Sunday, August 06, 2006

Global Warming, Economics and Hearts and Minds

A friend of mine noted the following in an e-mail:

[T]his'all does seem like it may be just a little slap on the wrists from Mother Nature compared to what may be coming in the future. Judging by the info that's been gathered thus far, I suspect some yet more serious challenges will becoming our way down the road, particularly for the next generation(s). (y'know, for a country that's staking its global social face on the idea of "winning the hearts and minds" of folks abroad, I personally think we're fixin' to look awfully stupid in the not too distant
future--but I'm just one guy here.) Any thoughts?

I had never truly equated the two concepts before, (Global Warming and hearts and minds), but the point was a strong one so I responded with:
Weather: yes, the weather my children will raise my grandchildren in will be substantially different (no matter what Ann Coulter and Michael Crichton and the Bushites say). The only question will be "in what way is it different?" If the weather warms sufficiently to increase polar ice cap melting, the infusion of fresh water will likely mean that the gulf stream will move to the east, and we may actually be cooler, but with bitter and dry winters. Europe, in that case, would get appreciably hotter. If not, we'll be having barbecues in January in northern Minnesota and we won't need grills.

Either way, energy costs would likely break the world economy (same economic scenario for overall global warming and no gulf stream shift). And that's where the shortsightedness of the Bush administration comes into play. They ditched Kyoto because it would "cost too much", but the future costs are potentially so much higher. The Administration reminds me of Wimpy -- I'll gladly pay a dime tomorrow for a five-cent hamburger today.

In any case, the only real dispute I see with GW is to what extent humans are responsible -- however I'm not among the deniers who say we're barely responsible and it's all because of farting cows, and I'm not even so sure the percentage of responsibility that lies at our feet is all that relevant anyway. Let's say it's only 40% (personally, I think it's much higher, 75% or so), we can still take action on that 40%. Hell, we have the ability to ameliorate Global Warming, period, and thus we have a responsibility to both our species and our planet to do so.

Hearts and Minds: I'm not sure if that phrase is merely a PR term, or if the Bushites are so oblivious to reality that they don't realise that not everyone worships our way of life, and that the America of today was built by ideas and ideologies cobbled together over more than 200 years by immigrants from all over the globe. The Administration seems not to realise that one cannot merely impose democracy and expect it to stick -- the target nation has to want democracy, has to be ready for democracy, and has to earn it. And, even in cases where one can guide a nation into democracy -- see post-war Japan and Germany -- the form of democracy must match their social structure. Merely expecting a nation to swallow our form of democracy and government hook, line and sinker is the ultimate folly for fools.

On the environmental front, we have no credibility at all, and it will take the next president, if he/she is so inclined, years to restore any credibility. Pulling out of Kyoto while still expecting the rest of the world to abide by other treaties was utterly asinine, and Bush's Clear Skies policy was seen for the sham it was. Tying emissions to GDP and pretending you were reducing them was one of the most dishonest uses of math I've ever seen: today we emit x tons of greenhouse gases per y billion dollars of GDP; in 15 years we'll emit 2x tons or greenhouse gases per 3y billion dollars of GDP (assuming a growth rate in GDP of 200%). Yes, as a ratio, emissions are lower, but as a function of actual crap spewed into the atmosphere our pollution rate is twice as high.
The time to act is now if we are to live up to the great American vision of securing "the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity".


Anonymous David Kernow said...

I'd say the question a fossil-fuel culture such as ours would better address would be whether or not the amount of pollutants we (and soon China, India et al) eject seems profligate regardless of how far or whether the so-called developed world has caused or contributed to climate change. However, since it's money-driven influences and agendas that ultimately rule the roost, I suspect such an approach won't surface until either it's too late, or, because whatever climate change that occurs is welcomed by consumers, it can be dismissed as "another example of ethical indulgence". Stewardship in a consumer-driven world seems as likely as [insert your own highly-unlikely occurrence]. Regards.

Fri Sep 01, 04:29:00 PM 2006  

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