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Global Warming Settled?

Global Warming Settled?

    If you haven’t seen this interactive graph on the causes of global warming, you really should, if only because the technology for the animation itself is outstanding.

    I’ll probably run “climate change” through the Rationality Engine at some point, but for now I wondered what reasons the doubters are giving for their doubts. If you are a doubter, take a look at the animation and tell us what part it got wrong.

    For the record, I hold the following opinions about climate change that I am happy to change if better data or better arguments pop up.

    1. The science is clear that human activity is causing climate change.

    2. Experts are often wrong about complex systems with lots of variables. By analogy, much of what you were taught about nutrition when you were young was wrong. Much of what you learned about history is probably wrong. And economic forecasts are generally wrong. None of that means climate change science is wrong. But climate change science does fit the pattern of things that authority figures tell us with more confidence than they ought to have. (I know economics and history are not science.)

    4. Climate change might be catastrophic, but I don’t have a way to assess the odds. We can only know things would change if temperatures continue increasing. That change could be good or bad in the long run.

    For example, I would expect some income redistribution as the best farmland becomes the worst, and vice versa. And I would expect some inventions to come out of the turmoil. We might even learn to control the global climate directly. Maybe some unexpected cooling event (volcano?) will buy us another hundred years.

    My observation of this debate is that both sides are wrong but for different reasons. The skeptics are wrong in denying the data, which seems fairly clear to my non-scientist eyes. (But in all fairness, I would be easy to fool. So would you.) 

    On the other side, the believers are probably wrong that they can predict the outcome of the climate changes. Climate disruption might lead to the end of civilization. But if that happened, it would be different from every disaster humans have encountered to date. We’re good at solving problems once we get engaged. 

    Given the unknowns, and the size of the risk, the rational approach is to treat the problem as if it is both real and potentially catastrophic, even if you suspect none of that is true. But I would put the effort into technology solutions because those inventions will probably be beneficial no matter what else happens.



    Bonus question: If doctors put a chip in you that releases medicine based on the chip’s internal timer, and that medicine fundamentally changes who you are – let’s say it is an anti-depressant that works – could it be said you are still a human being? In my view, you would be a robot, because the chip decides your mood and how you act. If the chip gives you too little meds, you stay in bed, depressed. If the chip releases enough meds, you get up and go to work. That looks like a robot to me. Oh, and that chip already exists.

    I can no longer claim the Huffington Post gets everything wrong.

    One of their reviewers likes my book a lot

    And this is the first time I have seen an embedded video book review on Amazon. See the video here that talks about the “big ideas” in my book. (The image below is just a jpg). 

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