The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A Modest Proposal

I want to reiterate that I'm not trying to say that "Christian mythology" is ruining the planet. I'm saying that it seems that a disproportionate number of those who deny anthropogenic global warming (or the less politically volatile term "climate change") are Christian. Why that might be I don't know. They may be right, in the end. But it still seems strange, unless the argument is that the Bible said to be fruitful and multiply, and we must have faith in God's plan. Why the intellectual clarity to see through what so many scientists claim to believe would cluster in that direction is beyond me.

I also don't understand how a primary argument against global warming could be money...when oil companies and other concerns clearly have greater capacity to enrich cooperative individuals. Unless one takes the position that somehow environmentalists are more corruptible than executives, or governmental employees more financially corruptible than corporate employees. On what basis? Wouldn't people who want money go where the money is? People go into academia for the loot? First time I've heard THAT said with a straight face. Now, if you take the position that scientists go into the sciences for the awards and those hot lab groupies...maybe. And then the entire establishment is corrupted in the direction of believing in global warming because these scientists are anti-technology? What? Wouldn't they tend to be corrupted in the direction of believing that technology should expand indefinitely? I don't get that.

I'm not suggesting that those who are against the idea of global warming (and the term "climate change" is used so that every time there is a snow flurry, Rush Limbaugh can't scream: "see? What global warming?") are somehow in the bag for oil companies. Right here on this forum are intelligent people who take either side, and have no apparent financial connection to the financial rewards on either side of this issue. But the trick, to me, is to ask: if money is the corrupter, follow the money. Where is there the most cash? And where is there the most cash that can be directly raked off?

People point to Al Gore as an example of how much money environmentalists make. If he is your biggest example, what is that compared to the petroleum interests? He's a pauper compared to the billions being raked in by those who stand to lose serious money if the energy paradigm shifts? Follow the money...or show me another motivation as strong...or show me why environmentalists are more corruptible than corporatists. I say they are equally corruptible, just people, but that more of the corruptive power is on one side of this than the other. And just as those who are against the idea of global warming think those of us who consider it logical to be misled, you have to allow the same possibility for yourselves: honorable, but misled. And again, what other than the money should we be following here? And who's got the cash?

##

It is certainly possible that wealth will outpace population. But let's say either side of this issue had the same chance of being wrong. The worst case scenario for limiting population to two children per couple is some disappointed people, and a growth of government (bad). The worst case scenario on the other side is a collapse of the grid, with enough ecological damage to make sustaining a complex civilization impossible, followed by the death of hundreds of millions or billions, war, disease, and a grinding endless poverty that is difficult even to imagine.

The potential motivation for scientists to be cautious about the growth of technology? Uh...certainly not a blanket anti-technology belief. Maybe just delusion. Some wish to side with a politically correct wave or something. The potential motivation to believe in endless growth and that human behaviors can't have a massive negative effect on the environment? An unholy alliance between corporate greed and a deeply encoded belief, anchored in a near-killoff a million years ago, that humanity must expand and expand, or die.

The cost-benefit thingie here seems clear to me. On the other hand, maybe I'm wrong. In which case, let's concentrate on those steps that would handle the situation that most of us can agree upon:

1) Increase the world-wide education and freedom of women. A core means of population control.

2) Shifting to sustainable energies as opposed to petroleum, which keeps us vulnerable to Mid-east politics, and confuses our reasons to involve ourselves in wars in that region. There are probably very good reasons to have invaded Iraq. But no one can argue that many of the people making those decisions also had financial interests, direct or indirect, in the oil industry. Wouldn't it have been nice to have greater clarity, without the potential corruption of mega-bucks?

3) Investment in various energy-saving technologies. Clearly a growth industry world-wide. Why shouldn't America get ahead of this?

##

It seems to me that the only people who could disagree with these would be:

1) Sexists

2) People who have a financial interest in petroleum

3) People who have a specific political agenda to defeat any legislation coming from this White House, for the purpose of winning a future election.

None of these positions require belief or disbelief in global warming or population. All would seem to support widely held values, but also contribute to our economy, world peace, and a brighter future for all. Am I missing something here? And if not--why not devise other plans which are not specific to either position, but profitable, humane, and decrease the possibility, however tiny (!?) that the alarmists are correct?

