Sunday, February 15, 2009

Climate-change inactivism

I enjoyed reading John Mashey on how science works, and how to critically read scientific claims such as those made by climate-change inactivists. From there, I found my way to his equally interesting analysis of Bjorn Lomborg's motivations. I actually rather like Bjorn Lomborg and don't think he's the antichrist that many make him out to be; but it is interesting to read John Mashey's analysis of the political effect of Bjorn Lomborg's arguments. In a nutshell, Lomborg's recent writings have said "yes, global warming (X) is a priority, but not as high a priority as 'A' and 'B'", where John Mashey reckons A (Eg, give lots of money to the developing world to fix things there) has been chosen not because Lomborg really wants to devote effort to A, but rather because he knows these sort of aid donations won't happen, so putting them top of a list of priorities is a good way of persuading people not to do lower things in the list (X). The space in the list between A and X is padded out with other items ("B") (eg, open up free trade more) that the neo-cons would be happy to see happen. Interesting analysis.
Myself, I had a different take on Lomborg, which is that he genuinely does care, and wants us to choose numerate policies that work; and that he comes to different conclusions from some of us simply because he tacitly chose a different objective from what we might have chosen. Specifically, the objective in his recent books seems to be something like "human economic welfare between now and the year 2100". I'd love to sit down with Lomborg and discuss what he thinks the optimal investments would be if the objective were changed to "planet still functioning well at supporting human life in the years 2200, 2500, and 3000".
I've tried to converse with Lomborg but sadly I think he's too busy being famous now.


BeyondGreen said...

There could be no better investment in America than to invest in energy independence.We need to utilize everything in out power to reduce our dependence on foreign oil including using our own natural resources. Create cheap clean energy,new badly needed green jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.The high cost of fuel this past year seriously damaged our economy and society. The cost of fuel effects every facet of consumer goods from production to shipping costs. After a brief reprieve gas is inching back up.OPEC will continue to cut production until they achieve their desired 80-100. per barrel. If all gasoline cars, trucks, and SUV's instead had plug-in electric drive trains, the amount of electricity needed to replace gasoline is about equal to the estimated wind energy potential of the state of North Dakota.There is a really good new book out by Jeff Wilson called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence Now.

Unknown said...

BG, please stop SPAMing and start reading.



nommo said...

True enough Damon :)

Back on-topic - is it really possible within capitalism to have an 'ROI' on saving the earth and resources? Isn't it a game of last man standing?

Unknown said...

A very interesting paper on this subject is "Accounting for growth: the role of physical work" by Ayres, R.U. and Warr, B., published in Structural Change and Economic Dynamics Vol 16 no 2, pp181-209, 2005 (Elsevier). I got the reference from David Strahan's book on peak oil. Essentially their thesis is that one can only account for the massive US economic growth from 1900-now by bringing thermodynamics into the equation -- ie. physical work, from burning fossil fuels. Obvious, and interesting. So I think--- a 'low carbon economy' will certainly have to look quite different to capitalism as we've known it for the last 100 years or so (which presupposes limitless cheap oil).

David MacKay FRS said... carries a compare-and-contrast, looking at a recent debate between Stefan Rahmstorf and Bjorn Lomborg. Rahmstorf's Guardian article is here. I don't think Bjorn comes out of this exchange very well.