Global Warming

Bailey, the Beeb, and Global Warming

|

The BBC broadcast my change of heart on man-made global warming to millions of listeners around the world today. Listen to it here. (Click on the link below "Listen Again." The interview should be available there until Monday.)

NEXT: Good News from Atlanta

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Change of heart? The clone transplants have begun already?

  2. Did I miss your embrace of soylent diesel?

  3. The sound that confirmation bias makes when it shatters is deafening.

  4. Ron, I like that you separated science from policy, and that you got to mention the per capita GDP predicted in 2100.

    It would have been nice if you could have followed that up with two more points:

    1. $80,000 per person per year is a mind-bogglingly large number that our present $7,000 per person per year world can hardly imagine.

    2. The IPCC’s predicted per capita GDP for a future world following a more environmentally conscious course of development is $50,000. That $30,000 surplus in the less environmentally conscious but warmer future buys an awful lot of warming effects mitigation.

    Governments plain and simply should not do anything to address global warming that is either inordinately expensive or harmful to future economic growth.

  5. Ron, I’m interested in how your change of heart will actually manifest. It seems like most of the blogging you’ve been doing since the COH article has still been favorable-to-neutral links to broadly skeptical people – “minimizers” more than “denialists,” let’s say, but still at the deprecatory end of the consensus spectrum. e.g. “Here’s another guy who thinks the pace of AGW is much slower than others do,” as opposed to “Here’s a guy who thinks there’s no such thing as AGW.”

    What I’d love to see you tackle is, “Now that I, Ron Bailey, recognize that I doubted the scientific consensus too long, here’s what I think are the best libertarian (and least unlibertarian) approaches to ameliorating the problem.” Here’s what will distort the economy the least while still working; here’s what will maximize individual choice while still working. Etc.

  6. MikeP…

    One of the things I find interesting is the lack of skepticism for the economic projections in the face of skepticism for the climate predictions.

    Both use the same types of models to make their predictions. Both have as large a margin of error.

    If your economic model assumes that addressing warming will create a negative effect, you plug it into your model that way and come out with numbers about how detrimental it will be.

    There is no reason to assume that addressing global warming will be a drain on the economy.
    Many of the best solutions are good for the economy.

    You (and Jim H) can look at some of these economy and freedom friendly solutions to the problem at

    http://www.rmi.org/

    Remember, this is an economic opportunity…

  7. Here’s what will distort the economy the least while still working; here’s what will maximize individual choice while still working. Etc.

    At this point, the answers to these questions are, roughly, end all subsidies, tariffs, or punitive treatment for all forms of energy and let the market work.

    If you look at the economic modelling of the future — accepting the outputs of the climatalogical models as a given — it simply costs more than it benefits to do anything dramatic to address global warming.

    Take a look at William Nordhaus’s 2000 book, especially Table 7-3. The economically efficient carbon tax followed through the next century will lower the warming from 2.5 to 2.4 degrees C. Yes, there is a modest economic benefit. No, it is not worth the authority that is being handed to government to set, collect, and use that tax.

  8. One of the things I find interesting is the lack of skepticism for the economic projections in the face of skepticism for the climate predictions.

    Economic growth in the modern world is exponential. Temperature rise due to CO2 emission is not. It is not wise to bet against an exponential.

    Remember, this is an economic opportunity…

    This is broken window thinking.

    I can just as well say: Remember, acclimating to a warming world is an economic opportunity…

  9. To All,
    James Hansen is an alarmist. He has always been an alarmist, making statements far beyond the science. And he has always been right!
    We don’t have a century. This is not an economic issue. It’s one of civilization’s survival. By nature I am not an alarmist – the cold war hysteria never touched me with a feather. I was always the optimist, but not on this one.
    The positive feedbacks are already beginning to show up. Hansen is right. If we do not make major changes within 5 decades, the situation will outstrip our capacity to protect ourselves. Given the follow-up experiments to “The Tragedy of the Commons”, and the findings in psychology and sociology concerning human nature’s predilection for optimism concerning themselves; pessimism concerning an adversary’s intentions and powers; and preference for longshot gains over certain, but tiny losses – given all of the data on humans we have collected over the last century, it seems unlikely the human race will respond as it must for civilization to survive.

  10. Mike P,

    Don’t you think that the effects of global warming over the next century are, in and of themselves, likely to reduce economic growth?

