Bryan Caplan  

The Environmental Continuum: Reply to Alex Epstein

PRINT
Decisions and Outcomes... What's so funny?...
Alex Epstein, author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, replies to my criticism and questions over at Forbes.com.  Overall, I'm dissatisfied with his responses.  Here's why, point by point.  Alex is in blockquotes, I'm not. 
I'll address some of his technical questions later on, but I want to acknowledge that I have not fully worked out how the government should handle every form of pollution and welcome the contribution of others in doing so. But here's my contention: we cannot come up with the best policies until we all agree on the baseline question of whether we are to use a humanist or naturist standard of value.
Alex makes it sound like there's a binary choice: either we go 100% with the humanist standard or 100% with the naturist standard.  But it's entirely possible to go with a weighted average: say 85% humanist, 15% naturist, or 50/50, or whatever.  And as far as I can tell, most people do in fact take an intermediate position, though almost everyone leans humanist. 

Given this continuum of possible positions, it's extremely unlikely we will ever "all agree" on the correct weights.  Fortunately, Alex exaggerates the importance of this improbable consensus.  With simple democratic voting, for example, the best policies will be adopted as long as 50%+1 accept the correct weights.  In any case, Alex's case for fossil fuels remains effective as long as most people put high weight on the humanist side.
I disagree with Caplan's assessment of the state of our debate, that "Most people, laymen and philosophers alike, think we should protect the environment primarily for the sake of humanity." Most people, laymen and philosophers alike, have been exposed to sloppy thinking about standard of value (and to environmentalist propaganda) since youth. Thus, most people routinely devalue human life and routinely demean the profound value that is fossil fuels.
The key word in my statement is "primarily."  Yes, there is plenty of naturist rhetoric out there - plus a dollop of sheer misanthropy.  But few people take it very seriously.  How can we tell?  For starters, look at what Americans' name as the nation's "most important problem."  "The economy" almost always tops the list.  "The environment" is near the bottom. 

Alternately, consider how rarely mainstream politicians advocate any specific policies that clearly impoverish most of their citizens for the sake of unspoiled nature.  If voters took naturist standards seriously, politicians could win major elections by saying, "I'm going to impose a 300% tax on fossil fuels to save Mother Earth," or "I'm going to ban meat-eating."  This rarely happens.

Alex then moves on to the three questions I posed to him.

1) How does your view functionally diverge from the "common good" view you condemn as "immoral"?  If talk about individual rights means anything, shouldn't there be noteworthy cases where you favor stricter pollution controls than utilitarians? Weaker controls?"

Let's assume that the utilitarians in question, unlike most utilitarians in practice today, have an objective, unprejudiced, and informed assessment of the nature of fossil fuels' impacts on human life. Such a utilitarian, for example, would be absolutely against a tax on CO2, properly recognizing that as a tax on progress for the sake of avoiding a problem (climate danger) to which fossil fuels are a major part of the solution.

"Absolutely against" is a serious overstatement.  A sensible utilitarian could recognize that fossil fuels are part of the solution, but still insist that a moderate carbon tax is also part of the solution.  Indeed, the sensible utilitarian might say, "Imposing a moderate carbon tax increases the incentive to find ways to produce energy with lower carbon emissions."  The fact that we use fossil fuels to clean up fossil fuels does not imply that taxing fossil fuels is self-defeating; you've got to look at the net effect.

Even in that case, there is one difficulty of comparing my position to "utilitarians" because there is no consensus among utilitarians about what constitutes the "greatest good for the greatest number" on any issue. Utilitarians are always disagreeing about how to calculate the utilities. More generally, the problem with the "greatest good" or "common good" approach is that the notion of the common good is inherently vague.

True, but the same goes for every plausible moral standard.  (Objectivists often appear to disagree, for example, on what "promotes the survival of man qua man.")  But pointing out the vagueness of utilitarianism actually makes it even harder to see how Alex's standard functionally diverges from this rival ethical approach.  If he wants to clarify, Alex needs to (a) describe what he sees as the well-informed utilitarian position on fossil fuels, then (b) highlight his disagreements with this position.

But there is a principled difference that would apply to any variant of the utilitarian approach.

The role of government, in my view, is not to calculate the overall benefits and harms of a technology. It is to define a threshold at which a technology violates people's rights by significantly damaging or imperiling them.

