Friday, June 22, 2007

Choose Our Ends, And We'll Find the Means

We all have our own personal fantasy worlds. Mine is to live in a world of balanced political debate where liberal and conservative politicians bring forward different political strategies to address common social problems.

What a world that would be - the perfect balance between tough government regulations and well funded programs, with aggressive fiscal responsibility and market advocacy. The reality is that in the issue of global warming, the real world has devolved into one where the true controlling political party invests millions of dollars to convince you, the voter, of a fantasy world of their choosing - one where cheap, everlasting, and harmless fossil fuels will better our lives for eternity.

Let's be perfectly honest on this one. Metaphorically, there are precisely two people in the world who do not believe in the danger of human generated global warming - The President of the United States and the CEO of Exxon-Mobil. Every other voice chiming in with their agreement are either a paid employee of one of those two individuals - in the form of direct employees, think tanks, media outlets, editorial writers, and yes, the conservative leaders of Canada and Australia - or one of the minority of the general public that they have managed to convince with lies and misinformation. It is on this foundation that magazines like The Economist can publish the following editorial on London's climate change policy without being laughed off of the news stand.

Haringey's plan is merely the latest in a flowering of official greenery. Ken Livingstone, London's mayor, has mooted tinkering with the city's pioneering congestion charge, which already rewards drivers of electric and gas-powered cars by exempting them from the £8-a-day charge. The mayor wants to go further, cutting prices for cleaner cars and hiking them for dirty ones. If he gets his way, drivers of the biggest cars could pay £25 to drive into the city centre. Mr Livingstone's opponents in the London Assembly accuse him of being more interested in revenue-raising than road-clearing.

It is not just local government that has caught the green bug. Earlier in the month, the government wondered publicly about adding a “carbon cost” to the price of petrol by including motor fuel in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, which limits the amount of carbon dioxide certain industries can produce.

But none of these plans is obviously a good idea. Britons are already taxed twice on their cars' carbon emissions: once by a sales tax on petrol, and again by a separate tax levied on the cars themselves. And exemptions, however well-intentioned, work against the purported aim of London's congestion charge—clean vehicles take up just as much road space as dirty ones.

Nice positioning statement. But we weren't talking about gas prices and traffic congestion. We were solving the global warming problem.

Raising the cost of gas and the cost of driving polluting vehicles is actually the most conservative type of strategy available in addressing climate change. By placing a cost on the problem (too many cars burning too much fuel), you allow the public to make the right choices by purchasing consumer products that will benefit (or be less harmful) to the environment. Consumers can opt out of higher costs by choosing more cost effective and fuel efficient options while business still sells goods, consumers still have choice, and the economy canl hum along while we all take productive steps towards solving the climate crisis.

In an honest report, London's policy of making fuel hogs expensive and high mileage cars cheap would be embraced as a conservative victory in the fight against global warming. That doesn't happen because the controlling political party alluded to at this articles beginning is not liberal, nor conservative, but capitalist. And that political force has bent the foundation of both parties so far askew that both are hard pressed to address global warming or any genuine social concern.

Democratic political systems are concerned with providing the best solutions to the problems of society. A liberal approach advocates stronger government involvement and spending, while a conservative approach advocates minimum government intervention and free market principles, but both strive towards the same end - the betterment of society.

The political force of capitalism is not concerned with the end of a better society or in solving problems. By nature, it is a philosophy based on the principle of "the end justifies the means". The only end is profit, and any means are justified so long as they realize more profit. Our acceptance of that principle isn't limited to oil, it pervades all business enterprises of our society. Consequently, that 'ends justify the means' philosophy has infected our political and decision making processes so thoroughly that we are losing the ability to question it.

The root of the world's two most prominent problems, the war in Iraq and the danger of global warming, both stem from the pursuit and justification of the same ends. Namely, the continued growth of oil profits, and the continued expansion the economies that rely on burning it. In Iraq, the US justified both the use of force and a case for war that was based on outright falsehoods in order to secure greater access to the world's second largest deposit of conventional oil. In the case of global warming, the use of deception, misinformation and personal attacks on scientists are likewise justified as the means necessary to protect our economy.

As long as we accept those ends - the dominance of the oil industry in our economy, and most importantly our reliance on that same industry for our continued prosperity, genuine global warming policy will continue to be road blocked, and Iraq will not be the last oil rich nation to fall under the control of a hostile foreign power.

Change our ends and the means will inevitably follow.


News said...

News regarding climate change deniers:

"Ball Bails on Johnson Lawsuit"
14 June, 2007

The self-styled Canadian climate change expert, Dr. Tim Ball, has abandoned his libel suit against University of Lethbridge Professor of Environmental Science Dan Johnson. Ball dropped the suit without conditions, but also without acknowledging that Johnson’s original comments were accurate and were reported in good faith.

youdontknowme said...

I don't believe that humans are causing global warming. I think it is the natural cycle of the earth. I have read that scientists have found that this type of thing has happened atleast 14 times in the past million years. Where were the cars then. It is just natural climate fluctuations.

While I don't believe in it I do believe that there is a possibility that we are speeding it up. I have a way how to lower CO2 and I have mentioned in on my blog a few months back. The short story about it is that it involves putting a cap on the amount of plane journeys (maybe 3.5 million per year) then auctioning those journeys off to plane companies.

Roberrific said...

Nice work - This is good writing and valuable information.

Fuel Ghoul is aware of you now.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Thanks for posting on this. I'll spare you and your readers a chorus of "amens" from the choir loft.
Instead I'd like to underscore a point you made about outcomes and profiteering. Many people don't realize that publicly-traded companies have a legal obligation to act in their shareholders' financial best interest, and are bound by other forms of administrative law. Nowhere are companies compelled to act ethically, nor to address dissenting opinions. If buying junk-science or fear-mongering over astronomically high transportation costs are good for business, shareholders (and the law) demand them.
I believe market-solutions are appropriate to many environmental problems, but consumers and voters must educate themselves about the underlying science and policy.

Odiyya said...

I myself will extend an amen to that comment ERD. I remember the level of horror i felt years back when I first learned of the facts you outlined. If more people realized them, this might be an easier battle.