    Ron Bailey,

    What have you learned from this experience, that you can incorporate into your thinking the next time environmentalists raise the alarm?

  11. I’ll say it – libertarian philosphy cannot address global warming because libertarian philosophy is exactly what is causing the problem.

    That’s the whole lesson here – sometimes just letting people do whatever they want because it’s their “right” doesn’t always work out so well.

  12. Don’t you think that the effects of global warming over the next century are, in and of themselves, likely to reduce economic growth?

    That is entirely possible. I don’t actually know if the IPCC SRES predictions incorporate that notion or not. Certainly Nordhaus’s models do. That is how he comes up with an efficient carbon tax that is greater than zero.

    However, I think the probability and the severity of the threat to economic growth due to government trying to deal with global warming is far greater than the probability and severity of the threat due to the warming itself. And no model I am aware of considers that aspect.

    Given that I think the US government mishandles most of the money it collects in taxes, imagine my concern about the abuse of carbon tax revenues that would be collected by the despotic or kleptocratic governments of the world…

  13. When faced with a commons problem that isn’t amenable to privatization, libertarianism finds itself stymied.

  14. Of course, the “consensus” is not unanimous:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/02/070228-mars-warming.html

    An excerpt:
    ===============

    Earth is currently experiencing rapid warming, which the vast majority of climate scientists says is due to humans pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

    Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures.

    In 2005 data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide “ice caps” near Mars’s south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

    Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

    “The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars,” he said.

  15. Of course, the “consensus” is not unanimous

    No scientific consensus is unanimous. When Mars data exists for an apples-to-apples comparison – hundreds of Mars years compared to hundreds of Earth years – it will make a very interesting check on the climate-change models. Someone ought, in fact, to undertake that study. It would provide data toward a meaningful quantitative parsing of Terran warming into solar and human factors.

    But comparing a three-year-trend on Mars to a hundred-year-trend on Earth establishes nothing. And acting as if the immediate-term-martian trends refute AGW is the farthest thing from a lively interest in teasing out the actual scientific impact of solar radiation on human warming.

  16. The end of civilization? Why don’t you do your part and go drown yourself in Al Gores heated swimming pool.

  17. Who said that privatization couldn’t help with our AGW problem?
    I mean, look at Nigeria, where they are planting more trees than ever and everyone should remember photosynthese from high school (or do American schools teach alternative methods these days?! Like Gaia brought the flowers to grow?).
    There are really usable private examples for coping with too much warming, since stopping the process is impossible (at least if you believe in the scar articles from semi-literate policy advisors).

    If you think about climate change, like every common sense man, you will take every future prediction with a grain of salt and only consult temperature records of the past.
    Then you will see that there is still a lot ot be done on calculating the actual impact of the forcings to get a scientific formular to at least try to project climate change.

    The fact that something is changing, is undeniable, but the question remains, what is the finish line of the change and will we be worse or better off with it. Last but not least, it will be a battle between classic physics and modern computer-assisted statistic programs, because many geophysics scientists are still sceptical about the amount of anthropogennic climate change (The word global warming is very misleading, because we actual see regional patterns emerge).

  18. It’s okay James A: “Big” Al Gore uses a thermal cover. Just the thought of him sunbathing in a speedo is enough to …

    *head explodes

  19. Obviously Halliburton got to Mars before anybody else noticed.

  20. Almost forgot: I still have plenty of carbon credits for sale. Relieve your concience without the hassles of living “green”!

  21. Alcuin sayz, “…given all of the data on humans we have collected over the last century, it seems unlikely the human race will respond as it must for civilization to survive..”

    Is it civilization you are concerned about, the human race, or the non-human species? I ask, because given that an aggressive approach to global warming will curtail economic activity in a big way, what of “civilization” would we be saving? Given that many people will live harder, perhaps shorter lives, what part of humanity would we be saving? Given that even the outright disappearance of humans would not prevent old species from perishing and new ones from arising — the earth and its processes would go on without us — what part of the ecology would we be saving (and who would care, if we were not present to make value judgments)?

    Either you command people like zombies, or they are independent, thinking entities who will find a way to do their own thing, no matter how much force you apply to the contrary. Heck, even cattle will stampede out of line if they get the wrong idea in their heads. So the global warming movement had better be more about providing those independent, thinking entities with attractive options, and less about trying to force people to get with the “consensus” program. Less government coercion to do what the brain trust thinks is the right thing today, and more marketplace variety, so that everyone can do his part to address global warming and shrink his carbon footprint — to the limits of his judgment, conscience, and budget.