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

"It seems to me that the only people who could disagree with these would be:"

4)Conspiracy theorists for whom the lack of evidence is in itself proof and the less logical a position the better they like it.

Shady_Grady said...

I think I replied to some of this before and I don't wish to bore everyone with repetition but I think it is critically important to point out that the current rate of world population growth is lower than it has been in the past 30 years. Although it would be anti-materialist to claim that population and food availability are completely unrelated, I think it is equally wrong to overlook the social relations of the world's economic systems and how they produce or worsen hunger and "overpopulation". There are currently about 2 billion people trying to survive on less than a two dollars a day and about half that number suffering from chronic malnutrition worldwide. And yet,the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that there were record food crops produced in 2007 and 2008.

So in my opinion, "overpopulation" can't be considered independent from the economic systems we live under. I think Malthus was wrong.

The smaller populations of Europe and North America have more impact on climate change than the more largely populated nations of China and India-though China has just about caught up.

That aside, I certainly agree that climate change is a problem and has been caused by human actions.

Fixing it is the classic problem of the commons. It would require action by everyone but private profit means that everyone also has an incentive to "cheat". There are also national sovereignity issues. China, India and Brazil have shown little interest in slowing down their industrial growth for environmental concerns. They will only do so when they can find a profit in it.

I would also agree with increasing education and freedom for women but "freedom" will mean quite different things based on the society. I'm not sure how you export that.

I also agree with renewable energy and energy saving tech but right now fossil fuels remain the cheapest form of energy for the consumer.

I don't think the government has any business incentivizing people's decision to have children. And trying to prevent people from having more than an arbitrary number would require some coercion.

For what it's worth, I am an atheist.

Mike Ralls said...

>The worst case scenario for limiting population to two children per couple is some disappointed people, and a growth of government (bad).<

That is not at all the worst case scenerio. Law of unintended consequences. 2.1 is actually replacement levels in the 1st world, so a level of 2 would mean a shrinking world pop. Now, transitioning from an economy that is set up around a rising population might not be difficult, or it could end up being extremely difficult and the rate of economic growth could slow to a crawl. We don't know. We'll find out soon though in Japan and Italy and Germany which are going to have shrinking populations really soon (historically speaking). I'm guessing that there growth rates are going to fall, and then thing about growth is that it is cumulative. If since the Civil War, the US had grown 1% less per year then it actually has (a growth rate of 2% instead of 3%, say) we'd be as poor as Mexico is. Little changes can have big consequences, so don't pretend that you know what having a birth rate of 2 per couple will for sure result in, because you don't nor does anyone.

I just don't view "overpopulation" as a problem because birth rates are falling all over the world. If they continued to rise over the last 30 years the way they did from 1950 to 1980, I'd be worried, but they haven't. We've consistently seen a trend in countries of widely varying economies, politics, and cultures of falling birth rates.

Given current trends and no wonder-magic medical tech, there are probably going to be fewer people when/if I die from old age than there are alive today.

Mike Ralls said...

I thought this article is a good summary;

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3908/is_200106/ai_n8966622/

The United States is now the only industrialized country in the world with a fertility rate at or above replacement level (the 2.1 births per women per lifetime required for population stability). Fertility rates in less developed countries have dropped dramatically over the last 40 years and now average 3.6 children, compared with only 1.6 in more developed countries. In fact, there are already 21 less developed nations that have fertility rates below replacement level, including Mexico, China and Thailand. Several others' rates have fallen rapidly to near replacement level and continue to drop: Brazil, from 6.25 to 2.25; Turkey, from 6.9 to 2.2; Tunisia, from 7.2 to 2.3; Indonesia, from 5.6 to 2.7.

What we are witnessing globally (and will be witnessing over coming decades) is the "demographic transition," the shift from high birth and death rates to low ones. This transition accompanies (or follows) other transitions of modernization: the economic (to freer markets); the social (to greater female autonomy); the political (to more pluralism); and the technological (to greater information availability). Population projections that do not sufficiently account for these changes are mere extrapolations.

* Global aging. An unprecedented and virtually unavoidable aging explosion will shake and shape rich and poor nations alike. All around the world, enhancing the potential of older citizens to contribute economically will almost surely be a key to material progress in the decades ahead.

