Sunday, June 17, 2012

Ron Paul's Liberty Defined 5: Global Warming

In this post, I'll talk about the chapter on "Global Warming" in Ron Paul's Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom.

Ron Paul labels himself a global-warming skeptic.  Paul says on page 139 that change in climate has been occurring for millions of years, and that there is even evidence that temperatures may be falling.  Paul appeals on pages 139-140 to Dr. Arthur B. Robinson, who, along with other scientists, contends that "climate change and temperature variations are related to sunspot activity and water vapor" rather than hydrocarbons (Paul's summary).  According to Robinson, the increase in hydrocarbon use since 1940 has not affected noticeably either "atmospheric temperature or...the trend of glacial length" (Robinson's words).  You can read about Dr. Arthur Robinson hereI think that believers in human-made climate change would highlight that Dr. Robinson is not a climatologist but a chemist.

Ron Paul is a strong advocate of nuclear power, and he does not believe that wind power will meet America's energy needs.  Paul says that he has a windmill and that it saves him a few dollars on his electric bill, but he contends that "To replace one nuclear power generator you need windmills to cover an area the size of Connecticut" (page 135).  Paul says on page 141 that windmills and solar panels, were they to replace hydrocarbons, would destroy a lot of acreage and not even meet our energy needs.

Paul also argues that certain attempts to save the environment have a counter-productive effect.  The cost of cap-and-trade, for example, pushes companies to leave "more efficient conditions and [to be] pushed into third world countries where the cheapest form of fossil fuels is used" (page 138), resulting in an increase in CO2 emissions.  And Paul states on page 140 that recycling "consumes more energy than it saves", citing this article for support.  Paul goes on to say that "Recycling aluminum makes economic sense, but that would happen even without the demand to recycle everything from paper to glass and plastic."

I thought that Paul made fairly decent arguments.  His arguments are good, in my opinion, but not so much on the scientific front, for I believe that many climatologists have made a good case that global warming is happening, and it also makes sense to me that carbon traps heat, that the increase in CO2 emissions would make the weather warmer, and that the growing number of hurricanes and the winters that feel like tundras (on some days) indicate that global warming is occurring.  But Paul did well to question whether windmills could cut the mustard, and also to note that certain measures to protect the environment could have counter-productive effects.  But I wish that Ron Paul had spent more pages detailing how his libertarianism could actually help the environment, as other libertarians have done, rather than focusing so much energy on criticizing environmentalists.

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