Sep

28

Libertarians (other than me) are mostly united around the idea that global warming is not a problem, which I find a strange reaction, no matter how repulsive government involvement is.

Libertarians often say government health care is a bad idea, but don't claim that people don't get sick. Libertarians don't like government schools, but don't claim everyone can get a great education on their own. They (and I) say these areas have real problems, either caused by or not helped by government involvement. What of climate? Cruise ships will transit the Northwest passage in a few years, the first time the ice will be melted fully across in a very long time. So why when the planet is warming up and the government gets involved is a warmer planet not a problem?

Last week I listened to a PhD defense at the Goddard Institute for Space Study, the place where Jim Hansen and crowd have made some accurate predictions about climate change, predictions of the sort where they predicted future things before anyone had the data. I was struck by two things:

1. They were already modeling earth's poles with no ice as an everyday modeling activity, and then studying clouds and whatever else was the topic being studied.

2. The speaker tossing around a term like they used it all the time: 2xCO2. It dawned on me they were talking about CO2 doubling in the atmosphere, which is not far off if current trends continue.

It was back in the mid 1800s when CO2 was identified as a greenhouse gas. The debate was held in The Royal Society, and largely ended there as to whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas or not (See Note below).

I don't have faith that the models are trustworthy, but the data from countries that have less climate diversity than the US say things are warming up rapidly. US television stations are in many different climate zones, but all the TV stations in Australia are in places that are hot and getting hotter. Ditto for most of Israel. Some parts of the world are getting too dry for farming for the first time in centuries, even with pumped water. If this trend continues, much money will change hands because of it.

What investments would do well if the planet keeps warming up?

Approximately 100% of energy saving activities related to buildings in the US (and some other places) involve government programs, which are another story. Most efforts to make money on owning the infrastructure for supplying water end with protests about prices, and government seizure of the "privatized" water system. General Electric is heavily involved in manufacturing the equipment for water related products (large scale), and energy generation products as well, and they seem to be doing a good enough job to displace the need for many startups in these areas.

I think this will be an area of huge opportunity, but don't yet see what position to take.

Technical Note. The earth gains heat one way: infrared radiation from the sun. Our atmosphere, including CO2, is largely transparent to infrared radiation on the wavelength the sun emits: short wave.

The earth loses heat one way: infrared radiation radiated out from the earth into outer space. The CO2 and other gases (including water vapor) in our atmosphere are not as transparent to infrared on the longer wavelength the earth emits (because the earth's temperature is different than the sun's temperature), thus some of the infrared emitted is absorbed and/or reflected back. The more CO2, the stronger this effect, and the warmer the planet.

People argue about how much CO2 will have what effect, but nobody disputes the operation of the basic mechanism.

On another subject: There is no evidence yet of green-collar work on buildings saving any energy.  See an article in the NY Post in which I am quoted:

LEED buildings don't conserve energy. In fact, a LEED study commissioned by the USGBC suggests that certified buildings often use more energy.

Much credit for this discovery goes to a Manhattan building-energy consultant, Henry Gifford, who was the first to blow the whistle on the USGBC's bogus promises of energy savings.

William Brauer writes:

As a Libertarian and noting that Greenland was once green, I'm not sold on manmade CO2's being the big driver in warming and find recent literature on sunspot activity to be compelling. I don't agree at all that Libertarian beliefs dismiss public education, though the belief would be that a private enterprise would out perform a government-run school (read Harvard v. UMass). As a Libertarian I do not deny that people get sick, but if we must take a program approach to increasing access to care, we would increase incomes to enable the poor to afford insurance rather than wipe the slate clean and start a government managed system.


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