Thursday, 7 January 2010

Climate Change - the case against government action

This is a guest post by The Pedant General

In a comment on the earlier thread inspired by the Met Office's inaccurate predictions of a warm winter, Sue R asked: Why are people so keen to deny global warming?

That entirely misses the point.

The fact that we are noticeably warmer than we were 5, 50 or 150 years ago is not remotely interesting. We were and are emerging from a (non-man made) little ice age.

The vital question is whether we are warmer than we were 1000 years ago, and that is very definitely not settled science in any way shape or form.

And... even if we are warmer than we were 1000 years ago (which, for the avoidance of doubt, is denied - the historical record is pretty clear that it was indeed significantly warmer - one reason the science isn't settled BTW), it is not at all clear whether this change is man-made to any really significant degree.

And, even if:

  • we are warmer than we were 1000 years ago and
  • we are causing it to some significant degree
it's not at all clear that we are really able to influence it the other way

And, even if:
  • we are warmer than we were 1000 years ago and
  • we are causing it to some significant degree and
  • we are really able to influence it the other way
it's not at all clear that doing so is necessarily necessary. Do the benefits of warmer temperatures outweigh the costs? The historical record suggests that yes, they do. Humans do better when it's warmer. The numbers dying of unseasonal cold far outstrip those dying of unseasonal heat.

And, even if:
  • we are warmer than we were 1000 years ago and
  • we are causing it to some significant degree and
  • we are really able to influence it the other way and
  • doing so is necessarily necessary
it's not at all clear that it is not more cost effective to try and adapt to the changing climate rather than to try to adapt the climate itself. Given that Kyoto was only ever going to delay any temperature rise by 6 years in 100, this is distinctly not a given.

And, even if:
  • we are warmer than we were 1000 years ago and
  • we are causing it to some significant degree and
  • we are really able to influence it the other way and
  • doing so is necessarily necessary and
  • it's more cost effective to try adapt the climate itself
it's not at all clear that this indeed the best use of our money right now. There are (pace Lomborg) stacks of really actually pressing problems that would benefit mankind massively more proveably right now if a tiny tiny fraction of the sums being bandied about were to be devoted to them. Eradicating malaria for example.

And, even if:
  • we are warmer than we were 1000 years ago and
  • we are causing it to some significant degree and
  • we are really able to influence it the other way and
  • doing so is necessarily necessary and
  • it's more cost effective to try adapt the climate itself and
  • this is a better use of our money than any of the myriad other much better uses of our money
it's not at all clear that the best way to do this is to subborn all our freedoms to a putative world government in the form of the monstrously corrupt UN who will then proceed to tax us all into oblivion in order to give all our money to the most corrupt and incompetent governments on the planet (who are more likely to squander or nick it rather than use it - incompetently - for whatever it was supposed to be for).

Thus, Sue's claim that "the weather/climate is changing and it is necessary for governments to act upon it " is a monster fallacy of well known form:

  • something must be done (which is denied)
  • A is something (A is not shown to be effective)
  • therefore A must be done (logical fallacy)
with the added knobs on that
  • A must be done by the government.

Or is that akin to being a young earth creationist?

The PG usually writes at Devil's Kitchen, for example here.