What Should We Be Doing About Climate Change? If Anything.
Anthropogenic global warming is a fascinating topic at several levels.
- The science of complex systems influenced by chemistry, physics, cosmology, the study of the sun, and chaos theory
- Politics and ideology.
- Public relations and propaganda
- The pursuit of a political agenda over several generations
We can learn a great deal just by watching.
The first thing we learn is few of the people on either side of the question are playing with facts. Most of the discussion arises from a great goal:
- Saving mankind from the effects of global warming/climate change, the proponents, or
- Saving mankind from the power seeking ideologues, the deniers
Saving mankind is a difficult goal to rationalize
- Mankind usually trusts itself to deal with change effectively. They know bottom-up solutions work and top down do not.
- Neither side is certain of their position, although neither would admit it.
- Saving mankind is such a great purpose that there is no tactic that is off limits. Sort of like the Inquisition.
- The future is both unknown and unknowable
- The evidence is not persuasive on either side of the argument.
- The promoters of the AGW have a very long agenda and can be patient. The deniers do not have so long. Somewhere there is a tipping point where the ideology cannot be reversed.
- Linear analysis is always wrong. The present, however well analyzed, does not include facts that have not yet come to be. People are ingenious when faced with a problem that matters in their future.
- Models are not facts. Model’s provide insight not data. Certainly the many carbon dioxide forcing models have proven themselves to be inaccurate. It is curious that the deniers have not modeled their particular forcing principle.
- Some of the CO2 increase is beneficial, but the effects of that are ignored.
Approaching the future rationally.
- Global warming may or may not exist. You could build a case for either side of the question, even without manipulating the data.
- If it does exist and cannot be altered, we must prepare ourselves for the eventual results. If it does not exist, we should do nothing.
- The question is two part. A) The cause is man-made or not. B) If it is man-made, can it be adjusted?
- If man made exists and can be stopped, the cost to our familiar economies will be massive. The current system of transferring wealth from one place to another, or from the people to the government, assumes the cause can be eliminated, these methods work, and the solution will be affordable. It does little to address the required preparations if the cause cannot be eliminated.
- Proponents can get money to address almost any aspect of the warming question. People who can get money to study a problem tend not to want to see the problem go away. Solutions would eliminate their value. Expect no solution from the students of the problem. As Dennis Miller has said, “Beware prophets who profit.”
- Political ideologues have another agenda than cooling the planet. Most are opposed to capitalism and require more power and control over their fellow earthlings. I for one have little trust for these people. As H.L. Mencken pointed out in “Minority Report: H.L. Mencken’s Notebooks,” published in 1956, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it. Power is what all messiahs really seek: not the chance to serve.”
What to do?
- Learn a little about the science. Climatology is a vast and not-well understood science. You won’t get the details, but an overall look is helpful.
- Look for objective evidence. Models are not evidence. A show of hands is not evidence. Statistically manipulated data might be valid, but it takes an expert to decide on how the premises used to manipulate it help.
- Trust people who will gain nothing, even be harmed, if their assessment turns out to be valid. Mistrust those who stand to gain by promoting their position.
- Mistrust any proposition that does not come with an economic impact model of both costs and benefits. Doing nothing usually has a cost and it can be large. Doing something must provide a benefit greater than its cost.
- Hyperbolic arguments must be ignored. The idea that everyone will die if temperatures rise two degrees is ludicrous and should be called out on that basis alone.
- History must be included. Data covering the last 50 years is insignificant in the case of the earth and its climate. Why did the ice melt after the last ice age? I doubt it was camp fires throwing CO2 into the air.
I am skeptical of both sides of this argument
- I mistrust models.
- I refuse to pay attention to rhetoric, however passionate.
- I pay no attention to surveys without knowing the questions surveyed, the composition of the population surveyed, and the raw data of the responses.
- I don’t trust peer review.
In general, I trust God, but everyone else must present evidence, sustainable arguments and reproducible results.
What we should do.
- Be aware of selfish power seeking individuals
- Know a little about the effects if any, both climate and economic
- Have a position that is based on things you can test.
- Review your position regularly
- Elect people who match your position
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
Please be in touch if I can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org 866-285-7772