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Reason Foundation

Reason's First Roundtable on Global Warming

Shikha Dalmia
September 6, 2006, 3:45pm

Global warming is a hot subject – so to speak, what with Schwarzenegger signing the bill to limit carbon dioxide emissions in California recently and Al Gore declaring in his movie -- for the nth time -- just how compelling the science of climate change really is. So what should we do? That is the question that the recent Reason Roundtable addresses through essays by Don Boudreaux and Julian Morris. Here's a sampling: Boudreaux: Being neither an atmospheric scientist nor a former U.S. vice-president, I haven't the expertise to judge whether or not global warming is a reality or the extent to which humans cause it. Experts who I trust, however, persuade me that science does indeed show that global temperatures are rising and that industrial activity is at least part of the reason. I'm prepared to believe even the possibility that global warming will eventually kill millions of people. But I nevertheless insist that science does not unambiguously endorse action against global warming. Put differently – and contrary to today's elite opinion – ignoring global warming is not necessarily a sign of scientific illiteracy or of ideologically induced stupidity. First, human preferences might counsel against tackling global warming. If global warming's ill-effects won't occur for, say, another 150 years, nothing objective says that people today should sacrifice for that distant tomorrow. Such sacrifice might be demanded by ethics – or by human preferences themselves – but not by science. Click here for the article. Morris: The best policy for reducing the vulnerability of people to potentially negative aspects of climate change is one that enables people to prosper and thereby avail themselves of all the adaptive measures that the wealthy can afford. But what will lead to this clean, green growth? The overwhelming body of evidence suggests that the key is to ensure that society is governed by appropriate "institutions." Institutions are the framework within which people act and interact – they are the rules, customs, norms, and laws that bind humans to each other and act as boundaries to human behavior......And the institutions that are most conducive to sustainable development are the institutions of the free society – property rights, contracts, and the rule of law. Click here for the article.

Shikha Dalmia is Senior Analyst


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