The Prelator

Weblog of Patrick McKay

Global Warming Scientists: “You Will Adapt to Serve Us”

Posted by darklordofdebate on December 15, 2009

Over the last few weeks, I have been following the recent developments regarding global warming and the so-called “climate-gate” with somewhat bemused interest. On the eve of the Copenhagen conference, which is being billed by global warming advocates as the greatest climate change summit of all time and the last best hope for our planet, an unknown hacker manages to steal a hundred megabytes worth of emails from a climate research unit which appears to show climate researchers cooking the books to “hide the decline” and squelch skeptics. Now honestly, I don’t know what to think of these particular emails. I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could hack into someone’s email and find a few out-of-context quotes to make them look suspicious too. Whatever these emails ultimately mean, I highly doubt they actually prove the existence of some vast scientific conspiracy to hoodwink the world into believing climate change is real. If their is any fraud in climate research, a more likely explanation is simple bias caused by politically motivated funding of research, rather than a deliberate conspiracy.

The real problem here is the politicization of science in the first place. After the climate-gate incident, I read numerous news articles talking about how poll numbers of people who believe climate change is real showed substantial drops, primarily among Republicans. In these articles, there were many quotes from scientists lamenting the fact that the existence of human-caused climate change is a political issue, subject to the latest opinion polls and the whims of the uneducated populace. I lament this too, but for a different reason. The reason global warming has become a political issue (besides the aforementioned funding issues) is because it long ago ceased to be about science and is now primarily a policy debate. Instead of sticking with what they do best, making observations, crunching numbers, and concocting theories, scientists have strayed far out of their usual realm and have directly entered the world of policy debate.

It’s one thing for scientists to tell us that climate change is occurring; it’s quite another for them to attempt to dictate the exact ways in which to solve this alleged “problem.” When scientists stop being scientists and start proposing policies like politicians, is it any wonder that science becomes politicized? It would be one thing if they just laid out the facts and gave a few possible solutions, then stepped back and let governments debate the best course of action in a rational manner that takes into account all the pros and cons. But they have not done this. Instead, scientists and global warming advocates have put all their eggs in one basket, dogmatically clinging to drastic global carbon emission cuts as the one and only way to solve the problem. Then they come up with doomsday scenarios of rising sea levels, flooded cities, famines, plagues, wars etc. in an attempt to claim that unless the world takes immediate action to reduce carbon emissions to pre-industrial levels, it’s the end of the world as we know it. Such scare tactics are nothing more than the clear tactics of petty demagogues to incite fear and motivate action out of a false sense of urgency.

Never mind the fact that such reductions in carbon emissions will come at the cost of trillions of dollars and millions of lost jobs. Never mind the fact that they would require nearly a complete reordering of the global economy to accomplish. Never mind the fact that even if these reductions are possible, they would only reduce global temperatures by a few fractions of a degree at most. To the global warming evangelists, it has become a cardinal sin to engage in even the most basic types of cost-benefit analysis when it comes to taking steps to mitigate global warming. Instead, they expect unquestioning allegiance to whatever plans they propose, no matter what the cost, because we owe it to “the planet.”

Many people over the last few weeks have remarked the climate change has become almost a sort of religion. Indeed the similarities are striking. You have a large movement of people motivated by a pseudo-religious fervor, passionately accepting whatever their leaders tell them through blind faith, while speaking in vagaries about “taking action” and bringing hope and salvation to mankind. They are on a crusade to “save the planet” motivated by some sort of quasi-pantheistic love of “nature,” which they are devoted to at all costs in an endless quest to atone for the “sins” of mankind in polluting the Earth with our very presence. For such people, their entire lives have become bound up in this cause, and there is no price too great to pay to achieve it.

What is ultimately needed in the climate change debate is to cut through the extremist rhetoric on both sides and make an honest evaluation of our options. Let’s say for the sake of argument that climate change really is occurring, and that it is in fact caused by humans. Ultimately yes, in the long term we will probably want to reduce carbon emissions to prevent the problem from increasing. But is the threat really so bad as to mandate such drastic actions as are currently being proposed in the Copenhagen treaty and in President Obama’s cap-and-trade bill? What is the threat exactly? Probably the worst effect most commonly cited is rising sea levels, but according to the Heritage Foundation, “Even the United Nation’s 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report (putting aside for a moment the Climategate-fueled concerns that this study is overly alarmist) projects 7 to 23 inches of sea level rise by century’s end.”

