A thought experiment on climate change

I’d like to pose a hypothetical to those of you who oppose new government restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions… a thought experiment if you will.

Suppose for a moment that climate change is not the obvious hoax that it is, perpetrated by Al Gore and 99% of the scientific community to some mysterious, nefarious end. Let’s just pretend that the evidence for climate change is overwhelming, that the earth is warming, that the environmental and economic impact will be devastating, and that it is absolutely conclusive that not only are these changes largely due to the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, but that an immediate and substantial cut in these emissions could in fact lessen, delay and perhaps ultimately reverse the dramatic climatic shift mankind has set into motion.

Now hypothetically, just for the sake of argument, let us assume that you, being a reasonable and rational person, faced with overwhelmingly conclusive scientific evidence, accept all these (admittedly fantastical) assumptions as fact.

So… would you still oppose government restrictions on carbon emissions? Or, knowing that we are choking ourselves into an environmental disaster, would you still argue that the market should be free to do what the market will do?

Honestly. I want to know whether it is worth even trying to persuade you, or whether you would simply oppose any government interference in the private sector, regardless of the consequences or the facts?

Comments

  1. 2

    ArtFart spews:

    I’d certainly support governments (not just ours) working to mitigate the effects of humankind’s ever-increasing consumption of non-renewal resources and destruction of potentially renewal ones. On the other hand, I’m skeptical of the ability to create and manage an artifical “carbon-credit” marketplace with the naive expectation that the major players wouldn’t use it as an opportunity for cheating and exploitation. (There’s at least anecdotal evidence that Goldman Sachs has plans in the works to extract massive profits from “carbon trading”.) I certainly wouldn’t funnel massive subsidies to Archer Daniels Midland to produce ethanol in a manner that consumes more petroleum than it replaces, and has the potential to only delay our being weaned off the automobile while interfering with food production in a hungry world.

    Assuming the degree of urgency which you are in your “experiment”, I certainly wouldn’t concentrate on unproven and potentially dangerous adventures like trying to collect massive amounts of carbon dioxide and pump it into the ground. It would seem to make more sense to tax the shit out of fossil-fuel consumption and put the money into reforestation–which pays other dividends as well. This would in turn serve to make known-viable technologies–wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and nuclear power, electric vehicles and mass transit–more competitive sooner than the market would eventually make them anyway.

  2. 3

    rhp6033 spews:

    Goldy;

    Your hypothetical could have been worded a bit better. Remember that Cheney argued that we couldn’t allow even a 1% success rate in terrorist attacks, even if it meant imposing severe limitations on our civil liberties in the process.

    So we might ask:

    “If there is even a 1% chance that

    (a) environmental warming exists; and

    (b) that it would cause severe dislocation and other negative consequences; and

    (c) if environmental warming could be diminshed or halted by reducing man-made greenhouse gas emisions; then

    would you still agree that no action should be taken, and that the free markets should be allowed to take their natural course?

    Note that under this wording, it’s not necessary to assume that greenhouse warming is caused by man-made emissions. It’s only necessary to accept the assumption that reduction of man-made greenhouse emmissions may reduce future environmental warming.

    I like this approach, because it’s a bit like dealing with a forest fire. It’s not necessary to argue about whether most forest fires are caused by lightning or by man. It’s only necessary to point out that at least some of them could be prevented by basic fire prevention.

  3. 4

    Capt. Binghamton spews:

    Reagan had a reason for placing his ‘shining city’ on a hill. He knew that it would be valuable beachfront property a few years down the road.

  4. 5

    don spews:

    I look at it this way.

    If your brakes fail going down a hill, do you say, “Well can’t do anything about it, so I may as well speed up”?

  5. 7

    Dirk Van der Huge spews:

    I’m in the unconvinced either way camp on AGW debate. I’d be for a rational policy to restrict carbon emissions, but not if we’re going to try to do it unilaterally. We impose much greater costs on carbon-producing entities, many of them will move their activities to India and China, which don’t seem to share our enthusiasm for crippling the economy.

    Speaking of rational, when will the left get over their simultaneous insistence on carbon-reducing electrical generation and opposition to nuclear power? Or, on their belief in ethanol, with its rainforest-destroying aspects, and the fact that it doesn’t save on CO2 production overall? Lots of irrational thought on that side as well.

  6. 8

    slingshot spews:

    If I’m drowning, I certainly don’t want a government life ring. I’d prefer to tread water until the free-market shows up.

    And if it doesn’t arrive in time, and for a resonable price?

