George Sarant

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As Air Force One returned the President from a conference on global warming to a blizzard in Washington my skepticism on the subject was further increased. We are supposedly facing a global catastrophe within the next century and this is gospel for many people. Indeed they approach it with a religious fervor that tolerates no contradictory information, such as the fact that temperatures have dropped in the last ten years, the models are faulty, and long-term prediction is almost impossible.

But suppose there was some certainty about rising sea levels. Wouldn’t it make sense to limit and reduce development along threatened coastlines? Instead we have a truly nutty EPA declaring that carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring gas, is a threat to our health. Tell that to the plants. This is yet another prescription for seizing control and wrecking the entire economy. The logical answer would be more plants, stopping the destruction of rain forests, planting trees, etc. in ways that might actually benefit people.

Of course we have a choice of disasters, each as plausible as the worst global warming scenario over the next hundred years. There is more certainty in the likelihood that the social security and medicare systems of the western world will go bankrupt in the coming decades. Volcanoes could erupt spewing toxic matter into the atmosphere and blotting out the sky. An asteroid could strike the earth as in previous mass extinctions. Sunflares could erupt and destroy our atmospheric shield. A new plague could emerge that could wipe out much of the population. Or we might all simply transfer ourselves into cyberspace.

The point is that no one can predict what will happen over a century into the future. The only certainty is that the future ins unknowable. The more likely scenario is that we will somehow muddle through, experiencing neither the best nor the worst of anything as we always have up until now.

Written by georgesarant

December 21, 2009 at 3:38 PM

Posted in economy, government

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Due to the amount of interest and multiple comments on Facebook about a simple Twit I did on weather and global warming I have decided to elaborate on what that means in terms of a position. The arguments that I find most persuasive on the subject are those of the Copenhagen Consensus, which are well worth studying. That position essentially does not deny that some global warming is taking place, for whatever reason. The question is what do we do about it, and what should our priorities be? Should we upend the entire economy for dubious goals that will make us considerably poorer, while increasing the expense on society immensely? Or would it not make more sense to begin addressing those areas that are likely to be impacted by global warming? Does it make sense to have continuous development and population concentration in coastal areas that may be impacted? For that matter why concentrate population on earthquake faults? Shouldn’t we discourage development in vulnerable places and encourage it elsewhere? Should affluent people on the coasts (and I am one) make policies at the expense of those, who are less affluent and living, i.e. in the midwest, desert, or mountain regions? These are the kinds of questions that have to be addressed comprehensively.

Furthermore we need to keep in mind that the earth is constantly changing, with or without people. Many kinds of disasters are possible. For example a rockslide in the Azores could create an tsunami that would flood the entire east coast of the US. The eruption of a series of volcanoes could do more damage than a nuclear war and threaten much of life on earth. These may be beyond our control. But there are other disasters looming that we can address, such as looming bankruptcy in Medicare, Medicaid, and eventually Social Security down the road. If this cannot be addressed before millions of baby boomers retire, thereby adding resistance to change, we will have a real crisis of our own making which is an unquestionable certainty as of now. There are numerous problems we are facing that require attention rather than what we think is a single Big One.

Written by georgesarant

May 18, 2009 at 6:42 PM