Friday, February 09, 2007
Jonah Goldberg tries to fool you:
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Global cooling costs too much
), Goldberg tries to make the following argument:
That all of the prosperity generated in the 20th century is due to the buring of fossil fuels, and that the resulting global warming wasn't a problem.
He does it by presenting incomplete statistics and with faulty logic. Here is a breakdown of his key assertions:
|Goldberg writes ||he implies ||what he doesn't tell you |
|The Earth got about 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer in the 20th century || || |
|while it increased its GDP by 1,800%, ||The growth is huge. ||1,800% over 100 years is equal to an annual increase of 3% over the same period. |
|by one estimate. || ||where that estimate comes from |
| || || |
|How much of that 0.7 degrees can be laid at the feet of that 1,800% is unknowable, || || |
|but let's stipulate that all of the warming was the result of our prosperity ||The 20th century prosperity was wholly dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. ||It's a false (implied) linkage. That there was increased prosperity due to a number of factors, including burning fossil fuels, doesn't mean that the warming was the result of all of that economic growth. |
|and that this warming is in fact indisputably bad (which is hardly obvious). || || |
| || || |
|Literacy, medicine, leisure and even, in many respects, the environment have improved mightily over the course of the 20th century, at least in the prosperous West. ||Burning fossil fuels for energy was a significant factor in the development of medicine and other intellectual pursuits. || |
| || || |
|Given the option of getting another 1,800% richer ||All of us can look forward to getting richer. ||GDP can grow simply due to population growth, in which case nobody gets richer. Per-capita GDP can be stagnant even though the aggregate GDP increases. |
|in exchange for another 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer, ||Global warming in the 21st century will be as much, but not greater than the 0.7 °C, that took place during the 20th century. ||That's not what the scientists predict. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predict that global temperatures are likely to increase by 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) between 1990 and 2100. |
|I'd take the heat in a heartbeat. || || |
| || || |
| || || |
Goldberg deliberately uses numbers in such a fashion so that unpleasant facts are obscured. He likes to talk in terms of degrees Celsius, which don't sound too bad to Americans who think in terms of Farenheit. He low-balls the estimates of global warming. It's actually worse than that. He says we should expect a rise of 0.7 °C when the lowest IPCC estimate is 1.1 °C (and could be as much as 11.5 °F - which would be a disaster). And he claims a 100% causal relationship between "prosperity" (which he broadly defines to include non-economic factors
like science and medicine) and global warming.
When you can't make your case honestly, it's a sign you don't have a case to make.
You're missing one essential point:
exactly how is that next 1800% increase in wealth going to be distributed, compared to how is the pain of the increase in temperature going to be distributed?
Because I can tell you one thing; if Goldberg and his friends have anything to say about it, most of the new wealth will go into the hands of a minute fraction of already wealthy westerners, some crumbs will go the rest of us westerners, and those who get truly screwed by this --- your Bangladeshis, your Inuit, your Caribbean Islanders, your Sahel Africans --- will get fsckall.
And, of course, when they react in rage with some sort of violent outburst or other, we'll be treated to part 27 in the on-going series of "why do they all hate America, it makes no sense".
"When you can't make your case honestly, it's a sign you don't have a case to make."
Also missing from this is the geological fact of the twliight of the fossil fuel era. Simply, we do not have an endless supply of fossil fuels to burn. Oil is at or near peak prodiction, natural gas will follow soon, and coal, if used as a substitute, will last 2-4 decades. Oh, and the contribution of coal to global warming is beyond considerable. I suspect this is something Goldberg is diverting the reader's attention from; the article is premised on an assumption of unlimited fossil fuels, an invalid assumption, which he takes fro granted -and hopes you will too.
Look, I agree that we have the technology now to start moving away from burning fossil fuels for energy. But the statement, "Burning fossil fuels for energy was a significant factor in the development of medicine and other intellectual pursuits," is essentially correct.
We couldn't do all the gee whiz things in the 20th century without electricity and lots of it. Most of our electricity came from (and still does) burning coal. It sucks, but it's an inconvenient truth.
Also, without the burning of fossil fuels we couldn't have discovered the technology that will allow us to do away with them.
All of the gee whiz things that we did during the 20th century (including all the gee whiz wars) were made possible by fossil fuels. That doesn't mean it was the only way it could have been done. It's just the way that it WAS done.
We can move on now toward the future, but don't deny the facts of the past.
You can lambaste Jonah Goldberg for implying that we can't have prosperity in the future without burning fossil fuels, which is ridiculous, but you can't deny that past prosperity is a direct result of the power that came from them.