    Well, my tombstone will say it all:
    Gulp, shit!, gurgle…

  7. 9

    rhp6033 spews:

    Gee, two hours, and no response from the usual wingnuts on this question. I was expecting at least an attempt to deflect, or a challenge to the premise behind the question.

    Does a lack of a response, in itself, answer the question?

    Or maybe they are just busy. I guess we can give them a couple of more hours before drawing a conclusion.

  8. 10

    Capt. Binghamton spews:

    re 7: We’re both irrational. Let’s do nothing.

    You are correct that China is not destroying their economy as they are investing huge amounts in solar and wind.

    Coal is the biggest CO2 producer.

  9. 11

    Mr. Cynical spews:

    Goldy–
    Why would some of those esteemed scientists phony up research?
    This is a dead soldier.
    Gore is an idiot.
    His book was written filled with rigged data.
    Do you think if you keep bringing it up, it will somehow make the data magically become true?

    It was all about Socialist control of our day-to-day lives…and it failed.

  10. 12

    spews:

    Anyone else remember when I asked Goldy if he bought carbon offsets for his flight to Philly, he chose not to answer?

  11. 13

    Poster Child spews:

    There you go – Cynical troll shows up and the answer is: I can’t participate in your experiment; I’m incapable of abandoning my ideology to engage in an intellectual experiment even for a moment…

    The experiment fails. too bad.

  12. 15

    Capt. Binghamton spews:

    re 8: So, you are in favor of a faith based economy?

    Milton Friedman is a very slim reed upon which to base the future.

    Have you ever seen the cult classic, Milt Friedman in Outer Space? The intro to the film takes a wide shot of the bridge of a starship named the Adam Tiberius Smith. The camera pulls in closer to an Amish navigator sitting in his naugahyde captain’s chair. He’s playing the banjo and singing, ‘Flies in the buttermilk shoo fly shoo….’

    The camera comes around to Friedman who is, curiously enough, dressed in gabardine slacks with a frumpish brown suit jacket.

    He looks into the camera and says: “Who needs a navigator, the ship will find the best course on its own.

    You’d love it!

  13. 16

    Ekim spews:

    If Troll was drowning in a mud puddle, would you:

    1) Buy a ticket to watch?
    2) Sell the tickets?
    3) Throw the Troll a goat?

  14. 17

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    C’mon, Goldy, these are the same yahoos who wanted to nuke Cuba back in 1962, even though we now know Russia had far more nuclear-armed missiles there than our government estimated and that such an attack would have led to Armageddon. You can’t reason with a gang of suicidal freaks hell-bent on not only their own destruction but determined to take everyone else with them, too. The only thing you can do with ‘em is execute or at least incarcerate them.*

    * Ha ha! Just kidding! This is Ann Coulter’s joke, and I’m merely parodying it.

  15. 18

    GBS spews:

    If the person you’re trying to convince believes the earth is only 6,000 years old because the Magical Mythical Bible says it is; then there is no way you can use reason, facts or science to convince those who simply will not listen to reason because the issue was brought up by a Liberal.

    It’s akin to talking to a 6 year old who has his fingers in his ears and yelling nah, nah, nah, nah.

    I couch the argument like this: Do you believe that ice melts to water when it gets warmer than 32 degrees? Yes or No?

    If yes, then why do you think the Polar “Ice” caps have shrunk by as much as 30%? **see comparative imagery from: NASA

    If they say “no” then move on. You’re talking to an idiot.

    Since the polar icecaps, along with many glaciers are IN FACT melting, then what is causing them to melt if it’s not the Greenhouse Gas Effect?

    There are more than 800 scientific peer reviewed studies that agree on the principle that the Climate Change is human caused by greenhouse gases.

    If you don’t believe this and you have an alternate explanation lay it on the table. Back up your statements with only 80 scientific peer reviewed studies *just 10% of the common wisdom.

    I will bet $1,000 that no conservative can produce 80 SCIENTIFIC PEER REVIEWED studies to back up their claim that Climate Change is caused by any OTHER explanation than greenhouse gases caused by human activity.

    Operative wording for this wager is PEER REVIEWED studies.

    Who will take me up on this wager?

    I’m confident no one will.

    And all this from the “Err on the side of life. Don’t pull the plug on Terri Schiavo” crowd who claim to be Pro-Life but are willing to risk entire existence of the human race on their unwillingness to accept scientific facts.

    If ever there was a Satan, if ever there were the ultimate battle of Good vs Evil. You’d have to say Satan won the ultimate battle if he convinced enough people to believe Global Warming was a hoax and destroyed God’s only harbor of safety in the infinite universe by the very people whom God made in His likeness.

