Monday, July 25, 2011

Is Global Warming the Next Big Thing or an Existential Threat to Civilization?

edited 7/27/2011

We will eventually know the answer

Eventually the argument about Anthropogenic Global Warming will be settled and become common knowledge.  It will not, however, be settled soon, or by those frustrated scientists demanding that the conversation cease.  It will be settled when scientists on all sides of the argument arrive at the same conclusion from different research and directions of inquiry.  At that point it will all seem to have been obvious.

Scientific results that are replicable, reputable, transparent, open to challenge, empirically defended, characteristics lacking in the current argument, will pile up in the corner of the eventual winning viewpoint.

The Real Problem

The problem with Anthropogenic Global Warming debate is that,  if finally proven to exist, any proposed cure may be much worse than the disease.

The key to this possibility is in the title Anthropogenic (deriving from the actions of Man), Global (encompassing the entirety of the World), Warming or even worse, Climate Change (assuming these are bad things).  From this title one can derive that solutions must be:
  • Global: meaning that all men and all nations must get on board because the project is truly beyond the ability of any one nation to have an effect.
  • Anthropogenic: Caused by Man, therefore the solution must be to modify the economic and environmental behavior of Man, worldwide.
  • Conclusion: Any solutions must be global and will require a global authority, a world government, with police powers to modify the behavior of men and nations. This will likely be a long, bloody and expensive process if an attempt to implement a global solution is initiated.
One side says the debate is not settled and formulation of solutions is premature. The other side says the debate is over, the Science is "settled" and we should immediately implement solutions. The Opportunists say "We won!  Lets make some money! Get out of my way now!"

Settled Science:

There is never settled science. It was settled science that the sun revolved around the Earth until it was settled another way. It was settled science that swans were white until the first prison ship arrived in Australia. Science must keep an open mind. 

Scientific consensus is not science. Scientific consensus is belief not science, like being Episcopalian, Catholic or Baptist or Islamic.

Who is debating -  (Experts, Opportunists, Good People)?

Those in the scientific and political communities who wish to control or preemptively end the debate are demanding that their results be accepted and the issue is closed.   They insist that their predictions of impending doom be deemed credible and their solutions be made political reality immediately.  Their support is a group of scientists who claim certain findings prove the entire concept.  

An opposing group of scientists acknowledges certain findings, pursues studies that yield different results and maintains that the issue of the existence of AGW is still open.  This seems to enrage the first group.

There is also a hard core of political and economic opportunists who have and intend to profit from the so called solutions.  Since the "change" required is on a grand scale and is not inherently profitable, these opportunists must profit from the taxes, penalties and subsidies put in place to achieve change.  In other words, they want the government to transfer funds to them from you, for projects that need not be self sustaining or profitable to enrich their executives.

There are also "Good People" with good intentions trying to assess the information and do what they think is correct, from both sides of the argument.

The Threat from the Good People
Good People trying to implement “good ideas”or doing things for “the greater good” on a grand scale are inevitably confronted with choices that, when wielding coercive power, mean that they must sacrifice some (other) humans for the “greater good.”  This is always to the detriment of those sacrificed and initially, none believe that they will be among those selected for the cull. 

It is at this point that "Good People" have historically become tyrants and murderers or been displaced by such.
Rule of the Experts

I am frequently confronted with the frustrations of members of the scientific community who are certain of scientific results and want to know "what it would take" to convince the scientifically challenged that "something must be done" such as a carbon tax or other political remedy to an identified  problem such as, oh.., Greenhouse Gases.

A basic tenant of Progressivism since its early beginnings is that experts possess specialized scientific knowledge in their fields of expertise and therefore should prevail with limited argument from the uneducated or inexpert when developing political policy related to their area of expertise.  A bureaucracy of experts should be allowed to rule.

Ted Kaczynsky, the Unabomber, was an extreme example of this syndrome.  Kaczynsky was a dedicated environmentalist and an amazing and talented scientist who killed and maimed people who disagreed with him. But Ted was crazy! Yes he was, but the Twentieth Century was the most murderous in history as madmen in service of “science” and “scientific socialism” and "national socialism" and "international socialism" and other ideologies visited destruction on people and civilization throughout the world.  They just didn't have time to enlighten "deniers" so they killed them, for the "greater good."

Are we willing to bet the farm, meaning our civilation, on Man's ability to act cohesively, effectively and without aggression, on a world level, and eschew the murderous characteristics that are proven typical of the human species?

Assume that Global Warming is real:

Just for fun, lets say that Scientific Consensus actually exists. Lets say that Global Warming is a reality, unquestionable scientifically. What should we do and how? What would the consequences be?  Lets ask some questions related to a Cost/Benefit Analysis. Below are some of my questions.  Feel free to add your own.   "We" below is "Humanity" or "Civilization" if you prefer.
  • If AGW is real can we predict the result of AGW on the Earth in the short or long term? (Chaos Theory says.. No.)
  • Do we know specifically what to do about AGW should we choose to do something?
  • Should we cede power to a technocratic World Authority to attempt to correct Global Warming? Who would that be?
  • What would the economic cost be? (UN says $76 trillion but they are unreliable, probably low-balling, because they want to run the show)
  • What military and police powers would be given? To whom? The necessary changes in society could only be made through coercion and inevitably, military force of arms against non compliance.
  • What would the cost in lives be to achieve a solution to climate change?
  • Would the cost in blood and treasure be justified by immediate and long term benefits to Humanity? (Probably not.)
  • Would the cost in blood and treasure be justified by immediate and long term benefits to citizens of the United States of America? (certainly not.)
    • What is the "Exit Strategy" if we get stuck in a quagmire?
  • What examples do we have of large scale technocratic campaigns, based on the best science available and their outcomes for mankind? (see below)
What do we actually know about large scale change?

The risk of destroying a successful civilization is far greater than the likelihood that we will actually mitigate the risk to the Earth from Global Warming and successfully establish the global governance necessary to implement the project.  The World is not a gas station with leaky tanks.

What we do know from long and sad history is that if coercive power is granted to a central authority, in service of an ideology or scientific principle, it will inevitably use that power to the detriment of the citizenry. Consider the following:
  • “Prohibition,” the first Progressive campaign brought us organized crime and militarized police.
  • The “Final Solution” to the scientifically proven “Jewish problem” in Germany;
  • The “Five Year Plans” in Stalinist times as a solution to the economic supply problem;
  • The “Great Leap Forward” in Maoist China with its attendant deaths by starvation, imprisonment and military force;
  • What we observe daily in Iran under “The Rule of the Clerics,” is the cost of implementing Ayatollah Khomeini's landmark tome justifying Islamic rule;
The list is endless. Hundreds of millions were killed.  Unspeakable death and civilizational tragedy happened in service of scientific consensus and other ideological quests. These are not distant events. They occurred throughout history and most particularly in the Twentieth Century.

Weather and climate are the archetypal examples of Chaos Theory used to demonstrate why we cannot predict future events in complex systems.  The basic concept is called "sensitive dependence on initial conditions" meaning that one cannot predict how things are going to come out without exact (mathematically exact) knowledge of conditions when things got started.  We have almost no idea of initial climatic conditions and no model of the evolution of climate. 

Hence, we cannot predict the climatic results of Global Warming nor can we predict the climatic or political outcome of any effort to mitigate AGW worldwide.

It is at least as likely that we would tear asunder the civilization we know as that we would materially mitigate Global Warming, if it exists.

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