Is "significant damage or imperiling" a gross or a net standard?  I.e., suppose a new energy source gives everyone $5000 per year in improved medical care, but imposes $1000 per year in respiratory disorders.  Does your standard say this is permissible or not?  If you say no, then many of your arguments for fossil fuels are beside the point.  (Think about your time series for weather-related deaths).  If you say yes, then it seems like government does have to calculate overall benefits and harms after all. 

This threshold, as I indicated earlier, must be based on what is possible given the current state of technology and the current state of risk in a society. For example, in early industrial cities, when we could not avoid most of the ravages of human emissions (which are almost always more dangerous than machine emissions), the technology and infrastructure didn't exist to combat them, so you cannot say that human emissions are illegal. But you can and should pass laws protecting people from the forms that are both dangerous and preventable.

This is another case where Alex talks as if the world is binary when it plainly isn't.  "Preventable" and "dangerous" both lie on a continuum.  There is plenty that could have been done to reduce emissions even in early industrial cities.  Most obviously: A modest tax on coal.  What's the point?  Making the air a little less dangerous.

If it can be objectively established that a given use of a technology significantly damages or imperils anyone, then either the technology cannot be used in that way or the users of it need to compensate the damaged parties in some way.

However, the determination of whether someone is damaged or imperiled needs to be made contextually. We are necessarily exposed to all sorts of small risks by living among other people, and even apart from other people we're subject to natural risks of all sorts (especially when we don't have the technologies that make us safe from nature). The damage or risk caused by a technology is only significant when it stands out from this background level. And what this background level is will be relevant to the technological development of the society.

Your position combines a superficially strict standard - no one can be significantly damaged or imperiled - with a massive loophole for "context."  Can you see why this is intellectually dissatisfying?

2) What is the evidence that the marginal benefits of fossil fuels are enormous or even positive--i.e., that it is good for an average American to use a little more rather than a little less fossil fuel?

One theme of the book is the marginal benefit of the opportunity of every additional Calorie of energy. (Caplan observes that I only use the word "marginal" once, but that is only because the terminology is not used much except by economists.) Energy is our ability to use machines to improve our lives.

Yes, but you have to subtract the unpleasant side effects of fossil fuels.  When you do, the marginal benefits of fossil fuels in rich countries remain unclear.

The enormous opportunity that more (fossil fuel) energy production provides us plus the ability of modern fossil fuel technology to cheaply produce energy with ever-smaller risks and side-effects means that there is no reason to have any inclination whatsoever to reduce (including tax) energy use.

How can you say this?  You've acknowledged that fossil fuels - like every energy source - have some unpleasant side effects.  Reducing fossil fuel consumption trades a little extra convenience for a little less unpleasantness.  What makes you think this is clearly a bad deal, especially in rich countries?

We can see historically that had we heeded the warnings in the 1970s that we already had enough energy, the consequences would have been disastrous.

Yes, but your strongest evidence comes from the developing world.  This isn't really relevant to my question.

More energy improves lives in many ways, documented in the book, and some of them are profound. For example: the advent of the coal-hungry internet. Any legal measures to constrict marginal fossil fuel usage in the developed nations in the 1980s would have hampered the development of that technology. And any attempt to constrict FFs now will hamper future technologies. That would have been disastrous.

"Any attempt" would have been "disastrous"?  That's absurd.  "Would have imposed high costs for small gains" might be true, but I'm still waiting to see the evidence.

Moreover, we have no right to do it.

By your own standard, wouldn't there be a right to do it if marginal fossil fuel use "significantly damaged or imperiled" anyone?  And if you're factoring in context, doesn't the context change when we're focusing on marginal uses?

3)  Isn't the textbook environmental economics approach of putting a price on pollution a better policy than the combination of technology-and-law that you propose?

No. Putting a price on pollution is one variety of the technology-and-law approach. Policies designed to put a price on pollution are enacted by law.

Trivially true, but you're missing the point.  Conventional environmental regulations give detailed orders about how polluters have to reduce pollution.  Pollution taxes specify a price and let polluters figure out the cheapest way to comply.  There is a lot of evidence that the latter approach roughly halves the cost of pollution clean-up.  So why does it fail to pique your interest?

Devising and implementing them require sophisticated technologies to quantify emissions.

"Requires"?  Not really.  You don't need sophisticated technologies to tax coal.  Technology can definitely make emissions pricing work better, but that's a weaker claim. 