    It has been demonstrated, over and over, that people will go crazy for fads and trends, especially those that promise a particular desirable benefit and are “backed up” by “studies.” Many of the fads do little more than enrich the proponents. The coming global ice age was a fad a few years ago. Serious proposals were floated in the halls of government to deal with this imminent crisis, based on pseudo-scientific speculation that got amplified and transmitted around the world by the megaphone media. How lucky for us all that those draconian prescriptions were never followed. The current global warming scare, which seems to be more firmly grounded in science and consensus judgement, could still turn out to be a “false alarm” or “red herring,” in the sense that, whatever is going on with the climate, it may not respond to the measures that humans concoct in response to the phenomena. It is one thing to say that the earth is warming, or the climate is shifting, and quite another to understand how to arrest that trend, much less reverse it. Science has so far only been able to advise, “quit doing that!” So, while we may grow in our trust of science’s observations of what is happening, the jury is still out — way out — on science’s ability to predict future outcomes, or to provide us with effective responses to the problem. Setting public policy when two legs of the tripod are still very shaky, is not very wise.

    I agree with an earlier comment made here: adaptation to global warming is as much of an economic opportunity as living under draconian envrionmental measures. The glass is broken either way — what are we going to do about it?

    I favor adaptation via the free market and the very potent fad-creation and trend-setting powers of opinion leaders and the media. Let each individual determine his own response, and let the species’ “response” be the aggregate effect of all the individual responses. As the science becomes more certain, individuals will have more conviction about the right way to proceed, and will CLAMOR for the market to supply their needs. If science untimately decides that global warming is no more a crisis than the “coming ice age” was, the early adopters of self-imposed extreme measures to address global warming will have lost the time, effort, and resources they put into those measures, but they can adjust course and get on with their lives; the rest of us will not have suffered needlessly. On the other hand, if they were on the right track, more and more people will join them — VOLUNTARILY — in an accelerating trend. A (you’ll pardon the expression) snowballing amount of human ingenuity and effort will be turned to addressing the problem in the EFFECTIVE ways that science eventually uncovers.

    All that said, I agree with another comment made earlier: The government should definitely keep hands off. Especially as we are still in an exploratory mode, and especially as government policy presumes we already understand a phenomenon to some extent and know how to deal with it, what we DON’T need is a one-size-fits-all approach that may turn out to be ineffective or even counterproductive. To invoke government at this point would seem to be an extremely high-stakes gamble, which, if it failed, might do more to destroy “civilization” — by causing revolution in response to widespread impoverishment — than nature’s full-on global warming onslaught.

  22. Are we there yet? I have vacation days to burn before the apocalypse.

  23. Change of heart?
    I thought you had changed your MIND.

  24. Joe,

    “When faced with a commons problem that isn’t amenable to privatization, libertarianism finds itself stymied.”

    Really? That’s doubtful. Perhaps if there were no market incentives to address environmental issues…but alas, there are. Last I checked Toyota seems to be doing well.

    Dan T,

    There is nothing inherent in Libertarianism that is harmful to the environment.

    To assume that there’s no profit potential in supplying products that help the environment shows a tremendous lack of creativity.

  25. No scientific consensus is unanimous. When Mars data exists for an apples-to-apples comparison – hundreds of Mars years compared to hundreds of Earth years – it will make a very interesting check on the climate-change models. Someone ought, in fact, to undertake that study. It would provide data toward a meaningful quantitative parsing of Terran warming into solar and human factors.

    But comparing a three-year-trend on Mars to a hundred-year-trend on Earth establishes nothing. And acting as if the immediate-term-martian trends refute AGW is the farthest thing from a lively interest in teasing out the actual scientific impact of solar radiation on human warming.

    No, you do not need hundreds of years of “data” from Mars, all you have to observe is that Mars is behaving like Earth at the same time as the Earth.

    Do you don’t need hundreds of observations to tell that all points in a room are being illuminated by the only light in the room when it is on.

    Well, maybe if you are a student of Dr. von Danaken, but not if you are rational.

