Government restrictions on behavior that causes indirect harm to others is the way to prevent what Garrett Hardin, called the “tragedy of the commons.” Hardin describes a pasture open to all herdsmen in a community. The land can support a limited number of grazing cattle. If each herdsman tries to maximize his gain by keeping as many cattle as possible on the pasture the commons the pasture will be overgrazed.
The only way for the community to save the pasture is to agree to restrict the freedom of the herdsmen, placing fair and equitable limits on the number of cattle each can keep there. Global warming was an issue on which the Bush administration especially sought to suppress information and to discredit scientific evidence.
According to the UCS, the political environment over this issue was so hostile that the Environmental Protection Agency decided to omit an entire climate change section from a major report on the environment rather than compromise its credibility by misrepresenting the scientific consensus. A scientist from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that, when he organized a conference on carbon dioxide, he was told that the words “climate change” could not be used in the title of any presentation.