Government Regulation of Climate Change
University of Phoenix
December 20, 2010
Government Regulation of Climate Change
For the past two decades, global climate change has been front-page news. Viewpoints vary between those who believe global climate changes are a cyclical phenomenon of Mother Nature and those who go to the extreme of calling it man-caused doom??™s day. Different viewpoints lead to varying theories on how or if pollutants that lead to global climate change should be managed. Techniques for managing the pollutants believed to be responsible for climate change consist primarily of government manipulation of behavior ???by controlling economic incentives through taxes, regulations, and subsidies??? (Light & Rolston, 2003).
View Various Viewpoints on Climate Change
In 1990, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believed the atmospheric carbon dioxide has doubled after industrial increase of pollutants and will increase the earth??™s average surface temperature by 2.5 degree Celsius in 2050. The recommended action point is to immediately reduce net emissions by 60% to stabilize carbon dioxide and preventing it from doubling by 2100 and increasing up to 4 degrees Celsius.
James Hansen testified in 1988 to the United States Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that it was 99% probable that global warming had already started. According to a Gallup poll, by 1988 the greenhouse effect was a great deal of concern to 35% of the citizens of the United States of America. James feels we need to act and do all we can to slow global warming while proceeding with further research or we may lose out on countering the problem by reducing air pollutants.
The media countered James Hansen??™s viewpoint with major articles written in the Washington Post (February, 1989), the Wall Street Journal (April, 1989), the New York Times (December, 1989), Reader??™s Digest (February, 1990), Forbes (February, 1990) claiming skepticism in the predictions and impacts of global warming. This was when the label of doom-and-gloomers was attached to those global warming extremists.
The Bush administration in 1990 emphasized the need for more scientific research since there were so many uncertainties in the global warming forecasts. The main concern was the economic strain of carbon dioxide stabilization policies.
Some scientists, Budyo (1988) and Idso (1989) feel global warming is good for us. One scientist??™s view point is in opposition claiming greenhouse gasses injected into the atmosphere will create a new ice age. Another point of view is the belief that the earth??™s global warming will be self-corrected through planetary mechanisms that will stabilize the earth??™s climate in spite of the greenhouse gasses.
There are many viewpoints concerning global warming, however the differences in these viewpoints among the scientists are ???differences of emphasis rather than differences of kind. Rather than highlighting the degree of certainty that attaches to predictions of global warming, as does Schneidere (1989), for example, some emphasize the degree of uncertainty that attaches to such predictions (for example, Abelson 1990)??? (Light & Rolston, 2003).
The general view of economists is that it is doubtful if efforts to slow global warming are worth it with all the uncertainties. I personally tend to agree with this point of view. It is my opinion that the need for moderate monitoring of global climate change rather than proceeding with expensive extremism with a knee-jerk reaction approach to change the climate is a better plan. Extreme lifestyle and culture changes are required with large economic cost commitments with no guarantees that global warming will be stabilized. Reallocation of funds will add to the already struggling economy of our nation. I agree with the Bush administration that more research is needed before more citizen tax funds are used.
Command and Control verses Incentive Based Government Regulations
???If you want people to do something give them a carrot; if you want them to desist, give them a stick??? (Myers, 1983).
Command and control regulations take the stick approach. This approach works best with those who do not have a ???value based??? approach to their actions, and need to be coerced into doing the right thing. The reward for doing the right thing is no punishment. This approach does not take a very high view of mankind in general, or those who will be governed specifically by the regulation, but it can be somewhat effective to govern a population that will not otherwise do the right thing. In order for this approach to work, however, it must be enforced. For example, the deterrent value can only work if those governed know they will pay a price if caught in non-compliance. This may be very difficult in a global economy.
Incentive based regulations take the carrot approach. This approach works best with those who internalize the cost of climate change risks and who do have a ???value based??? approach. This method assumes that those governed want to do the right thing, and the reward for doing the right thing has monetary incentives from the government, thus making ???doing the right thing??? the economically sound alternative as well. Incentive based regulations are self enforcing, since those complying with the regulations will reimburse. A disadvantage of this approach is that if those governed find it economically more advantageous to ignore the incentives, the incentives don??™t work. For example, if it is cheaper to keep an old clunker car than to buy a new, cleaner car using government incentives, there may be little motivation to buy the new cleaner car.
If I were in a Federal leadership position, I would advocate using the incentive approach since self-motivated people tend to work harder and be more creative than those who are forced to comply with rules. I would however advocate using command and control regulations in those instances where gross pollution was already occurring and the prospects of successful use of incentive based regulations are not promising.
0. Light, A., & Rolston III, H. (2003) Enviornmental Ethics. Molden, MA. Blackwell Publishing.