Friday, June 18, 2010

Goldberg's Skeptical Platitudes

Of all the arguments against dealing with anthropogenic climate change, Jonah Goldberg chooses one of the cheapest:
Of course you can put aside the climate change argument — even if you believe in climate change, America could be in full compliance with Kyoto and then some, and it wouldn't make much of a difference in the amount of CO2 pumped into the world's atmosphere, because the rest of the world won't be switching from fossil fuels any time soon. Meanwhile, as Bjørn Lomborg and others have long argued, there are some far more pressing environmental problems that could use the trillions of dollars that would be thrown away on slightly reducing CO2 emissions by the end of the century (and delaying computer modeled predictions of warming by a few years).

This is an extremely weak argument -- a mere recitation of the age-old Tragedy of the Commons.

First of all, it assumes that the 1997 Kyoto Treaty was intended to be the final word on fixing the climate problem. Of course, it was not, but just a beginning.

Secondly, it assumes the world and its citizens and governments cannot deal with more than more than one problem at once. You never make that assumption in your own life. If you have a heart problem and your roof leaks, you deal with them both -- medications, diet, exercise, and you hire someone to patch the roof.

By Goldberg's argument, one need never pay one's taxes, since it's only a few thousand dollars and the government would  never miss it. You don't need to get vaccinated, as you're just a single individual and won't make any difference among the vast number of others who also aren't getting vaccinated.

And, of course, if the US were to cut their GHG emissions, it would serve as a strong example to the world. We also have plenty of political clout to "encourage" other countries to do the same.

Goldberg's arguments are trivial rather disappointing (not to say embarrassing). Real, intelligent arguments against action on AGW are welcome, but merely repeating age-old platitudes that obviously make no sense serve no purpose.

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