  26. Jim Henley says, “No scientific consensus is unanimous.”

    Oh, I don’t know. I think the consensus is effectively unanimous that, absent an unusual counterforce, a dropped apple will fall to the ground at a precise rate of acceleration. Or that the earth is basically spherical and orbits a basically spherical sun. Or that many diseases are caused by bacteria, which can be transmitted through contact between people (including respiration). The list goes on and on. People who dissent from such a consensus are not scientists, they are crackpots, and thus not even properly eligible to participate in the consensus.

    I’m talking about the dissent of credentialed, respected scientists, based on reasonable doubt, contradictory evidence, alternative theories that describe the known facts as well as the popular “consensus” view, etc. The fact that we have only a meager collection, made in very recent times, of precise and reliable Martian observations, may mean that we can’t refute any theories about terrestrial climate change. But then again, global climate records older than a few decades are neither as plentiful nor as accurate as some might believe (or prefer). For the rest of our “knowledge” of climate, especially concerning prehistoric times, we must infer conditions from a variety of indirect indicators, the martian analogues of which are inaccessible at the present time. That will change, as long as we continue to make progress in space exploration. Considering the huge economic impact of draconian environmental prescriptions to deal with global warming, I think using Mars as a reference point for calibating and testing our terrestrial theories makes excellent sense. So, I agree with you, Mr. Henley, that we need to be about making that happen, sooner, rather than later. As expensive as Mars missions are, they pale into insignificance against the expense we will incur by adopting a wrong public policy to address global warming.

  27. Any “economic benefit” that comes from an increasingly warmer climate is not going to last. These projected ‘benefits’ depend on the alteration of landscapes in the developing world, and remote areas such as the Arctic, which are already causing great suffering for local and indigenous peoples. http://www.desmogblog.com/arctic-inuit-blame-u-s-for-global-warming-take-case-to-human-rights-commission The economic benefits argument uses tactics that positions the global economy and its agricultural foundations as an extension of the American stock market.

  28. “If you think about climate change, like every common sense man, you will take every future prediction with a grain of salt and only consult temperature records of the past.”

    Why would I consult records from a period when human activity wasn’t emitting large amounts of greenhouse gasses to understand what a happens whe we do?

    kohlrabi,

    “Perhaps if there were no market incentives to address environmental issues…but alas, there are. Last I checked Toyota seems to be doing well.” Yes, people who are responsible have the option of buying cars that do less damage than those preferred by the irresponsible. Thanks for reducing the size of your flock of sheep. More grass for mine, until the common turns to dust.

  29. Angela, perhaps you should send that link to the farmers in Greenland who are cleaning up in the balmy weather.

  30. “Considering the huge economic impact of draconian environmental prescriptions to deal with global warming”

    If the federal government mandates seatbelts in every vehicle, there will be no automobile manufacturing industry in the United States by 1975.

    The costs of any given program should be studied, not recklessly assumed.

  31. “Angela, perhaps you should send that link to the farmers in Greenland who are cleaning up in the balmy weather.”

    Look, somebody made a profit! So it’s good!

  32. “The costs of any given program should be studied, not recklessly assumed.”

    The Clinton Administration’s DOE did do a study of the economic costs of Kyoto and decided against signing up on it, the cost was way too great for so little benefit.

  33. “Why would I consult records from a period when human activity wasn’t emitting large amounts of greenhouse gasses to understand what a happens whe we do?”

    Because the temperatures were warmer then than now and there were no bad effects.

  34. Any “economic benefit” that comes from an increasingly warmer climate is not going to last.

    I’m not talking about economic benefit due to an increasingly warmer climate. I’m talking about the economic benefit of not saddling humanity with massive costs in an attempt to drive down CO2 emission.

    In short, what we do today about global warming tomorrow can be viewed as insurance: paying a smaller cost today to avoid a possible larger cost tomorrow.

    But it can also be viewed as an investment. Do we invest our money in global warming insurance to lower expected future temperatures? Or do we invest our money in the economic engine of humanity so we are rich enough in the future to deal with higher future temperatures?

    Taking the IPCC’s SRES numbers, the high growth A1 future is 60% richer than the environmentally conscious B1 future. So we have to ask our great-grandchildren: Would you rather have a world average temperature 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit cooler? Or would you rather have $30,000 per person per year more to do with as you please?

  35. “The end of civilization? Why don’t you do your part and go drown yourself in Al Gores heated swimming pool.”

    Al Gore is such a hypocrite. It has recently come out that his mansion in Nashville uses 20 times the amount of energy that the average American uses. He should take his own advice and move to a smaller house that is more energy efficient.

