The inevitable has happened.
The Obama government has declared CO2—a nutrient required by plants to live, and a gas exhaled with your every breath—a pollutant. Let there be rejoicing in the ranks of activists.
Now, when I say that what occurred was “inevitable” it means that there was nothing anybody could have done to stop the government from doing what it lusted to do.
No facts would have stopped them, no arguments, no evidence, no sober quantifications of uncertainty. This was going to happen as soon as Obama was elected.
Control is what was wanted and control is what was had.
The EPA, an agency of our ever-expanding government, has no direct electoral oversight, by which I mean there is nothing you or I or any ordinary citizen can do to influence any of its actions.
The president can influence it and occasionally rein in its excesses, as can congress indirectly, but we folk are out of the loop.
I say this to make you feel a little better if you are upset at this, unfortunately not unprecedented, move to add more governmental control of our lives. There was nothing you could have done except possibly have voted for McCain—and it’s not clear that that would have helped either.
So this EPA ruling was as natural an occurrence as CO2 being released in the breath of spotted owls in old growth forests.
Again, this was going to happen, it was unstoppable. But, just for the fun of it, I will tell you why it was the wrong thing to do.
Those That Care created this ruling because they are concerned that human-caused changes in climate will be deleterious. There are two components to this belief.
The first is that humans influence the climate. I have said many times that this is trivially true. It is only a question of how much we do so.
So how much of the change in climate is due to us and how much is natural? Nobody knows. No body, not even an international body of climate scientists. There are some guesses, mainly in the form of forecasts that say temperatures will rise dramatically. But those models’ predictions have, so far, been wrong in the sense that they say we should have been hotter than we have been.
But bad models that make wrong or unskillful predictions are certainly not a sufficiently powerful reason to restrain unavoidable bureaucratic zeal coupled to the belief that any change in anything (including climate) is some body‘s fault.
The second component is the most important part, so pay attention. It is the belief—and it is only a belief, a faith—that whatever changes in the climate that occur will be bad changes, or changes that will in some way be harmful to humans.
This is a belief because there is no direct evidence that shows climate change will be deleterious. There are scads of statistical studies that says that if the climate changes and if a laundry list of other conditions hold, then this or that bad thing will happen.
Understand: a changing climate itself is meaningless. The only interesting question is how that changing climate affects humans.
There have been hundreds, thousands, of studies that make guesses of how climate change will influence humans. The conclusions of these studies are statistical, and must be because by definition they are predictions. We have to wait and see whether these predictions are accurate. I can tell you that the level of statistical expertise in these publications has been poor at best and appalling at worst.
There is strong evidence of the investigator effect in these papers, which in these cases translates to an odd desire on the part of researchers to be the first to say how fast we are going to hell in a hand basket. My evidence for this is that there have been almost no studies that show any good thing that can happen in a warmer, more CO2 rich climate, and that it is impossible for there not to be good or helpful effects.
There is a hidden component here. Even if the climate changes significantly because of humans, and even if those changes might be harmful, then we must also believe that it will be impossible to avoid or mitigate the harm. We must believe that humans will not be able to effect a technological or economical solution to the problems we might face.
Now, if and only if all these things are true—if humans do significantly influence climate, and only harmful things can happen in a changed climate, and humans will be too stupid or will have no power to mitigate these harms—then the EPA has done the right thing.
Else it has done the wrong thing, which it obviously has.