An NPR story illustrates why it is almost instinctual for those on the right to push back against calls for international action to combat climate change. Some excerpts:
Kari Marie Norgaard at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, says even as scientists become more confident that climate change is a serious hazard, public opinion is shifting the other way.Or it might be the poor record of predicting future climate conditions, attempts to hide data from potential skeptics, the absence of market signals that would suggest people are taking the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming prognostications seriously (seaside property isn't getting cheaper, but inland property is), or simply the desire for balmier days--humans have fared better in warmer weather than they have in cooler weather, so it's hardly surprising that we prefer it to the cold.
Norgaard: This seems irrational. And in that sense, then it's challenging this basic premise that we have of an enlightened, democratic, modern society.
Harris [reporter]: She dug into that question and found, that as people start to feel overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, they simply turn away from the topic. It's denial - plain and simple.
The contrarian view is surely off the mark more often than it is correct--the general functionality of modern western society seems evidence enough of that. But Establishment opinion has been and is blatantly wrong on several counts, like the blank slatist weltanschauung that presumes human populations do not vary in any systematic way and that personality factors like intelligence and conscientiousness are products of nurture rather than of nature, or the bromides about how homes were great investments since housing prices never fall, just to name a couple especially salient to the Steveosphere.
I have a friend doing graduate work in GIS who is certain anthropogenically-driven climate change* is occuring and is bad news. He laments how much of a political issue it has become. Fine, but it's sympathetic news reports like this one that are largely responsible for that. Evolution by selection 'suffers' from the same, but these two particular subjects are exceptions. As Dennis Mangan writes:
One way of looking at a statement like Goodman's [where CAGW 'deniers' are compared to Holocaust deniers] is to ask oneself, do particle physicists, zoologists, chemical engineers, or molecular biologists ever talk like that? Of course, these examples may be less directly relevant to human life, but on the other hand, the scientists in these fields usually feel no need to silence opponents.Continuing with the NPR entry:
Harris: They're having a field day, right now, with the emails stolen from climate scientists. Skeptics have taken some suspicious-sounding statements in those emails as proof that climate change is a hoax. That's certainly not the view of mainstream scientists, but again, the public doesn't necessarily listen to scientists.It has always struck me as curious why people should be expected to be suspicious of the industries that provide the stuff that allows our material standard of living to be as high as it is. It's intuitively difficult to see energy producers or electronics manufacturers as enemies and their critics, who create nothing, as friends.
And Tim Wirth, a former Democratic senator who now runs the United Nations Foundation, says people trying to stir up doubt about climate change aren't working in a vacuum. There's a large and well-funded effort to block legislation that could hurt the industries most responsible for carbon emissions.
As the Derb states, the political and economic implications of climate change are huge, but the intellectual stakes are small. Differences are by degree (heh) in interpretation of imperfect and often conflicting data, while the effort and energy expenditures required of lay people to glean something from primary sources are astronomical (if realizable at all). Consequently, I'm nothing more than a curious spectator, and like many onlookers, I wonder about seeming shortcomings in the CAGW narrative.
What about the potential benefits of warming? Around one-fourth to one-fifth of the globe's oil reserves are in the arctic, largely economically inviable at present, but perhaps not in the future if secular thawing continues. Russia east of the Urals is geographically larger than the US, yet its population is less than 5% of ours. Greenland has half as many people as Green Bay does, even though it's three times the size of Texas. We're a long way from people settling in significant numbers off the southern and western coasts, but even these are sparsely populated. Canada's population is clustered along the US-Canadian border. If areas like these become more hospitable, the people who will settle them will come from humanity's more advanced populations.
It seems plausible that if warming becomes more acute as the distance from the equator increases, the effect on human population patterns will be eugenic.
Vehicles are less efficient in the cold than they are in warm weather. Check your car engine's rpm at 60mph when it's 10 degrees outside and compare it to the same when it's 80 degrees--you're engine will be working around 10% harder in the former scenario until your engine is fully heated (and there is also the issue of the fuel wasted letting the car warm up).
Of course, these benefits will be on the margins, since the most extreme forecasts only predict that average temperatures will rise by a few degrees over several decades. I find it difficult to believe that, in contrast, the negative effects of the same climate change will be drastic.
* The assertion that the phrase "global warming" has been replaced with the more all-purpose "climate change" is more than anecdotal. See a graphical representation of the shift over time here.