Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Speaking Hot and Cold on Climate Change

The weekend WSJ included a pair of articles discussing what president-elect Barack Obama should do about global warming. I sensed, and enjoyed, a little bit of editorial commentary in the authors selected:

British novelist Ian McEwan spins an airy confection of emotion and earnestness in his plea that Obama immediately work to shut down the carbon economy -- while making the seemingly contradictory claim that this would actually make people lots of money pioneering new technology if they would only forget their attachment to past energy sources. (As with so many climate change activists, he turns a blind eye to the nuclear power which is the real source of Europe's lesser reliance on coal and oil and instead touts the advantages of solar power.)

Bjorn Lomborg of the Copenhagen Business School pens a much more prosaic piece, looking at the costs behind proposed solutions, the humanitarian dangers of ignoring pressing problems like global hunger to pursue potential future ones such as global warming, and the ineffectiveness of Kyoto-style approaches to "solving" global warming.

One hopes that Lomborg's pragmatic approach will win out over the sentimental prose of McEwan, but in a world where presidents heal planets, one never knows.


Anonymous said...

A very important development is taking place as Henry Waxman is looking to overtake John Dingell as chair of the Energy Committee. This would move the committee very much to the left, and that would signal that the House at least would take a more aggressive approach to climate change. That's something to keep an eye on.

j. christian said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like there is a growing number of respected voices in the scientific and, more importantly, in the environmentalist communities that are speaking up against global warming dogma. Some environmentalists sound concerned that the global warming research and advocacy juggernaut is crowding out all other environmental issues when it might not even be the most important one.

I get the sense from my cursory reading that there's a trend afoot, that some environmentalists are defecting from the movement, but is there a good source for evidence of this?

LogEyed Roman said...

For the record, I am something of a "centrist" on global warming. The alarmists have overstated their case, but there is enough evidence to be concerned, and I believe the stakes are too high not to be careful.

That being said, "single-issuing" global warming is ludicrous.

If you want to be concerned about the environment, and I am, check out "Managing Planet Earth", from Scientific American. It's a collection of 11 articles, covering threats to drinking water, air, food supply, biodiversity, and, yes, climate, among others.

The point is that there is a whole spectrum of "threats to the environment" and climate is just one of them, and the seriousness and imminence of the threats are uncertain. Considering the consequences of being overly optomistic are rather extreme, I am cautious.

But regarding the current "Global Warming" fad, clearly that's just what it is. To act as if the climate is the only thing that needs attention is ludicrous.

Even sillier is the idea that these things can be corrected cheaply and easily. Not so. As the "Managing Planet Earth" book points out, all this in fact involves replacing our current economy with a more sustainable one, and their estimate for that is an period of about sixty years of heavy investment, where a huge amount of the gross world product has to be expended on replacing the current world economy--and they mean every farm, every street, every home, every office, has to be totally rebuilt if not replaced. Currently this is unthinkable of course. It is possible, but it would require a total committment on the part of most of the human race to tolerate sixty years of austerity while the bulk of the world's economic output, aside from enough for sustenance, is expended on building a replacement for the current less sustainable economy.

Aside from whether you believe such a total replacement is necessary, and I'm unsure about that, one thing for sure is that it would be a long, hard road.

Now, OF COURSE there would be plenty of rich economic rewards from the process of "replacing the carbon economy." Trouble is they would require years of investment and spending before any widespread economic benefit at all, and probaly decades before we could sustain anything like our current standard of living.

Again, I'm not taking the unequivocal stand that this is needed. It might be. But Al Gore et al. are fatuous fools, villainous liars or both when they deny that this would require belt tightening. It surely would, and for at least a full generation.

LogEyed Roman