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Thursday, May 31, 2007

A World Gone ... Sane?

There have been two claims that I've heard pretty much every day since I've been born: (1) the world has gone insane; and (2) the end of the world is nigh. I've learned over time that when someone claims (1), he or she really just means that the rest of the world doesn't agree with him or her, and for (2), there must be a definition of "nigh" that doesn't appear in the dictionary that means indeterminately far off in the distant future.

The following are some examples. In the 1960s, the U.S. and U.S.S.R. were gonna destroy each other and all life on the planet in a massive nuclear war. Obviously, it didn't happen. In the 1970s, American competitiveness was on the wane and America would take a back seat to the rest of the leaders (like France) of the developed world. That didn't happen either. In the 1980s, crushing federal deficits due to Reagan's irresponsible economic policies would permanently devastate the American economy. Nope, didn't happen either. And so on and so forth.

Global warming is now on the hot list (so to speak) of a world gone insane and the end of the world is nigh. Those who think the world's gone insane are the people who worship some ancient Greek god (Gaia) and think the rest of us are insane for not joining their religion of anti-global warming. And, of course, since we don't take them seriously, the end of the world is nigh (what does "nigh" mean again?).

Fortunately, like most of these things, it's really only a small percentage of people (who, unfortunately, are impressively noisy and disruptive), who believe it. I've noticed that almost everyone I know and/or meet who thinks through climate warming who isn't religiously attached to the anti-warming movement comes to a very sane understanding of the situation (i.e. they agree with me). This includes scientists, humorists, bloggers, normal people, etc.

The following is a quick sampling of statements from three arbitrary sources (a scientist, humorist, and a blogger), all of which caught my eye this week.

NASA chief Michael Griffin:
"I have no doubt that...a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take."
Humorist Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert comic strip):
"The earth is getting warmer, and human activity is an important part of it ... [but] ... The people predicting likely doom because of global warming have not made their case. Humans are incredibly adaptive. And technological breakthroughs happen in steps, not predictable straight lines. Every other predicted type of global doom hasn’t happened because of human resourcefulness. No climate model can predict human resourcefulness."
David Cohen (blogger):
"I'm willing to admit that it is possible that the globe is warming (mean global temperature is a completely meaningless concept), that it is our "fault" (although I can't imagine what difference that makes to anyone for whom the environment is not a religion) and that it is bad (although in actual human experience, warmer has always been better). The problem is that, once you've jumped through the hoops necessary to conclude that agw is happening and is bad, you're forced to conclude that it's inevitable."
In other words, yup, the world's probably warming, and nope, let's not worry too much about it (or at least let's not doing anything too stupid to try and change it).

Not only have these leading luminaries come to the same conclusion as me, but so has nearly everyone I've talked to. I think that most of the world has gone sane, at least with respect to this particular subject. My faith in humanity and democracy are restored.

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