Okay, so the oceans might rise two feet in the next 100 years. Is that really worth spending trillions of dollars of government funds, millions of jobs lost, massively higher energy costs, and a greatly decreased standard of living for every person on Earth, or at least the developed world? I’ve got another idea. Why don’t we just adapt to climate change instead? Surely 100 years is enough time to build sea walls or dikes protecting low lying cities that could be threatened with flooding. Sure there are other problems posed by climate change as well, but if we see the problem coming this far in advance, we should be able to come up with some way to simply adapt to the immediate problems posed by global warming while waiting for technologies to be developed that offer a more permanent solution, without bankrupting every country on Earth and effecting a total restructuring of the global economy to get there. Climate change policies should not be immune to cost-benefit analysis, and if the costs of a proposed policy far outweigh the potential benefits it should be rejected. This is something that climate change advocates have so far refused to even consider.

Rather than carrying on with end-of-world predictions and dogmatic insistence that their way is the only way to solve this problem, global warming advocates need to be open to alternate solutions, including ones which leave carbon emissions untouched for the present and focus on adapting to a changed climate instead. Perhaps if we acknowledged that it simply is not feasible to reduce carbon emissions to pre-industrial levels *right now* (at least without reverting to a pre-industrial society), and focused on a more practical solution that doesn’t demand such great sacrifices in the name of a problem we are still not sure even exists, we could actually get somewhere. But until climate change advocates are willing to compromise and stop insisting that the entire world bow to their every demand, that is not going to happen, and the only result they’ll ever produce is a string of failed treaties like Kyoto and a swath of economic devastation in their wake. Is that really worth it?

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7 Responses to “Global Warming Scientists: “You Will Adapt to Serve Us””

  1. comdenom said

    Glad to see some support, thanks for the post!

  2. You’re forgetting the severe weather, drought, invasive species, ocean acidification and general species loss. Plus, it can be argued that carbon limits will actually *create* jobs.

    Have you calculated how much money it would take to build dikes? I’d guess it’d end up being more than it would cost to limit our greenhouse gas emissions. Preventative medicine is always best…

    I’m surprised to see a post like this after the one on net neutrality a couple months ago.

  3. Haha, beginning to think I was a liberal, eh? ;] Not quite. While I may disagree with my fellow conservatives on matters of technology, copyright, and internet policy, I am still a conservative at heart, and I naturally question anyone who tells us we need to have a government mandated reordering of our entire economy as the only way to solve this problem.

    As for the problems you mentioned, I haven’t studied those specifically but from what I’ve read, they are often highly exaggerated. Ultimately, I question whether scientists can really make accurate predictions about such things, since these predictions have varied so widely over the years and often turn out to be wrong anyway. I think in truth we really can’t know exactly what effects climate change will have 100 years from now.

    As for preventative medicine, consider these numbers from the Heritage Foundation:

    “Cap and trade’s 83 percent cut of 2005 emission levels by 2050 would allegedly put the U.S. on the right track. The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis found that, for the average year over the 2012-2035 timeline, job loss will be 1.1 million greater than a world without cap and trade. By 2035, there is a projected 2.5 million fewer jobs. The average GDP lost is $393 billion, hitting a high of $662 billion in 2035. From 2012 to 2035, the accumulated GDP lost is $9.4 trillion.”

    That looks like significant net job LOSS to me, and I highly question whether “green jobs” will be able to replace all of those. Considering that cap and trade will cripple every sector of our economy, how many of the resulting unemployed do you really think we can employ setting up windmills and solar panels? Preventative medicine is only good so far as it doesn’t cause more harm than the disease itself, which I think is far from clear with climate change.

    So before we hamstring our economy with cap-and-trade legislation to try to prevent problems we don’t even know will happen or how severe they’ll be, all I’m saying is wait to address the root problem of carbon emissions until a less disruptive solution emerges. Think about how much human technology has advanced in the last 100 years, and it’s likely that in another 100 years we will actually have the technology to satisfy our energy needs cleanly without sacrificing economic growth in the meantime. It may be in the meantime that the best we can do is mitigate climate change’s effects. As I said, it depends on which is the most cost effective given our abilities in the present.

    • This is where I point out that the Heritage Foundation gets a great deal of money from oil companies.

      A few links about the cost:
      Contrary to the Heritage Foundation’s “New” Analysis, Climate Legislation Will Not Devastate Farmers or Small Businesses – Switchboard, from NRDC
      The carbon productivity challenge: Curbing climate change and sustaining economic growth – McKinsey & Company
      Heritage Foundation’s NoEnergyTax.com Spreads Falsehoods About Clean Energy – Media Matters (not a big fan of Media Matters, but they happen to have compiled what appears to be a good list of links)

      I could’ve sworn Ars Technica had mentioned a report contradictory to the Heritage Foundation’s as well, but I can’t seem to find it. (Starting to wish I hadn’t gotten rid of Google Desktop when I got Windows 7 – it can be configured to keep a full-text copy of every page you visit…)

      One thing you have to remember is that even if we were to completely stop greenhouse gas production today, warming would continue for many years – so by the time we’re certain what will happen, it may be too late. Wouldn’t it be best not to risk the worst-case scenarios coming true?

