April 29, 2004

Commentary on an Environmentalist

Back40 at CrumbTrail has a wonderful takedown of hand-wringing enviro writer George Monbiot who wrote an article on CO2 recently in The Guardian From Back40: bq. It isn't often that a confused pundit perfectly encapsulates their central confusion, but little George, apparently unwittingly, has done so. bq. (quoting from the Guardian article): If it is true [anthropogenic climate change], as the government's new report suggested last week, that it is now too late to prevent hundreds of thousands of British people from being flooded out of their homes, then the journalists who have consistently and deliberately downplayed the threat carry much of the responsibility for the problem. It is time we stopped treating them as bystanders. It is time we started holding them to account. bq. (Back40's commentary): No George, it was too late before we knew it was a problem. When your type was still living in dread of nuclear winter the atmosphere had already been filled with CO2 that will last 100 years. We cannot prevent CO2 emissions from accumulating. We cannot prevent climate change. Kyoto, even with the most optimistic forecasts, would have had an exceedingly negligible effect over the next 100 years. bq. We cannot prevent CO2 emissions. We can reduce them a bit, though not enough to matter, and we may be able to draw some CO2 out of the atmosphere. We can anticipate and prepare for consequences. We can keep doing useful science on all fronts in reasonable expectation of improved understanding of the system and improved methods to achieve our policies. bq. The vast majority of those who have examined the evidence agree that the climate has changed and will continue to do so. A similarly large group agrees that humans have done things to affect climate change. But there are a wide variety of views on how much change has occurred, or will occur, or the causal relationships. We have done so many things, everything from plowing up the land releasing billions of tons of soil carbon into the atmosphere, to filling the sky with cirrus clouds from jet engine exhaust that blanket the earth keeping more heat in than is blocked out, to altering the albedo of the planet so that it reflects less radiation out to space. And many other things as well, we discover new insults frequently. We don't know how the climate might have changed in the same period even if there had been no humans, or even if human acts have been beneficial, altering some worse natural change. bq. Climate management is much more complex than politicians and journalists realize. It isn't a simple matter of being more frugal in some activity such as burning fuels. The worst thing we could do is to squander our wealth and energy on a large and ineffective program. bq. A better argument can be made for publicly denouncing the Moonbats of the world than for denouncing skeptics. By whipping up populist authoritarian fervor about the wrong problems and the wrong solutions, wealth, energy and attention has been squandered that could have been more productively applied to useful research into causes and possible management techniques. Emphasis mine - truer words were never spoken. The problem is that these hand-wringing propagandists get the public whipped into a frenzy, the public starts demanding things from their elected officials and the elected officials start implementing public policy based on their constituents requests. Often times, these policies are damaging to the environment and the economy. Not a good scenario... Posted by DaveH at April 29, 2004 3:18 PM