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19.4.06

Proof Of Climate Change

Ezra Klein says, quite rightly, that "the likelihood that we'll institute such cuts [in greenhouse gas emissions] while global warming remains a journal paper abstraction strikes me as near nil." But I have to take issue with the implication that seeing the effects of climate change would change people's minds, such that once Pacific island nations start disappearing under the water, we'll all be kicking ourselves for not taking action when we had the chance.

People always assume that big events will provide irrefutable proof that their viewpoint was right all along. But that's exactly why big events entrench existing ideologies. Exactly because big events ought to be such good objective proof of the correctness of a viewpoint, whenever a big event comes along, every ideology siezes upon it and uses it as proof. Look no farther than Hurricane Katrina, which was clear proof of the racism of American society, the inherent laziness and stupidity of black people, God's judgement against homosexuals, the incompetence of bureaucracy, the failure of the free market, and every other ideology out there. (I'm not saying that these ideologies are all equally wrong and opportunistic in their interpretation of Katrina -- just that they're wrong to think that Katrina would somehow win them converts.)

So what happens when all the ice melts off Antarctica? Environmentalists will say "we told you so," of course. Climate change skeptics -- of which there are far fewer than enviros like to think -- will say it was a natural climate change. Cynics will say "see, there wasn't anything we could have done." The pro-business crowd will say that if we'd tried to take action it would have hurt our economy and we'd have even less coping resources now.

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