Drudge points out
Report" on global warming. It's unusually hysterical, even for
And it has drawn the usual debunkers; for example, see Red
There are plenty of risks on all sides.
One possible near-term outcome is draconian regulation that will wreck
the global economy, increasing international resentment,
and have minuscule effect on greenhouse gas levels. The
folks that (for example) criticize the Kyoto treaty in this regard are
pretty convincing. (For example: Pete Du Pont in today's WSJ.)
But they're getting drowned out by doomcriers
on all sides.
However, I think nearly everyone is arguing about the wrong stuff: whether
global warming is happening, how much is caused by human action,
how much regulation could help, whether Al Gore is insane by official
standards or just in an eccentric-aunt kind of way, etc.
Here's something that totally changed my thinking on the issue:
read this 1997 Reason
article by Gregory Benford. Go ahead, I'll wait here. Here's the thesis:
Forty years ago, the noted atmospheric scientist Roger Revelle declared
"human beings are now carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment"
pumping billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air. The question
should not simply be how best to stop the experiment--and, by extension,
prosperity and progress allowed by cheap, abundant energy.
Rather, the question should be how best to
design that experiment, so
that we maximize benefits and minimize costs. As the citizens of the
nations become convinced that global warming is an immediate threat
response, they will legitimately ask for solutions that demand the least
Benford goes on to propose a host of relatively cheap technical
"geoengineering" fixes to sop up carbon from the atmosphere,
raise planetary albedo, and the like.
This goes against the environmentalists who see "mankind as the problem", of
course; their quasi-religious
vision is an Earth on which humans have at best minimal
environmental impact. Let's ignore that for now. (And hopefully
It seems this argument is hard to refute:
- We have the ability to mitigate global warming right now; we even
had it back in 1997, when Benford wrote his article.
- We're only going to get better at it;
on the decades-to-centuries time scale envisioned by global warming
proponents, advances in technology and climate modelling will easily
outstrip the problem.
- Hence, Real Soon Now we'll be able to dink the global climate
to pretty much
whatever temperature we want, without driving the global economy
into a regulatory ditch.
So what's the problem again? Well …
There's a sense in which technological solutions to global warming
are even scarier than global warming itself. You think you have conflicts
setting the thermostat in your house, with Pa wanting to save energy
and Ma wanting it warmer, and the kids complaining no matter what?
Multiply that kerfuffle by a few billion, erase the familial love,
and give everyone armed forces. Uh oh.
But if geoengineering our way out of global
warming seems difficult,
it's even less likely that we'll do it via legislation and
the heavy hand of regulation. I know where I'd be putting