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The Green Devolution

Dignitaries from across the globe have assembled in Poznan, Poland this week to negotiate a framework for next year's meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark. The purpose of these UN-sponsored assemblages? Agreeing on a successor to the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The big villain at these shindigs (other than the United States) is the invisible trace gas carbon dioxide. The anthropogenic global warming (AGW) hypothesis is based on the assumption that increasing amounts of CO2 are trapping additional heat in the Earth's atmosphere and thereby warming the planet. There is no hard evidence to support this hypothesis - increases in temperature don't come with a "Caused by humanity's use of fossil fuels" label - just speculation and some degree of correlation between CO2 concentrations and temperature. In science, however, correlation does not equal causation.

Climate change is the natural order on Planet Earth. Change is the only constant when it comes to climate. Our planet's history extends billions of years and its climate regularly swings from ice age to sweltering interglacial. Likewise, concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere have varied wildly - soaring to over 7,000 ppm during the Cambrian period, to current levels during the Carboniferous period, rising to 2,500 ppm during the Jurassic period and declining to our current (historically low) concentrations.

Plants grow best at CO2 concentrations around 1,200 ppm - triple the concentration in our atmosphere today. They clearly evolved in a more carbon-rich environment. If anything, increasing CO2 concentrations is a return to the Earth's natural order and provides free fertilizer for every green plant. More vigorous plant life benefits every animal on the planet.

Regardless of how little mankind truly understands the dozens of factors that affect Earth's climate, there are dedicated and fanatical devotees from the Church of AGW demanding action. "So far I think it's going really slowly," Susann Scherbarth from Friends of the Earth in Germany said of the talks in the western city of Poznan. She and other protesters in Poznan waved a banner reading: "Stop clowning around, get serious about climate action." They might as well wave a banner reading: "Stop clowning around, get serious about putting pants on squirrels." Nothing mankind can do will have any affect on global climate. But that won't stop the world's "leaders" from squandering trillions of dollars trying. The best thing we could do is commit to ensuring we have the ability to adapt to whatever climate curveball Gaia throws.

One sure way to reduce emissions is to cripple economic development. Recession means that developed nations' greenhouse gas emissions will fall by about 2 percent next year, making other action less urgent. We also learn that President Obama wants the US to reduce "greenhouse gas" emisions to 1990 levels by the year 2027. US GDP was ~$7.1 trillion in 1990 compared with ~$13 trillion today. Such a reduction can only be caused by stunting economic growth or a wholesale return to the hunting-and-gathering way of life. It's doubtful that Americans will embrace either. Diverting enormous amounts of money and resources out of the marketplace and into government-subsidized programs to battle the phantom menace would cripple US productivity for a generation. Republicans and moderate Democrats in Congress need to step up and quash this madness.

Of course, the real goal of these conferences is creating a global climate slush fund to transfer wealth from unpopular but productive entities to the unproductive:

A successful global effort to reduce greenhouse gases would establish a common price on emissions in all countries, at a level that induces the required reduction in the emissions intensity of economic activity. It could do this through agreement on applying a common rate of tax on emissions in all countries. Alternatively, and more directly, it could allocate entitlements to emit greenhouse gases across countries through an emissions trading scheme: international trade in emissions entitlements would tend to equalize the carbon price across countries.
Once again, it seems unlikely that Americans would consent to a global climate change tax on every item they purchase. Unfortunately, that will be the end result of any global emission reduction agreement. Higher costs for manufactured goods, higher transportation costs, higher costs for retailers, and less money in consumers' pockets.

Money spent on preventing climate change might just as well be spent making the sun rise in the west and set in the east. It is pointless and diverts resources better used elsewhere. Ask Bjorn Lomborg. We are far better served ensuring future generations have the wealth to adapt to their climate - whether it be a warmer world or a cooler world. Considering the difference in biodiversity between the polar regions and the equator we should hope for a warmer world. Whatever our climate future holds, we don't want our grandchildren looking back and scratching their heads like we do now when discussing belief in a geocentric universe or the Salem Witch Trials. We must adapt, overcome and improvise rather than sacrifice wealth creation thinking we can tinker with the global thermostat.