* The decline of the West. The current total fertility rate for Western countries is 1.57; over the next 50 years population decline is a certainty in these more developed nations. The ratio of population in less developed countries to that in more developed countries will have moved from 2:1 in 1950 to 6:1 in 2050.

* The eclipse of Russia. One of the world's lowest fertility rates (1.14), combined with appalling mortality levels, spell a plummeting population for the Russian Federation over the next 50 years. From sixth most populous today (at 146 million), Russia would be only number 17 in 2050 (at 104 million), with only half as many working-age adults.

* American exceptionalism. Thanks to (relatively) high fertility and (relatively) high levels of immigration, the US is set to chart a different course from the rest of the Western world over the decades ahead. Total population will grow instead of decline (from 283 million today to perhaps 397 million in 2050), and will not age as quickly (a median age going from 36 to 41, compared to 49 in the rest of the West by 2050).

Today America is the world's third largest country; 50 years from now, it will still be third (after only India and China). But in relative terms, the US will be significantly larger than the European Union and four times the size of Russia or Japan. America's prospects would seem to support, or even enhance, US global influence in the 21 st century.

Scott said...

"Sustainable" is a tricky word; one fairly efficient method for starving poor people to death seems to be adding ethanol to gasoline.

Educating people and driving technology forward seem like fine approaches, sure; limiting birth rates by fiat seems like the kind of tyranny that I, personally, would respond to... badly.

Dan Moran said...

I say they are equally corruptible, just people

Giordano Bruno. They're not equally corruptible -- scientists are driven by different values than businessmen, and the search for truth is not the same kind of motive as the desire for profit.

Marty S said...

Steve: You talk about petroleum companies have more money so if it were about money more scientists would be denying global warming. But its not about big money bribing people. Its about jobs and paying the rent. Green is a growing field, people major in appropriate areas because that's where the jobs are. Once your committed to fields that benefit from continued urgency about global warming you are biased toward findings that support that urgency to stay gainfully employed.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

I'm nether Christin nor a Global Warming Denier. I'm an Atheist and a global warming skeptic. While anthropogenic global warming is established beyond reasonable doubt, its magnitude and likely impact is very much debatable. Crucial in solidifying my defection from the Gore-type dystopians was Physicist Freeman Dyson's denunciation of methodological unsoundness hampering most climate change studies. Specifically, most such studies are excessively theoretical, and at bottom consist almost entirely of computational models, whose "reasonableness" rests on the beginning assumptions made by the investigators. An alarmist researcher given to apocalyptic frights inputs the corresponding dire parameters and "presto", humanity's doomed! One wonders what more mild predictions might be generated were Dyson and his ink devising the models instead.

Apart from my scientific skepticism, I firmly reject the political recommendations of the global warming alarmists. As I stated here previously, the preponderance of the burden to mitigate global warming would fall on the shoulders least able to bear it, namely Africans, Asians and Latin Americans. The developing world would be denied the heavy industry and fossil fuels required to enable its citizens to enjoy the prosperity of Europe and North America. I categorically refuse to endorse a racket that locks Asia and the Southern Hemisphere into desperate poverty on Earth's behalf, while the world's wealthy enjoy a free pass to affluence, having fortuitously developed themselves before the alarmists sounded.

And to add a note of irresponsible irreverence, I LIKE the prospect of global warming! I HATE cold weather and love scorching hot tropical and Mediterranean climes, possibly, I muse romantically, because of my African and Latin heritage. Ah, to trade the chilly Cenozoic for the deliciously balmy Mesozoic.

Pagan Topologist said...

Ethiopian Infidel, I agree that the future scenario is uncertain. However, I think it is just as likely to be too optimistic as too pessimistic. And, the worst case scenario is that we could turn our planet into another Venus. After all, the greenhouse effect is the main reason Venus has a much higher surface temperature than Earth does, and although nobody's model seems to take this seriously, there are in many systems unforseen singularities (we called them catastrophes in the 1970's) which can be extreme and sudden. This possibility, no matter how low the probability (well, at least if it is greater than 10^-12) to my mind justifies draconian measures such as going as rapidly as possible to an all nuclear, wind, and solar energy process for the planet, and halting all fossil fuel use.

