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The Fatal Flaw in the Fights Against Global Warming and Global Terrorism

Beware the precautionary tales of the left and the right.

Donald Trump and Al Gore would no doubt cringe at the thought that politically speaking, they are brothers from different mothers. After all, what do the Global AlarmismPiero Oliosi/Polaris/NewscomRepublican president and the Democratic presidential wannabe have in common besides the fact that they are both old, white, pompous dudes who live in mansions and hate Hillary Clinton?

Whether they realize it or not, they both believe in the precautionary principle—the notion that even a small chance of a catastrophic event requires sweeping measures to avert it. Nor do they care about the costs of these "sweeping measures"—both in terms of money and individual liberty.

Their only disagreement is about the events in question: Trump invokes this principle in his crusade against Islamist terrorism—and Gore and his fellow global warming warriors against climate change.

Dick Cheney famously declared that if there was even a "1 percent chance" of another 9/11-style attack by al Qaeda, "we have to treat it as a certainty in our response." For all of Trump's criticisms of the Iraq War, he has a natural instinct for this kind of excess. No sooner did the dastardly Manchester attack occur than Trump reiterated, as he had in his inaugural address, that this "wicked ideology must be obliterated."

To that end, Trump, who has never explicitly rejected pre-emptive strikes against states that harbor terrorists, has significantly escalated America's military offensive against ISIS. He has eagerly embraced—and grown—the massive surveillance state he inherited from his predecessors to snoop and spy on Americans. He rejects basic due process rights not just for enemy combatants captured in the theater of war, but even domestic terror suspects such as the New York dumpster bomber. And then there is his plan to subject prospective refugees to "extreme vetting" to ensure with 100 percent certainty that no terrorist enters the country. (Not to be outdone, incidentally, after the London Bridge attack, British Prime Minister Theresa May demanded the authority to censor and control speech on the internet and has also suggested that human rights laws be scrapped if they come in the way of fighting terrorism.)

Given that the odds that Americans will perish in any terrorist attack—not just those involving Islamists—on U.S. soil is 1 in 3.6 million per year—if the trends of the last four decades are any indication, such draconian steps to avert another 9/11-style event won't make Americans substantially safer. But they will make them substantially less free.

Liberals understand this when it comes to dealing with global terrorism. Al Gore himself gave a great speech in 2006 lamenting all the constitutional protections that the war on terrorism was claiming and expressed alarm that the executive branch had been conducing warrantless surveillance of telephone calls, emails and other internet communication inside America.

But when it comes to global warming, Gore's ideological blind spots are more dazzling than the sun. He condemned Trump's pullout from the Paris agreement as "indefensible" and "reckless." Likewise, the ACLU, which has been heroically fighting Trump's travel ban and other constitution-busting moves, bizarrely tweeted that the withdrawal would be a "massive step back for racial justice."

But the fact of the matter is that a pre-emptive strike against climate change will be no less damaging for justice, racial or otherwise.

The goal of the Paris agreement was to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Centigrade by 2100. But the most optimistic assessments suggest that even if all the signatories live up to their Paris pledges, it's still a Pollyannaish assumption that won't be met. To exceed the agreement and actually meet its goal would require nothing short of the climate change equivalent of Mao's Cultural Revolution to socially engineer a complete global lifestyle shift.

What will this entail? Certainly something far beyond President Obama's coal regulations, which still wiped out (along with fracking) the coal industry in West Virginia—and, along with it, entire livelihoods. Fracking, incidentally, helped to tap natural gas, which is 50 percent cleaner than coal. But climate change warriors such as the Union of Concerned Scientists don't think that cuts it. They want to settle for nothing short of a complete shift to zero-emission renewables—and rightly so if exceeding the Paris targets are a serious goal. America's love affair with SUVs will also need to be cured. So far every administration has tried to achieve that by raising fuel efficiency standards. But every time car mileage improves, people drive more and emit more. Hence regulators will have to outlaw the internal combustion engine as Gore has long recommended.

And what about those pesky skeptics who question the climate change gloom-and-doom? Do they deserve First Amendment's free speech protections? Gore may cry crocodile tears about the abrogation of civil liberties by the war on terrorism, but Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California singled out Reason Foundation (where I work) as an outfit that is part of the "web of denial" undermining "climate science." Some climate change warriors have called for jailing dissenters, on par with the indefinite detention of alleged suspects in the fight against terrorism. The Democratic Party's 2016 platform wants to criminally investigate whether companies such as ExxonMobil lied about global warming to the public and shareholders back in 1997 (even though the company long ago became an advocate of a carbon tax)!

