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August 17, 2005


I'm not bashing Portland. Portland's a truly great place. However, at the moment, many of the people running the local government here are not very good at their jobs.

I am a libertarian, and I think global warming could be a threat. However, that doesn't mean we should stop thinking critically about how much it might cost to try to stop global warming (assuming we have the power to stop it). I'm still trying to learn more about the issue.

As far as the city's data goes- Why get upset that somebody has found flaws in the report? If you are worried about global warming, shouldn't you desire the most reliable stats?

Dr. Trexler's analysis was thoughtful and much more balanced than you imply in your brief quote. One of his conclusions, which I agree with is, "What is clear is that it’s not appropriate to point to Portland’s and Multnomah County’s 1990 vs. 2004 emissions as proof that the nation as a whole could costlessly reduce its GHG emissions back to 1990 levels. Suggesting such a message has a downside; if people expect all reductions to be free, and then they’re not, will we lose interest?"

That's the conlusion Nicholas Kristof should have had for his readers, but then again if he had figured it out on his own he wouldn't have written the story because there is no news here. We don't know the real CO2 emissions in Multnomah County, and I doubt that anyone will ever know due to the complex, multi-jurisdictional nature of the region. Therefore we should not be hyping an imaginary downward trendline, and we should not imply to the broader world that serious reductions in CO2 emissions will be cost-free.

Libertarian- The overwhelming scientific consensus is that global warming IS a threat of catastrophic dimensions. Worrying about how much a fix will "cost" is ideological, and typically libertarian, folly.

John Charles- I've never argued that reducing greenhouse gases is a "costless" undertaking, and neither has the city of Portland, as far as I know. The "cost" you seem most concerned with is the shift of wealth from the private to the public sector, which is what Portland has done with its emphasis on public mass transit and its promotion of alternatives to the automobile. That obviously doesn't sit well with free market true believers.

I linked the entirety of Mark Trexler's piece in my post. I chose to quote the part that acknowledged global warming as a real and imminent problem, one that cannot be wished away with calls for further studies and a reliance on voluntary compliance from the private sector.

Terry: you say that "Worrying about how much a fix will "cost" is ideological"

How is worrying about cost ideological? A cost-benefit analysis must be done. If global warming will cost us $1 trillion in damage, but trying to stop it will cost us $2 trillion, then it might not make sense to try to stop it. We will end up with a net loss $1 trillion in resources that could have been spent elsewhere. Every $1 spent on global warming is $1 that could have been spent on something else.

Everything has a cost. I don't think it's unreasonable (or ideological) for me to admit a lack of clarity about the issue.

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