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Free Dumping, Not Free Markets

July 9, 2012 - Have you detected a subtle shift recently, dating back to, oh say the beginning of the heat wave?  I'm talking about a shift in the way people think.  It's subtle because it is thus far unspoken.  If you could hear the sound of anxiety, however, I think this is the way it would sound.  The interesting part is, after surveying the titles of stories in the news today, I think the shift is already detectable in the pages of our newspapers and magazines.  Care for a sampling?

How global warming is driving our weather wild
Higher ocean acidity is climate change's "evil twin," major threat to coral reefs: NOAA chief
Havoc as monsoon displaces millions
Scientists back global action on reefs
Relief comes for US Midwest, Northeast after heat wave

Televised mainstream media isn't ready for primetime yet.  CNN's story about the last 12 months having been the warmest on record refers only to high heat and severe storms - two of the possible outcomes of global warming - but not to global warming itself.  On the other hand, the fact that the story was their lead on cnn.com for awhile may speak volumes.  I think this latest scorcher has made a real impression.

That is not to imply that news websites everywhere suffer from a lack of things to say about climate change. An op-ed piece by Dean Baker, titled "The DC Blackouts and Global Warming" appeared on Al Jazeera's website today.  It is one terrific piece, with explosive things to say in a very down-to-earth manner.  Rather than comment on it, I'm going to reproduce the last three paragraphs here.  Anyone who would like to read the whole article should go to www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/07/20127974648934151.html .

"This raises a final point, which should be obvious but somehow is largely ignored in the public debate.  Restrictions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are intended to limit global warming have nothing to do with restricting the market.  These restrictions are about enforcing the rule of law and preventing some people from harming others with their actions.

In this way, restrictions on GHG are similar to the laws that prohibit me from dumping my sewage on my neighbor's lawn.  The opponents of these restrictions don't give a damn  about free markets.  Opponents of restrictions on GHG emissions are arguing for the right to dump sewage on their neighbors' lawn [sic].  Their argument is that the United States is a big powerful country so we can do whatever we want to the rest of the world and no one can stop us.

That may or may not prove true in the decades ahead as China surpasses the United States as an economic power and other countries gain on us.  But no one should mistake the position that we are strong enough to do whatever we want in the world, without regard to the consequences, for a principled commitment to a free market.  The global warming deniers are committed to free dumping, not free markets."

I think I'm in love.

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