Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

What if we’re wrong about global warming?

Jerry Stratton, August 20, 2015

Corn pump

“Last year, 40 percent of corn grown in the US went to fuel instead of food. If all the land used to grow biofuels for the EU in 2008 had instead been used to grow food, it could have fed 127 million people for an entire year.”

Progressives are often charged with one-dimensional analysis: not taking into account the indirect costs of their policies, but only the direct costs compared to direct and indirect benefits. That is, doubling the good or halving the bad.

I recently saw a cartoon get sent around about a “Climate Summit” in which some angry guy says, “What if it’s a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”, talking about global warming. It listed:

  • Energy independence
  • Preserve rainforests
  • Sustainability
  • Green jobs
  • Livable cities
  • Renewables
  • Clean water, air
  • Healthy children
  • etc. etc.

In this meme, they’re literally using zero-dimensional analysis. They’re counting as benefits things that have nothing to do with fighting man-made global warming, and ignoring not just the indirect costs, but the direct costs of fighting it. It isn’t just that corn in gasoline has the indirect cost of clogging up engines. They’re not even counting that corn in gasoline cannot be used as food, and claiming healthier children even though the reality is starving children.

In this particular meme they’re also conflating two completely different things. Fighting global warming has little to do with energy independence. We are achieving energy independence with oil; activists for a static climate oppose that, because it’s oil.

Fighting global warming has literally nothing to do with making cleaner air and making people healthier. Carbon dioxide is one of the good gasses. If we want a bigger rainforest, we want more carbon dioxide to feed it. Cleaner air is a grand goal, but cleaner air is mostly about other chemicals in the air: carbon monoxide, sulfur, and so on. Cleaner air has also mostly been achieved. And its been achieved by balancing the costs—in jobs, lost opportunities, and higher prices—to achieve it.

Global warming proponents take into account none of those costs when they talk about reducing petroleum use. They like to pretend that there are only upsides to using food for fuel instead for food; for regressively taxing the poor by raising the cost of literally everything, because everything requires energy to create and transport; for destroying vast habitats to create wind farms and solar farms; for spending tax monies subsidizing expensive green technology and jobs rather than on other public goods. Everything is a trade-off. Even assuming that their theories are correct despite their inability to make scientific predictions, the money and effort we are expending on changing the global temperature rise from 2°C to 1.9°C degrees in a hundred years could be used for making people’s lives better now.

Vostok Antarctica ice core temperatures

Climate change over time.

But there is more than just that. Global warming proponents almost all prefer complex government solutions, such as cap-and-trade, and big government programs, such as throttling energy usage. But Big and Complex Government invariably leads to corruption. Big bribes will flow to keep the energy flowing to the rich and well-connected. Little bribes will flow to keep the hometown energy bureausnoop from reporting your one-time mistake. Payoffs will insert little pieces into big legislation that benefit a handful of cronies. Corruption, and the bad government that comes with it, is inevitable under these schemes.

And then, in attempts to overcome the corruption and rampant flouting of the law, tyrannies will be implemented—which will, of course, result in more corruption. But the freedom traded, it will still be gone. Energy is freedom. But all of the solutions except portable nuclear (which is not generally supported by global warming activists) are centralized. Whoever controls centralized energy sources controls whoever depends on that energy. You will not want to make the local DOE button-pressers angry during a heat wave!

There are literally, right now, government plans to pull power back from electric cars and put it back into the grid when some government bureaucrat decides someone else needs the power more than you do. Your solar home is an even bigger treat for that bureaucrat.

The fact is, what this meme is asking for is not a better world, but millions starving, and billions living in misery.

And that’s not even counting the known disasters that we are not preparing for, the known ills we are not solving—including the fact that climate changes all the time—because all of our money and research is feeding a hoax.

Everything is a compromise. Everything. Nothing is free, and any effort we expend in one area is effort we are unable to expend in other areas. This doesn’t mean that one or the other is necessarily wrong.1 It just means that we must recognize that a choice must be made, or we’re likely to make the wrong one. We can’t pretend that there is no choice, that there are no compromises. There are always compromises. And pretending that there aren’t virtually guarantees that we’ll make the wrong choice.

What if it’s a big hoax and we let millions die while we spend our money on crony projects and waste our research efforts on bad science?

In response to I believe in Global Warming (and other conversion stories): Conversion stories aren’t meant to convert skeptics; they’re a bonding tale for the converted, a sign of a religion; science needs theories that make predictions about what happens when they’re right and how to falsify them if they’re wrong. Proof for human-caused global warming is always whatever happened last month or last year, never tomorrow. No application of the scientific method can ever disprove it because hindsight is 20/20.

  1. It could be wrong; if it turns out the climate is warming not because of anything we’re doing, but because we’re leaving an ice age and heading into a tropical period, and now we’re too broke to deal with it because we dismantled our economy and spent all our resources combating a problem that didn’t exist, well, we made the wrong choice.

  1. <- Global warming cage
  2. Climate vs. science ->