Friday, 30 September 2005

Global warming and the war in Iraq: The Link!

There is a link between global warming and the war in Iraq that I haven't seen picked up before, and is not without irony. The link is provided by the concept of risk, and how it relates to the arguments given for action in each case.

Irfan Khawaja spotted the link, so I'll let him explain:
Opponents of the Iraq war have typically argued that absent hard evidence of Iraqi WMD stockpiles, we had no business using force to disarm Iraq. In the case [of global warming], however, left-leaning environmentalists argue that absent hard evidence of danger, we're obliged to take drastic action.
Scientists such as NASA scientist James Hansen goes even further: he thinks it was appropriate to sex up the evidence for global warming in order to gain attention for the unproven. Now however that the scientific gravy train is up and running (with him on it) he is releasing estimates of warming trends. The need was different then than it is now, he argues. "Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue… Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic." Irfan's translation: "It might have been OK to deceive the public about global warming a few years ago, but now the game is up, so let's just tell the honest truth from here on out."
Hansen's "principle" here is an exact replica of the Bush Administration's strategy during 2002-2003 in discussing Iraqi WMD: emphasize extreme scenarios as a matter of consciousness-raising; then, when confronted with counter-evidence, ratchet things back and try haplessly to explain that the exaggerations, while exaggerated, did after all point to a real problem requiring a solution. Then pray that no one calls you on your squalid and stupid rhetorical manuever. Of course, if you are George Bush the Fundamentalist, your prayers will fail, and everyone will forever after say things like "Bush Lies--Soldiers Die." If you are an atheist environmentalist, on the other hand, your prayers will succeed and no one will notice your brazen manipulation of public opinion. Funny how that works.
Anyway, our environmentalists need to get their principles straight. Does weak evidence of a high-stakes event justify drastic action to prevent the event? I think it can--in both the Iraqi and global warming cases. But one can't have one's risk and eat it, too. One can't argue that 12 years of UN reports on Iraqi failure to disarm can be dismissed as "insufficient evidence of an imminent threat," while simultaneously insisting that weak evidence of global warming has to be played up so as to justify passing the Kyoto Treaty.
As he says, consistency: there oughta be a law!

Linked article: Global Warming: Pro and Con

1 comment:

  1. What's this "absent hard evidence of danger" crap?

    The IPCC reports are (a) comprehensive (b) conclusive and (c) document the current views of the vast majority of the worlds climatologists.

    Oh sure, there are some disaffected loons who argue against anthropic global warming. But there's more evidence and support for the theory of anthropic global warming now than there is for the Big Bang, or than there was for the theory atoms existed in 1910 (post-Einstein).


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