I don't mean to be finicky.  But much as I admire Alex's book, his replies to my questions seem to consistently assume the real world fits neatly into simple binary categories.  It doesn't.  Fossil fuels really can be great overall but bad at the margin.  And if so, there is a simple case for moderate taxes on fossil fuels.  This simple case might, on deeper consideration, be wrong.  But it needs to be engaged, and I don't see that Alex has vigorously engaged it.  Yet.




COMMENTS (19 to date)
Andrew_FL writes:
With simple democratic voting, for example, the best policies will be adopted as long as 50%+1 accept the correct weights.

Ah come on, you of all people know that's not gonna happen.

Nicholas Shackel writes:

"consider how rarely mainstream politicians advocate any specific policies that clearly impoverish most of their citizens for the sake of unspoiled nature". I think you need to take more seriously the extent to which politicians in europe have imposed expensive and wasteful windmills on us at our expense.

Mark Bahner writes:
"consider how rarely mainstream politicians advocate any specific policies that clearly impoverish most of their citizens for the sake of unspoiled nature". I think you need to take more seriously the extent to which politicians in europe have imposed expensive and wasteful windmills on us at our expense.

Indeed. Consider Germany's electricity prices, stated here to be 19.2 cents/kWh, versus the U.S. at 10 cents/kWh.

World electricity prices

Andrew_FL writes:

@Nicholas Shackel and Mark Bahner-That's true, but doesn't quite refute Bryan's point, because pushing wind power is not sold on the grounds that it will protect nature and only nature. Bryan's point is that even green policies are not advocated for on purely naturalist grounds: "Climate Change" supposedly threatens human life and well being as well as the natural "order."

Moreover, I assume it's true in Europe as it is in America, that wind power is pushed on the grounds that it is domestically produced energy, and therefore superior to the dreaded "foreign oil." This is neither humanist nor naturalist but (misguided) nationalist standards by which to judge policy.

Mark Bahner writes:
@Nicholas Shackel and Mark Bahner-That's true, but doesn't quite refute Bryan's point, because pushing wind power is not sold on the grounds that it will protect nature and only nature.

Yes, good point.

Moreover, I assume it's true in Europe as it is in America, that wind power is pushed on the grounds that it is domestically produced energy, and therefore superior to the dreaded "foreign oil."

Here, I don't agree. At least I *hope* that most people understand wind doesn't compete with oil in either the U.S. or Germany. In the U.S. and Germany, wind competes with coal and nuclear for electricity generation. And in the U.S., there's also significant competition with natural gas for electricity generation.

At present, oil is pretty much on it's own for powering of automobiles and trucks. So more wind for electricity won't reduce oil usage in either country. (At present. Several decades from now, there might be more competition, as computer-driven electric cars become a big deal.)

But going back to your original point, you're right there...I don't think any "green" policies are supported by politicians entirely for the benefit of nature.

Andrew_FL writes:

@Mark Bahner-I wouldn't be so quick to give people credit for knowing what wind does and does not compete with as an energy source. However, I don't think it's correct to say wind competes with natural gas: since wind power is intermittent, a fall back source of power is needed and that's usually natural gas, for various reasons, as I understand it. In that sense, wind power would actually artificially support some amount of natural gas generation.

That being said, there's a difference between what people believe about which energy sources compete with one another and the truth. I hope the difference is small, too, but I'm more cynical.

Josiah writes:

Here's my question for Alex:

Right now lots of developing countries give people subsidies for fossil fuel energy use. If you were to cut back on those subsidies, people would use less energy.

Does Alex oppose reducing or eliminating these subsidies? Does he favor expanding them (so poor people can better their lives by using more energy)? If not, why not?

Thomas Sewell writes:

This whole argument seems to beg the question of "who decides" by assuming the answer is government.

I suggest the "best" policy is going to be the one that everyone freely decides on together via normal market mechanisms and that government's track record on making these kinds of decisions is a history of waste, distortion and inefficiency, so it doesn't seem very rational to think that "this time it's going to be different", even if someone believes they have the latest bright idea to make the regulations perfectly take everything necessary into account.

Please check your related assumptions for error.

ThomasH writes:

@ Thomas Sewell,

I don't understand how the normal market mechanism is supposed to work when the benefit of emitting CO2 accrues to one group and the costs borne by others. How does the incentive to equalize marginal costs and benefits get from one to the others?

Jake Zielsdorf writes:

Alex sounds like the typical philosopher, talking in terms of rights and rigid categories, not appreciating marginal thinking.

