Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Big money to be made off global warming

An article in The New York Times by Steve Lohr entitled "The Cost of an Overheated Planet" is an interesting overview of the economics of global warming, or at least the economics of attempting to avert and reverse global warming. It certainly talks a lot about "costs", but if you read the article carefully, it is really simply a catalog of all the vested interest groups that serve to benefit significantly from pursuing anti-warming policies. Nuclear power, researchers, venture capitalists, accounting firms, consultants, politicians, policy analysts, big business, and on and on. The only people who won't gain financially are... yes, you guessed it... innocent consumers. In other words, business as usual. Global warming and climate change are primarily tools for obtaining and manipulating power and money. Any benefit that might accrue to the environment will be somewhat incidental.

Virtually every paragraph of the article contained some point that I have an isue with, but I'll spare you a full recitation. Here's one:

Yet it is increasingly clear that there is a considerable cost to carbon dioxide emissions, especially to future generations, as climate specialists warn of declines in farm output in poor tropical countries, fiercer hurricanes and coastal floods that could make many people refugees.

I'm sorry, but speaking of costs to "future generations" in the present tense is simply absurd. Anybody who so boldly assumes that the state of the world in the future, especially decades from now, is a locked-in near-certainty, is truly trying to pull a fast one on you, especially when they are nominally a "reporter" who is supposed to focus on facts and not gazing into crystal balls.

If it is "increasingly clear", then doesn't that imply that it isn't quite so clear now? What isn't clear now? What wasn't clear a year ago? What wasn't clear when Al Gore starred in his movie? How shaky is the current modeling of global warming and climate change and their effects.

If "climate specialists warn" of various calamities, are they warning of a certainty, a strong possibility, a likelihood, a moderate possibility, a modest possibility, a slim possibility, or what? If an absolute near-certainty, do they really have the science to back up that assertion? If not an absolute near-certainty, that what probability, and do they really have the science to back up that assertion? And remember, we are talking about the future, many years from now. Even without putting some grand scheme into action, how many factors could change and in what ways over the next few decades.

Haven't we been here before, many times in the history of mankind? Every few decades, a kind of fear seems to grip segments of society and gets projected into the future, projecting a dark and ominous disaster. But then, as the years go by, society, technology, science, and patterns of thinking evolve and the fear begins to die down. Problems that do actually crop up are readily solvable or incent innovators and entrepreneurs to come up with novel solutions that can be readily and economically applied to the real problems at hand.

I have no doubt that the environment will be reasonable "clean" fifty years from now, and maybe even cleaner a hundred years from now. All without some humongous crash program that distorts virtually every segment of society.

There are already a myriad of incentives in place to evolve towards cleaner energy and a cleaner environment. There simply is no good reason to add many layers of unnecessary bureaucracy to our current social systems. The path into the future won't be as smooth as some people would like, but it will get us there.

-- Jack Krupansky

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