Perspectives: Taxing my steak won’t save the planet

Composite image, St. George News

OPINION — I was willing to give global climate change activists the benefit of the doubt. Then they went and made it personal by threatening to tax my passion for BBQ.

For the past couple of years, I’d been hearing rumblings about how adopting a meat-free diet might cause a reduction in our carbon footprints, leading to a reduction in climate change. Apparently, economic mobility is allowing an increasing number of people in rapidly industrializing countries to afford a meat-rich Western diet.

From a strictly personal dietary health standpoint, that actually makes some sense.

But when advocates suggested putting pressure on their governments to start applying pressure to everyone by taxing red and processed meats, they are crossing the line. First and foremost, taxing an entire major food group would certainly invite unintended consequences – particularly for the poorest among us.

Second, as Ryan Bourne points out in his recent essay “Meat Eaters Beware: The (Es)Stake Tax is Coming,” such a tax would burden healthy eaters the same as unhealthy eaters. It would fail to recognize the difference in risks of types of consumers.

Bourne also notes:

[T]he history of food science itself is littered by examples of governments sharing subsequently mistaken advice. On that basis alone, it is far too soon for governments to tax a whole major food group on the basis of speculative modelling and disputed science.

Speaking of speculative modeling and disputed science, here’s where I’ll freely admit to being a skeptic of climate change theology.

Particularly, I’m skeptical of any solution that requires that we hand over more control over every aspect of human activity to politicians, bureaucrats and the climate scientists funded by them. I don’t believe that politicizing the climate is likely to give humankind control over it.

It’s just a little too convenient that nearly every aspect of our lives can be tied in some way to the environment and the global climate. We’re being told that this is a threat so large that only big government can handle it, with the careful guidance of the environmental lobby.

Furthermore, we’re supposed to believe that this issue is so incredibly complicated that we must defer to a select cadre of scientists whose consensus is so compelling that we must trust them in all they say or claim.

Any dissent, either within or without the scientific community, is treated as intolerable heresy with an intensity that would have a Grand Inquisitor shaking his head in disbelief.

Dogmatic declarations that “the science is settled” are supposed to encourage us to shut up and go along. With due respect to scientists, politicians and bureaucrats, there’s simply too much at stake to take their word on this without question.

That there may be measurable change in the global climate is reasonable. Whether or not it is purely man-made is debatable. But the proffered solution of ever-increasing government control of humanity at a global level is definitely not something we should be taking on faith.

Any time someone is using officially-sanctioned fear to try to move us in their intended direction, we should be unapologetically asking hard questions to confirm the authenticity of their claims.

To this end, Doug Casey has written a marvelous essay titled “Why We Need More Climate Change Skeptics.”

He makes a powerful case for how skepticism is essential to help us identify where biases – intentional or otherwise – may be interfering with our pursuit of the truth.

When we are told that 97 percent of climate scientists agree with their own scientific consensus, we need to fully understand what that claim entails.

Casey carefully deconstructs the claim by outlining how the 97 percent of those climate scientists who are “actively publishing in scientific journals” are not immune from bias along their career paths. The career path they must follow puts that “97 percent” figure into perspective.

I’m not a climate scientist but I’m a student of human nature. When I hear labels like “climate change denier” being wielded as a rhetorical weapon, it sounds a lot like other bogus predicates that are used to intimidate or silence people where persuasion has failed.

Bogus – also known as unspecified – predicates have no real content. The accusation is notably lacking specificity. When someone is accused of being a “climate change denier,” we don’t know if they are skeptical of methodology or prefer to get their direction from chicken bones.

All we know is that we’re supposed to regard them as dangerous or bad people who don’t believe in science and would likely burn old tires on Earth Day as a protest.

We needn’t take on faith the word of climate scientists as if they were figuratively descending from Mount Sinai with stone tablets in their hands.

I want a healthy climate as much as you do, but I won’t be giving up my steaks any time soon.

