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December 20, 2007

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Roach

The gain is more like negative 20 at a cost of 100. Warm weather is good: it allows crops to grow, people not to freeze to death, surfers to surf, farmers to farm, and commerce to occur. I'm not convinced global warming is happening. We're talking about degree or two movements in median temperature alleged to occur over decades that are well within any natural variation, and far lower than the year to year fluctuations from the seasons.

I imagine in 50 years we'll be laughing at our collective panic. But even if we don't, we'll be too busy getting a nice tan and going to our affordable vacation homes in Alberta or Siberia to care very much.

The whole motivation of this thing is to destroy capitalism by onerous restrictions on fossil fuels, first world commerce, and by empowering corrupt institutions like the UN. It's pretty obvious. And the scientists are playing ball because all of this is computer models anyway and no one wants to mess with the funding gravy train, even though plenty of iconoclasitc scientists have equally valid models and hypotheses that the Earth's temperature is the same, getting cooler, or more affected by the sun than anything mankind is doing.

Jean Cannon

The article is ok BUT Roach is so far off track. The issue is not so much global warming, which is a symptom as is increasingly violent weather extremes.
The issue most of the world is concerned about is pollution of our atmosphere which certainly is happening and it is and will continue to have irreversible impacts on the world.
The other issue is that the USA considers itself to be a world leader and certainly acts as a dominant player. If the rest of the world want to act on this the USA needs to stop blocking or lose credibility. I realise that to New Yorkers digging out of snow warming seems a great idea, but the problem is much more serious and will bring on huge consequences.
China is deeply concerned about the atmospheric pollution but like many developing countries simply do not have the economies to allow the same level of action as is possible from the EU and USA. Those who doubt that should go visit other countries, including China, take some helpful tourist dollars and give yourself a cultural shock - especially if you venture out of the 5 star hotels.
Get real America!

afrjc

Posner offers us a "simple" way to think about climate talks. Would that it weren't overly simplified and based on false and/or dubious assumptions. Here are a small handful.

First, Posner sets up a neat little game of bargaining between nations about how much responsibility they will take for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The problem? Physics doesn't negotiate. We either act with urgency to achieve absolute measures limits (e.g., 450ppm of carbon) or we are headed into an era of irreversible and catastrophic climate change. (And yes Roach, warm weather is nice. But no Roach, runaway climate change isn't. God help us.) There is precious little scientific basis to hope that we, globally or as a country, have a prayer of averting catastrophic change given the US's current policies of denial and delay. Is it fair to say we've failed to lead? Clearly. Is it fair to complain? Given our global role and what is at stake I can't imagine why not.

To treat this as a political problem involving negotiations between powers is to ignore this fundamental fact about the situation. Yes, we need to bargain and negotiate and work together. But no, that isn't all we have to do because we're headed toward absolute and non-negotiable limits. We can change now (and hope to avert the worst) or we can wait and change later (when millennia long climate change is already locked in by our actions and delays). Changing later just means more and higher costs, both economically and -- more importantly -- in human well being and life. And the greatest of those costs in life and well being will, as usual, be borne by the people least responsible for the crisis -- the global poor. To "simplify" the situation in ways that mask these fundamental facts of physics and basic morality and fairness is to do more than flirt with the fallacy of misplaced concreteness ("Our models say we're acting wisely and rationally -- so we are. It would be so unfair to criticize us for acting rationally in accordance with our models -- and aren't they beautiful by the way? Here, let me show you an iterated prisoners dilemma!), it is to embrace the fallacy in a death grip.

Another of Posner's assumptions that falsifies and misleads involves treating the US and China as being on a par as "major emitters." The half-truth side of the assumption is that we are both major emitters. The wildly misleading suggestion is that (a) the US and China are anywhere near equally responsible for the current shape of the climate crisis, which is based on historical emissions not current and projected growth in emissions, and that (b) per capita emissions are or soon will be even remotely equal. The US and the rest of "the West" has largely gotten us into the climate predicament we're in. To argue now, once China and India's economies have started to grow, that we can't be expected to change until they agree to effectively keep their per-capita emissions far, far below our own is perhaps understandable -- who wouldn't want to lock a stacked deck into long-range international agreements (so long as they work in their own favor) -- but to do so is nothing like leadership. It's grossly oblivious to morally relevant facts (and leadership is inextricably moral). Our threats not to act unless we're allowed to remain in a privileged global position vis-a-vis the climate (despite past actions disproportionately responsible for the crisis, current abilities to pay, and our own long term well being) are making it ever more unlikely that anyone in the future will live in a world without catastrophic climate change.

Again, is it fair to say we aren't leading on this -- yes. We're obstructionists and deniers apparently bent on not doing anything that wouldn't ensure us a grossly disproportionate per capita share of the world's limited carbon sinks.