And whatever Western governments would need to do to avert global warming, India and China have to do much more. The former, after all, "merely" have to embrace more modest lifestyles without cars and air conditioning, the latter would have to abandon hope of ever foregoing mass poverty.

So what should be done about these twin threats—global terrorism and global warming—of the 21st Century? Abandon the precautionary approach that seeks to attack the problem at its root. In the case of Islamic terrorism, the better option would be the one deployed during the Cold War against communism, namely containment and deterrence. Imagine how much more havoc America would have caused in the world if it had decided that this "extremist ideology" didn't have to be managed but obliterated from the face of the earth?

Likewise, on global warming, better than trying to put the world on a radical and painful energy diet to avert the problem in the first place, perhaps look for technical fixes such as carbon sequestration to remove the carbon from the atmosphere and build human defenses against it.

Otherwise, we may well kill humanity in trying to save it.

This column originally appeared in The Week.

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  • Ken Shultz||

    "After all, what do the president and the Democratic presidential wannabe have in common besides the fact that they are both old, white, pompous dudes who live in mansions and hate Hillary Clinton."

    There's nothing wrong with being old, living in a mansion, or hating Hillary Clinton.

    And there's certainly nothing wrong with being white.

  • ||

    That descripiton fits Bill Clinton as well.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Yes there is. They make Indians think bad thoughts.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Dipshit Dalmia hates whitey even more than she loves Muslim throat-cutting terrorists.

  • Eric Bana||

    Honestly, who doesn't love Muslim throat-cutting terrorists?

  • H. Farnham||

    I don't see where she says, or even implies, that there's anything wrong with those things. Dalmia has definitely resorted to hyperbole in criticizing Trump, but I think this is a pretty well balanced blog post.

  • Ken Shultz||

    She could be praising Trump and Gore for being, "old, white, pompous dudes"--is that what I'm supposed to think?

  • H. Farnham||

    I don't see why it has to be either praise or condemnation. Maybe it's simply a comparison. Your comment seemed overly defensive. I guess the evil white guilt doesn't lay as heavy on my shoulders as yours.

  • Ken Shultz||

    And your comment seems like an ad hominem.

    I don't have any evil white guilt on my shoulders, but even if I did--there'd still be nothing wrong with being old, white, living in a mansion, or hating Hillary Clinton.

  • H. Farnham||

    My comment was snarky, and not really necessary. I agree, there's nothing wrong with those things. My point was that nobody (including Dalmia) claimed there is anything wrong with them. Your original comment itself was ad hominem.

  • Careless||

    Fire Shikha

  • Elias Fakaname||

    The false equivalencies alone justify such an action.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The biggest danger Al Gore represents has nothing to do with the Paris Climate Accord.

    The biggest danger Al Gore represents is his Climate Reality Project, and their organization "AGs United for Clean Power" under Al Gore's leadership. The lawsuit against Exxon alleging that they knowingly cheated their shareholders and misled the general public about the dangers of global warming is the exact same tactic Al Gore used to lead the state attorneys general into having the government take over the tobacco industry.

    Straight from the horse's mouth:

    "What these attorneys general are doing is extremely important. These brave members of this coalition are doing their job like they did in the tobacco case," said Vice President Gore, comparing fossil fuel companies to the tobacco companies of the 1990s that fell under intense scrutiny over misstatements about cancer and heart disease risks associated with cigarette smoking."

    ---Al Gore

    http://tinyurl.com/jpfkg39

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Gore really is an enemy of humanity.

  • tgrondo||

    And don't forget....perverted horn dog!

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Man-Bear-Pig!

  • ||

    looks like Shikha figured out Gore is trying to pull the ladder up. it is evil of that fat mfer.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Now, let's take a walk down memory lane and compare that to what Al Gore did to the tobacco industry.

    "Beginning in late 1994, the troika's political and regulatory assault on cigarette makers, buttressed by the lawsuits of 40 state attorneys general, triggered the fall of Big Tobacco. Fearful of bankruptcy, the tobacco barons agreed last summer to settle the suits at a cost of $368.5 billion. Now they must convince/persuade skeptical lawmakers to accept the broad legal protections included in the deal.

    But the tobacco companies know that getting congressional Republicans and Democrats to agree to a complicated deal means substantial input from the White House. And that means their fate could well be back in the hands of Al Gore in the next weeks.

