[extropy-chat] Climate skepticism patterns

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Sat Jun 10 01:55:26 UTC 2006

Martin Striz wrote:
> You wouldn't just lose two species.  Ecosystems are interwoven.  You
> would lose thousands.  The the species that you would gain back would
> take millions of years to evolve... if we completely eliminate the
> practices that are currently producing the largest rate of extinction
> in earth's history.

And the fun thing is, this could happen if you do Kyoto... or not do
Kyoto. Or L1 solar shields, fixes for global dimming or introducing a
hydrogen economy.

The argument that we shouldn't do something because unknown but
potentially horrific risks may exist only works when we have more rational
reason to believe some choices are indeed more risky thank others. Big
things like L1 shades are probably more problematic than not producing
much greenhouse gasses, but L1 shades can also be quickly turned on and
off if they seem bad, which is much harder with an emissions economy.
Fearful of path dependency and tipping points? You better map out the
phase space better. In the end the unknown risk argument only leads to
conservatism, and the conservative approach is to do what we always have
been doing... which isn't very encouraging when thinking of the climate.

Similarly the intervovenness argument is also a deeply conservative
argument. You can use it to defend monarchy and capitalism as it suits
you. After all, who are we to meddle with the great spontaneous orders?

"It is the international system of currency which determines the vitality
of life on this planet. THAT is the natural order of things today. THAT is
the atomic and subatomic and galactic structure of things today. And YOU
have meddled with the primal forces of nature. And YOU WILL ATONE."

Fortunately ecology is not just intervoven but robust and inventive.
Otherwise it wouldn't have lasted the other climate change periods. I
think a bit of intelligence, some knowledge and plenty of monitoring can
be used to fix things. Maybe not back to what they were, but we will never
be able to agree on when it was "right" anyway (I want the Holocene
climate optimum flora back!). So we better turn forward and think about
the targets we want instead.

Besides, have anybody calculated how we rate compared to K/T and Perm? I
think we still are within the normal noise rate of species/megayear?

[ I never do drunken postings. It is three in the morning and I have read
too much econometrics. ]

Anders Sandberg,
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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