Environmentalism & Libertarianism

07 January 2012
Although the article was clearly written by someone who views Libertarians as someone who is far on the other political side of arch-Conservatives, the Guardian had a piece on why libertarians have no real choice but to deny climate change. The abstract idea of property rights central to stereotypical libertarianism is interpreted as real-estate ownership, and an argument much in line with the smokers' versus non-smokers' rights is presented. The problem is that it misses much of the reason why libertarians hate environmentalism.

The major problem with environmentalism is not so much the theory, even though there are potentially serious issues with it, but the solutions that they present. Many of these solutions can be put into at least one of three categories:

Excuse for Socialist spending
A lot of the grander plans from environmentalists call for massive state spending, and in many cases it is highly doubtful that the environment is the primary motive. State subsidy of jobs is a Libertarian pet-hate.
Focus on taking things away
Classical example is the extent that Green Taxes is by far the number one environmental policy. Same applies to Making Public Transport More Attractive, which is a by-word for screwing over motorists. In both cases it is widely glossed over that the alternatives are substantially worse and/or expensive, if available at all.
It is dubious to claim that buses, especially off-peak ones, are environmentally friendly. In fact all those off-peak buses have by far the highest per-passenger CO2 emissions, and from times I have been in south London it is the stench of diesel fumes that is by far the biggest environmental problem.
The problem is that with environmentalism tied up (with some notable exceptions) somewhere between Socialism and Communism, the side effect of specific policies are accepted without question. Often this acceptance is on the basis that they think the things should be done regardless. In such circumstances libertarians are left with no choice but to regard climate change as too politically infected and to simply refute the whole thing.