Global Warming – A Red Herring?

The Australian Government has recently announced revised, reduced targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. There has been some objection to this but it should not really be surprising.

Governments around the world have shown that they just don’t get it. They don’t see environmental protection and enhancement as fundamental to economic well-being. They have the traditional view that environmental conservation is a luxury that should be thrown over during times of economic difficulty.

This makes me realize that, if global warming is really happening, the question of whether it is human-caused or not is actually irrelevant. In either case, there is nothing we can do to stop it at this stage. Whether it is caused by factors actually beyond our control, like variations in the sun’s energy output, or by the sheer momentum of the world economy, which is theoretically within our control but virtually beyond it, we can’t stop global warming. So, what to do?

We urgently need a consensus on the subject, across the whole range of opinion, from extreme deniers to the most ardent Gore-believers.

Is warming happening? If so, how fast and to what extent? When will it reach a new equilibrium? What is the most likely scenario? What are the most likely consequences?

If we can establish a broad agreement about these matters, then we can start a world-wide effort to adapt to global warming. All available resources should be devoted to this end. This is a huge job. All costly projects aimed at stopping global warming should be dropped and their resources diverted to adapting to it.

This doesn’t mean that the consumption of fossil fuels will, or should, increase indefinitely. Such consumption is self-limiting. The resources are limited, their renewal rate is low and there are sound practical economic reasons for reducing their rate of consumption until it is more like their low renewal rate. Actually the idea of trying to stop global warming is a red herring, a distraction from more important and practical reasons for reducing fossil fuel consumption.

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6 Responses to Global Warming – A Red Herring?

  1. Lesley Fahey

    I agree that too much time is spent arguing about whether or not global warming is real, and if so, whether it is being caused by humans. I believe that scientists of all people should be open-minded and be prepared to listen to, and give consideration to, all facts, ideas and suggestions. Unfortunately I find that scientists are often narrow-minded and bigoted about a number of issues.

  2. heuristic

    Even assuming that anthropogenic global warming was both real and a threat (and I don’t accept either) it does not follow that government action is appropriate. Looking at the historical record of government interventions allegedly intended to remedy some problem, the trend is for the effect of such interventions to be paradoxical. That is, LBJ’s (and other’s) war on poverty produced more poverty (by trapping the poor in perpetual dependence), the Vietnam War resulted in the triumph of communist dictatorship in that country (compared to the original plan back in the 1950s of elections there), the war on drugs has led to many times more addicts than before prohibition and cheaper and more potent illicit drugs, the New Deal programs of the 1930s prolonged (actually, produced) The Great Depression, and so on. So if the government begins a “war on global warming” then heaven help us, we’re gonna fry.

  3. Charles

    So, if the government doesn’t do something, who will? Maybe the answer is better government action. The tendency has been for top-down governance, where feedback from, or discussion by, government workers at the coal-face has been discouraged or ignored, and policy is set by a few people who have favor with the ones at the top. Communication is one-way, from the top down, not from the workers upwards, so wrong policies can keep grinding ahead year after year until more harm than good is done.

    This comes back to the need for more active, participatory democracy, where people don’t just vote for their government every few years, they take an active part in governance every day in between elections.

  4. Ayrdale

    Thank you Charles for your posting on my blog.
    I started it because of the shrill chorus of voices announcing that “the science (re AGW) is settled”…and a knowledge that cataclysmic global warming remains a theory only.
    I agree on the need for active participatory democracy, and have expended a lot of energy promoting referendums re issues of popular concern…in NZ we now have a Citizens Initiated Referendum law…
    I value the blogosphere and see it as a true tool of democracy, and will follow your postings with interest.

  5. Charles

    Thank you for your comment, Ayrdale. It would be good if we had a citizens initiated referendum law in Australia. Certainly it is great to have the blogosphere. It is in stark contrast to the circumstances in which I was trying to promote my original book back in 1988. It is also as you say a true tool of democracy because it allows us all to get around and under and through the established ‘authorities’ and information monopolies.

  6. Rich Jones

    Lesley Fahey: “Unfortunately I find that scientists are often narrow-minded and bigoted about a number of issues.”

    Science is supposed to a little narrow-minded if not focused on the mastery of single narrow topic. This by speculation infers that some scientists when commenting outside their disipline sound a bit foolish, but then don’t we all sound a bit foolish.

    I suppose that bigoted could based on being narrowly focused, but as a generalization I would to have to extend the problem to include most that speak of facts when they know not.

    In this world we have little to hope except that “the methods of science” can be brought to bear on any topic. For the rest of us we have inherited the duty to ask objective questions and also the burden of detecting when the answer fall short – where we should ask another question.

    Now to choose “scientific” as being irrevant but to accept “political” statements as facts being actionable truths is all to familiar and leaves us all confused.

    To avoid being confused, when you detect a narrow-minded person or bigotry all you have to do is name that person while asking next question. This is simple way of detecting simple mistakes, and a good way of nailing down deliberate misleading statements of sophisticated liars.

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