Posted by Baron Von Ottomatic


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Comments (7)

To deny either global warmi... (Below threshold)

To deny either global warming OR cooling is foolish. It is the height of arrogance to posit that humanity can have any more than an extremely LOCAL effect on either NATURAL phenomonon.

It is the height of STUPIDITY to diminish living standards and economies in a failing attempt to affect these natural ocurrences.

Baron,You wrote:</... (Below threshold)


You wrote:

"Money spent on preventing climate change might just as well be spent making the sun rise in the west and set in the east. It is pointless and diverts resources better used elsewhere. Ask Bjorn Lomborg."

The Copenhagen Consensus lists the proposal about R&D for "low carbon energy technologies" at #14. This is hardly a denial of global warming. If you read what he Copenhagen Consensus was actually about, you will see that it was a group of distinguished panelists who evaluated 30 proposals and ranked them. This was not about determining whether or not anthropogenic climate change was or was not a valid issue.

It would have made more sense to link to the 2001 article where Lomborg said:

"Despite our intuition that we need to do something drastic about global warming, we are in danger of implementing a cure that is more costly than the original affliction: economic analyses clearly show that it will be far more expensive to cut carbon dioxide emissions radically than to pay the costs of adaptation to the increased temperatures."

However, Lomborg was NOT denying the issue of global warming (from the same article):

"Global warming is important: environmentally, politically and economically. There is no doubt that mankind is increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and that this will increase temperatures. I basically accept the models and predictions from the 2001 report of the UN's intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC). But in order to make the best choices for our future, we need to separate hyperbole from reality." (my emphasis)

Lomborg, as an economist, was asserting his expert view about how future resources should be used for global issues--and his analysis is clearly from an economist's point of view.

Lomborg's second statement completely contradicts your assumptions about AGW. So I am not sure why you cited him.

You wrote:

"Nothing mankind can do will have any affect on global climate."

Ok. So what have you read that makes you so sure about this? Or is this just your professional opinion?

Overall, this is kind of a strange post. You start off by arguing against the possibility of anthropogenic climate change, and all you really have behind that are some vague statements and your opinion. Then you shift to what I think is your real position, which is a more political/economic position--a position that is right in line with Lomborg's basic ideas (but, as already pointed out, he does not deny anthropogenic climate change as you do).

The scientific consensus is pretty strong, so I am interested to hear what you are reading that is convincing you otherwise. Now, as far as the political and economic effects of global warming--and what we are all supposed to do about it--I think you have a stronger case. There are going to be HUGE costs (and already have been), and since the larger industrial nations produce the most and depend on burning fossil fuels the most they (including the US) are going to take a heavy hit when and if certain regulations are mandated.

RA,Lomborg and I d... (Below threshold)
Baron Von Ottomatic:


Lomborg and I disagree on the subject of AGW but agree that money spent mitigating climate change is better spent elsewhere. He rates it as low priority, I rate it as zero priority. Millions of people across the world die every year from a lack of clean water and sanitation. Global warming has killed zero people. I don't think they deserve to die just because they're poor and we shouldn't be squandering limited resources in a futile effort to avert non-existent threat.

From a geological (i.e. millions of years) perspective, there's nothing unusual or unexpected about current temperature increases. Our planet is emerging from the Little Ice Age - let's hope things keep getting warmer. The idea we should be alarmed about climate change strikes me as incredibly silly. Why does anyone believe that the climate would remain constant? On what evidence is that expectation based?

"From a geological (i.e. mi... (Below threshold)

"From a geological (i.e. millions of years) perspective, there's nothing unusual or unexpected about current temperature increases."

From a geological perspective, there are many things that are inconsequential. The existence of humanity is just one example. 150,000-200,000 years is a relative blip in the grand scheme. At the geological scale, relatively small changes don't mean much. But we humans don't live at that scale. There are plenty of archaeological examples that illustrate some of the results and effects of climate change in the past (the onset of the Little Ice Age had its share of problems for humans around 1200 AD onward).

The global warming issue, however, is more about sustaining an environment that is suitable for human occupation--all of the "saving mother earth" talk is beside the point. Sure, we can absorb or deal with a certain amount of change, but there are definitely limits to the environmental conditions in which the population can sustain itself.

