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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Apology to David Friedman

Kitchen Linker is honored to have David Friedman commenting here, even if the comment is a justified accusation of making a base assertion. Kitchen Linker has now actually read The Coal Question and Climate Change cited by David Friedman rather than taking a quick glance and throwing it into the frying pan.

A strong case is made that most long term global warming scenarios assume much more hydrocarbons will be burned than are available to burn. Unless we trigger a major change now, the long term (year 2100+) impact on the climate from humans releasing carbon into the atmosphere will be relatively small and transient, because we'll run out of oil and coal.

However, Kitchen Linker does not really believe people are concerned about the year 2100 and beyond, at least not very much (and they shouldn't be--if we survive, people then will have incredible wealth and tools to face down the pedestrian challenges of today). People are concerned about the possibility (admittedly small) of near term catastrophic climate change and/or collapse in oil production.

Frankly, any policy implemented now is going to only slightly tweak the probability of either near term disaster scenario. But that is not an excuse for doing nothing, in particular because people want something done, and that something could be very, very bad, such as anti-technology terrorism and/or resource wars.

Let's ward those off with policy that is good and addresses climate change and energy depletion. In a comment on his own blog post, David Friedman has sage advice:
The conclusions I want to reach lead me to conclude that the future is sufficiently uncertain so that it is almost always a mistake to bear large costs now in or to avoid problems in the distant future. For more on that, see the webbed draft of my current writing project, Future Imperfect.
Yes, but a green tax shift does not involve bearing large costs. To the contrary, it costs less than equivalent taxes on production.

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