NC Media Watch

A quest for reason and accuracy in letters to the editor, guest editorials and other issues of interest to the citizens of Western Nevada County.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Let's adapt

Mindy Oberne in "It's heating up," September 19, 2005
Please wake up to the fact that global warming is here. It may be too late already, but let's be smart and try to do what we can.
Yes, the world is getting warmer, but there is no conclusive proof that we can do anything about it. Some scientists claim it is CO2. Others claim it is the sun’s energy output. Others claim it is 2,000 years of agriculture which produce methane from animal flatulence and rotting plants as the cause. The notion that we can do anything about it, requires we know what to do. This is especially true when we get reports like the one below, that cherry picks the data to make a political point. Who are we to believe?

As the world warms, regardless of the cause, we need to prepare. We need to adapt as man has for millions of years, as the earth warmed and cooled multiple times. We are here today because our ancestors adapted. We can too.

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Blogger Frederic Christie said...

Fine, Russ, there's no proof we can do anything about it, so why not try? Carbon sinks: Independent value. Improving animal diets to reduce methane: Independent value (animal waste is very dangerous). Cutting emissions: Independent value. Some proposals, such as altering surface reflectivity, may have little other value, but even there the precautionary principle is fairly valid.

"Man" as she has existed is actually only 100,000 years old or so, but even if she was millions of years old, the impact she has had over the nine thousand years (roughly the onset of agriculture) was far beyond the hundreds of thousands before that, and the impact over the last two hundred years even drastically more. I have hope that humankind will adapt as well, but I don't think it will do so without decisions to change its behavior, particularly replacing its institutions (capitalism, statism, racism, sexism, etc.) that propel this dangerous behavior.

Mon Sep 19, 01:59:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Russ Steele said...

Fredric is right, millions should be thousands of years. Yes mankind also included women. Both slips of the mind.

Why do anything about it? Why spend money on a problem that we cannot change.

Top down behavior changes do not work. Societial changes require millions of individual decisions, toward a common goal.

Mon Sep 19, 07:47:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Frederic Christie said...

Because, Russ, a) we can't be sure if we can't change it before hand, and b) all the solutions have independent non-global warming value.

On a), note that even if anthropogenic global warming has NOT happened, this does not mean that it may not happen, nor that we can't increase our carbon-absorption ability to reduce that aspect of warming. We know that there is a greenhouse barrier that traps heat. If we can decrease it, we can help stop warming, even if that warming is not in and of itself anthropogenic.

"Top down behavior changes don't work"? So laws against murder fail? Wage and price systems, which of course try to regulate economic behavior with incentives, don't work? I will be highly surprised if you actually believe this. Yes, hoping that political or economic decisions will change private behavior is usually highly problematic. But this does not mean that there aren't ways to construct incentive/disincentive systems that will in the aggregate propel better behavior, nor that we shouldn't convince people about our proposals, nor that laws and political endeavors can't do anything. What would happen, Russ, if there was a $1 tax on all gasoline? Gasoline usage would go down, right? That's a behavior alteration, isn't it? Whether it makes sense or not is the debate, not whether or not the society as a whole wouldn't change.

To discuss individual responsibility is fine, in fact vital, but there is ALSO societal responsibility, separate and equally important, and altering/replacing our unjust institutions will open up new possibilities.

Mon Sep 19, 07:51:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Russ Steele said...


"So laws against murder fail?" I guess so, we see about 1 or 2 every night on the TV.

Mon Sep 19, 09:57:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Frederic Christie said...

"So laws against murder fail?" I guess so, we see about 1 or 2 every night on the TV."

No one asks laws against murder to literally stop all murder. It merely needs to be a strong enough deterrent to reduce the incidence drastically, which, of course, it has (while the news media, as you unconsciously identify, makes murder seem to have gone up by increasing its reporting). And you missed the point of the analogy: You would never advocate eliminating laws against murder because, hey, "top down solutions" never work (never mind that I'm actually advocating for bottom-up solutions such as a revolution against the state and capitalism). Society needs to have rules. One of those rules should be that people should pay the real social cost of their economic transactions. But that never happens under markets barring government intervention.

Mon Sep 19, 11:54:00 PM PDT  

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