Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Dueling Letters: Pollution vs. Climate Ideology

A pair of letters in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Swallowing sewage? Experts take opposite sides, pits then-NJ governor Chris Christie’s Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Bob Martin against the campaign director of environmentalist activist group Clean Water Action David Pringle. The letters were responses to a NJ Star-Ledger editorial When you swallow sewage at the Shore, thank Trump. You can read both letters here. I focussed on Pringle’s bait-and-switch:

Barnegat Bay, Ocean County and its people have been especially put in harm’s way by these weakenings and, more broadly, the climate denying and delaying policies of the Christie administration.
I left these comments, slightly edited:

This statement completely discredits Pringle’s case. As a layman, I simply don’t trust it. Why? Because he is mixing two separate issues into one package deal—pollution and climate change policies.

Pollution is a legitimate concern that should be addressed. The government has a role through objective anti-pollution laws. Climate change, on the other hand, has become a rallying cry for the anti-industrial, anti-reliable energy (hydro, nuclear, fossil), anti-capitalist, anti-business agenda of the ideological environmentalism movement.

Actual pollution is a threat to humans, so policies to fight it are good for humans. However, policies to “fight climate change” are harmful to humans, because they in essence hamper economic and industrial progress and thus harm humans’ ability to protect against natural dangers, to clean up the air, land, and water, and to flourish. Environmentalism is, as the name implies, motivated not by human well-being but by preserving “pristine” nature from humans. They seek to minimize human impact on nature. This is a direct attack on man’s means of survival, which is the freedom to transform the danger-filled natural world into a man-made environment conducive to steadily improving human life through technological-industrial development. Nature in its pristine, undeveloped state is wholesale death for humans.

The environmentalists’ non-impact standard of value leads them to judge human activity as bad simply because it changes something in the natural world. Hence, climate change is bad to the extent humans may contribute to it, even if the change is mild and manageable and the benefits are enormous to human life. Human-caused climate change is bad, they hold, simply because it’s climate change, even though the harmful effects of the change are minimal or nonexistent and the benefits of the human activity causing it are enormously beneficial (e.g., reliable economical energy from fossil fuels) and the climate change itself has important positive benefits (e.g., more CO2 equals more plant growth).

This same standard of non-human induced change also calls into question their anti-pollution proposals. How many pollution control regulations actually pass proper cost-benefit analysis? Regulations that produce minimal or inconsequential pollution control benefits often impose maximum harm to individual freedom and livelihoods. Those should be reviewed and rolled back. But notice that environmentalists’ knee-jerk reaction is always to support new regulations and oppose any rollbacks. This fits perfectly with their non-impact standard.

As I said, the packaging together of pollution and climate change destroys the so-called “clean-water advocate” case, because of the standard that implies—minimizing human impact. A better standard by which to measure environmental issues is to maximize human flourishing while minimizing only impacts objectively determined to be negative to human well-being. By definition, that implies a constant review of pollution laws and a reform or rollback of laws that objectively do more harm than good. I don’t trust that Pringle sees it that way.


Environmentalists like to label anyone who disagrees with their policies as “climate deniers.” In fact, they are the real deniers: They seek to deny humans the capacity to change the natural world, including the climate, to human betterment.

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