    Whether distracted by the Whitewater investigation or merely eager to bolster Gore's prospects in 2000, Clinton has increasingly deferred to his vice president on the subject of smoking. In many ways, Gore has become so closely associated with the push for reform that he embodies its conflicts.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....cco31c.htm

    Washington Post
    March 31, 1998

  • Ken Shultz||

    In short, Gore is trying to do the same thing with the oil companies that he did with tobacco.

    Step 1) Lead the state attorneys general in winning bankrupting awards in class action lawsuits against the oil industry for the damage caused by global warming and their contribution to that damage.

    Step 2) Force the oil companies to accept government oversight of the production, distribution, and sale of oil in exchange for federal protection from further lawsuits over climate change and protection from bankruptcy.

    Al Gore did the exact same thing to the tobacco industry--and he's telling us on his own website that this is what he's doing to the oil industry with his "AGs United for Clean Power" lawsuit against Exxon.

    "What these attorneys general are doing is extremely important. These brave members of this coalition are doing their job like they did in the tobacco case," said Vice President Gore, comparing fossil fuel companies to the tobacco companies of the 1990s that fell under intense scrutiny over misstatements about cancer and heart disease risks associated with cigarette smoking."

    ---Al Gore

    And you think the threat is from Gore's support of a climate change accord from which Trump has already announced that we're withdrawing?

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Great, so one more vile thing Gore is up to that we have to worry about.

  • Ken Shultz||

    It's the main thing.

    The Paris accord is a side show.

    They've done this before, and they're bragging about how they're going to do it again.

    They already have a bunch of attorneys general with cases in the courts.

    It should get a lot more press, but it doesn't have anything to do with Trump, like Trump pulling out of the Paris accords--and why bother reporting on anything if it doesn't involve Trump?

  • creech||

    "perhaps look for technical fixes "

    Had Trump had a thoughtful moment, he would have said, in exiting the Paris Accord, "and I urge the terrific American, and world, inventors and private entrepreneurs, to continue working for technical solutions to lower the use of carbon fuels. The profit motive will produce great, really great, solutions that none of these elitists and fake scientists behind the Paris Accord could ever achieve."

  • mtrueman||

    " to continue working for technical solutions to lower the use of carbon fuels. "

    Why should Trump or any follower of Reason want to lower the use of carbon fuels? This would damage the profitability of fossil fuel companies.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman|6.17.17 @ 11:38AM|#
    "Why should Trump or any follower of Reason want to lower the use of carbon fuels? This would damage the profitability of fossil fuel companies."

    Fucking imbecile arrives, makes imbecilic statement.
    Fuck off, imbecile.

  • mtrueman||

    Sevo once again reduced to spouting shrill insults. The question remains. Why should Trump want to reduce the use of carbon fuels?

  • hello.||

    Why should Al Gore want to reduce the use of carbon fuels? Why should anyone want to? A lot of people don't. Some people do. They've each got their reasons. And when fossil fuels become economically uncompetetive against alternatives prices will make the decision simple for everyone.

    Do you understand now, or do you need a picture book?

  • mtrueman||

    I never got the impression that Trump wanted to reduce the use of fossil fuels, as is plainly evident from the words creech puts in his mouth. But there are more important things to discuss. What about Leonardo DiCaprio? We all still hate him, don't we?

  • Domestic Dissident||

  • ||

    it's a golden opportunity to bail them out on terms their pols and pubsec unions would never voluntarily accept otherwise (thanks Rahm!). haircuts, salary caps, pension caps, lifetime bans, policy changes, sell all their shit, financial oversight control until they pay us back 100% plus interest (adjustable rate of course), etc.


    if they don't want to accept a spartan bailout they can default and sell all their shit.

  • buybuydandavis||

    No bailouts.

    Bond investors make bad bets, they lose.

    States make obligations they can't keep, the citizens of the state and their unions get to fight it out in a cage match. No sloughing off debt to the federal government, and thereby the taxpayers of all other states. Declare bankruptcy and never be able to borrow again.

    That all applies doubly to Puerto Rico.

  • Liberty =><= Equality||

    They're only going bankrupt because Rauner and the Dems in the legislature can't pass a budget. Rauner's reelection prospects next year are essentially zero.

    So the legislature has little incentive to compromise and accept Rauner's proposals to shrink spending and taxes long-term, because they know in 18 months they'll have a Dem governor and things can go back to "normal".

    Rauner also has little incentive to compromise because he knows he loses the election regardless.

  • ColdHardReason||

    Interesting comparative article.