Bryan Hyde is an opinion columnist specializing in current events and liberty viewed through what he calls the lens of common sense. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • bikeandfish November 26, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    This essay perfectly exposes Hyde’s intellectual dishonesty. First, he never dives into the relevant details yet defeats straw men constantly. Look at his use of the FEE article by Casey as a prime example. Casey (a real estate investor) sets up a misrepresentation of science and then beats it to death. It’s clear Casey lacks fundamental knowledge of modern science as he states “studies are these days (improperly) designed to accomplish the affirmation of the hypothesized outcome as opposed to examining the truth of a hypothesis.”. Anybody with professional science training knows empirical, statistically tested studies start with a null hypothesis, ie that their experimental hypothesis isn’t supported by the data. The .05 “statistically significant” metric is quite the threshold to pass yet Casey thinks dismissing it as “arbitrary” is some how enough to discredit decades of empirical, mathematical and philosophical that define science as we know it. Hyde bolsters that misinformation and style with his lazy rhetoric of “speaking of speculative modeling and disputed science”.

    Even worse is Hyde conflates the politics of climate science with the empirical science itself. Anthropogenic climate change is accepted science by 97% (of published) climate related scientist but that doesn’t mean citizens have to implement government systems. And I fully understand environmental activists conflate the two as well and I believe they do great harm with such behavior. But creating red herrings and straw men isn’t the way to move the conversation forward. I posit columnists like Hyde aren’t acting in good faith (just look st how often he hypocritically engages in the behavior he condemns, like usage of “bogus predicates”). I mean how else can he try to cry foul with the usage of phrases like “climate denier” yet confidently write-off an ambiguous and undefined enemy of “climate change theology”. They aren’t interested in truly talking about how skepticism is built into the science model they just want to manufacture resistance to ideas inconsistent with their ideology. He makes that clear in his closing sentence and in the fact he only ever cites partisan rhetoric and not empirical science in these essays.

  • DB November 26, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    I’m basically in Brian’s corner. Let’s park all our cars, even my beloved Prius, shut down all the coal plants and most manufacturing in China and India. Wait 100 years. Guess what? The earth will still be warmer, the oceans higher and the icecaps smaller. On the other hand, we might be entering another cooling cycle. Warming and cooling cycles have been happening for millions of years. Calm down.

  • ladybugavenger November 26, 2018 at 7:26 pm

    I wonder if people in the the eastern part of U.S. wish their winters were warmer. ?

  • No Filter November 27, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Whether climate change is real or made up, listening to Bryan whine about how he might have to pay more for his BBQ is very childish. Eating less red meat and processed foods is better for everyone. Enjoy your bacon and your heart disease America.

  • TinFoilHat November 27, 2018 at 11:20 am

    No individual can own the air, therefore it is a commons. The free market cannot preserve a commons, it can only use it as quickly as possible. A government is an institution created by people to lay down rules for commerce and behavior so that everyone can have the opportunity to prosper. If some individual or industry dumps waste in the commons, it is the responsibility of government to step in and preserve the commons for all. How can this be done in a free market society? In regards to air pollution, one commonly accepted idea is to use carbon taxes. A carbon tax is an attempt to make individuals and industry pay the TRUE COST of using the commons in accordance with accepted free market principles. Bryan, with all of his conservative hubris, can’t see this most basic free market fact. I suppose he is in favor of dumping trash in the oceans because nobody owns those either. Or let’s do away with the Taylor Grazing Act (which was lobbied for by ranchers because the public lands were being overgrazed) and see how that turns out. People like Bryan, who dismiss the true costs of the commons, give conservatism a bad name.

    As for the science behind human-accelerated climate change, the earth is a finite space. Every gallon of gas we burn puts 20 pounds of CO2 in the finite air that surrounds our planet. Each DAY we burn about 400 million gallons of gas releasing 8 BILLION POUNDS of CO2 in the US alone (2017 figures from 8 billion pounds released straight into the commons every day. Times that by 365 days, and then times that by 50 or 100 years. Do that for long enough and you will begin to see consequences, in the form of pollution and rising levels of CO2. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

    As for whether or not high levels of CO2 will cause climate change or not, hmmm, let me think about it. Trust Bryan and his epically-flawed conservative thinking, or 97% of climate scientists? Hmmm. I dunno, this is hard. It’s not that conservative thinking is bad (I consider myself conservative), it is when conservatives refuse to account for a commons in their no-government-at-all-costs diatribe that it becomes just plain dangerous. Meanwhile, we’re on a long road trip in a car with the windows rolled up and Bryan keeps farting.

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