Not about everything, of course, but we do both agree that mandatory recycling laws are mostly pointless (so much for my chances of ever being elected to public office!) and believe it or not we even have some common ground on climate change, and I don’t just mean that we both support replacing payroll taxes with a revenue-neutral carbon tax… although we agree on that too!
At Lakeside yesterday I asked Will this question:
You’ve written that “America needs a national commission… to assess the evidence about climate change.” But there already was one: in 2001 the National Academy of Sciences said that the IPCC report from earlier that year “accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific community on this issue.” Given that the IPCC’s 2007 report expressed even more confidence, wouldn’t another commission be a waste of time and money?
He said Yes, and then (I have this on tape!) he said that he didn’t want there to be any climate scientists on the commission because they would be biased by their research grants &etc. He wanted a commission along the lines of the 9/11 commission, made up of retired senators and other Good People.
And you know what? I think that’s an awesome idea! Because me and my peeps are convinced that the Good People will agree with us—heck, if we can’t convince the Good People then we’re toast—and George Will and his fellow skeptics are convinced that the Good People will agree with them, and asking the Good People is a cheap way to break the deadlock.
Since deciding on the composition of this commission would undoubtedly be controversial, here’s my undeniably brilliant proposal: Let’s get the 9/11 Commission to do it. Since that commission was formed for a different purpose the odds are that it has no axe to grind one way or the other about global warming, and the commission members’ work on 9/11 seems to have earned them the trust of everyone who isn’t Lyndon LaRouche. (Here is George Will suggesting a panel “akin to the 9/11 commission” to investigate torture.)
And I even have a snazzy name for this new commission: The 2911 Commission.
Their task would be to investigate the science of climate change. If they conclude that the scientific consensus is bogus then I will shut up about the “scientific consensus” and publicly agree with George Will that we should just wait until 2021 to see what happens. (Why 2021? Because yesterday I asked Will about a 1996 quote from Julian Simon—“my guess is that global warming will simply be another transient concern, barely worthy of consideration ten years from now”—and Will’s response was that he thought Simon’s only mistake was that he was off by 15 years.)
But if the 2911 Commission concludes (duh) that there is no reason to doubt the scientific consensus about climate change, then…. well, who knows what might happen then? 🙂
PS. As noted at the beginning, Will and I don’t agree on everything. For example, I think our default position should be to trust the scientific consensus until the 2911 Commission releases their report, and Will almost certainly thinks we should assume that the science is guilty until proven innocent. But that’s small potatoes. The big picture is that we agree!
PPS. If the 9/11 Commission can’t do it and we need to pick names, I nominate Scott Turow.
So were do you stand on nuclear energy?
I find it a bit baffling that those who tend to take the most agressive stance on climate change also take a similar stance against further development of nuclear energy.
i could accept cap and trade if it were coupled with real plans to increase our use of nuclear and natural gas. Shifting a significant share of our energy production from dirty to clean seems to make sense – and would likely keep retail electric costs down.
Mostly I’m happy to let the market decide if nuclear makes sense. It may be too expensive, but I’m not sure—that’s what markets are for. For equal money, I’d much rather have nukes than coal.
No principled economist should be for nuclear energy, because its costs are dominated by serious aspects with EXTREMELY long tailed statistical distributions. Unlike chemicals such as PCBs where the cost of projects such as the cleanup of sediments in the Hudson River is merely unimaginably huge, there has never been a cleanup of a nuclear site so successful that it’s now suitable for residential use.
Other chemical disasters also have infinite costs — consider the permanent loss of the entire town of Times Beach, Missouri, again due to PCB contamination. It’s also true that the costs associated with coal tailings and other mining wastes have equally long tails. Picher, Oklahoma is being abandoned due to mountains of toxic tin mine tailings that cannot be cleaned up.
We cannot base a permanent energy economy on extraction-based activities that cause progressive, permanent damage to the environment — sooner or later we’ll end up with all of the environment contaminated, and we’ll have no good places left for ourselves. If you like nuclear energy, we already have a wonderful source of fusion energy that produces far more power than we’ve been able to capture so far, and it keeps its waste to itself, at a safe distance of 93 million miles. Photovoltaic, solar thermal, wind, hydro, and wave energy produce no toxic waste needing cleanup after the plants have completed their lifespans. Not to mention photolysis of water to produce hydrogen, which has a nice promise to make a chemical fuel in home power plants for people who have an emotional need for a noisy internal combustion engine in their cars rather than a quiet electric motor. But solar hydrogen technology is much less farther along than the other renewable ones.
Natural gas is a useful low-carbon fuel, but it can only be a transitional stage to a fully sustainable energy economy.
I must disagree with you a bit. Assuming photovoltaics are not an “extractive” industry is like ignoring the fact that the Prius has a battery made of some really bad crap – and producing and disposing of the battery offset any of the benefits we gain driving it 200,000 miles.
Large scale wind farms have similar issues – i have to make the towers – transport them and then try and connect them to the grid – which is not conveniently nearby…
Nuclear advances are impressive when you look at them without some of the fear mongering – the French have proven that a large percentage of electric demand can be safely generated with nuclear – at a very low cost.
One interesting approach is being developed by Hyperion – small scale nuclear reactors that can power 20,000 homes or so and can be safely buried and ignored except for refueling every five years or so,
wind farms are great but they also take up a large land area””‘