      • Wulf, I’m not really interested in getting in a battle of sources here. I’m sure you can find plenty of sites refuting Heritage’s claims and if I took the time to search I ‘m sure I could find plenty more sources corroborating them. As with any policy debate, there are statistics galore from every possible angle and agenda. Then you could claim my evidence is biased because of who funded it, and I could claim the same about yours. It ultimately comes down to whose statistics you believe, and I’m smart enough to know I’m not going to change your mind with a couple links.

        No I think it would be best to stick to things everybody agrees on, which is precisely what you said: “even if we were to completely stop greenhouse gas production today, warming would continue for many years.” I look at this the exact opposite though. Even climate change advocates agree policies like cap and trade would have only a minimal effect on climate change, reducing temperatures by a few fractions of a degree at most. Meanwhile, actually producing the desired carbon emission reductions would take a tremendous investment in renewable energy resources. Here’s another quote from the same Heritage article:

        “What does it take to reach 350 ppm? In short, a miracle. Energy chemist Nate Lewis of the California Institute of Technology ran the numbers and found that for the earth not to surpass 450ppm by the year 2050, 26.5 of the 45 terawatts the world uses would have to come from carbon-free sources (assuming low population and economic growth). What would this entail?

        • Are you a fan of nuclear? To get 10 terawatts, less than half of what we’ll need in 2050, Lewis calculates, we’d have to build 10,000 reactors, or one every other day starting now.
        • Do you like wind? If you use every single breeze that blows on land, you’ll get 10 or 15 terawatts. Since it’s impossible to capture all the wind, a more realistic number is 3 terawatts, or 1 million state-of-the art turbines, and even that requires storing the energy—something we don’t know how to do—for when the wind doesn’t blow.
        • Solar? To get 10 terawatts by 2050, Lewis calculates, we’d need to cover 1 million roofs with panels every day from now until then.

        And that’s to reach 450ppm something co-director of MIT’s Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change Henry Jacoby called “totally impossible.””

        Dispute Heritage’s other claims regarding the economic impact of such reductions all you want but you can’t contest the cold hard math about what kind of changes it would take to get there. It’s highly questionable whether it’s even possible to achieve the reductions people are talking about, let alone economically feasible. And all of this will still have a barely perceptible effect on the overall warming. If that’s your only solution, it’s horribly inefficient.

        Really, if climate change is so bad, there are better ways to address the problem. If in 50 years we discover the worst doom-and-gloom prophecies are coming true, what’s to prevent us from using more direct solutions like geoengineering? I’ve read other proposals for using ships and planes to pump the atmosphere full of aerosols, effectively reversing global warming within a couple years. If the situation is really so dire, drastic measures like that could keep the worst consequences of climate change at bay until a more permanent solution is possible. And then of course there is the option of simply adapting to a changed climate. Human civilization has survived many things and is perfectly capable of adapting to a planet that’s a few degrees hotter.

        Of course there would still be problems, and maybe some animal species could go extinct (which has happened many other times in the history of the world not due to humans). But even there we could find solutions. If polar bears are going extinct, build a giant refrigerated dome somewhere to keep a population of them alive until it’s possible to reintroduce them in the wild. Heck maybe if we just took DNA samples of threatened species and preserved them we could eventually be able to clone them and reintroduce them a thousand years from now when temperatures cool again. Who knows? The point is, there are other solutions, and if we’re willing to at least consider other options, maybe we can solve these problems through simple human ingenuity without having to gamble our economic security on a plan that may not even work in the first place.

  4. comdenom said

    Heck, this post is mild compared to mine.

    Build dikes…because government has allowed development in areas below sea level combined with pressure from the insurance industry, you have to pay three times for the same initiative.

    Have you calculated all the billions of current jobs that will be lost?

    There is no evidence of severe weather rise, no evidence it has any relational value to our functions. And all the nations on the planet could not control natural phenomenom. Controlling C02 is as ludicrous as controlling the earths rotation.

    Net Neutrality? Another way to let them quietly carry on with the crusade without freedom of speech interference. The internet is littered with their agenda and misinformation. What about the media neutrality, the very beast that was intended as a check and balance system for the benefit of the citizen to keep the government in line?

    If government was working for your best interest, they would have spent the hundreds of billions hoodwinking you with this environmental movement into dikes instead.

    Can you post a link to the net neutrality post, I obviously missed it.

  5. That would be my post on why conservatives should support net neutrality, which you can read here: https://prelator.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/why-conservatives-should-support-net-neutrality/. For the record, I strongly support regulation enforcing net neutrality (contrary to the position of many conservatives) because I believe it is necessary to prevent short-sighted corporate censorship of the web and to ensure that the Internet remains a neutral playing field where companies can compete based on the quality of service they provide rather than exclusive agreements with ISP gatekeepers.

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