The last dubious assumption I'll note: we're headed for a changed world, the physics is in. And we can't remain in a dream world where we base long term planning on the expectation of a globalized fossil fuel dependent economy extending indefinitely into the future. Cost/benefit handwaving such as Posner's -- which makes no reference to the costs of inaction if we fail to get the climate under control whether or not the Chinese or anyone else cooperates with us along the way -- are worse than useless. They maintain the fantasy that if we don't act now then we'll just face cost/benefit decisions of a familiar sort in the future, that our calculations then will be qualitatively and quantitatively similar to those we're able to make now.

Unfortunately, in a world where the climate responds to our inputs in nonlinear ways we cannot count on the economic base for our cost-benefit reasonings being even roughly similar in the future. If the even moderately dire predictions materialize (to say nothing of the dire ones) we will see tens of millions of climate refuges around the world, increasing resource and water wars, stronger hurricanes, coastal erosion, pandemics, peak oil (?), and more similarly economically disruptive and interlocking crises. Posner's handwaving cost/benefit analysis assumes falsely that we don't have to figure in the absolute costs of inaction. We do, they're nonlinear, and they're almost certainly enormous.

Finally, and now I quit, Posner assumes that investments now will only "pay off" if we succeed in heading off catastrophic climate change. But this is false. The same technologies we should invest in to try to avert reaching the absolute limits the climate places on our activities are precisely the technologies that will help us to lead better lives even in the future even if we fail (as seems likely) to head off catastrophic climate change.

We need to start planning to live in a changed world. Posner's over-simplifications are counterproductive in this regard, beautiful illustrations of the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

Roach

Air pollution, as in particulate pollution and aerosols, actually reduces global warming by increasing albido effects and blocking sunlight. Of course, smog is no fun. So what's it gonna be: more ash and aersols and a cooler temperature, or clear blue skys and warm weather while we surf in Hudson Bay?

Here's a primer to my well-informed global warming catastrophists: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/Hazards/What/VolGas/SO2Aerosols.html

Joan A. Conway

Quoting "A more respectable argument is what economists call a “signaling” argument, namely, that China does not believe that the rich countries take global warming seriously enough to cut their greenhouse gas emissions."

China is in a race against time for many of its people who will die before economic changes in recent decades have long term effects for the country. They are not likely to see a favorable future, before their death, from natural or otherwise causes.

I am in favor of the olive branch when it comes to a country desparately trying to change the face of time and opressive leadership of the past. The China card, as aptly named in the post-nuclear war with Russia under Nixon and Ford, is now a race to put automobiles in the hands of more of its citizens and provide them with mobility. With this newly acquired mobility comes new associations and new knowledge and new interfacing with local communities that has the promise of pulling them away from a central government and placing the country's power with the populace instead of abusive local authorities. I believe it will help democratize their government. If the United States and European Community sees this as diplomacy and a way to avoid another war with Asia, instead of suffering undue costs for its leadership role, then, and only then, can we share our form of democracy with another continent, and balance the globe to suppress the Middle East outlandish demands with terroristic tendencies, including North Korea, and the Philippines.

I am not any expert on global warming; in fact, I don't believe it either. But because science claims there is such a chaotic situation that the world faces, I reluctantly bend to "big science" in blind obedience. I recall "big science" being wrong on other matters such as hormone replacement therapy for women, then reversing it a decade later after women obediently took the hormone therapy and suffering an increase in breast cancer.

Beware of "big science;" it is a tool of government and serves "big business" and "powerful politicians."

If I have any challenges, I'll be back when I get my desk top Personal Computer running on my at&t Modem; hopefully within a week or so.

I have seen my electrical limits facing all of those cables. I just found my power yesterday after receiving it on the 18th of this month. I didn't recognize it in the false bottom. Because I have schedule surgery in February, I am in a lot of pain to accomplish this installation. I wish I could just call an installation service person to do it for me. I have already recognized two cables 6'5" instead of the ordered 9' cable. I obtained a refund for the purchase of a 9' cable, likewise for other wires, components, and parts that I don't know what to do with them, until I buy a television to connect to the TV tuner.

This of course has nothing to do with the subject "global warming." So if I am so bad at connecting my Slimline computer to the Modem and the Printer, then what can you expect of me when it comes to talking about "global warming?"

Happy Holidays to one and all. I wish you all a glorious new year with our troops coming home in the election cycle of 2008. Our presidential candidates look like a FOX TV Show, "Choose your President 2008" Special.

Joan A. Conway

Quoting "A more respectable argument is what economists call a “signaling” argument, namely, that China does not believe that the rich countries take global warming seriously enough to cut their greenhouse gas emissions."

China is in a race against time for many of its people who will die before economic changes in recent decades have long term effects for the country. They are not likely to see a favorable future, before their death, from natural or otherwise causes.