"The idea we should be alarmed about climate change strikes me as incredibly silly. Why does anyone believe that the climate would remain constant? On what evidence is that expectation based?"

There is definitely no such thing as a constant climate, you're right there. However, changes in climate--even relatively slight ones--can have pretty drastic effects. As the archaeological record shows, climates have changed in the past, and they have caused stress for human populations. Stress can mean migration, adaptation, and/or depopulation.

Environmental changes are certainly more than just silly little ideas, IMO.

Your idea seems to be that we have enough money and technology to deal any adverse changes to the environment, which is an optimistic assessment. Maybe we can, maybe not.

The big question is not whether or not the climate changes, but whether human activity is influencing those changes. Anybody who argues that there has been some kind of ideal and unchanging climate has no idea what they are talking about.

"The global warming issue, ... (Below threshold)

"The global warming issue, however, is more about sustaining an environment that is suitable for human occupation"

And what is the environment most suitable for human life? We evolved during the last ice age, could that mean that a glaciated North America and Asia create a suitable environment? Probably not.
During the Medieval Warm Period the population of Europe exploded as agriculture became more productive. Ireland was well known for its citrus products and and the Norwegians grew wheat in Greenland. When the MWP ended with the Maunder Minimum plauge and famine gripped Europe for decades.
To say that the current environment is most suitable for humans is simplistic, unproven and probably false.
Of course it seems to me that AGW is a load of bunk anyway. Here is great page that does an exellent job of debunking global warming complete with links.

Sethatay,"And what... (Below threshold)


"And what is the environment most suitable for human life? We evolved during the last ice age, could that mean that a glaciated North America and Asia create a suitable environment? Probably not."

Definitely not. It is less of a matter WHEN we evolved than where. Since human evolution took place in East Africa and/or the Near East, asking about a glaciated N.America or Asia is beside the point. Humans evolved in a warmer environment, then migrated out and adapted to different environments.

Humans occupy a wide range of environments, and can survive amazingly well in cold places (like the Himalayas) and warm places (like the Kalahari Desert). But there are some environments which are obviously more suitable than others. Do you really think that we can adapt to any possible environmental condition? Or do you think there are some limits?

"To say that the current environment is most suitable for humans is simplistic, unproven and probably false."

Yes, that is way too simplistic, and that's not what I am saying at all. Humans have lived in a variety of environments from ~200,000 years ago to the present. Now, it depends on how you want to define success, but obviously certain environments have been able to sustain large populations more successfully. When an environment is on the extreme ends of the spectrum, human populations tend to be lower in number.

I am not arguing that today's climate is the optimum environment for humanity. I am arguing that there is a range in which humans can sustain our populations. There are definite effects when the climate changes, as you illustrated when talking about the famines that came along with the Little Ice Age.

About the Dr. Gregory Young article. There are clearly ongoing debates and disagreements about AGW. There are tons of articles for and against--although I would say that overall the "for" category seems to have the most members at present. In some ways it's a huge mess that's hard to wade through. Young's article points to some of the contentious issues, and I always think it's a good thing to be skeptical. At the same time, Young's political position in the matter detracts, for me, from his position. Anyone who starts screaming about the "right" or the "left" is going to lose my attention. Sorry.

Climate change is something that has been happening for a long, long time, and those changes can most certainly have disastrous effects for human populations. Humans do impact their environment. That's not really a subject of debate. We have clearly managed to destroy local environments and create severe problems. This is happening in the present, and it has happened in the past.

We do have to find ways to mitigate the effects we have on our environment, especially as populations continue to grow. While the earth is a damn big place, it's not exactly infinite.

The larger question here is whether or not human activity is negatively affecting the earth's environment as a whole. Considering some of the LOCAL damage that we have managed to do, I think it's a pretty good idea to look into any cumulative global effects.

Once again, I think it's a good thing when people question science, and when they look into issues for themselves. I also think it's a good idea to try to look at the whole issue, to avoid making quick judgments, and to try to keep political positions in check (although this one is pretty hard for everyone).

Great post! (This is satir... (Below threshold)

Great post! (This is satire, right?)






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