Thomas Sewell writes:

@ThomasH,

The benefits are obvious, but what are the costs of emitting CO2? It's something every person benefits from just to live, so which group bears some horrible costs, but doesn't benefit? Can you quantify that and provide a known per person cost for a particular group with convincing enough evidence that group is willing to pay up to that cost to avoid some certain amount?

I suppose you're talking not in terms of absolutes, but in terms of relative levels, because you mention marginal costs.

For an efficient outcome, all you need is a mechanism by which the property rights are defined. For example, someone has the right to a particular barrel of oil and can do what they like with it. At that point, if that use truly injures someone else disproportionately, then they can pay them to use it differently. See the Coase theorem.

However, if the costs are all just theoretical and no one really believes in the supposed harm, then no one will be willing to truly pay to avoid it and will continue to live in their mansions and fly jet planes to their vacation destination conferences. See revealed preferences.

The idea that policy makers are going to accurately make decisions on what the relative CO2 levels everyone is allowed to emit and that decision will approach anything like the most efficient and beneficial number to benefit everyone the most and take into account all of their individual preferences overtime is the complete opposite of what you refer to in terms of equalizing marginal costs and benefits. That assumes the utilitarian argument as the goal, but the goal doesn't change the difference in knowledge of individual preferences available to policy makers vs people. See Public Choice economics and "The Use of Knowledge in Society".

Most of what I hear on the issue from the elites is "the preferences of the people don't match my preferences, therefore I need to come up with a scheme to try and change their incentives." I just don't buy the idea that elite policy makers have better total knowledge by default. I think that generally they're a net negative over leaving people alone, even for almost all supposed externalities. See "The Problem of Social Cost".

pliny writes:
Alex makes it sound like there's a binary choice: either we go 100% with the humanist standard or 100% with the naturist standard. But it's entirely possible to go with a weighted average: say 85% humanist, 15% naturist, or 50/50, or whatever. And as far as I can tell, most people do in fact take an intermediate position, though almost everyone leans humanist.

Even a pure humanist standard can be demanding if you consider the far future and make favorable assumptions. Extinct species are...extinct. They might provide small entertainment or aesthetic benefits to humanity at a given time, but it adds up over a million years.

Josiah writes:

The benefits are obvious, but what are the costs of emitting CO2?

Sea level rise (eg your city/nation is now underwater); reduced agriculture productivity (in some regions); increases in drought (in some regions) and flooding (in other regions). Possibly increases in hurricanes, certain airborne illnesses, etc.

Mark Bahner writes:
Sea level rise (eg your city/nation is now underwater); reduced agriculture productivity (in some regions); increases in drought (in some regions) and flooding (in other regions). Possibly increases in hurricanes, certain airborne illnesses, etc.

The problem in evaluating all those aspects is the fact that emissions that cause the damages are spread out over time and people, the cause of the damages is difficult to quantify, and the magnitude of the damages is difficult or impossible to quantify.

For example, here's an article about the apparent abandonment of the Cateret Islands of Papua New Guinea:

Cateret Islands

So who's responsible? Well, their islands seem to be sinking by 8.1 mm per year. That's much faster than the global sea level rise of ~3.2 mm per year.

And then, warming to this point is due to the cumulative worldwide emissions of all warming compounds since the Industrial Revolution.

"Reduced agricultural productivity (in some regions)" is going to be even more difficult to establish a particular cause and apportion responsibility.

Josiah writes:

The problem in evaluating all those aspects is the fact that emissions that cause the damages are spread out over time and people, the cause of the damages is difficult to quantify, and the magnitude of the damages is difficult or impossible to quantify.

Well, sure. If it weren't so difficult you could just rely on tort law + Coasian bargaining to resolve the problem.

In the law you often have cases that are generally of this type. A company exposes a bunch of people to a chemical that increases their risk of getting a certain cancer. Later, some of those people get that cancer, and sue. But some people would have gotten that cancer regardless, and possibly many more people in the exposed group got cancer from other causes. We know that the Company gave some people cancer, but we don't know which ones or even necessarily how many.

The law has developed various ways of dealing with these situations. None of them are great, but we get by. In the case of climate change, however, we are talking about literally billions of emitters and billions of affected people. Many of the people who will be harmed by climate change aren't even born yet, and by the time they are harmed the people responsible may no longer be around to sue, even assuming you could get beyond the causation issues.

