Even if Climate Change Theory is False, We’re Still Harming the Environment

One of the biggest problems with the left’s emphasis on climate change is the fact that skeptics end up throwing out all environmental concerns on the basis of the “flimsy evidence” for global warming. That’s unfortunate, because the reality is that we are actually doing a lot of damage to the environment, even if the earth isn’t heating up due to carbon emissions. One of the biggest and most unheralded global environmental crises is with water pollution:

It has been suggested that water pollution is the leading worldwide cause of deaths and diseases, and that it accounts for the deaths of more than 14,000 people daily. An estimated 580 people in India die of water pollution related illness every day. About 90 percent of the water in the cities of China is polluted.

That Chinese statistic is especially troubling. The US is quite responsible (albeit indirectly) for Chinese environmental degradation, as it is our undiscriminating market for cheap Chinese goods that has encouraged so much of the irresponsible manufacturing practices in China:

I think raising the question of U.S. —and developed world— responsibility for Chinese pollution has a few benefits. For one, it highlights an important lever for reducing pollution in China: U.S. consumer demand and changing the behavior of the major U.S. companies that source out of (and therefore pollute in) China. For example, local Chinese factories will often be much more attentive to the demands of Wal-Mart (e.g., reduce pollution or you lose your contract) than local regulators.

We need to stop focusing so much attention on the correctness or incorrectness of climate change. Instead, we should be talking about water and air pollution. These things require no imagination to foresee. They are already affecting communities all over the world. It is also far simpler to make changes to reduce water and air pollution than it is to retrofit manufacturing to reduce carbon emissions.

So why doesn’t everybody all over the world work together to fix our global pollution problem? Because though the pollution problem is global, the pollution solution is local. And power-hungry totalitarians don’t like to address problems with local solutions. They only want to propose global solutions. Because global solutions mean greater centralization. In other words, I don’t think the climate change debate will be relegated to its proper tertiary status until local politics become more important than national and international politics. So, in other words, hell (and probably the earth) will freeze over first.