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One reason to be “terrified” with increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere is that there is a small, uncertain, but certainly non-zero chance that it can lead to an environmental catastrophe 100 years or more hence. For example, if the planet heats up enough, perhaps the entire Western Antarctic ice sheet cleaves into the ocean all at once, causing a 20 foot immediate increase in sea levels that drowns millions and destroys trillions of dollars of assets. No comments on that please!

Our point today is to take seriously those who think that our burning of fossil fuels has the potential to do this. Talk to them. Invite them to coffee. Or better yet, share a beer with them. And have a chat. Ask them what they think of researchers who are doing nanotechnology in the lab? Ask them what they think of computer programmers and robot designers and whether or not they should be activities that are encouraged or discouraged? Ask them about whether people should live densely packed into cities. I am sure you will get lots of support for nanotech, urban living and the like. But the fact, yes fact, is that these activities are not just as risky but far more risky than the climate catastrophe that may be possible. You want to cram 25 million people into Manhattan? That’s a nice target for a terrorist with chemical weapons, no? You want to cram 25 million people into Boston? That sure makes virulent diseases happy. You want to build AI robots? That sure leads to the possibility that they will take over the world and destroy us.

Do the folks you know who wish to end capitalism on the grounds that it is wrecking the planet also wish to end science because of these possibilities? Will they change their tune about urban density when they understand that there is a huge risk that they are going to lead to the death of millions of people in some horrible way that a sprawled out exurban world could never see? Will they consistently practice the Precautionary Principle here? Or is that only the case with fossil fuels? Why? What’s the difference? Is it because the Kochs got rich figuring out how to efficiently crack oil? Because someone convinced you that fossil fuel is evil but that the possibility of an urban pandemic or chemical attack is not? What gives?

As I am fond of saying this week, 99.9% of priests believe in God.

3 Responses to “Catastrophically Cheap”

  1. Liberty! says:

    Yes, they wish to dismiss Science. How else can you explain the craze associated with organic food? How else can you explain the continuous dismal of economic reasoning in all political legislation? How else can you explain anti-fracking? How else can you explain the minimum wage? How else can you explain income tax? How else can you explain green subsidies?

    Every time science is pushed aside, reason and knowledge are replaced by ignorance. Men always fear what they do no understand. To relieve fear, we distribute responsibility and decision-making to those we fear most under the belief that these men can protect us from the balance of nature.

    And only by denying science is it possible to retain an unnatural power.

    • Liberty! says:

      Exhibit A:

      Today I was at Byrne Dairy pumping evil gasoline into my environment-eating automobile (only because my Horse doesn’t like the rain).

      Guess what it says on the meter?

      “Save on Litter! Try your milk in a glass!”

      Funny enough, I’m not sure that many milk providers besides Byrne Dairy provide milk in a glass. Curious.

  2. Tom Davis says:

    In my experience, people who are adamantly anti CO2, (as opposed to those who just go where the newspapers push them) are in fact anti-technology and anti-people. They don’t want 25 million people stuffed into NYC because they don’t really want 25 million people in North America. Though if getting rid of the “excess” population requires putting them in superdense cities with huge populations and letting war or pestilence do its thing, they’re not terribly bothered by that.

    And no, they have no understanding whatsoever of what their own lives would be like in such a world.

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