Monday, September 11, 2017

A Rational Approach to Climate Change

Manmade climate change has become a political football in the USA with proponents on the left wing and opponents on the right.  After dividing the country in two, the debate is turned into a winner-take-all game instead of a scientific rational approach.

Let's look at it rationally and please put your politics on hold for a few minutes.

The world is definitely getting hotter, year by year statistics are pretty clear on this.  Check out the NASA measurements here.

Most of us would accept that a warming Earth will cause the ice caps to melt and rising sea levels.  It is pretty hard to deny this if you like ice in your drinks - the warmer it gets, the more it melts.  NASA also measures this and it is clear that sea level is rising.

Most of us would also accept that rising sea levels and rising temperatures are not good for people, plants, or animals as we know them today.  Low lying cities like New York, London, Miami, Houston will be flooded.  Hot areas like the US Southwest, Saharan Africa, and the Chinese desert will be much less compatible with human life. These bad things will cause people to do bad things to each other to survive.  You can debate how bad it will be but its going to be nasty.

So now comes the hard parts:

  1. Why is this happening and will it continue?
  2. What can we do about it?
The why is very politicized and seems to split into two camps:
  1. It is caused by CO2 emissions from fossil fuels that cause a greenhouse effect.  The scientists generally believe this and the argument can be found here.
  2. It is caused by something else that has nothing to do with man.  If you believe this, you probably know where to look for reinforcement of this idea.
Let's skip the debate on who is right, that is covered better elsewhere.  Let's look at what can we do?

We know the effects of global warming will likely be very bad.  Kind of like a big version of your house burning down or a tornado.

We disagree on what is causing it.  Let's assume you don't believe it is caused by man and CO2.  Do you believe that 100%, swear on the bible, bet my last dollar..??  Probably not, there is some uncertainty but you don't want to admit it publicly because politics is a win-lose game or whatever.  Let's say you think there is a 20% chance that climate change is man-made.

Given the very bad consequences, isn't it prudent to take action against a probable cause, however unlikely?  The worst that will happen is that money is wasted taking action to prevent a tragedy.

The analogy is that houses almost never catch fire, but we spend a lot of money trying to prevent and insure against a fire, including causes that are quite unlikely.

That is my core rational argument: given the catastrophic consequences of global warming, why would we not take action to mitigate the cause(s) and effects, even if you believe a cause is unlikely??