Monday, June 04, 2007

Anthropocentric Global Alarmism, Part I

My position all along in the Anthropocentric Global Warming (AGW) debate has been that it doesn't matter what the cause of Global Warming is. What matters is whether it is occurring, and if the proposed solution is better or worse than some other course of action, such as doing nothing. It's reasonable to assume that reversing the warming trend would entail understanding its cause, but that is not logically necessary: you don't need to know how something broke in order to fix it.

That said, there are several profound factors that in the mix when someone is trying to sort out whether Global Warming portends The End of the World or is no big deal. As Michael Griffin of NASA says,

To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change.

I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.
Most people think that the way things are is the way they ought to be. It's part of the innate conservatism in all of us, which increases with age. Is the climate broken? Or would the world be a nicer place to be in if on average it were another half degree warmer in ten, twenty, or fifty years?

It might seem odd therefore that liberals are more concerned with Global Warming than are conservatives. Liberals are supposed to embrace change, while conservatives embrace the status quo. Conservatives understand that once something changes, it's often impossible to return to its prior state should that turn out to be preferable. Liberals are more afraid of missing an opportunity than of taking a misstep.

But is the way things are really the way they ought to be? As Michael Griffin says, who is to say that this climate is the best one?

We all have myopia, when it comes down to it. Our opinions are highly constricted by our personal experience. Urbanites, who feel the warmth, smell the exhaust, and are told of the CO2 coming from an SUV cannot help but believe SUVs will destroy the planet. That can't possibly be good, can it?

In temperate climates, many more people die from being cold every year than from being too warm. Humans are built for the tropics. And since the change in temperature is on the pace of a degree per century, it seems we have a couple of centuries to decide whether we like having fewer people die or not. The conservative in me says we should just wait and see.

I've always been fascinated by weird weather. Snow storms, ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, heat waves, droughts -- I am drawn to the awesome power displayed in the natural parade. So despite the aforementioned conservatism I find the idea climate change exciting. It has the flavor of supplying a new world to explore, without waiting for space flight to fit into my budget. For not only will climate change bring new scenery in new places, but will probably bring about political realignment and social changes, as well. Perhaps I am not as conservative as I thought, nor yet so old as to have had my fill of change.

But as I like to say, conservatives tolerate the bad to keep the good, while liberals would rather throw out the bad, even if the good has to go, too. So why, when cold kills and warm heals, is the liberal establishment entrenching as an article of faith the notion that Global Warming is bad, and so bad it must be fixed, and fixed now, rather than next week?

One pernicious aspect of the groupthink which has taken over the Global Warming debate is the level of animosity directed against dissenting scientific or political observers. In the first instance, it leads one to believe that there is more going on that scientific analysis.

Lliberals may talk about climate change, and about how worried they are and we all should be about it, but at the risk of projecting I think what they really are is excited. They are excited about the opportunity to change society, and at the prospect that in Global Warming we have man despoiling the commons. It's the perfect chance to do what the threat of nuclear war, acid rain, deforestation, overpopulation, and ozone depletion could not. They will be happy to throw out the pollution of the internal combustion engine, even if it means accepting 19th century levels of mobility and human suffering. We may starve, but we'll have proper levels of CO2.

Whatever "proper" is.

To Be Continued....

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