Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why do today what you prefer not to do?

Today in the Herald we had a delayer party. My feeling from the attention I have paid is that "delayer" pretty well represents the mindset leading the Herald. They will not go denier and try to refute that there is global warming or that it poses a threat, but they will quickly accept most excuses to not do anything about it.

In the news section there was an article from AgWeek entitled "Study: Beets hit hard in carbon tax scenario". The study was noted as done "at the request of the region’s sugar industry", though the industry had the expected result already. I wish I could say that the NDSU Center for Agricultural Policy and Trade Studies (CAPTS) that performed the study was an advocate for action on climate change. However they seem to comfortably dispense with the likes of, "well, it would not be free, so..."

That is what the cited article is all about. It laments how the "very efficient" sugar beet industry would be supposedly devastated by pricing carbon. Like I said before, if your business model requires being able to dump massive amounts of climate altering greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at zero cost, then that is a serious flaw in your business model. Though the article at the end gets into a little 'if there is effort to reduce', everything else points to delay, delay, delay - the production will just move outside the US without really reducing net global GHG emissions, China has to act too, consumers will foot the bill, etc. The mouth is mumbling something like "yes", but the eyes, body language and everything else says "no". Excuses, excuses, excuses.

I think it is worth mentioning that the CAPTS Global Sugar Policy Simulation Model assumes "average weather conditions". I wonder how much they consider how the changing climate would factor into sugar and wheat production.

In the op-ed section though we true textbook delayer pablum from Ross Douthat. The thesis is summed up at the end as, "wait, get richer, and then try to muddle through."

Douthat accepts climate change is occurring but does not seem to understand that is a problem. He says that overpopulation worries from a few decades back were proven unwarranted, so that gives a pass to skepticism about dealing with climate change. Of course saying since 'not X' that means 'not Y' too is a logical flaw, but that X is not even settled as not true. Global population is still growing toward probably 9 billion around 2050, and our ability to continually increase food production is not a certainty, especially as climate change becomes more impactful. He resorts to weak appeals to supposed authorities on do-nothing, Bjorn Lomborg, Freeman Dyson, and Jim Manzi.

There is also the problem with the assumption that we will be richer going forward not doing something about climate because doing something about climate would not be really easy. You can daily find news about how climate change is already costing us collectively, and that will continue. The negative effects cannot all be assumed off in some distant future nor that it is a sure path of greater wealth to that future.

So we can wait, but we may not even be richer, and also we may very well not be able to muddle through. Ezra Klein pokes another big hole in the delayer no-plan. Basically things may get so broken we cannot fix it. The damage may be way beyond what "rich" can remedy. Even if we were richer in the future, the cost of doing something later (to adapt, maybe not even try to undo) may well exceed that greater wealth, assuming we even decide to start acting at some point.

If one is so fond of the delay strategy, why not use the 'wait until later' strategy for everything? Why not put off fighting terror until the economy improves? We will be richer and more able to afford the costs then by this logic, so why not wait? But we only try to put off things that way and not worry about them when they seem far away and readily controllable, like supposedly deepwater oil drilling had. It would be worth realizing that climate change is not as far away as many think and may not be something we can just handle when we feel like it.

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