Its at The Conversation and a retweet near you, no doubt. By Lawrence Torcello, who – doubtless to my loss rather than his discredit – I’ve never heard of, and Michael E Mann, who needs no introduction. LT is a philosopher, and I guess that’s the peg to hang this one off, since we start with stuff like:
It is possible, then, that we’ll benefit in the long run from having to deal with human-caused global warming, by being forced to mature politically and ethically.
This sounds to me like the rather familiar idea: we’ll use GW as leverage to get the other things we want: a more sustainable lifestyle, or in this case ethical maturity. I’m fairly sure I didn’t ever commit myself to this in public, though I think I thought such quietly; but I no longer think its a good idea to make this linkage. Because it doesn’t work. The other way round I could believe: more mature politics and ethics could well solve many of our problems, including GW. The authors notice that we’re not getting very far:
As of yet, however, the world has largely failed to move beyond moral, political, and economic parochialism.
Yup, that’s so. How are we going to get there, then?
Our continued failure will supplant the promise of sustainability with a legacy of collapse.
By frightening people with scare-stories, it seems. Will our society collapse, specifically because of GW rather than ebola, IS, whatever? Not obviously. I wouldn’t rule it out, and were I being honest I wouldn’t claim any great expertise at being able to assess collapse probability, but I still think it moderately dubious that we’ll collapse due to GW. I’d give a higher probability to it all falling over because some bozo in the Kremlin pushes brinkmanship too far.
Hume, Kant and then Rawls (who I don’t like) and even Singer leads us, apparently, to
Any politically just and morally accountable framing of climate policy must involve consistently weighing the actions of affluent industrialized nations against their impacts on the least advantaged.
at which point I find Viz’s Modern Parents called irresistibly to mind. You won’t like this (and neither do I really, because firstly its somewhat unfair and secondly because I can’t find the one where they play “ethical monopoly”) but
Anyway, the point is that people have tried in the past using the “we should be ethical” argument and it doesn’t work. In practice. All this stuff is preaching to the choir: doubtless very satisfying and perhaps the choir need to be cheered up every now and again, but its not doing much for taking the fight to the enemy (nor is this post, of course, because the enemy take care not to read here; and anyway, we’re all agreed that thinking of this in terms of Good Guys and Bad Guys really isn’t very helpful, aren’t we). In the unlikely event of anyone reading The Conversation who doesn’t already accept the arguments, I doubt they’d find this at all persuasive.
So far, the wealthiest nations of the world have exploited the benefits of fossil fuel extraction while securing a future of increased suffering for the planet’s least fortunate… Entire island cultures may be scattered and their traditional ways of life destroyed.
Industrial / capitalist / Western civilisation has already destroyed the traditional ways of life of just about every culture its touched, including its own. For example, just recently, it destroyed the traditional habit of living in utter poverty for large numbers of Chinese peasants (but don’t worry, Russkies, soon you’ll be free of Western imperialism: Putin is bringing traditional serfdom back to you). If you’re a tourist interested in looking at poor people or a gap-toothed village elder, then that’s probably a bad thing. If you’re an ex-Chinese-peasant, its probably a good thing. Unless you were one of the ones moved to make way for the new stuff; and possibly not even then. Anyway, the point is the “traditional ways of life” card isn’t a trump either.
Does our behaviour lead to increased suffering for the planet’s least fortunate, either in the present, the near future or on the 100 year timescale? And “increased” with respect to what? Their previous state, or what they might have had had conditions been optimal? The answer to the second option is obvious so I’ll assume the former. In which case: no, fossil fuel use certainly hasn’t made life worse for the majority or people, or the majority of the poor, or the former poor, in the present. Will it in the future? Possibly, but quite possibly not. Writing an article that just assumes such things are true and makes no attempt to demonstrate it is, again, just preaching to the choir.
Well, I could go on, but doubtless you’ve got my drift by now, and either agree or… haven’t bothered read this far. Actually, I’ll finish with
We have long understood how to curb global warming through carbon pricing agreements.
because its illustrative of all the rest. Yes, we do know that carbon taxes are best. And yet, we don’t have them. So, it would be a good idea to address the question of why we don’t have them. But the article doesn’t do that. Because… well, because any such discussion will quickly get bogged down in the tedium and minutiae of politics and, horrors, economics. And the linked article in the quote is about how its would be great to have a nice simple carbon tax without any loopholes… oh, except for a couple of loopholes for our friends. Sigh.
The (climate) Science
Following my usual policy, I didn’t bother comment on any bits that I either agreed with, or didn’t think particularly implausible. ATTP looks at the 2-oC-by-2040 stuff and finds it plausible, if you’re interested.
I know, I know, you’re thinking “why does he only go after the soft targets?” So, OK, how about What can we do about climate change? by Greg Laden. Once again, I don’t get far before I’m stopped by:
We could spend years working out what the best three or four things we can do might be, and try to implement them. But there will be political opposition from the right, because the right is inexplicably opposed to any action that smells like environmentalism or something that Al Gore might suggest.
Well, maybe. But its also facile and easy, because it suggests that you’d be doing better if only the other side wasn’t Evil. But actually vast swathes of the Dork Side aren’t Evil. Some of them are scientificially misinformed, but many of them just don’t like “our” economic policies. And when “our” policies include things as stupid as the ETS you should at least try to understand their viewpoint.
* Update on BC’s Effective and Popular Carbon Tax (h/t r in the comments).
* Timmy offers a solution to the planning problems solar panels sometimes have.
* The Amazing Ignorance of #EndFossilFuelSubsidies – Timmy
* Contrary To Reports, Rich Countries Do Not Subsidise Fossil Fuels By $88 Billion A Year – Timmy