I have yet to see a proof that this will not happen. For that matter, i have yet to see a proof that Venus did not have an intelligent species which did exactly that to their planet a billion years ago. We know it is possible; Venus is a difficult-to-ignore (for me, at least) data point.

Dan Moran said...

Ethiopian Infidel is hard to dispute. Just because we might destroy the planet with a runaway greenhouse effect doesn't mean we will, or that we should take any steps to prevent that scenario.

Look on the bright side, if we're wrong, our children and grandchildren will never have to curse our memories, because they'll be dead. So it's not like there's an actual downside to burying our heads in the sand ... :-)

Mike Ralls said...

>Just because we might destroy the planet with a runaway greenhouse effect doesn't mean we will, or that we should take any steps to prevent that scenario.<

It's a mathematical certainty that someday a dino-killer sized asteroid will crash into the Earth, causing the extinction of most species on the planet. Currently we are taking no steps to prevent this scenario, despite its inevitability. This is because, while it is a certainty that it will eventually happen, it's a low probability that it will happen within our lifetimes or the lifetimes of our great^10 grandchildren so people, collectively, are unwilling to make any great sacrifices, or even minor sacrifices to take serious steps to stop it.

For similar reasons people, collectively, are unwilling to make huge sacrifices to reduce the possibility of a global warming scenario coming to pass. They either don't judge it as a big enough risk, or judge that the risks that come with probable levels of global warming are less than the risks that would come from extreme methods to stop global warming.

This is in marked contrast to such things as the ban on CFC's. There the risk was judged high enough, and the cost low enough, that pretty much the entire world abandoned a technology for environmental reasons in less than two decades.

If those who want to lower the risk of anthropomorphic global warming want to effect real world change, they have got to get the perceived risk-cost-benefits ratio down to something similar to that of CFC's, and so far they are a long ways away from that.

Dan Moran said...

Mike,

Yep. And if everyone's dead, no one even has to put up with people saying I told you so.

Of course, if people are alive but the planet around them is thoroughly trashed, those who fought to trash it might have something of a bad reputation, down the road.

b said...

Wow Steve. 3 whole choice for slotting in whoever disagrees with you. How generous. It's also a debating tactic that most of us outgrow by the end of high school.

For someone who goes over people's mechanisms for slotting in others and categorizing them of "my tribe/not my tribe" and supposedly trying to transcend that mentality, you're doing a hell of a lot of it nowadays when it comes to politics.

Pagan Topologist said...

OK, b...I give up. What does your post mean, and what does it even refer to?

BC Monkey said...

Steve, one of the things that I have -in the past- found fantastic about your blog was your presumption that people who disagreed with you were arguing in good faith.

Since Obama's election, you are no longer operating with that assumption. Everyone who disagrees with Obama- and you by extension- is now subject to your analysis of their "true" motives for disagreement.

In the past, posting a position here was something that likely would not change any minds- one at least felt that you would give an honest hearing with an open mind to an opposite position. That is no longer the case. It is apparent that you have closed your mind and instead of engaging other opinions, you will be spending your time looking for demons behind those opinions that you can call out.

I can only hope that you keep your partisanship away from the rest of your blogging on growth and development.

Mike Ralls said...

Dan,

Of course, if people are alive but the industrial civilization around them is thoroughly trashed, those who fought to trash it might have something of a bad reputation, down the road.

Pagan Topologist said...

Mike, switching to nuclear, wind, and solar energy exclusively is hardly a recipe for the destruction of our industrial civilization.

Marty S said...

To my mind global warming is unproven, but yes given the possibility that those proponents of global warming may be correct and the possible consequences of ignoring them if they are it makes sense to take reasonable steps to minimize the chances. So by all means increase the use of nuclear power. In those areas where conditions make the use a reasonable alternative, where reasonable includes economic factors they should be considered, but I'm not convinced enough of the urgency to think we should be imposing all types legislative restrictions and economic sanctions to force a change of life style.

Marty S said...

OOPs: that should be
In those areas where conditions make the use of solar and wind a reasonable alternative, where reasonable includes economic factors they should be considered

Mike Ralls said...