    God would not want us to pollute earth. God wouldn’t not want widespread suffering that will surely plague the humans of this world when drought, famine, fire and flooding come calling as a result of catastrophic climate change.

    But on the other hand, Drill, Baby, Drill because with today’s technology it’s so safe. As many a Republican have repeatedly chanted.

    Who should you believe? The scientific community or the Party of NO who have a consistent track record of being wrong on just about every major political issue.

    I’ll go with the Enlightened crowd over the mythological fearing crowd whose beliefs and thinking are more than 2,000 years stale.

  16. 20

    proud leftist spews:

    Cynny and Troll
    Make the assumptions Goldy requests you make, then answer the question. Show some good faith for once. Or, are you incapable of getting your wingnuttian minds around a hypothetical?

  17. 21

    Dirk Van der Huge spews:

    re: .10

    I don’t advocate doing nothing. I advocate doing things that won’t unilaterally hobble our economy, have unintended consequences, and that will actually work. I look at the entire debate this way: I don’t know if human-caused global warming will ever be proven, and I don’t particularly care. There are plenty of other reasons to switch from oil and coal, not the least of which is that we will run out someday.

    I support building more nuclear plants, and investing heavily in electric car technologies, and to a lesser extent, wind and solar. I just read a review of a recently published book, the name of which escapes me, that eviscerated the economics of solar and wind power. I just don’t think they will ever account for a large percentage of our energy use. I hope I’m wrong.

  18. 22

    ArtFart spews:

    “Speaking of rational, when will the left get over their simultaneous insistence on carbon-reducing electrical generation and opposition to nuclear power?”

    Don’t make such assumptions…many of us have. On the other hand, this particular leftie would prefer that it not be done in the ham-fisted manner in which we in the US did in the beginning. Admiral Rickover was highly critical of the nuclear power industry here for their shitty engineering. According to him, they basically pirated his designs for propulsion reactors and scaled up the dimensions by a factor of about twenty. The resulting plants, as a result, had many places where materials were potentially overstressed and numerous single points of failure. Consequently, they’re not only not as safe as they might otherwise be, but their comparative unreliability means that many plants have experienced inordinate amounts of downtime.

  19. 23

    Dirk Van der Huge spews:

    Yes, generalizations are wrong. Like implying that there’s some connection between being skeptical of AGW and believing the earth is 6,000 years old. I wouldn’t want to do that.

  20. 24

    Steve spews:

    “Or, are you incapable of getting your wingnuttian minds around a hypothetical?”

    Take another look at the KLOWN’s response. The flaw with your question is the assumption that any of our trolls has a mind.

  21. 25

    proud leftist spews:

    23
    I’m a good leftist, but I’m starting to warm a bit to revisiting nuclear power options. I certainly wouldn’t just take nuclear power off the table.

  22. 26

    ArtFart spews:

    @23 Actually, in the case of that faction of the Christian Right who’re axiously awaiting to be “Raptured” outta here, climate change becomes irrelevant, as does whether it’s human-caused or not.

    Their reasoning, based on their interpretation of Scripture, is that the End Times are a-comin’ if it’s also true that God created everything 6,000 years ago…and that all of the above becomes true if enough people believe it. So, if all of those pegs fall into place, either it doesn’t matter that we foul the planet a little more before God destroys it anyway, or else a lot of floods, storms, droughts and whatever else are just part of the “tribulations” that herald the Almighty’s taking up all the “good” people into Heaven.

  23. 27

    UndercoverBrother spews:

    a decade or 2 ago there was a poll that asked americans if they would be willing to give up thier TV remotes if it was the cure for cancer…and we said no.

    i think that covers the american attitude on climate change as well.

  24. 28

    Capt. Binghamton spews:

    re 21:

    I don’t advocate doing nothing. I advocate doing things that won’t unilaterally hobble our economy, have unintended consequences, and that will actually work.

    Maybe an all out use of fossil fuels in an attempt to build an infrastructure for clean energy might be a good strategy. China seems to be moving in that direction.

    As for not doing things with unintended consequences, I really don’t know how you think that would be possible, since the unintended results are not known until you do the thing that causes the result.

    And, there are many scenarios that could work, but I doubt that anyone can prognosticate whether they would

  25. 29

    YLB spews:

    Speaking of rational, when will the left get over their simultaneous insistence on carbon-reducing electrical generation and opposition to nuclear power?

    For quite a while I was convinced we had no choice but to develop as many carbon neutral or negative renewable energy options as we could while at the same time ratcheting up efficient end-use of energy.

