Monday, December 18, 2006

A fresh perspective ...

... Methane and environmentalism.

Update: EU vs. US on CO2.


  1. I've commented at the site of the methane discussion. I believe the author was somewhat selective in his quotes (though kudos to him for providing links to the articles) and his dismissal of most environmentalists as anti-capitalists seems a bit extreme. Methane is removed from the atmosphere much faster than CO2, and CO2 is still the main concern when one talks of climate change. But he is correct in presenting the case that climate issues are a lot more complex than simple slogans. Sadly, our society responds best to simple slogans.

    Regarding the second article on who has the mantle of global leadership on climate change - it's hard to make the case that either Europe or the US has achieved this.

  2. That, of course, is the problem: taking a most complex problem and reducing it to a set of poltical slogans. Climate change may have socipolitical implications, but it is fundamentally a scientific issue. As Freeman Dyson has pointed out, the biopshere is single most complex system we study and there is more that we do not know about it than we do. Many of the problems we face today in this regard are the result of acting without sufficient knowledge. Why continue doing so? I think Gordon's point about environmentalists is underscored by their reflexive opposition to nuclear energy.
    In addition to the sloganeering, moreover, there is the presentation of scenarios as predictions. Al Gore's movie begins with dire warnings that we can expect hurricane seasons from now on to be just like the season that gave us Katrina. This past season gave us nothing of the kind. So that prediction wasn't so hot. If people are going to predict the future they should be called on it in no uncertain terms when they turn out to be wrong.
    As for the EU vs. the US, my reason for linking to that piece was because it at least puts the lie to EU superiority in the matter.

  3. Yes, it's a quandary. I think one of the problems is that the global warming extreme predictions are what get the attention, and they're also what we naturally focus on, because they are more interesting - and make for smashing films. In the middle lies a not unreasonable or undoable set of activities based on the rather strong evidence at this point that the climate over the long run is changing, and the reasonable possibility that this change is at least in part due to human influence. Of course, as you point out, in a system so complex we can't predict much of anything with certainty. It's more a matter of odds - and then taking reasonable actions based on those odds. (... And doesn't that last sentence make a great bumper sticker!)

  4. Yes, James, that is the problem: nothing sexy about prudence.