A rational discussion about what to do about global warming (cooling)?

Byline: | Category: Economy, Environment, Government | Posted at: Tuesday, 28 May 2013

When determining if we should do anything about global warming, I propose a four-step approach:

1.  Are global temperatures warming?

2.  Do the negative consequences of the change outweigh the positive consequences?

3.  Can we do anything that will reverse the change?

4.  Do the net positive consequences of the action outweigh the net negative consequences of doing nothing?

Notice, the steps have nothing at all whatsoever to do with whether or not global warming is anthropogenic.  The climate’s “naturalness” is actually irrelevant.  If a 10 kilometer-wide asteroid were hurling toward earth at 100,000 km per hour, it would be a completely natural event.  However, just because the meteor wasn’t anthropogenic doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t take actions to deflect it.

Notice also, that we could change question 1 from “warming” to “cooling” and the four-step approach still works.  And quite frankly, cooling is probably a more historically problematic situation.

If the answer to any one of the above four questions is “No,” then we should do absolutely nothing about a changing climate.  If the answer to all of the questions are “Yes,” then, and only then, should we take any actions.

This is not the discussion we have been having for twenty years.  Instead, we have been chased onto an  anthropogenic side path well worn by Rousseauian “modern man is bad” theorists.  The discussion over naturalness is not only, as I have already said, irrelevant, it is also self-destructive, as the question itself presupposes that natural is good and that anything that deviates from it must be returned to a state of nature.

RELATED:

Peter Ferrara:  Global Cooling is Here

UPDATE:

Thanks to Glenn for the link.  It’s nice to see something I wrote a month ago still relevant today.  Also here and here.

Edited to add the word “net” to question #4 per a comment from a reader.

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2 Responses to “A rational discussion about what to do about global warming (cooling)?”

  1. klem Says:

    1. Yes and no
    2. Unknown
    3. No
    4. Yes

    I have two no’s and one yes. So according to your recommendation we should do nothing. I don’t agree, if the world is getting warmer we should remove our shirt and wear a sunhat. If the world is getting cooler, we should put on a coat and wear a wool cap.

    cheers

  2. Dave D Says:

    Hi, Bob! Let’s make the first question, “Are global temperatures changing?” This covers us for warming or cooling. Then, let’s define what’s “normal.” We know temperatures are going to vary within a certain normal range. We also know that the range itself will vary with geographical location and season. So we could pick a few places and look at rolling 100 year average temperatures, and compare means. For example, is the 100-year mean temperature of Brisbane, Australia different from the 100-year mean for the period ending in 1990? The third thing is to define how much of a change from normal is significant. This leads to your second question about consequences. My point is that your construct is sound, but the arguments come from how to measure and how to interpret what is measured.