damage from rising sea levels, floods and heat waves, according to a report released on Friday. The full report can be found at the link below:

    Click to access Arctic_Summary_FINAL.pdf

    Scott Mandia

    March 6, 2010 at 8:28 pm

  6. I highly recommend reading Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s NYT article titled: Building a Green Economy where he discusses how is it possible to make drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions without destroying the economy.

    Scott A Mandia

    April 13, 2010 at 12:30 pm

  7. […] information and also their ability to use proper reasoning strategies.  (In January 2010, I posted How to Talk to a Conservative to try to inform those with political bias why climate change was important to […]

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