PT,

The problem arises in that I think that even our (IMO) realistic worst case production of greenhouse gases is hardly a recipe for a "thoroughly trashed" planet.

Counterproductive in that more wealth and life will be destroyed by the effects of (what I regard) as a realistic worst-case warming in comparison to the cost of taking efforts to slow or stop that warming? I accept that as a real possibility.

A thoroughly trashed planet though? No. I regard that as about as realistic a scenerio as you (and presumably Dan) regard a thoroughly trashed industrial civilization.

Dan Moran said...

Mike,

Industrial civilization seems to be in pretty fair shape. The planet's bleeding.

Dan Moran said...

Well, to be fair, I should add the following: I really do think the planet will be fine. Us, not so much. Allow me to present the late great Mr. Carlin:

~~~~~

The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through all kinds of things worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles...hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worlwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages...And we think some plastic bags, and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet...the planet...the planet isn't going anywhere. WE ARE!

We're going away. Pack your shit, folks. We're going away. And we won't leave much of a trace, either. Thank God for that. Maybe a little styrofoam. Maybe. A little styrofoam. The planet'll be here and we'll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet'll shake us off like a bad case of fleas. A surface nuisance.

You wanna know how the planet's doing? Ask those people at Pompeii, who are frozen into position from volcanic ash, how the planet's doing. You wanna know if the planet's all right, ask those people in Mexico City or Armenia or a hundred other places buried under thousands of tons of earthquake rubble, if they feel like a threat to the planet this week. Or how about those people in Kilowaia, Hawaii, who built their homes right next to an active volcano, and then wonder why they have lava in the living room.

The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it's true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new pardigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn't share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn't know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, "Why are we here?" Plastic...asshole.

So, the plastic is here, our job is done, we can be phased out now. And I think that's begun. Don't you think that's already started? I think, to be fair, the planet sees us as a mild threat. Something to be dealt with. And the planet can defend itself in an organized, collective way, the way a beehive or an ant colony can. A collective defense mechanism. The planet will think of something. What would you do if you were the planet? How would you defend yourself against this troublesome, pesky species? Let's see... Viruses. Viruses might be good. They seem vulnerable to viruses. And, uh...viruses are tricky, always mutating and forming new strains whenever a vaccine is developed. Perhaps, this first virus could be one that compromises the immune system of these creatures. Perhaps a human immunodeficiency virus, making them vulnerable to all sorts of other diseases and infections that might come along. And maybe it could be spread sexually, making them a little reluctant to engage in the act of reproduction.

Well, that's a poetic note. And it's a start. And I can dream, can't I? See I don't worry about the little things: bees, trees, whales, snails. I think we're part of a greater wisdom than we will ever understand. A higher order. Call it what you want. Know what I call it? The Big Electron. The Big Electron...whoooa. Whoooa. Whoooa. It doesn't punish, it doesn't reward, it doesn't judge at all. It just is. And so are we. For a little while.

Mike Ralls said...

George Carlin was a funny funny man, and his words will live for a long time.

That being said, humans are story telling creatures, who think most easily in metaphors, but there is real danger in liberalizing metaphors. As mentioned many times here, the map is not the place. And the Ecosystem isn't a conscious entity that thinks things out. Evolution is not GOING anywhere. It's a random process with no set design or end point, but with so many different variables interlocking that that the human brain (designed primarily to see simple patterns in a hunter-gather context) has a very hard time talking about it with anthropomorphizing it.

There is not really any empirical evidence for the Gia hypothesis. IF (_if_) humans are actually capable of turning Earth to another Venus in the next 100 years or the next 1000 years, the biosphere won't do anything to stop it. (See the example of when creatures first started producing poisonous Oxygen and the "biosphere" did nothing to stop them, and most species went extinct because of the poison). The biosphere just doesn't think that way. It doesn't think at all.

To me the big issue is that today China is burning more coal than (IIRC) the US, Europe, and Japan, COMBINED. They are building a new coal-fired power planet _EVERY DAY_ and those plants are inefficient and high polluting ones too. And they have zero interest in stopping. Hell, if the government tried to stop, it would be overthrown, and Commies know it. Its only source of legitimacy these days is rapid economic growth, and it will cling to that to its last. So even if the US pays a huge price to curtail it's coal burning, that curtailment will be dwarfed by China's continual increasing rate.