Alex Epstein writes:

As someone whose primary expertise is philosophy and energy, I hope that my book can contribute 3 things to economists and political scientists thinking about fossil fuel issues:

1) That the proper assessment of fossil fuels' benefits and risks, economic and environmental, is radically, radically more positive than most people, including most economists, regard them to be.

2) That methodologically, a major reason for the radical mis-assessment, again among most economists, is due to a failure to factor in a huge part of the big picture. Namely, the true causal relationship between energy and environment; energy's overwhelming environmental effect is positive--it takes a naturally hostile planet, including climate, and makes it far safer. Not grasping this causal relationship leads to, among other things, wildly incorrect views about climate danger (which has been radically falling, not rising).

3) That this systemic environmental misperception of fossil fuels is based on a deep and usually unacknowledged philosophical premise that unaltered nature is the moral ideal or at least the environmental ideal, the environmental standard of value. This is often rationalized by the "delicate balance" view of nature where we are all dependent on naturally perfect and nurturing configuration of species and climates, which our primary goal should be to not impact. This ideal and view of nature lead to the assumption that industrial activities like fossil fuel use must be bad environmentally.

If I am right that fossil fuels are far more positive than most people, including most economists, think, then there has to be a methodological explanation of where people are going wrong. My explanation is that the anti-humanist or naturist premise is a large part of the explanation.

I think point 3 is where Bryan and I diverge most. Here's the portion of my reply to Bryan that I regard as most important:

-----
I disagree with Caplan’s assessment of the state of our debate, that “Most people, laymen and philosophers alike, think we should protect the environment primarily for the sake of humanity.” Most people, laymen and philosophers alike, have been exposed to sloppy thinking about standard of value (and to environmentalist propaganda) since youth. Thus, most people routinely devalue human life and routinely demean the profound value that is fossil fuels. Indeed, the term “green,” the most politically correct term today, literally means “minimized impact.” From Chapter 9:

How different are [most Americans] from the thought leaders who influence our culture? I think our motives are much better, but we have adopted many of their same bad thinking methods, and we partially share their nonimpact standard of value. Notice that, with each issue surrounding fossil fuels, we all too easily believe the negatives and are blinded to the positives.

How many of us have ever thought to appreciate the man-made miracle that is cheap, plentiful, reliable energy?

How many of us appreciate the people who actually produce it, rather than demonize them and laud their imaginary replacements in the solar and wind industries?

How many of us consider the possibility that human beings could be a positive force climatewise, whether by fertilizing the atmosphere or by creating an environment that maximizes climate benefits and minimizes climate risks?

How many of us consider the possibility that we are improving our environment by using fossil fuels? In my experience, not even the fossil fuel industry considers that possibility. As a culture, we are consistently inclined to view the fossil fuel industry as negative, and in particular, environmentally negative.

Why? Because we haven’t been taught the facts? That doesn’t explain it—why don’t we look for positive environmental facts about the fossil fuel industry, instead of assuming that they don’t exist? Because we believe that to be environmentally good, to follow an environmentally good standard of value, is to be “green,” to not have an impact on things.

The most important issue to resolve politically is: Are we on a human standard of value or not? This is not a “rhetorical” issue. It is the philosophical issue. We have a modern movement to oppose fossil fuel use to an extent that would harm billions of people. And many thinkers, including economists who would consider themselves humanists, are supporting the goal of drastic fossil fuel reductions. We have economists debating over how large taxes on CO2 should be with the aim of reducing fossil fuel use by 80%.

Those of us who consider ourselves humanists have to look at the big picture of human impacts. I think if we do, any humanist will conclude that human life requires more fossil fuel use, and that caps on CO2 are inhuman.

-----

This last point applies not just to economists and political scientists, but to everyone: if it is true that leading proposed anti-fossil fuel policies endorsed by many economists, many political scientists, and many other intellectuals would be grievously harmful to billions of people, then we urgently need to change our policy focus from, in effect "Exactly how much should we tax fossil fuels?" to "What policies will ensure that billions of people are free to use fossil fuels and any other form of cheap, plentiful, reliable energy to improves their lives?"

This last question, informed by the big-picture data compiled in Moral Case and a respect for individual rights, is not one I have all the answers to. But I think it is the right, dare I say moral, question to ask.

