Posted by: Kevin | May 31, 2007

Hmmm Denial isn’t Working Anymore, What Should We Try Now?

That the attitude of the Bush administration towards Global Warming is backwards and stupid is hardly news.  However, this article caught my attention this morning.  It’s an interview with NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and he’d like to ask, “Who are we to question whether massive climate change is a bad thing?” 

GRIFFIN: I have no doubt that global — that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of earth’s climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn’t change.

So our government is shifting from a position of “It doesn’t exist” to “It’s no big deal”.  I thought denial was the worst possible response to the Global warming issue.  It turns out I was wrong, because this new stance is essentially saying “Let’s roll the dice and see what happens.”  As Tim F at Balloon Juice points out, this is a highly convenient way to justify continued inaction.

So why not roll the dice?  After all, the climate has shifted quite a bit in the past and we are actually living in an unusually cold period of the Earth’s history.  It sure beats another ice age after all. 

The reasons not to roll the dice (in so much as we can help it) are many and complicated.  However they can be boiled down to this.  In the past 10,000 years, humanity has exploded from a collection of isolated settlements and hunter gatherers to a population of over 6.5 billion.  Despite that explosion in population, we’ve developed the means to feed ourselves better than we could 10,000 years ago and we live longer.  We’ve accomplished all of this with the help of a relatively stable climate.

To state that a little differently, the stable climate of the past 10,000 years has been instrumental in the rise of civilization.  To citizens of the developed West (Europe, N America) that climate has been exceptionally generous.  The agriculture of Europe has supported 1,000s of years of continued settlement and the US has become the world’s breadbasket. 

What we are rolling the dice with then, is the continued productivity of Western agriculture.  We are rolling the dice with higher sea levels.  Yet we know for a fact that a 10 – 15 foot increase in sea level (a not unreasonable scenario in the next 100 years) would be disastrous for virtually every nation on Earth. 

This is the kind of thinking I like to see in people I’m playing poker with.  Taking chances that aren’t likely to be profitable and not trying to mitigate your risk is a losing strategy.  This is not the kind of thinking I want to see in the administrator for NASA.

Bonus linkfor additional stupidity (H/T to the comment section of the Balloon Juice article).  That’s right, one freak weather occurrence nullifies everything ever written in support of global warming.  Never mind the fact that it’s GLOBAL warming, not upper Midwest warming, not Scotland warming, GLOBAL warming.  Nope, none of that matters.  One random bit of weather, a single data point out of millions is enough for some people to stick their heads right back in the sand.

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