The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

Climate change denial-lite at LDP

The political aspirants of the fledgling Liberal Democratic Party have been musing over a climate change policy. Publicly, they acknowledge scientific evidence that global warming may be real, but some current discussion seems to me to be more about rationalising attitudes more consistent with climate change denial and global warming skepticism.

The main themes so far seem to be:

  • there is no firm evidence for anthrogenic global warming
  • even if there is, it’s doubtful that it will be anything we need worry about
  • Graeme Bird thinks that carbon is good, good, good and that the present level is about right while he works on a new theory that it’s not CO2 emissions, but the oceans that are the problem
  • if anyone will be affected it will only be marginal and nothing we need worry about
  • even if it’s real, the best thing we can do about it is nothing – the markets are the only effective method for dealing with it
  • if we do something about it, it will only be shifting the cost to the poor and that wouldn’t be fair
  • so best not worry about it

To argue that humans can go on emitting 7,000,000,000 tonnes of CO2 annually and not be concerned strikes me as arrogant, so certain are some that they understand how it all works and what may or may not be the consequences. It doesn’t seem prudent, let alone rational.

I’m concerned when some libertarians suggest that it’s OK for say 150 million people to be dispossessed of their countries (what to speak of culture and heritage) by rising sea levels. I guess we’d be doing them a favour, as most of them want to leave their island homes for the big city anyway. No big deal there. I would have thought this utilitarian attitude incompatible with libertarianism. What happens to the liberty and free choice of those 150 million souls? Is my liberty more important than yours? Or is it more a case of our liberty is more important than theirs?

I have pondered why many people are so determined to deny the possibility of climate change or the need to do anything about it. I still haven’t got past the idea that having to deal with it for some people is simply too threatening. That it means making changes to the materialistic, consumptive, growth at any cost lifestyle they presently enjoy (invariably at the expense of others in a global context) and hope to enjoy even more of as soon as possible.

Much easier to go on the offensive and quibble about models and mathematical formulae and rationalise it all away with fancy economic theories. Heaven forbid that we actually make some personal sacrifice or provide some political leadership.

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Filed under: Economics, Environment, Politics

7 Responses

  1. graemebird says:

    Right.

    Well I’m right about it and you are wrong.

    And you are on the denialist side of the argument.

    We must go where the chips fall science-wise. And they don’t fall on the alarmist side of the debate. And therefore the alarmist side of the debate is the denialist side of the debate as well as the anti-science side of the debate.

  2. graemebird says:

    Isn’t this always the case.

    I must confess right here to sometimes wiping the odd comment from time to time.

    But I have seldom been to a denialist-alarmists blog but that he isn’t moderating pretty much every damn comment that is made.

    You a scientist?

    Or are you a propagandist?

  3. slim says:

    It’s a newish blog for a newish blogger so I like to know who’s who moderation-wise. Been around long enough to know that sites can get really trashed by spammers.

    Scientist. BSc majoring in Zoology with minors in various ecology studies.

    An old friend always referred to me as being a scientist. We all have our prejudices, but I try to analyse things from scientific perspective.

  4. graemebird says:

    Well I wonder about that.

    The CO2 deal was a nice theory. But it hasn’t panned out in the data.

    And a scientist is supposed to go with the data.

  5. I think you are misrepresenting the LDP’s position. It is not fair to judge a party’s position by the comments of anybody who supports the party. If that was the case I could find enormous amounts of idiotic Liberal, ALP, Green etc positions.

    The LDP’s position is that there is no public policy proposal currently in existence that has passed a benefit-cost anlaysis. You mention utilitarian considerations… so presumably you appreciate that it would be a bad idea to introduce a policy that decreased utility just so that you could look like you’re doing something.

    I do not deny the existence of AGW… and while I think there is still uncertainty about the exact level of human contribution I think it is likely significant. I think the projections for what will happen in the future is slightly more in doubt… but on balance if I was forced to guess I would say about 2-3 degree increase by 2100 — which is well within the IPCC range. I think there is even more doubt about the consequences from this and our ability to adapt/cope/innovate.

    The problem with these issues is that they are so easily used to scare people into accepting huge government boondogles that they would otherwise reject. Fear is a powerful motivator in politics and one that I am concerned about. The other great fear campaign of our time is the terrorist-under-your-bed fear which has also been used to justify all manner of stupid government programs. Fear is the lifeblood of government and fear campaigns deserve our skepticism.

    As for your comments about liberty, they show a confusion about what liberty means. Liberty has nothing to do with the ends (a nice house, healthcare, having food etc) but is about the means used (whether actions are voluntary or violent/coercive). This is not to say that ends aren’t important. Indeed, I am a utilitarian and LDP policy is based on utilitarian considerations… but it’s important to make clear distinctions in our language or people will forever talk past each other instead of with each other.

  6. slim says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply John.

    I wasn’t meaning to misrepresent LDP policy on climate change, but simply expressing my concern for some of the attitudes apparent in the comments being made in the discussion.

    I appreciate utilitarian considerations, especially in government policy, but not at the expense of another’s liberty, justice, rights and well-being. Isn’t there a fundamental contradiction between collective utility and individual liberty? Howard’s nuclear policy will decrease utility, and as you say, makes him look like he has a solution to people’s fear about climate change and global warming. How do you get the government to carry out serious cost/benefit analysis of a range of options to actually come up with a good policy response, especially when they are in the thrall of the fossil fuel industry?

    I too am concerned about fear as a tool of political manipulation, and as we all know, Howard is a modern master of the art. But fears about the consequences of global warming and climate change will not diminish unless the government comes up with an effective response. And I don’t think the Howard government is up to the task.

    Clearly, there has to be an economic cost imposed on carbon emissions, both to reduce production and encourage technological and economic innovation. I don’t think we can afford to argue the details for years to come. How hard can it be to figure out if you have the will to – isn’t that what economists and think tamks are for?

    Liberty is an interesting concept/ideal/process to which I presume most of us are naturally drawn. I have misgivings when the collective exercise of liberty by one country/race/ethnic group/religion/party/corporation/… is exercised at the expense of another, especially given that the wealth and affluence enjoyed by the developed economies is heavily subsidised by their exploitation of under developed economies and their long suffering poor. I regard this as an abrogation of our moral responsibilities.

  7. graemebird says:

    The starting point to cost-benefit analysis of anthropogenic warming must begin with the idea that any such warming is a positive externality.

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The Dog’s Bollocks

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