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  • One Size Fits All Not the Way to Go on Global Warming

    In an interview last year, Dr. Elinor Ostrom the recent recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics, and the first woman to receive prize in economics, offers some tremendous insight. She stresses adaptation over a one-size-fits-all approach and says she doesn’t “think it’s possible just to have a nice little neat optimal plan.” With the climate change conference in Copenhagen coming in December, Elinor Ostrom’s point about international agreements is especially relevant:

    Recognizing that this is something that must be done at multiple levels, so what I am concerned about is a lot of people think that the only way to cope with global change is international agreements. And if we sit around and wait for the national leaders of our respective countries to come to an agreement and operationalize it and make it effective, then people along the coast are going to lose their coasts. So, we must be thinking of diverse ways that we can increase the capacity to respond to external change. We can just call it capacity to respond to change.

    We don’t need to use the fancy name “resilience.” How do we cope with change? And, the tragedy of Katrina was that three years before that hurricane, there had been a very well specified article showing that among the kinds of storms we could be facing in the next five years, was a storm like Katrina that would have devastating impacts on the coastal area. That was not predicted that it would occur, but it was predicted that it could well occur and nobody took it seriously. And so Katrina showed that federal, state and local authorities in New Orleans were not resilient and did not have an effective plan, and it was a disaster. And I think maybe that experience is making a lot more people think, well, we’d better be a little bit more self-conscious that these things could happen.”

    You can listen to the full podcast or read the full transcripts here. What we’re doing by proposing cap and trade or international carbon reduction treaties is exactly what Dr. Ostrom warns against. It’s extremely costly and very ineffective and will do nothing to prepare those communities against natural disasters. It’s the top down, micromanaging approach Ostrom opposes. The Hoover Institution’s David Henderson sums up Ostrom’s and co-recipient Oliver Williamson’s work nicely: “Some have summarized their work by saying that institutions other than free markets often work well. But that statement can mislead you to conclude that government solutions are the answer. Free markets are only a subset of free institutions. A better way to sum up their work is that what Ms. Ostrom and Mr. Willamson really show is that voluntary associations work.”

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to One Size Fits All Not the Way to Go on Global Warming

    1. Mark Schleifstein says:

      Well, that was MY 2002 series, Washing Away – http://tinyurl.com/ylyky6m – and what it pointed out, in part, was that even Category 2 hurricanes could overtop existing levees. What it missed was that large parts of the levee system, both earthen levees and concrete and metal floodwalls, were improperly designed or built. What it did point out, followed by multiple articles over the next few years, was that local, state and federal officials were trying to address the problems, ranging from a corps effort to begin a Category 4-5 levee improvement plan, to a state/FEMA effort to plan recovery efforts for a catastrophic hurricane. Unfortunately, the war(s) got in the way of funding for the levee-raising study (and absent a Katrina-size tragedy, Congress would never have approved a $15 billion emergency construction project), and creation of DHS resulted in downgrading of authority of FEMA. Bottom line is that every year that passes post-Katrina sees the same kinds of decisionmaking occurring. While the $15 billion emergency levee reconstruction project will be complete by a mandated 2011 deadline, it will only protect from a 100-year storm, not a Katrina, which was estimated to be a 400-year event.

    2. carol, new orleans l says:

      Congratulations to a real person worthy of winning

      this award. Brave and courageous this woman represents sound reason and truth, not the chicken

      little one-sided answer that is only making "green-giant" billionares out of undebated

      theorists who stand to profit by enacting burdens

      that are built on baseless politically driven agendas..since when have governments ever recognized research and development unless it was

      financially advantageous to their own selfish

      gain. Congratulations, again.

    3. Drifter, Utah says:

      Aside from the fact that the article is couched in nothing but gross generalities, the premises are flawed.

      The whole concept of Global warming has been used by the Envirosocialist/anticapitalist movement as a convenient political tool to panic an ignorant public into useful political positions. They are motivated primarilly by money, political power and the advance of world socialism. It has almost nothing to do with concern for the environment or global warming. That is only the mantra for the 'drones' not the high-bucks 'string-pullers".

      When the money to buy hip-pocket scientists runs out and the power starts to dry up, these people will become as rare as CO2, in the atmosphere (.038%)!

    4. Freedom of Speech TX says:

      Although I agree with Dr. Ostrom, I must say, with all due respect to the doctor, that what she said is not rocket science it is common sense. An ingredient in politics as rare as gold.

      If we put our money into something that will not have a significant impact on affecting its stated goal – then, we could have used the money in a more productive manner. This is not rocket science.

      If Louisiana and the City of New Orleans had built up their levies over decades – that may have helped. It would also help if a city was not located "below sea level in a bowl" for all purposes. There was never a doubt whether a hurricane would hit that area but when and with how much power. Time-Wise, that area has probably been rocked by hundreds if not thousands of powerful hurricanes – many worse than Katrina.

      Al Gore said it the best on his recent visit to another bastion of liberalism – Madison, WI. He could not argue that polar bear population is, in fact, increasing. So, he quickly shift to, but they are still endangered aren't they? This is logic at its best.

      This global warming cause, for which, we are going to help bury our economy through cap' n' tade, and watch jobs go to India and China – is a sham. It is nothing but a money-maker for America's wealthy politically connected and overseas destinations.

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