Here is what I think is the fundamental point regarding environmental issues: Environmental issues can only be solved if they allow a continually increasing consumption. If they don't, they won't be solved at all, just lived with.

And if they aren't solved and proved to be a serious problem, most of the harm will fall on the poor and the weak. (Quick, think of the last time you saw the headline: DISASTER! - But poor and weak are disproportional under-effected!) Such, in my opinion, is the way of the world. Always has been, always will be.

Mike Ralls said...

>The planet's bleeding.<

Dan,

I just don't see that, and chances are you could have guessed that I would disagree with that statement. Yet, you provide no evidence for your assertion.

If I were to say, "Dan, you're wrong. Industrial civilization _is_ bleeding!" Would you strike your forehead and say, "My God, what a fool I've been! Mike is right, Industrial civilization is bleeding!" I'm gonna take a wild stab in the dark and guess . . . no. So why would you think your statement would have any effect on me?

Lobo said...

I don't think it's necessarily a religious correllation. It looks more like a correllation with conservatives, especially the Ayn Rand variety. Since conservatives are highly correllated to religious belief, there's the connection. Yes, I know Ayn Rand was an atheist, but that will be news to a lot of people who follow some form of objectivism and don't know it.

The more I see, the more I think we are in an evolutionary cul-de-sac. The traits that made us such a successful species are apparently dooming us to self-destruct. The same traits that brought about the industrial age are the same traits that will make the planet inhospitable to us as a species. It won't take much to make it impossible for us to survive here at the current level of comfort. We don't have to destroy the planet to die out. We just have to change the climate enough to make it difficult to live. Sort of like when the planes hit the World Trade Center. The beams didn't have to melt away to cause a catastrophic failure, they only had to lose ten percent of their strength.

In the words of Bill Hicks, "We're a virus with shoes."

Pagan Topologist said...

The Concord crash in Paris some years back was a disaster that was biased towards harming the well to do, as I recall.

Dan Moran said...

Mike, would you really like me to go back through your previous posts, find every blind assertion you ever made, and ask you why on Earth you'd do such a crazy thing?

You're welcome to disagree with me. :-)

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

". switching to nuclear, wind, and solar energy.."

I wholeheartedly endorse substituting nuclear and renewable energy sources for fossil fuels where practical. Despite my skepticism over the magnitude of the danger represented by anthropogenic climate change, I'm very much concerned about the fate of the environment, particularly the fragile equatorial biomes like rain forests (consider it fortuitous for the echosphere as a whole that industrial civilization initially developed in temperate climes). The development of nuclear energy is particularly important since it also is probably the key to economically practical space mass transit. Problem is, a disproportionate number of vociferous global warming alarmists are also strident opponents of nuclear energy. IMHO, potentially beneficial and practical climate change mitigation efforts are hampered by overarching technophobic ideology embraced by many activists.

Steven Barnes said...

Marty:
"Steve: You talk about petroleum companies have more money so if it were about money more scientists would be denying global warming."
##
No, that's not quite it. I'm saying that if it is about money, we would expect people working for petroleum companies (where the money is) to be more corruptible. Scientists who wanted money primarily would certainly go there. My thought is that if more scientists are lying than petroleum company employees (some of whom are scientists) then the motivation must not be money, because there just isn't that much in research.

Steven Barnes said...

"It's a mathematical certainty that someday a dino-killer sized asteroid will crash into the Earth, causing the extinction of most species on the planet. Currently we are taking no steps to prevent this scenario, despite its inevitability."
According to Jerry Pournelle, this is not true--we have actually taken serious steps toward dealing with such a scenario, and in fact Larry and Jerry's next book deals with just such an emergency response.

Steven Barnes said...

"b"-
I also said "it seems to me" and "am I missing something here?" In other words, I am clearly admitting that there may be other possibilities, and asking those who see them to educate me. At no time did I suggest that my perceptions were reality, nor was I putting people into slots--merely saying those were the slots I saw.

Steven Barnes said...

BC Monkey:
"Everyone who disagrees with Obama- and you by extension- is now subject to your analysis of their "true" motives for disagreement."
