Saturday, November 24, 2007

Still No Free Lunch

Wretchard at the Belmont Club, discusses the newly-discovered perils of green buildings with his typical intelligence and eloquence. It seems that designing a building to be energy-efficient also makes it a target for birds. Yet another case of the law of unintended consequences playing havoc with the plans of men. Suddenly, the green strategy is discredited, and yet another green strategy takes its place. The building owners are left holding the bag and wondering why they bothered to build green in the first place.

Wrethchard extends this to a discussion of the precautionary principle and the Kyoto Protocol.

But the point is that we expect a return on all the effort being poured into Kyoto and are being charged for the investment. But what if it's a dry hole? What if there's no return? What happens if in fact we have to pay for fixing the damage we did with Kyoto because we didn't care about the science since the "precautionary principle" took care of everything? What then?

What then indeed? This is the fundamental argument against the precautionary principle cast in an unconventional light. Not only could a decision made without sufficient evidence lead to a solution that fails to work or justify its cost, it could create further problems that we failed to recognize. The pregnant woman has morning sickness - quick, give her the thalidomide!

'The market will fix it'. Yes, but we've fixed the market because it wasn't working to our satisfaction. Kyoto has the potential to be greatest single boondoggle since Charles Ponzi began his illustrious career. That's not to say it won't benefit mankind. But then, how would we measure that benefit? Oh, I forgot: the precautionary principle renders that question unnecessary.

Unnecessary for the people who campaign for and launch the program. No cost will fall upon them. Ironically, Charles Ponzi also seemed to have good intentions.

There are often delays in publishing environmental and occupational regulations. Much of the time, it is simply the result of industry lobbyists seeking to buy time and stave off reduced profits. However, it would be foolish to always rush to implement new standards before the controversy is addressed. Better to wait and solve the original problem than to hurry and add more problems.