  36. Herb,

    That’s a common misconception about Kyoto, that the benefits of reducing emissions to treaty limits are the extent of all the benefits. In fact, the purpose of Kyoto is to spur the development of technologies that will allow for much greater, cheaper reductions later on. Complaining that the benefits of Kyoto-level reductions is like complaining that the benefit of the first Prilosec pill wasn’t worth the cost of developing it.

    “Because the temperatures were warmer then than now and there were no bad effects.” It isn’t the absolute termperature, but the change in temperature that’s the problem. The creatures that survived the great die-offs that occured when their climate’s changed did well in the warmer or colder climate, but that’s not really the point.

    And though it really shouldn’t be necessary to point this out, the massive investments we’ve made in constructing our cities based on certain geographic and climatological conditions make change even more dangerous than previous changes.

  37. Mike P,

    “Do we invest our money in global warming insurance to lower expected future temperatures? Or do we invest our money in the economic engine of humanity so we are rich enough in the future to deal with higher future temperatures?”

    If we don’t lower future temperatures, investing in our future prosperity becomes a bad investment.

    And Al Gore is taking his own advice, by retrofitting his house to make it more energy efficient and buying carbon credits. The idea that everyone needs to live in a hut isn’t Al Gore’s advice; he isn’t a hypocrite for not adhering to the positions his opponents dishonestly accuse him of adopting.

  38. Joe,

    For me at least, it’s not that Al Gore is violating the LETTER of his recommendations. It’s that he’s clearly violating the spirit. When you agitate (and sell books, movies, etc. on the premise) that if we don’t solve this problem the world is going to end, it seems that you would take ALL available measures prevent that. Just taking the most convenient ones might be fine, but it sure seems to take some of the wind out of the urgency sails.

    It’s a bit like saying “the country is at war, every man must give all he can for the survival of his homeland!” And then donating some old guns you had lying around and calling it a day.

  39. If we don’t lower future temperatures, investing in our future prosperity becomes a bad investment.

    That’s a statement of faith.

    With February’s IPCC 4AR summary, the prediction for B1 is a rise in temperature over the next century of 1.8?C. The prediction for A1 is a rise of 2.8 to 4.0?C, depending on whether we can get significant energy production without carbon. Are you saying that a warming of 3?F is okay, but 5?F suddenly becomes a bad investment?

  40. “But comparing a three-year-trend on Mars to a hundred-year-trend on Earth establishes nothing. And acting as if the immediate-term-martian trends refute AGW is the farthest thing from a lively interest in teasing out the actual scientific impact of solar radiation on human warming.”

    It certainly gives us skeptics some amunition. Or are there really men from Mars that are also emitting CO2 into their atmosphere?

    If temperatures were going down on Mars, the AGW people would be saying “See, I told you global warming was caused by man.”

  41. Or are there really men from Mars that are also emitting CO2 into their atmosphere?

    I am certainly not an exo-climatologist, but, since Mars’s thin atmosphere is mostly CO2, and its ice caps are mostly H2O and CO2 — two potent global warming gasses — doesn’t it make sense that they would be experiencing the same global warming processes that earth is thought to be experiencing?

    That is, a brighter sun might make it a bit warmer, but the bulk of Mars’s warming might come from runaway sublimation of the polar ice.

  42. “It isn’t the absolute termperature, but the change in temperature that’s the problem. The creatures that survived the great die-offs that occured when their climate’s changed did well in the warmer or colder climate, but that’s not really the point.”

    There is no concensus that temperatures are going to change so dramatically in such a short period of time that we couldn’t adjust.

  43. “That is, a brighter sun might make it a bit warmer, but the bulk of Mars’s warming might come from runaway sublimation of the polar ice.”

    But the amount of CO2 that man is contributing to the atmosphere amounts to only 2% of the atmosphere.

  44. But the amount of CO2 that man is contributing to the atmosphere amounts to only 2% of the atmosphere.

    ?

    All the CO2 — anthropogenic and ambient — is

  45. It certainly gives us skeptics some amunition.

    Sure. And the last Japanese guy in the pillbox on Komon Atoll has some ammunition too. Your metaphor is quite suggestive, actually. If the point is to hold a redoubt as long as possible, even in a lost cause, then the fact that it’s “some ammunition” may indeed be all you care about.

    If temperatures were going down on Mars, the AGW people would be saying “See, I told you global warming was caused by man.”

