Man-Made Global Warming: 10 Questions (PART 2 OF 2)


Human – December 20, 2007

This is the second of 2 discussions on a list of 10 questions that Mr. Pat Sajak of “Wheel of Fortune” fame published recently.  In my previous post, I discussed the first 5 of the 10 questions.  This is the continuation of this series and covers 6-10.

6. Are there potential benefits to global warming?

That really isn’t the issue to the individuals that are affected. Yes, certain people may find themselves at an advantage with warmer temperatures but if you are one of those that is disadvantaged that doesn’t give much consolation.  Once again, this is where averages really don’t matter as much as the individual or local situation.

I have often pointed out that preventing global warming may not be as good as an investment as fighting malaria or some other calamity. That doesn’t diminish the importance of global warming, it only promotes the other ideas that would benefit mankind.  As callous as it sounds, all of this is an investment and since we have limited funds we need to decide which investment is the most worthwhile.

7. Should such drastic changes in public policy be based on a “what if?” proposition?

Great question.  Once again, this is all about the priorities of investment. I renew my very frequent call for more funding for the pure science behind this area so that we can more correctly predict the future.  A fairly high percentage of the articles on this site deal with new discoveries which leads to the logical argument that we don’t know enough.

8. What will be the impact on the people of the world if we change the way we live based on man-made global warming concerns?

Pat’s question in this area has drawn some heat from the blogosphere (here for example).  The blogosphere is wrong on this and Pat is correct to worry about it. If the events of the last decade have taught us anything, they have taught us that we do not work in an isolated world. Isolationism as a practice politically and economically simply do not achieve the long-term effects that we, in the US, desire. 

Newton theorized centuries ago that for every action there was a reaction. It is perfectly acceptable to wonder what a dramatic reduction of income from reduced oil revenue would do to a very politically unstable Middle East. For instance, without constant Western money flowing to the Saud family, can they remain in power? If they would lose power, what would happen to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia? While we don’t want to prop up an abusive government, in some cases we do need to be pragmatic and worry about how bad its replacement can be (I point to Iran after the fall of the Shah). 

Having a conversation with our trading partners about changes in our spending is politically correct at the minimum and probably extremely judicious. To ignore this conversation is to ignore history.

9. How will we measure our successes?

Once again, great question.  I never hear about this from the global warming enthusiasts. As an obvious (to me at least) corollary, what is good enough? Is it good enough to only let the temperature increase .5 deg?  How about 1 degree?

This leads to a reasonable cost/benefit analysis discussion. If it costs us $1T to keep the average global change in temperature to 1 degree then how much does it cost to keep it to 1.5 degree increase and what is the consequence of that last half of a degree?

10. How has this movement gained such momentum?

I think I have a definitive answer on this last question! The absolute tremendous ability of a few (principally, former Vice President Al Gore) to organize and rally support of the masses. This is a testimony to the organization and motivation skill of a few very smart, dedicated, and resourceful people to target an issue and drive it to the center of the media conversation.  Say what you will about Mr. Gore but he definitely understands how to excite and motivate the population.

You can read all of Pat’s questions here.

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