Mark Bahner writes:
As someone whose primary expertise is philosophy and energy, I hope that my book can contribute 3 things to economists and political scientists thinking about fossil fuel issues:

1) That the proper assessment of fossil fuels' benefits and risks, economic and environmental, is radically, radically more positive than most people, including most economists, regard them to be.

As someone whose primary expertise is in energy and its associated environmental impacts, I hope I can contribute two things to your future writing and speaking on the matter:

1) "Fossil fuels" are not a single thing. Coal has far, far more detrimental environmental impacts--related to both extraction and combustion--per unit of energy delivered than natural gas. (And oil is probably somewhere in-between.)

2) Just because a particular energy source has given us prosperity in the past, does not mean we shouldn't greatly reduce or eliminate its use in the present or future.

Conrad L. writes:

I think we can all agree that the environment (human) is undeniably better today than it ever was. We see all the important human well-being markers improving. And it is our advancements in technology, coupled with the freedom to pursue various interests, which allow us to adapt to our ever changing challenges as thriving people. Contrast that with *every* environmental prediction ever made.

“Once again, the leading experts we were told to rely on were 100 percent wrong. It's not that they predicted disaster and got half a disaster, it's that they predicted disaster and got dramatic improvement.” –Alex Epstein, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
Today we are being told to curtail fossil fuel use, but no one, *no one*, has been able to show harm. Most importantly, all of the hysteria is coming from “what might happen if our predictions are correct” and *not* what *is* actually happening. Couple that with the fact that none of the predictions have ever come true. Why are we to believe that this time they’ll be right? The icecaps might melt and cause sea levels to rise and force people to move. There might be more hurricanes and droughts in certain areas. These are all “what-ifs” and not actuals. Like many claims since the 60s, they have zero to little impact on our lives. Cell phones, on the other hand, have been shown to increase chances brain cancers from 3 in 100,000 to 9 in 100,000. Should we ban cell phones in favor of phone lines, which also have minor health effects? If human well-being is your standard, the answer is no.

Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. The environmental movement, on the other hand, hasn’t had a shred of predictive capability. But, that’s not their goal. And this is precisely what one must realize. You have to look at the philosophy behind it; that is what motivates them, that is what drives their public policy. Philosophy comes first, action comes second.

Justin writes:

Alex, I'm not sure which economists you are talking about (Stern?), but most economists (including environmental economists) very well realize the benefits of increased energy use in the developing world:
From the director of the Energy Institute at UC Berkeley: "The current forecasts for energy demand in the developing world may be understated because they do not accurately capture the dramatic increase in demand associated with poverty reduction."
http://ei.haas.berkeley.edu/pdf/working_papers/wp226.pdf

It's fine to have opinions, but you cannot claim to have all the "right" facts compared to the vast majority of people who have dedicated their lives to theoretically and empirically modeling energy systems.

Namely, the true causal relationship between energy and environment; energy's overwhelming environmental effect is positive--it takes a naturally hostile planet, including climate, and makes it far safer. Not grasping this causal relationship leads to, among other things, wildly incorrect views about climate danger (which has been radically falling, not rising).

Again, scientists, economists, and philosophers are not stupid enough to have neglected the adaptation humans have undergone and will continue to do (see another environmental economist: http://books.google.com/books/about/Climatopolis.html?id=nQjxjwEACAAJ ).

There are costs to adaptation though. Imagine how much more progress we would have made as a society if air conditioning, refrigeration, and heating systems were completely unnecessary to leading a modern lifestyle! No serious economist (or scientist) advocates an immediate elimination of fossil fuels, and a reasonable carbon tax is not likely to rapidly diminish the use of fossil energy in the short term. However, in the longer term, nuclear could be the largest electricity source and coal without CCS would be gone, at least in the developed world.

"This is often rationalized by the "delicate balance" view of nature where we are all dependent on naturally perfect and nurturing configuration of species and climates, which our primary goal should be to not impact. "
No, natural systems are not "perfect" but they are functional and quite important even to industrial society. We are still fundamentally dependent on nature for cleaning and delivering water, agriculture (soil, selective breeding, integrated pest management), timber, and more. And we also immensely value nature in national parks, beaches, and forests.

"What policies will ensure that billions of people are free to use fossil fuels and any other form of cheap, plentiful, reliable energy to improves their lives?"
Easy-make fossil fuels free, subsidize more extraction, eliminate all environmental regulations. Forget about nuclear, forget about new technologies, just stick with conventional, dirty, inefficient coal generation.

Comments for this entry have been closed
Return to top