    Are you saying they’d be right to do so? Because if you are, that’s cool. But if you’re criticizing them for what they would do in that situation – or using their hypothetical behavior as an excuse – then you’re criticizing yourself for what you are doing now.

  46. Joe,

    Your analogy is incorrect. You claim that by reducing the flock of sheep, the slack is taken up by the other flocks eating more until the commons is dust.. If that were the case with cars, as your anology implies, the presence of some environmentally responsible vehicles would be accompanied by the remaining customers buying cars that consume and pollute more. (thanks for eating less gas, more for me) This is not the case at all. Not even close. In fact, because of the recognition of the env. responsible market, most all manufacturers are clamoring to reduce emissions and increase gas mileage on all vehicles. Companies want to be viewed as socially responsible. There’s a cultural pressure at work. That is the exact opposite of your grassy commons myth.

  47. pardon my spelling, please.

  48. “James Hansen is an alarmist. He has always been an alarmist, making statements far beyond the science. And he has always been right!”

    When James Hansen testified to Congress in 1988, he presented three scenarios of future global warming. Temperatures have proven remarkably similar the the least dramatic of his three scenarios. The thing is, that is the scenario he predicted would occur only with drastic emission reductions , despite the fact that emissions have proceeded consistenly with what he predicted would cause the worst case scenario. Some prophet! His scenarios have been proven wrong.

  49. Speaking of profit . . .

    I drove my hybrid around during lunch and made some more carbon credits. Come on, who’s buying!?

  50. “Are you saying they’d be right to do so? Because if you are, that’s cool. But if you’re criticizing them for what they would do in that situation – or using their hypothetical behavior as an excuse – then you’re criticizing yourself for what you are doing now.”

    Yes, I believe they would have a good argument for concluding that the sun is not responsible for warming trends. By the same token, when somebody makes a predition that based on past temperatures and solar activity that coincide, that the sun must be what is driving those temperature trends on Earth, the same thing is probably true on other planets. And that is exactly what we find, even though it is just for three years, it still fits with our prediction.

  51. “All the CO2 — anthropogenic and ambient — is 0.04% of the atmosphere”

    So how can such a miniscule amount be such a big driver of climate and temperature?

  52. MikeP

    “I can just as well say: Remember, acclimating to a warming world is an economic opportunity…”

    Indeed, it would be. This, of course, ignores the reason you would need to adapt. If global warming is a problem, it is a problem because of the consequences at the extreme margins if nothing is done to mitigate it.

    At a certain point, warming creates catastrophic change in the system (as documented throughout geologic history). In the worst case, this includes a rise in ocean temperatures that produces a proliforation of bacteria that produce toxins which tend to wipe out all but a small percentage of the life on the planet (the cause of most large scale extinction events). This worst case scenario is not about civilization maintaining a certain quality of life…As large mammels, humans would be among the species unlikely to survive.

    The long term economic opportunity is far greater in avoiding the worst case scenario than adapting to it, since it will eventually win out.

    Another catastropy scenario that is an economic opportunity (of a much smaller scale). Find a technology to avert an asteroid collision. You can put your money into developing techonology that well deal with the aftermath too, but that doesn’t seem like the best way to go.

  53. Joe,

    Does Gore really have to use more energy per month than the average American uses in a year? I would say that is hypocracy no matter how many solar panels he has. That comes across as tokenism to show us that he is somehow doing his part.

  54. So how can such a miniscule amount be such a big driver of climate and temperature?

    That’s a question climatologists can answer better than I. Even more surprising is CH4, which is only 0.0002% of the atmosphere, but produces something like 6% of global warming.

  55. MikeP

    And to put this in terms of YOUR worst case scenario… that would be more government power…

    The best way to avoid the regulation is to come up with a solution that pre-empts the need for the regulatory solutions.

    Just saying.

  56. As large mammels, humans would be among the species unlikely to survive.

    By what mechanism, exactly, would this happen.

    Comments like this are truly damaging to your argument. Not only is such a statement ridiculous on its face, but it also belies an attempt to smuggle in some extremely high priced measure to avoid such a high cost end.

    The long term economic opportunity is far greater in avoiding the worst case scenario than adapting to it, since it will eventually win out.

    Methinks you need to learn the meaning of “worst case scenario”. In particular, if it will eventually win out, it would not be called “the worst case scenario”, but rather “the scenario”.

