In early December of 2008, the California State legislature passed a measure that would attempt to decrease the level of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Tied together with, and following California’s “landmark” Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the measure calls for a 15% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (1990 levels).
Among the codes outlined in the regulation are weatherization incentives to encourage people to insulate homes and upgrade to more energy efficient windows, along with new heating and cooling systems. It also includes a cap-and-trade program in which the state would set the amount of allowable greenhouse gas emissions for companies and utilities.
Supporters of this law argue that increased levels of greenhouse gases will lead to global warming, smog, reduced water supplies, floods, hurricanes, and various other environmental problems. Mary Nichols, head of California’s State Air Resources Board says that, by instituting this new regulation, “we are putting California on the right track to transform our economy in a way that is good for our environment, for our health, for our future.”
But will these environmental regulations really be as wonderful as their supporters claim? Before we all jump on the bandwagon, it is worth considering the impact that these measures will have on those living in California. Energy prices will certainly be higher, raising the cost of heating, cooling and electricity for both homes and businesses. The price of gasoline will go up due to the tighter transportation and fuel standards. The cost of construction will increase because of the new building codes prescribed under the regulation. And, entirely apart from these direct and obvious increases to the cost of living, Californians should expect everything from shoes to ships to sealing wax to increase in price. After all, every product requires energy to be produced. This would be tremendously destructive to California’s economy and its citizens’ standard of living.
Beyond its economic impact, this measure will interfere with the personal choices and freedoms that Californians—indeed, all Americans—enjoy on a daily basis. For example, because of the added energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, the impact of the regulation extends even into our restrooms—regulating the amount of water used for a shower or bath. It penetrates the walls of our homes, dictating whether or not insulation is needed. It peeks into our windows and prescribes the appropriate type of glass. In all kinds of ways, this law invades the private domain of Californians’ lives, telling them what they can and cannot do. Considering the enormous scale of this impingement on our personal freedom, it behooves us all to be certain that greenhouse gas emissions are in fact lethal, and that the evidence supporting government intervention is concrete and valid.
As far as supporters like Ms. Nichols see it, induced and compounded by our increasingly self-destructive, greedy and indulgent ways of living, we are heading down a dangerous path, and can only be saved by such regulations. But are we certain this view is correct? A 231-page report released in November of last year by a panel of over 650 reputable scientists disputes the claim that global warming is man-made. One of the dissenting scientists, Dr. Joanne Simpson (an atmospheric scientist) says: “The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.” One of these models was the highly touted “hockey stick” model, which was used by the IPCC to argue that the 20th century was unusually warm. That has since been debunked as “beset with methodological errors,” as stated in Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate. Some scientists have even suggested that rising CO2 levels could actually result in lower temperatures (see “Greenhouse gases and greenhouse effect” recently published in the prestigious Environmental Geology.) And there are countless other examples of highly regarded scientists disputing the various claims of environmentalists. Clearly, the science of climate change is nowhere near settled.
Despite this uncertainty, one is constantly confronted with environmental doom mongering. Reminiscent of the ice age environmentalists were predicting in the 1970s that never was, environmental groups now insist on passing off global warming judgment-day conjecture as though it were fact. To those of us interested in looking before we leap, this whole mess in California would seem rather laughable were the consequences not so severe. Yet when our economic well-being and individual rights hang in the balance, the farce ceases to be humorous.
California’s greenhouse gas emissions measure tramples our inalienable rights and should be vigorously opposed by all freedom loving Americans. It has been enacted at the urging of environmentalists on the basis of undecided evidence, in order to avert a phenomenon that science is only just beginning to grasp. Such laws should be repealed immediately and should stay off the books unless there is a very compelling reason (based on objective evidence) to do otherwise.
The Undercurrent is a magazine distributed at college campuses and communities across the country. We release a print edition once per semester, and in the interim, regularly post additional articles, blog entries, and campus media responses reports to our website.
The Undercurrent's cultural commentary is based on Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. Objectivism, which animates Ayn Rand's fiction, is a systematic philosophy of life. It holds that the universe is orderly and comprehensible, that man survives by reason, that his life and happiness comprise his highest moral purpose, and that he flourishes only in a society that protects his individual rights.
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