Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Melting planet

On vacation in upstate NY, but Judge Smails asked my opinion on Waxman-Markey, so here goes:

I fall in with those who think that Waxman-Markey is unfortunately watered down and doesn't get us to where we need to be, but it is better than doing nothing so I grudgingly support it, and I worry about it will look like after it goes through the Senate.

My problem with Manzi is that the economic argument is not the right way to talk about climate change. As Nate Silver pointed out, you can eliminate millions upon millions of people and only have a 5% drop in GDP, if you just take out poor countries. What is the value of having polar bears on the planet? Or any of the thousands of other species that could be wiped out if the climate were to change? Or abandoning New Orleans completely if sea levels keep rising? To me, Manzi is simply being a contrarian while ignoring the dire state that the planet is currently in:

Further, I get the point that indefinite accumulations of CO2 in the atmosphere will eventually become very damaging.

This statement is far too blase. We're already in the curve of the hockey stick and things will only accelerate. This is not an issue of "eventually." You can't price inhabitable conditions on the one planet we have. Sure, you can do the cost-benefit analysis about various means to an end -- for example, figuring out that ethanol from corn is actually a horrible way of trying to make alternative energy. But to come to the conclusion that we should do nothing is just idiotic.