  57. “At a certain point, warming creates catastrophic change in the system (as documented throughout geologic history). In the worst case, this includes a rise in ocean temperatures that produces a proliforation of bacteria that produce toxins which tend to wipe out all but a small percentage of the life on the planet (the cause of most large scale extinction events). This worst case scenario is not about civilization maintaining a certain quality of life…As large mammels, humans would be among the species unlikely to survive.”

    There is no proof that that is going to happen. Is this the left’s type of preemption? The left likes to criticize the right’s use of preempive wars to stop future WPM’s but they do the same when advocating schemes that will destroy the economy when it hasn’t even been proven that all these dire consequences will come about.

  58. “All the CO2 — anthropogenic and ambient — is 0.04% of the atmosphere”

    So how can such a miniscule amount be such a big driver of climate and temperature?

    Herb,just dissolve a pound of indelible purple dye in a one ton hot tub – that’s about .04%, and dive in for an hour, and I expect you will come up with the correct answer

  59. Neanderathol Man #1: Is it getting hot in here, or is it me?

    Neanderathol Man #2: It’s you.

  60. …because libertarian philosophy is exactly what is causing the problem.

    Because, like, only libertarian automobiles, factories, and cattle farts produce greenhouse gases?

  61. I am sticking with the Al Gore voluntary reduction and exchange method. That is the best course for our future.

    Now, as I have mentioned before, I would like to see some sort of legal guarantees that this stays strictly voluntary.

    If we could just open up ANWR and more of the USA shoreline to oil production then the poor could participate too. Joe Kennedy could retire because heating will be cheap enough for even the most modest incomes to have.

    When every poor person in the USA can buy carbon credits then we will have won!

  62. kohlrabi,

    I didn’t say “more sheep,” but “more grass for mine.” I trust you can take it from there.

    Andy,

    Maybe you don’t actually grasp the “spirit” of Al Gore’s position? Where did you get this idea that Al Gore believes we can’t live comfortable lives? Certainly not from Gore. Once again, you only get to accuse someone of hypocrisy if they violate THEIR OWN beliefs, not those their opponents have told you they really, in their hearts, believe.

    Gore has consistently said we need evolutionary change, not Year Zero.

  63. joe,

    You are exactly right. Now when are you going to buy some credits? Al is buying, I am selling. Hurry up before it is too late!

  64. Joe,

    I’m aware that Gore isn’t telling people they can’t live comfortable lives. (which I think if you’d really read what I said, you’d understand) I’m just saying that it’s understandable that people would put the onus on someone asking them to make small sacrifices to make the large ones. I’ll say it again: the issue here is that Gore has said that this is the most critical issue facing the world today. It’s not unfair to think that that if he sincerely believed that much was at stake, he’d go a lot further in his actions.

    This isn’t a knock on Gore, I think he’s a good guy and I think he’s done a lot for an important cause. I just think it’s silly that you’re misrepresenting the majority of objections I’ve seen to this whole Gore nonsense in a sentence about people misrepresenting his position.

  65. Joe,

    For a case of Gore talking the talk and Bush walking the walk, check out Newsmax.com under Reagan’s article “An Inconvenient Fraud”.

  66. MikeP…

    “By what mechanism, exactly, would this happen.”

    You can read about it here.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223130549.htm

    “Methinks you need to learn the meaning of “worst case scenario”. In particular, if it will eventually win out, it would not be called “the worst case scenario”, but rather “the scenario”.”

    Methinks you need to brush up on your reading skills. If your approach is to try and adapt to the changing scenario as it moves towards the worst case, and the worst case includes consequences beyond what you are likely to be able to adapt to, then as the scenario reaches worst case, you lose.

    If your strategy is instead to avoid the worst case, reducing or eliminating the chances that you will face the worst case… then you may not be faced with the worst case scenario that wipes you out.

    This is particularly apt when the worst case scenario results from elements that are under your control.

    Like I said before. If you want to avoid the government regulation approach to the problem, don’t spend your energy denying the problem, spend your energy coming up with a solution that pre-empts the government regulation.

  67. That new scientist article is a little old, but there has been recent work showing that the mechanism for extinction it describes has a good fit the the majority of mass extinction events in Earth’s history.

  68. If you want to avoid the government regulation approach to the problem, don’t spend your energy denying the problem, spend your energy coming up with a solution that pre-empts the government regulation.

    That solution begins with: Free the market to make the world as wealthy and technologically advanced as possible.

