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Blog // Thoughts
August 24, 2006

Some Interesting Truths

Greg Easterbrook has a very good piece in the current Atlantic concerning the greenhouse gas problem (Some Convenient Truths) and why it is bogged down in US politics. ‚ÄúGreenhouse gases are an air-pollution problem – and all previous air-pollution problems have been reduced faster and more cheaply than predicted, without economic harm.‚Äù Previous US governments […]

Greg Easterbrook has a very good piece in the current Atlantic concerning the greenhouse gas problem (Some Convenient Truths) and why it is bogged down in US politics.

“Greenhouse gases are an air-pollution problem Рand all previous air-pollution problems have been reduced faster and more cheaply than predicted, without economic harm.”

Previous US governments have, through regulation and business incentives managed to deal with Urban Smog, CFCs and Acid Rain. The measures typically cost less than expected and did not lead to long term economic damage.
This begs the question – why is the current environmental debate so negative? Part of the problem is that political groups are reluctant to publicise the environmental success stories.

“One might expect Democrats to trumpet the decline of air pollution, which stands as one of government’s leading postwar achievements. But just as Republicans have found they can bash Democrats by falsely accusing them of being soft on defense, Democrats have found they can bash Republicans by falsely accusing them of destroying the environment. If that’s your argument, you might skip over the evidence that many environmental trends are positive. One might also expect Republicans to trumpet the reduction of air pollution, since it signifies responsible behavior by industry. But to acknowledge that air pollution had declined would require Republicans to say the words, “The regulations worked.”

Easterbrook suggests we should be more optimistic about the possibility of developing new technologies to deal with greenhouse gases and the economic flow-ons from that.

“It only remains for the right politician to recast the challenge in practical, optimistic tones. Gore seldom has, and Bush seems to have no interest in trying. But cheap and fast improvement is not a pipe dream; it is the pattern of previous efforts against air pollution. The only reason runaway global warming seems unstoppable is that we have not yet tried to stop it.”

[tags] Greenhouse, Enviromentalism, The Atlantic, Easterbrook [/tags]

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