UNABLE TO REFUTE evidence of human influence on global warming, critics go after the humans themselves -- at least, that seems to be the takaway point from the recent charges of hypocrisy against Al Gore, Diane Feinstein, and others.
I'm personally agnostic about how much influence people have on current warming trends, and I'll defer to the experts on whether those trends are significant (most say that they are). And few enjoy watching Al Gore hoisted on his own petard more than I. But, really: Is the supposed hypocrisy of the global warmers really worth a sustained campaign by InstaPundit (and others)? And to what end? Does Professor Reynolds really want to dispense with market-based carbon set-offs, and impose the kinds of sudden, draconian limits that he believes is required by Al Gore's philosophy? Here's, after all, what Professor Reynolds says:
But if things are as bad as he says, is carbon-neutrality enough? Shouldn't he be paying for all that tree-planting and cutting back on his energy usage? Why be carbon-neutral, if you can be carbon-negative? (And the whole carbon-offset business is kind of iffy anyway).
So, according to Professor Reynolds, if you buy that global warming is man-made, you can't favor carbon offsets because they don't address the problems. Something else needs to be done -- and, one hopes, totally radical and eXtreme!
One senses an attempt to rope-a-dope by Reynolds -- to try to make the implications of Gore's views so extreme that Gore is forced to repudiate himself. But before Reynolds tries to rope-a-dope, the question he needs to ask himself is, "am I Ali?" Because the rope-a-dope strategy has some pretty famous disasters associated with it, not least of which was the disaster that befell the Athenian empire on Sicily. Nicias, an Athenian general, strongly opposed an invasion of Sicily by Athens. Thinking he could outsmart his opponents, he insisted on an invasion force so large that he was sure the Athenian democracy would reject it out of hand. He was thus quite surprised when he got his requested invasion force, plus some, and was named as one of the leaders of the expedition.
It's true that carbon offsets aren't perfect, as Captain Ed explains. But Professor Reynolds really should read what Captain Ed writes rather than just mindlessly linking it, because Captain Ed is also right that Reynolds' current obsession with Gore's heating bills has an excellent potential to bite Reynolds right back in the ass:
Okay, before we start really throwing the hypocrisy label at The Goracle of Global Warming, we should take care not to hit ourselves with it first. Most CQ readers are free-market thinkers. There's nothing wrong with Gore using that kind of energy if he's willing to pay for it. A mansion would use a lot more energy than a normal single-family dwelling; I'm sure that Bill Gates' electrical bills dwarf what Gore's paying for his Tennessee juice. My objection to his level of consumption would only be that he's driving prices up with his large demand.
There's at least a chance that our use of carbon may be responsible for an increase in global temperatures; given that additional carbon in the atmosphere also has undisputed negative effects (e.g., smog), it seems pretty clear that capping carbon levels is a good move. Requiring big carbon producers, like Gore, to purchase carbon offsets is a good step. It forces Gore to begin to begin to pay the true cost of his lifestyle by creating a market for what had been a market externality. In a true offset system, Gore's payments for his excessive carbon use goes to folks who aren't generating as much carbon.
And, please, stop the faux-steria about carbon offsets being a modern form of indulgences or about how they are some sort of sop to the rich. Of course, as Reynolds' keen eye has observed, the rich tend to pollute more than others. They also tend to drink better wine, drive nicer cars, and live in bigger houses. So what? They pay for these things, and the money they pay goes to pay the salaries of others.
Carbon offsets are a way to make the wealthy pay for the another one of their benefits (such as the jet-set lifestyle Reynolds seems to dislike) -- a benefit that happens to cause harm to all of us. Without carbon offsets, the wealthy would get this benefit without paying its costs. With carbon offsets, the wealthy start to pay the true costs of their lifestyle choices. So does industry, making cleaner alternatives (like my personal favorite, nuclear energy) more attractive. And, if the number of available offsets start to decrease along a known schedule, the prices will rise -- and more and more of the supposed wealthy will find that it's cheaper and better to reduce their own carbon emissions.
By fixing on the hypocrisy of others, Reynolds makes carbon offsets his primary victim. That's a shame because, despite its flaws, a carbon offset program is a good, market-based solution to the problem of pollution and (perhaps) global warming as well. It's a solution that a putative libertarian or right-leaner like Reynolds should be embracing, and making common cause with his opponents on the left. But this is a game of rope-a-dope gone awry -- for the dope is Reynolds himself.