    Being worried about Islamist inspired suicidal mass murder and the chance of *actually* getting killed as being a bit fear mongering is a fair analysis. However, it is also rather dismissive of the actual long term threat engineered into Islam.

    Which is more threatening to the foundation of Freedom of Speech, upon which this article relies?

    - Rising of the ocean a few millimeters over a few hundred years, or
    - Rising acceptance of a culture that, to its core, rejects theistic pluralism of any kind, and encourages the fringe youth to commit suicide in the process of growing the silent growth of that culture? And which threatens death upon any person for merely suggesting Reformation?

    Do they think twice now in France of printing anything that might offend someone? Yes they do. And frequently don't publish at all. Is there anything more directly threatening to individual freedom than that?

    I enjoyed this article, but it strikes me that one of the issues discussed *actually* threatens to destroy all first world values regarding the freedom of the individual over the state, and the other does not.

  • mtrueman||

    "Which is more threatening to the foundation of Freedom of Speech"

    How about the whole damn climate goes Islam on us?

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Suicide clouds?

  • Harry Jones||

    mtrueman there is no scientific proof of what you say. It's almost as if you are speaking end of days theories from the bible.

  • TO in TX||

    It's a low bar, very low, but this might be the best Shikha posting ever.

  • hello.||

    This from a woman who earnestly argued that Donald Trump was going launch a nuclear first strike and that conservative political activists on college campuses deserve to be beaten by liberal political activists for expressing their viewpoints.

    Take your own advice you brain dead twat.

  • Ken Shultz||

    She wrote that deporting illegal aliens is like enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act.

  • AlmightyJB||

    It seems to me that the purpose of the US government's declared wars against the American people ie the WOT and the WOD is the erosion of liberty and the expansion of state power via intrusive spying and data collection on the populace and the destruction of all rights of due process among others.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Why are we more concerned about the Middle East than Chicago and Baltimore?

  • AlmightyJB||

    "to ensure with 100 percent certainty that no terrorist enters the country."

    Overall a pretty good article Shikha but I don't think anyone has ever claimed 100% as a goal. You mention containment as part of the solution but doesn't that in part mean keeping terrorist out? No one is suggesting that we completely seal our borders

  • AlmightyJB||

    but that doesn't mean we can't monitor traffic to and from terrorist hotspots.

  • buybuydandavis||

    Given that the odds that Americans will perish in any terrorist attack—not just those involving Islamists—on U.S. soil is 1 in 3.6 million per year—if the trends of the last four decades are any indication, s

    Taleb explains why this kind of analysis is bullshit on facebook:

    Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    August 11, 2013 ·

    Now let's try a bullshit-detecting probabilistic reasoning.

    A- Falls from ladder are thin-tailed, and the estimate based on past observations should hold for the next year with an astonishing accuracy. They are subjected to strong bounds, etc. It is "impossible" to have, say, >1% of a country's population dying from falls from ladders the same year. The chances are less than 1 in several trillion trillion trillion years. Hence a journalistic statement about risk converges to the scientific statement.

    B- Terrorism is fat tailed. Your estimation from past data has monstrous errors. A record of the people who died last few years has very very little predictive powers of how many will die the next year, and is biased downward. One biological event can decimate the population.

    May be "reasonable" to claim that terrorism is overhyped, that our liberty is more valuable, etc. I believe so. But the comparison here is a fallacy and sloppy thinking is dangerous. (Worse, Koppel compares terrorism today to terrorism 100 years ago when a terrorist could inflict very limited harm.)
  • hseneker||

    Climate will do what climate will do as it has for hundreds of millions of years. Meanwhile, decisions and policy need to be based on hard fact.

    There are some crucial, verifiable facts - with citations - about human-generated carbon deioxide and its effect on global warming people need to know and understand at

    hseneker.blogspot.com

    The discussion is too long to post here but is a quick and easy read. I recommend following the links in the citations; some of them are very educational.

  • Dalepen||

    'Likewise, on global warming, better than trying to put the world on a radical and painful energy diet to avert the problem in the first place, perhaps look for technical fixes such as carbon sequestration to remove the carbon from the atmosphere and build human defenses against it.'

    Why on earth would we want to do this? Thus far, after about 1 deg warming, objectively all we know for sure is the earth is greening especially in eastern India and sub-saharan Africa. Maximum, plant stimulating levels of CO2 are many times the present level and the higher the levels the more drought tolerant they become.

    All the negative projections of rising CO2 have been shown to be grossly inaccurate. The atmospheric warming from doubling CO2 has not been even close to the computer modeled rises. Climate science has morphed into Political science.

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