If by this you mean that anyone disagreeing with Obama has venal or negative motivations, you are exaggerating your position. I have never changed in my belief that the Conservative position has, in general, as many good ideas and people as the Liberal. I DO think that there are elements reacting from hidden motivations, but that certainly isn't "everyone," and I've never suggested as much.

Mike Ralls said...

>According to Jerry Pournelle, this is not true--we have actually taken serious steps toward dealing with such a scenario<

I'd be very interesting to hear what those steps are. Last I heard, we were tracking some, but didn't have any measures to stop them, but it's entirely possible my data is out of date.

Mike Ralls said...

>Mike, would you really like me to go back through your previous posts, find every blind assertion you ever made, and ask you why on Earth you'd do such a crazy thing?<

I would actually. To get meta; why are you here? I'm here to learn new things first and foremost* and that does not happen unless the assertions I make are challenged, questioned, or even enhanced. And that can only happen if arguments, challenges, or new data are brought forth by others.

*Sharing my world view is a distant distant second.

So when I make an assertion about reality that someone thinks is not backed up by objective data, they are doing me a disservice by not asking why on earth I would post such a crazy thing.

I don't try to post assertions without some reason, logic, or data behind them. I don't think they help the conversation, and I try to be careful when I speak so as to communicate as accurately as possible. I'm human, so I often fail, but if you look at this thread for instance, you'll see that most of my crazy assertions are pre-conditionals, like;

>Of course, if people are alive but the industrial civilization around them is thoroughly trashed, those who fought to trash it might have something of a bad reputation, down the road.<

Note that in that statement I don't say that I even think it's _probable_ that industrial civilization will be trashed. I just pointed out that the consequences to the people who fought to trash it would be the same as the consequences would be to those who fought to trash the planet if the planet was trashed. I said this because I hoped to point out that you were making a rather weak argument, and that by making the exact same argument in reverse the weakness of that argument would be demonstrated.

Your statement that the planet is bleeding, _is_ a statement about the current state of reality, with no conditionals behind it but damn, there is so much wiggle room for what counts as "bleeding" that it's damn near meaningless. It didn't really _do_ anything for the conversation. It wouldn't sway anyone who wasn't convinced, it didn't say anything that you hadn't already implied, and there was no real response to it that I could make other than say, "No it's not." Woo! Great debate! ;) I've seen you argue Dan, and you're better than that.

By contrast, the objective statement about current reality that I have made in this thread (falling birth rates, the difference between 3% growth and 2%, no steps to prevent dino-killers, people are collectivly unwilling to make huge sacrifices to stop global warming, humans are story tellers, China burns more coal than US&EU and it's not going to stop) are specific and I hope added more data to the conversation. And even then my statement that we have no steps to prevent a dino-killer asteroid from wiping us out has been challenged by Steve who has just stated that my assertion was incorrect. I did some quick googling, and I'm not sure it was incorrect, but I look forward to seeing if he can provide more data on if it is or is not. Because if it is not, then I will have learned something new and improved myself.

So . . .feel free. Find every blind assertion I have made and I will defend them as time permits or admit that I said something wrong or useless to the conversation and will do my best to avoid doing so in the future (I have said many many many many wrong and useless things in my life).

As the old samurai saying went, "He who flatters me is my enemy. He who challenges me is my friend."

It's only by putting ourselves in situations were we can be challenged that we grow. If the arguments you make are as nebulous as the fog, no one will strike at them, and neither the fighter nor the fog will improve.

Cheers,
Mike

Marty S said...

I don't think this is too off topic so I'll post this question here. Today is garbage collection day in my area. The trucks make a separate run to collect the recycle material. Does anyone here have a good understanding of the relative affect on the environment of recycling the plastic bottles versus the fossil fuels used in collecting them. How many pounds of plastic per mile must be collected to balance the environmental cost of collecting it?

Scott said...

http://reason.org/news/show/cringing-over-climategate

Global mean temperature peaked in 1998; interesting.

Clint Johnson said...

"Follow the money...or show me another motivation as strong...or show me why environmentalists are more corruptible than corporatists."

It isn't just money that can corrupt a person. Our self image is a powerful force and if our sense of self worth comes from what we do... then there is nothing bigger than saving the world. There is an awfully big stumbling block if the world doesn't actually need saving.

