Saturday, January 07, 2012

I Saw A Grasshopper. We're All Doomed.

A few days ago, I posted this bit about being subconsciously worried about our mild winter because of the pervasive fear of Global Warming Climate Change that fills our culture. I think the point got a bit muddled as I used the nuclear war terror of the 80s as a comparison, so I'm taking another run at it.

What if it was insects instead of weather? What if the news and movies and schools and zoos were filled with stories of chemical-resistant bugs or uncontrolled bug population growth or scientists finding ever-larger insects? Properly massaged, I have no doubt we could find data to "prove" all of that.

I have no idea what the Global Warming Climate Change data actually says*. I don't know anything about the equations or methodology or experimental processes or even if they have any possible way of isolating individual factors out of the hopelessly complicated, impossibly huge system that is Earth's weather. All I know is that lots of people tell me I'm supposed to be deeply afraid of it and so, despite my skepticism and my understanding of how science funding is doled out, I am. When the weather is warm, I wonder about Global Warming Climate Change.

If they'd been telling me horror stories about insects for the last 10 years, I'd be terrified every time I saw something like this.

Might as well take up serious drinking. We're totally screwed.

* - Neither do some of the key scientists. They lost it all.


tim eisele said...

Yes, it has gotten to the point where I am deeply suspicious of the motives of anyone who tries to make me scared[1]. And your insect example is a good one, because there *is* a lot of scare-mongering about bugs, and it works (just have a look at the 540 comments I've received on my Carpet Beetle Larva page if you want to see what I mean). And a lot of this scare-mongering can be traced back to the people who benefit the most from it - the pest-control companies. Orkin and Terminix and their ilk would probably go out of business overnight if they were forced to deal only with real problems rather than milking people's induced terror of "having creepy bugs around the house".

Fear is a very powerful way of getting people to do what you want. It always has been, and probably always will be. And you can make people scared witless about nearly anything. Even harmless little beetles that are barely bigger than the head of a pin, and do nothing but eat hair and dead skin flakes.

[1] Just to clarify a point: I agree with you that the "Global Climate Change Will DOOOOOOMMMMM UUUUUSSSSS!" crowd are almost certainly pushing things way too far. And at least some of them are specifically doing it because they think it will advance their other agendas. The problem is, though, that a lot of the counter-reaction is going overboard the other way, by denying that anything at all is happening, and impugning everybody down the line, including those who are merely out there collecting data [2].

My position is that it is perfectly reasonable to argue about whether or not the costs of knocking back CO2 levels would actually be higher than the expense of simply dealing with any specific problems that might arise. And, in fact, I expect that any local effects right where I live will probably be all to the good - our climate is so inhospitable that pretty much any change would almost have to be an improvement.

But, if one goes down the line of reasoning, starting with the long-term measurements of atmospheric CO2 at Kilauea, and following along the various measurements of atmospheric temperature and Northern Hemisphere glacier and ice extent, it is clear that *something* is going on.

I am convinced that the common claims that the data has all been faked, that nothing is actually happening, and that the scientists on the ground who are actually making measurements are all running an elaborate con job, are being made by people who are either willfully ignorant, or who are running their own scare-mongering operation to advance *their* shady objectives.

[2] Some of these people collecting data are people that I know personally. They aren't convinced that the changing climate will DOOOOOOMMMMM us either, but they are also convinced that some changes are happening and it is worthwhile keeping an eye on things. And they aren't concerned about "keeping the money spigots open", because once you get down to the field researcher level, the money spigot is more like a trickle. As my old thesis advisor was fond of noting, "If I wanted to be rich, I wouldn't have gone into engineering research. I would have bought a McDonald's franchise."

K T Cat said...

Tim, great points. Back when I did research, I did it to fight the Russkies. As you say, the threat was real, but not to the extent that the political forces that exploited the fears said. On the flip side, people like Jimmy Carter and Ted Kennedy were dangerous on a planetary scale because they didn't take it seriously or understand it at all.

In the end, the money was handed out to projects that played off these fears, for good or bad. Such is the nature of all political funding. It's always for perceived needs, not necessarily for real ones.

Life is a kludge in every way. You just muddle through it and do your best.