    But all the while I had nagging doubts about the efficacy. Would it be enough to ensure the kind of life for our kids that we had? Would we want to live in a world with wind turbines and solar panels every where we look?

    Then I found this.

    Been anti-nuke all my life for the reasons Art described above and other reasons. This approach to nuclear power erased most of my concerns.

    But is anyone doing it? No.. So far it seems like too much of a threat to a very politically and economically entrenched status quo.

  26. 30

    Dirk Van der Huge spews:

    As for not doing things with unintended consequences, I really don’t know how you think that would be possible, since the unintended results are not known until you do the thing that causes the result

    I shouldn’t have been so vague. My issue is with biofuels, which we’ve tried, and they’ve had entirely predictable unintended consequences: razing of forest land in Brazil, spikes in the cost of corn, distorting subsidies, and no real net savings in fossil fuels.

  27. 31

    proud leftist spews:

    This post is over 5 hours old and still none of our trolls have answered Goldy’s question. What wimps. But, we knew that.

  28. 32

    Michael spews:

    @30

    Bio-fuels don’t scale. There are small pilot projects around that seem to be working and that use green manure crops so that you’re not taking land out of food production. But, those projects will only provide a very small % of our energy needs.

    ************
    We need to use less energy (per capita) in the future and we’ll need to change our habits and our economy to do that.

  29. 33

    rhp6033 spews:

    Speaking of nuclear power, I was reminded of the Three Mile Island incident, and it has some bearing on the subject of what we might call “wingnut denial syndrome”.

    If you will recall, the move “China Syndrome” was released in U.S. movie theatures on March 16, 1979. The nuclear industry and it’s supporters loudly criticized the film, saying that it was unrealistic, that such a failure in a nuclear plant could never occur, that they have exacting and redundant safegaurds to avoid such an incident from ever occuring, etc. Spokesmen litterally scoffed and chuckled when questioned by news media, saying the movie studios were being sensationalist and irresponsible in making and distributing such a movie.

    Of course, twelve days later, on March 28, 1979, a partial meltdown occured at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant south of Harrisburg Pennsylvania. The chilling aspect of that incident was that it happened precisely in the same manner as depicted in the movie: a false reading on a gauge caused the operators to do exactly the opposite of what they should have been doing, thereby temporarily exposing the core by lowering the collant level.

    As I mentioned before, my father was an engineer in the nuclear industry, although he had died before the three-mile island incident occured. I tend NOT to be a sensationalist when it comes to nuclear power. But I believe it is something which has to be handled with EXTREME CAUTION, because the consequences of error or unanticipated events could be catastrophic.

    But more to the point, the scoffing and casual dismissals by wingnuts of the effect of man-created greenhouse gasses upon global warming reminds me a lot of those nuclear industry P.R. men. I keep asking myself – don’t they ever wonder if they are wrong, and the effect of the consequences of that error upon mankind?

  30. 35

    Crusader spews:

    here’s another thought experiment:

    What would happen to HA blog if Goldy got a job?

  31. 36

    Crusader spews:

    I like this approach, because it’s a bit like dealing with a forest fire. It’s not necessary to argue about whether most forest fires are caused by lightning or by man. It’s only necessary to point out that at least some of them could be prevented by basic fire prevention.

    Nonsense making an equivalent between CO2 and matches.

  32. 37

    rhp6033 spews:

    There’s a new “bailout bill” being proposed to extend and offer more credits for installation of energy-efficient products on homes. Although conservation is a good idea, I’m thinking that this one probably shouldn’t make the cut. It isn’t about conservation so much as it is to give a windfall to certain companies and high-end products.

    But I’m still thinking that there needs to be a system which (a) rewards homeowners for installing solar panels on their rooftops, and (b) requires utilities to buy back unused power from customers at reasonable rates. Recent advancements in solar panel technology has made them much more efficient than before, and even in the rainy Puget Sound region most homes could generate enough electricity to offset their use. That could eliminate quite a bit of oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear plants who’s sole purpose is to make electricity.

    There is still a problem with timing – electricity simply doesn’t store very well on a large-scale basis. Currently this problem is solved by tranferring it from one region to another. For example, we don’t use much electricity up here in the Pacific Northwest during the summer because most homes don’t need air conditioning, so power generated here gets transferred to California, where it’s needed for air conditioning. During the winter that cycle is reversed. But that sort of transfer has limited usefulness when solar power is used – we need lighting and heat during the long winter nights, but when we need it most it’s dark elsewhere in the U.S. also.

  33. 38

    rhp6033 spews:

    # 32: It’s not a question of Co2 or matches. It’s a question of managing the risk of what you CAN control, even if you can’t control everything.

