Thursday, February 07, 2008

Faith-Based Global Warming

The New York Times's John Tierney has an excellent post on the latest report from the Cato institute on global warming. What the report says- in brief- is that even given the most dire global warming predictions, money would be better spent on the development and technological betterment of the third world than it would be on Kyoto or other programs designed to reduce emissions. The report takes the science at face value and gives a pure economic analysis.

John Tierney is no global warming denier- he's written before about the need for carbon taxes- so it's interesting to see the responses to his question about whether we can afford to both reduce emissions and continue to grow economically and technologically and if we can't afford to do both what should be our priority and why. Some of these responses are not about reason or dispassionate analysis, but about emotion, fear, and a pessimistic world view based solely on faith.

Oh boy John, you like rowdy comments, huh!? You’ll certainly get them here. My contribution:

The claim that endless growth is our best path is a) demonstrable fantasy, and b) incredibly self-serving for those currently getting rich on growth. article=1

Will executives currently raking in $29 BILLION in “bonuses” alone last year, speak up for restraint? Right.

Just a few short decades ago, everyone thought the oceans were so large, we’d never see measurable pollution in them- and the fish would last forever.

WE KNOW BETTER. The world has limits- everywhere, and we are bumping up against them as our population continues to grow.

Also- please note that so far, all wonderful intentions to help the 50% of the world’s people who live on $2/day, and less- to “develop” and become good consumers - have come to absolutely nothing. They’re still in poverty- and the bonuses keep coming.

“We need to build a ply-wood plant in Rwanda- to create jobs!” = profit for the construction firm (from Texas) - bonuses for the executives, and the PR firm - and - no net gains for anyone in Rwanda, ever- the plant will close next year anyway, because of a lack of roads and diesel fuel.

Sophistry - is ancient, and has always been highly profitable for those in power.

— Posted by Greenpa

Did you read the report carefully ?

I was not impressed to say the least.

Mr. Goklany does nothing but repeat sound-bites that appeal to Cato readers. For one he advocates continued growth. He claims growth is good because it will lead to more wealth and that leads to more technology. Technology will then solve all our problems.

But as Jared Diamond pointed out in his book Collapse, there is very little evidence to support the notion that technology will solve our problems. There is however, much evidence to the contrary.

Mr Goklani’s “evidence” is in implying that the Green Revolution solved the world-wide hunger problems that were feared in the 60s and by inference did not materialize. The truth is that the Green Revolution did no such thing. It is directly responsible for most of the problems we have today, all of which stem from unchecked population growth. As for hunger, we barely made a dent. The gap between rich and poor keeps getting wider.

Mr. Goklani states that global warming is not the biggest problem now and won’t be the biggest problem in the next century. He claims the most important environmental problems are loss of habitat and reduced biodiversity. Did it occur to him that both of these are caused by increasing human populations ? Calling for more growth can only make these worse.

Global warming is just another side-effect of this unchecked growth. It is but one of a slew of problems that we will have to deal with. And continuing to do what we are doing is the problem, not the solution.

I didn’t even mention that he first lists some other “environmental problems” that aren’t environmental at all, and that are all going to get much worse if growth goes unchecked.

Unfortunately, Mr. Goklani’s assumptions (not those of the IPCC or the Stern review) are many and well hidden. They are also unproven if not outright false. Mr. Goklani does a good job promoting the “values” of free-trade, and over-consumption. His report says nothing more than keep going and everything will be fine.

In short, it is not worth the paper it is written on.

— Posted by Frank

Global warming is just one result of humanity’s exploitation of resources to maintain itself. The combination of increasing population and increasing exploitation per capita of those resources is leading to increasing modification of the planetary ecosystem.

Its scale is on the order of magnitude of naturally occuring variation over the planet’s history, but at a rate hitherto known only in catastrophic extinction events.

Global warming is not the least of our problems, but it is only one of those unfolding to an unknowable future, but which will be radically different from the present.

— Posted by OX, WA

First of all, global warming is not a problem - but a symptom of the biggest “systems” problem the world has ever faced. In order to address it properly we must view our industrialized economy as a subsystem of the biosphere in which it is imbedded. That means aligning the aim of the industrialized economy with the aim of the ecosystem.

Next, you bring up examples of how our “new” technology has saved the world from predicted famine. In truth, industrialized agriculture is destroying our most precious and non-renewable resource, topsoil, and will surely threaten the world with famine unless we start learning from nature, and aligning our industrialized economy with the lessons nature teaches. Tilling soil and spraying pesticides are destroying the very basis from which we draw our food and water, and it comes from a lack of understanding of systems.

Finally, those who advocate doing nothing about climate change have other agendas than saving lives. It’s more about saving the status quo.

— Posted by Andrew McKeon

I have to agree with the other skeptics of this report. The idea that we’ll all be wealthier in the future is an unsupported assertion offered as fact. Forget global warming…what happens when oil production begins to decline if we can not find an alternative source for our voracious energy needs? Will this growth of wealth continue unabated? I have my doubts, and could just as easily envision the scenario where we delay action on the idea that we’ll have more resources later, only to have less resources and face an even worse crisis.

— Posted by Othar Hugh Manati

Why does Global Warming and profitability have to be in the same line?Why everything have to be about economics and not just sustainability. Global warning have no longer become about saving the planet and life form but how can we as greedy mankind profit from our failures to try and save the planet. The planet is already in an exponential decay and there is very little we can do to stop this decay.The more we try the more we compound the situation. Renewable resources is the only way.”Energy is neither created nor destroyed but converted from one form to another.”We cannot produce ethanol to run vehicles .It takes energy to produce Ethanol while Polluting the soil with nitrates . Just doesn’t make sense just profit for someone.

— Posted by V Dookie

I've only had the chance to briefly glance at the report and I'm sure it'll be an interesting read, but my real point in posting these various comments is to show further evidence of the point I've been making in this blog since day one. all the global warming talk and environmentalism isn't about science and reason, it's about ideology and the belief that humankind is destroying the planet. Look at the themes that run through every comment I've posted- overpopulation, our limited resources, the peril of the planet, and the outright disbelief in the notion that economic and technological development has improved humanity's lot and will continue to do so. As I said, this isn't science and it isn't reason. Cloaking your apocalyptic fears of running out of resources or destroying the planet in the veil of science doesn't make your fears rational.

The underlying theme is that capitalism (and I would guess, the development that goes along with it) is an ideology that is destructive to the planet. It's a theme that gets repeated and repeated, no matter what the evidence to the contrary and it's why so many of these commenters don't even want to address the notion that capitalism and the free market may hold an answer to global warming.


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