Thursday, December 10

Types of global warming skepticism

A dish reader writes:
The problem with your reader's simplification of the AGW deniers' argument is that he's speaking very generally and generously about one small battalion in a broad coalition of deniers.

We have the supposedly literate folks like George Will who don't understand what a trend is, and therefore they think the Earth has been cooling since 1998, ergo AGW is a hoax. Then we have the folks who think that the Earth may indeed be warming, but it's not because of human activity, or if it is, the absolute proof hasn't been found yet. Then we have the folks who think that it's too late, too hard, and too expensive to do anything about it, so, oh well, we'll deal with it and we'll "evolve." Then we have the Christian right, which thinks that God sets the thermostat, period, and scientists are evil ghouls who bring about things like the Holocaust. Then there are the worshipers of "common sense" who think it's a stroke of genius to say things like "carbon dioxide only makes up a tiny percentage of the atmosphere." And let's not forget the paranoid viral email forwarders who think that the East Anglia story is evidence of a genuine conspiracy fronted by Al Gore that seeks to make money by setting up carbon offset programs. And on and on and on.

It's a vast army of millions that is supported by the apathy of millions of others who, understandably, don't know what to think. The common bond is denial, and the common goal is to do absolutely zilch to change our habits.
Bold is my flavor. I further suspect that models of warming's deleterious effects are more uncertain and exaggerated than those sounding the alarm will admit, and am also not fully convinced temperatures are at a significant high compared to a millenia ago (pre-Little Ice Age).

I'm not against a Pigovian framework to reduce unnecessary emissions, but I insist that it be done in an economically efficient manner so that we're not wasting resources and can be sure it passes cost-benefit muster.  There are worse things than doing nothing--a convoluted giveaway to special interests like Waxman-Markey, for instance.

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