  34. 39

    Michael spews:

    @37

    It isn’t about conservation so much as it is to give a windfall to certain companies and high-end products.

    Yup!

    But I’m still thinking that there needs to be a system which (a) rewards homeowners for installing solar panels on their rooftops, and (b) requires utilities to buy back unused power from customers at reasonable rates.

    Solar heated radiant heat flooring works well around here, makes you’re house nice and comfy, and with the addition of a small photo voltaic system to run the pumps will keep your house cozy when the powers out.

    My electric bill is so low I’d have a hard time justifying buying solar cells. But, my floors and furnace and water heater are getting getting old and I could see switching to solar radiant heat and solar hot water (acts as a pre-heater in December and January.) when I replace the things in a few years.

    If I were going to add solar cells I’d probably get a DC powered fridge and freezer (when my current ones die) and a battery system so I could take the fridge and freezer off the grid, rather than sell power back to the power company.

  35. 40

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    I want to know whether it is worth even trying to persuade you, or whether you would simply oppose any government interference in the private sector, regardless of the consequences or the facts?

    Reverse this question about absolute facts to those who view the scientific data on climate change as accurate and you’d get many answers of YES!

    But the need to ask the question to people who knowingly and willingly disregard fact based conclusions tells you all you need to know.

  36. 41

    YLB spews:

    But I believe it is something which has to be handled with EXTREME CAUTION, because the consequences of error or unanticipated events could be catastrophic.

    Definitely more true of the pressurized light water reactors. And that has been the case since TMI. Extreme caution has been taken. The safety and reliability record has been pretty good to excellent for operating nukes because the industry sweated the details and got it down to an exact science.

    However we don’t see new nukes in the U.S. not so much because of the opposition but because of the tremendous cost and financial risk. A Canadian project was recently cancelled before it got off the ground because of an outrageous cost and a Finnish project right now is horribly over budget. This is more typical than not.

    We need a LOT of new nuclear power in the U.S. – enough to shut down every coal fired plant in my view but it has to be inherently safe and much, much cheaper.

    I believe LFTR fits the bill. If it gets too hot, the molten salts just drain into a safety tank where they can be reheated and pumped back into the reactor. Thorium is 4 times more plentiful than uranium and the LFTR burns all of the fuel instead of 0.7 percent of the uranium fuel in current light water reactors.

  37. 42

    Bluecollar Libertarian spews:

    Here’s an idea from the Sec. of Energy. The man may know something about this issue. Of course we could also open the transportation marketplace to others. Some suggest that alone would reduce the CO2 by 50% or more. I think those numbers are a bit high but it might be worth the try.

    Energy Secretary Chu: Paint roofs white to fight global warming
    May 27, 2009
    I have been pushing white or reflecting roofs as the lowest cost climate strategy (see “Geoengineering, adaptation and mitigation, Part 2: White roofs are the trillion-dollar solution“). Indeed, it is almost certainly the single cheapest of the 12 to 14 wedges needed to stabilize near 2°C total warming — the equivalent to taking the world’s approximately 600 million cars off the road for 18 years, while quickly paying for itself in direct energy savings!
    http://climateprogress.org/200.....ngineering

  38. 44

    spews:

    42 – Great idea but no substitute for shutting down coal fired power plants which pop up practically once or more a week in China and elsewhere.

    Of course that electricity has to to be supplied by some other low or no carbon means.

  39. 45

    Michael spews:

    @44

    Of course that electricity has to to be supplied by some other low or no carbon means.

    The world could continue on just fine without quite a bit of what’s being produced in China.

  40. 46

    Michael spews:

    @44

    And the US has a more carbon efficient manufacturing economy. Simply moving production from China to the US would cut down on CO2.

  41. 47

    YLB spews:

    45 – Tell that to Wal-mart shoppers..

    44 – And legions of U.S. manufacturers have for decades moved their operations from the northern U.S. to the southern U.S. to Mexico or Central America and then to Asia.

  42. 48

    doggril spews:

    Yeah, I’m all for expanding nuclear power in this country. After all, energy sector companies have proven that they can handle tricky, dangerous technologies incredibly responsibly. Just ask BP–or Massey.

  43. 49

    spews:

    After all, energy sector companies have proven that they can handle tricky, dangerous technologies incredibly responsibly.

    Read up. What I support is WAY less tricky and dangerous than today’s status quo.

    http://energyfromthorium.com/

    Not that responsible regulation isn’t required. And we pretty much have that today with nuclear. Any accidents in this country since TMI?