    I am not vehemently against government solutions to public goods problems. I am vehemently against government solutions to public goods problems where the cost of the solution is greater than the cost of the problem. If you are paying attention, that is the course we are on right now.

    In fact, if a solution were discovered next year — say industrial scale sequestration — that would allow distributed and relatively inexpensive elimination of atmospheric CO2, then I would be amenable to phasing in a government mandate that all fuels and processes must be rendered carbon-neutral by sequestration of the equivalent carbon.

    Instantly you would have a market where carbon producers pay carbon reducers to eliminate their externalities. Voila. Problem solved. Very little government involvement.

  69. That new scientist article is a little old, but there has been recent work showing that the mechanism for extinction it describes has a good fit the the majority of mass extinction events in Earth’s history.

    That is indeed a scary scenario. Humans certainly would not become extinct. But if some irreversible process rendered the atmosphere too ridden with H2S to support plants or animals, human activity would be greatly restricted.

    But what you present is not an argument to handle global warming by reducing the use of carbon fuels. Rather it is an argument to handle global warming through geoengineering. After all, as you demonstrate, extreme warming could happen through no fault of humanity’s at all.

    If a Siberian volcano were to erupt in 2051 in prelude to a mass extinction event, I would hope that humanity would have the technology and experience to cool the planet themselves rather than watch all life die before their eyes.

  70. joe blurts his scientific ignorance thus Why would I consult records from a period when human activity wasn’t emitting large amounts of greenhouse gasses to understand what a happens whe we do?

    You do that joe so that you can understand what process(es) operate in what ranges so that you can understand what happens when you perturbate that system. If you don’t know that, you don’t know shit.

  71. “That is indeed a scary scenario. Humans certainly would not become extinct. But if some irreversible process rendered the atmosphere too ridden with H2S to support plants or animals, human activity would be greatly restricted.”

    I love your cheery attitude and all, but come on…

  72. Wait–so GW is REAL now?

  73. I love your cheery attitude and all, but come on…

    I realized after I wrote that that “human activity would be greatly restricted” is a bit of an understatement.

    But you are the one who said that humans would become extinct because they are large mammals. I assure you they won’t. I also assure you that, unless all of humanity becomes dominated by someone with the market ingenuity of Pol Pot, cows won’t become extinct either.

    But, as I noted, before it gets to the point where we all have to live in domes and re-terraform the planet, we would employ geoengineering to prevent climatological catastrophe, whether due to supervolcanos or due to anthropogenic CO2.

  74. “But, as I noted, before it gets to the point where we all have to live in domes and re-terraform the planet, we would employ geoengineering to prevent climatological catastrophe, whether due to supervolcanos or due to anthropogenic CO2.”

    Or we could do some work to reduce the use of the anthropogenic C02 source – oh, maybe a few dozen decades before you would see a problem, and avoid the problem short of geo-engineering (a technology I believe we would need more than a few dozen decades to develop).

    Supervolcanos are another issue, of course.

  75. Realclimate has a short discussion of the complications of geoengineering…

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/06/geo-engineering-in-vogue/

  76. Just to clarify, here is my preference ordering, from least desirable to most, of the various alternatives discussed:

    – Human extinction
    – Humanaity required to live in domes
    – Geoengineering
    – IPCC SRES B1
    – IPCC SRES A1 — 60% more warming, but 60% more wealth, than B1
    – Technological advance bringing a cheap solution
    – Eden

    I don’t bring up geoengineering because I want geoengineering. In particular, the centralized control required for it upsets my libertarian sensibilities. I bring up geoengineering because it is a better solution than allowing the atmosphere to be destroyed. I think the preference ordering of those two alternatives would be pretty much unanimous among humanity. Thus the destruction of the atmosphere or the extinction of the species as an unlikely worst case scenario is not really a legitimate issue in the debate.

    And, by the way, I consider the technological solution the most likely alternative.

  77. James Anderson Merritt:

    “Let each individual determine his own response, and let the species’ “response” be the aggregate effect of all the individual responses. As the science becomes more certain, individuals will have more conviction about the right way to proceed, and will CLAMOR for the market to supply their needs. … [I]f they were on the right track, more and more people will join them — VOLUNTARILY — in an accelerating trend.”

    Yeah, tell it to the tuna, or to the non-existent cod on Georges Banks.

    Open-access commons do not magically self-regulate.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.