I am in favor of the olive branch when it comes to a country desparately trying to change the face of time and opressive leadership of the past. The China card, as aptly named in the post-nuclear war with Russia under Nixon and Ford, is now a race to put automobiles in the hands of more of its citizens and provide them with mobility. With this newly acquired mobility comes new associations and new knowledge and new interfacing with local communities that has the promise of pulling them away from a central government and placing the country's power with the populace instead of abusive local authorities. I believe it will help democratize their government. If the United States and European Community sees this as diplomacy and a way to avoid another war with Asia, instead of suffering undue costs for its leadership role, then, and only then, can we share our form of democracy with another continent, and balance the globe to suppress the Middle East outlandish demands with terroristic tendencies, including North Korea, and the Philippines.

I am not any expert on global warming; in fact, I don't believe it either. But because science claims there is such a chaotic situation that the world faces, I reluctantly bend to "big science" in blind obedience. I recall "big science" being wrong on other matters such as hormone replacement therapy for women, then reversing it a decade later after women obediently took the hormone therapy and suffered an increase in breast cancer.

Beware of "big science;" it is a tool of government and serves "big business" and "powerful politicians."

If I have any challenges, I'll be back when I get my desk top Personal Computer running on my at&t Modem; hopefully within a week or so.

I have seen my electrical limits facing all of those cables. I just found my power yesterday after receiving it on the 18th of this month. I didn't recognize it in the false bottom. Because I have schedule surgery in February, I am in a lot of pain to accomplish this installation. I wish I could just call an installation service person to do it for me. I have already recognized two cables 6'5" instead of the ordered 9' cable. I obtained a refund for the purchase of a 9' cable, likewise for other wires, components, and parts that I don't know what to do with them, until I buy a television to connect to the TV tuner.

This of course has nothing to do with the subject "global warming." So if I am so bad at connecting my Slimline computer to the Modem and the Printer, then what can you expect of me when it comes to talking about "global warming?"

Happy Holidays to one and all. I wish you all a glorious new year with our troops coming home in the election cycle of 2008. Our presidential candidates look like a FOX TV Show, "Choose your President 2008" Special.

Roach

There's something kooky about rearranging the world and getting in China's faith because some guys playing SimEarth too long are making predictions about the distant future that are entirely unverifiable and therefore entirely unscientific.

bcowan

I would like to second the remarks of my (I suspect) fellow Whiteheadian, afrjc, especially the last point about the perils of incautious selection and over-credulity concerning abstractions. Whitehead's dictum, "Seek simplicity - and distrust it," seems particularly apt in connection with pronouncements on global warming.

Cost-benefit propositions are of course an important part of any treatment of the global warming problem that aspires to adequacy. Posner's piece(s) help by laying out what cost-benefit thinking, by itself, would suggest about how to work towards solutions for what is (Roach to the contrary -isn't he always? - notwithstanding) very widely regarded as a profound threat to human well-being.

But the adequacy of any proposition that would summarize complex and dynamic issues is crucially dependent on the selection of data which are admitted into relevance for the proposition.

If the data, the logical subjects of the proposition, are too narrowly specified, the predicate will likely tend to reflect that narrowness. Posner's data are indeed rather thin - some numbers, some ungrounded behavioral suppositions, a covert (but complete) rejection out of hand of any importance whatsoever to what our critics might actually be saying. Not much there, really.

The result is merely an artifact of the limitations imposed on the data. It is peculiarly unconvincing, to me at least, that much of anything germane to improving the real outlook has been considered in the Posner Bali posts.

A data set that included at least some historical considerations would be an improvement, on the sensible ground that what a problem is depends on how it came about. The utter lack of historicity in Posner's simplification leaves him able to cite only a dubious interpretation of the nuclear arms race as his sole example of a precedent. Not surprisingly, it adds nothing to his case because the supposed parallels hardly apply at all.

Also, the possiblity is mentioned, but not followed up, that controlling greenhouse gas emissions might actually help China to stop killing its citizens by pollution, which might be seen by Chinese leaders as attractive. It is correct that the most acute immediate effects of exploitative environmental practices are local; accordingly, even if Posner is right that the besetting environmental problem for Chinese leaders now is lethality of local soil water and air, how does that support an argument against their having incentive to control/reduce greenhouse gases, the production of which is a major cause of local pollution?

I think it is important, when faced with a concerted demand for US leadership on global warmning, both from the developing world and from our sole co-occupant of the developed world, the EU, to think about how we might understand it as something other than flatly incompatible with our interests, as the Posner piece(s) (as well as the Bush administration) somewhat cartoonishly present it. Surely, amid all the rich array of opportunities for mutual adjustment of relevant values that could be developed further in this complex situation, we ought to be able to think of something other than Dirty Harry as our exemplar!


LAK

Roach,

You're kidding yourself if you think warming will have net positive economic effects any time in the near future. A rise in temperature will cause reequilibration of major ecosystems, and those adaptations will come at severe costs to certain species, certainly our own.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/23/world/europe/23virus.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

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