Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ugly Cap-and-Trade Logic

I think the worst argument against a cap-and-trade system to lower greenhouse gas emissions is the China-India argument. It goes like this: Since China and India are not going to do anything in the near term to reduce their GHG emissions, it would be a waste of time for us to do anything. Unless everyone does, nobody should do it.

Think if we used this (non) logic in other areas of our lives. Unless everyone at my place of employment starts working hard all day long, I'm going to slack because my effort is worthless on its own. Until every other nation on earth ends human rights violations, we are going to keep oppressing our citizens because we are just a drop in the bucket. Unless all the other people around this child at the ballpark stop swearing and cussing, I'm going to keep on doing it because it won't really make a difference if I stop.

I find it absurd. We don't do the right thing only when it is popular or common, we do the right thing because it is intrinsically good. And yet conservatives accuse liberals of moral relativism.

Conservatives want the U.S. to be the shining beacon of democracy and justice and fairness, to lead the way in creating democracies. I and other liberals agree with them. But they don't want to be the leaders global warming reduction and other environmental causes which are just as important, or maybe more important, than democracy building. In that case they want to be the followers, the last person through the door after everyone else ensures it is safe. I say we should lead out on the issue and, if so, China and India will come along too.

And we shouldn't be deluding ourselves that our emissions are just a drop in the bucket, or that our reduction of GHG emissions alone is too small to make a difference. The US emits more GHG by total emissions and per capita than any other nation in the world. We account for almost one-fourth of the total GHG emissions worldwide. We are the big fish.

Lets not wait around for everyone else to do the right thing before we act, lets be the world leaders that we are expected to be.

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