What a real debate on global warming would look like.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit generally finds valuable little nuggets in his wanderings of the Internet and today he brought up this interesting post by Bob Krumm:

When determining if we should do anything about global warming, I propose a four-step approach:

  1. Are global temperatures warming?
  2. Do the negative consequences of the change outweigh the positive consequences?
  3. Can we do anything that will reverse the change?
  4. Do the positive consequences of the action outweigh the negative consequences of doing nothing?

You see, Bob’s approach, here, is based on a bedrock principle of logic: assume nothing. Only that which is established as fact via known information or investigation and that which is logically concluded can be used for further argument or consideration. He continues:

Notice, the steps have nothing at all whatsoever to do with whether or not global warming is anthropogenic.  The climate’s “naturalness” is actually irrelevant.  If a 10 kilometer-wide asteroid were hurling toward earth at 100,000 km per hour, it would be a completely natural event.  However, just because the meteor wasn’t anthropogenic doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t take actions to deflect it.

Quite correct. I would point out that someone recommending the formation of carbon exchanges to deflect said asteroid would be rightly laughed out of the room. The thing about actions to be taken to address the problem is that there has to be agreement that the actions are both appropriate to the task and correct in scope. He continues:

Notice also, that we could change question 1 from “warming” to “cooling” and the four-step approach still works.  And quite frankly, cooling is probably a more historically problematic situation.

Very true, on both parts. And that is a telling feature in a logical approach – it works no matter which end of the argument you’re on. Of course, in a truly exclusive argument (one that 2 mutually exclusive conclusions are proposed) that logic is going to leave 1 party standing in the wrong.

If the answer to any one of the above four questions is “No,” then we should do absolutely nothing about a changing climate.  If the answer to all of the questions are “Yes,” then, and only then, should we take any actions.

This is not the discussion we have been having for twenty years.  Instead, we have been chased onto an  anthropogenic side path well worn by Rousseauian “modern man is bad” theorists.  The discussion over naturalness is not only, as I have already said, irrelevant, it is also self-destructive, as the question itself presupposes that natural is good and that anything that deviates from it must be returned to a state of nature.

I agree with Mr. Krumm’s assessment of the threshold of action, although I would modify some of his questions. Were I to edit them, they would look like this:

  1. Are global temperatures warming?
  2. Do the negative consequences of the change present a threat or hardship to the community and outweigh any positive consequences?
  3. Can we do anything that will reverse that change?
  4. Do the positive consequences of the action outweigh the negative consequences that would accrue without taking that action while also not incurring significant negative consequences as a result of taking that action?

Only when you can answer all 4 in the affirmative do you even have a reasonable argument that a proposed action should be undertaken. His assessment of how this argument has gotten bogged down is spot on: there are far too many people arguing that this is such a clear and present danger that all of mankind’s industrial activity should cease except that which would be allowed to continue under their approval. As with many of these collectivist, statist movements it seems to be more about control than about fixing any real problem.

I would love to see this as the basis of a real debate on the topic. But I’m not accepting people at the table who have deliberately tried to deceive and keep the facts away from anyone who doesn’t already believe as they do. I want real scientists interested in the real facts.

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