From what I can see, the global temperatures have been climbing slowly and fitfully ever since the last ice age. There may well be an anthropogenic modifier to that over the last couple hundred years - and if there is, that may be a bad thing. One or both of those may also be incorrect. What I think does have a high probability is that some significant number of those AGW evangelists have surely tied their own sense of value to AGW being true and that it will result in unmitigated disaster. They have dedicated their life to this cause and would find it very painful to even contemplate that we may not be a significant climate modifier, or if we are, that the modifications will have a net benefit to life on this planet. Amongst the scientists this psychological drive to make a difference in the world may well outweigh the financial incentive by a solid margin. Amongst the activists I would guess that it is almost the entire driving force.

"The worst case scenario for limiting population to two children per couple is some disappointed people, and a growth of government (bad)."

Actually, I think that the worst case scenario for state mandated limits to child bearing involves negative eugenics on a massive scale. We don't yet have the ability to manipulate DNA to custom build a child for anyone, but we do have relatively inexpensive DNA testing; so while the doctors can't guarantee to create a "perfect" baby, they can find out if there is any traits in a child that the parent(s) might find undesirable. What do you think would happen if they offered a reasonably good marker for... say the three to five percent of the population that is gay? Or short? Or predisposed to obesity?

A solid economic system that gives a high standard of living to the majority of the population seems to be the best way to get a population to voluntarily limit the number of children they have to below the replacement level. A lower mortality rate also tracks with lower birth rate so that may be a utilitarian argument for socialized medicine in developing countries. That socio-economic system most amenable to all this seems to be capitalism moderated by a democratic government... but we have to limit the government so that it doesn't follow its natural tendency to degenerate into a system of selling favour to big business and running up a massive deficit in a race to buy votes.

Clint Johnson said...

"1) Increase the world-wide education and freedom of women. A core means of population control.

2) Shifting to sustainable energies as opposed to petroleum, which keeps us vulnerable to Mid-east politics, and confuses our reasons to involve ourselves in wars in that region. There are probably very good reasons to have invaded Iraq. But no one can argue that many of the people making those decisions also had financial interests, direct or indirect, in the oil industry. Wouldn't it have been nice to have greater clarity, without the potential corruption of mega-bucks?

3) Investment in various energy-saving technologies. Clearly a growth industry world-wide. Why shouldn't America get ahead of this? "


Hey, I'm all for #1 up there. As a libertarian, I abhor the fact that half the world population is treated as second class citizens. As a pragmatist I find it ludicrous that half the intellectual capital of the planet it being suppressed.

Now things get a little more complicated when we get to #2. Yes, buying oil from the Middle East does keep us vulnerable and confuses us. Oil is also the least expensive means to store and transport energy that we have yet to find - by a wide margin. It is also about the only source of money for people in those regions. Any other source of energy would mean more expensive... well... everything. We are still heading into the Great Depression 2.0, do you really think we can afford that? And while the standard of living for many in the Middle East is not high compared to ours - what effect to you think it would have if we managed to cut off almost the entirety of their income? That would be a pretty serious downside to several hundred million people.

I say we curtail our interference in the Middle East as much as possible, even though many there would see the pursuit of the above #1 as a gross interference. We let the price of oil move as the market demands; due to increasing expense of extraction, it would eventually rise to the point where other energy storage mediums become cost effective.

Here is where I come down on the #3 above - There would be no need for government regulation on price - with one faction fighting to regulate it higher while another fights to keep it down... both thinking themselves on the side of the angels and both not having a clue as to what effect it will actually have on the poor or the rich. There would also be no need for the government to pick technological winners (their record in that arena being rather abysmal) since the market incentives will eventually draw a myriad of industry backed technological ventures out of the labs.

"Why shouldn't America get ahead of this?" Because in the thirty years that it will take for oil to lose its crown as the most effective energy storage system, the government will spend hundreds of billions of dollars dragging technologies out of the lab before they are actually needed or cost effective.

When you are talking about something as complex as the Terrestrial system, there is very little that is clear or simple.