Monday, December 17, 2007

Global Warming Philosophy

This one's left over from last week. I guess this debate started in response to comment's from Cato's Jerry Taylor that scientists as scientists don't have much of a role to play in the policy responses to global warming- according to Taylor, this should be the job of economists. This produced an outcry from some members of the slighted scientific community. You can read Taylor's responses, here and here.

Take a look at the post at gristmill and take the time to read through the comments. What seems abundantly clear is that much of the debate about global warming isn't really about climate science or economics, but about philosophy. Many of the commenters seem to reject economic considerations altogether as part and parcel of a rejection of the fundamental assumptions on which economic calculations are made- that economic growth is a good in and of itself and that such growth is good for humanity. These rejections seemed to be based- at least in part- on the non-scientific and apocalyptic notion that human society has a sustainability problem.

I believe such thinking is how we get comments like this, from someone named Andrew Eisenberg:

However, in practice for such a complicated and swiftly changing field as climate science, neither of these hold. We do not know the true cost of not acting because the science is not complete. Therefore, we cannot accurately determine the benefits of acting without many more years of further study. Yet, we do know that by not acting, disasterous consequences will occur (we just do not know how disasterous they will be.

Note the ultimate rejection of both economics and climate science. And note the unfounded assumption- not acting has disastrous consequences, while acting will have benefits. This to me, is the most baffling aspect of the global warming squawkers, this blind faith that any action taken to prevent global warming will have benefits. The entire point of making economic calculations is to make sure that the cure isn't actually worse than the disease- that is, to determine that a large scale plan to prevent global warming isn't actually more harmful to the economy and peoples well being then the effects of global warming itself.

I suppose I could be faulted for making idealogical conclusions when it comes to global warming. The thing is, I'm not completley opposed to any action, I just beleive, very strongly, that any large scale action to combat global warming should be made very cautiously and only when there is enough information on hand to take appropriate action. I guess I just find such a point of view preferable to the one that says we need to act right away because any action we take will have to have positive effects.


Post a Comment

<< Home