Climate change: what if it's a big hoax and we create a better world for nothing?

This comic made me smile so I thought I’d share. I don’t know the original source, unfortunately.

I’ve always kind of mused this to myself, especially when I hear someone debating the money value of a proposal. A few years back in Denver there was a major freeway overhaul which resulted in some backups while it was in progress. One of the more vocal detractors pointed out the anticipated time saved by drivers over the lifetime of the new freeway would not be greater than the time lost to drivers during the overhaul. Likewise, any gas or “time-is-money” savings would not be recouped.

I thought to myself, “Well, maybe. But the new road sure will be nicer to drive on.” And it is. And that’s worth something. People are always willing to overlook the value of “Hey, this doesn’t suck as much as it could.”

I also get annoyed when people use the word “hoax” to describe global warming. Even if global warming weren’t “real,” (hypothetically) it wouldn’t be a hoax, but rather an enormous “misunderstanding” or “error”. It’s not like there’s some secret cabal composed of the world’s climatologists, oceanographers, ecologists, geologists, atmospheric chemists, meteorologists, hydrologists, etc that is purposely misleading the world into believing something.

It’s like calling Lamarckian inheritance a hoax; it wasn’t a hoax, it was just wrong.

I’m sorry, that’s a smug and dumb argument, which is a shame because there are so many better ones. Doing stuff about global warming takes away resources that we could use to, oh, say, alleviate poverty, or ameliorate the national debt, or any number of other worthy causes. It’s worthwhile at some margin if global warming is significant and negative for humans, but if we’re wrong about global warming being important, it is a waste.

1960: “Nuclear bunkers for everyone: what if a US-Soviet missile exchange never happens and we create a safer world for nothing?”

Meanwhile, far away from bubble utopia, those in the developed world are now that much farther away from economic prosperity.

Creating a better world, regardless of how or why it’s done, costs money/resources. Things that probably 90% of the world’s people are short on.

In fact I’d go a step further - if this comic makes you feel warm inside, your thinking is wrong. It means that rather than doing rational risk-cost-benefit calculations, you’ve allowed yourself to fall victim to a halo effect bias around the stuff that culturally falls under the Green umbrella - thinking that that stuff is good for its own sake rather than any practical reason. That’s an irrational, tribal/pseudo-religious reaction and not a practical one.

(There is a picayune smidge of humor in the incongruity of “create a better world for nothing,” but most of the humor of the comic comes from smug “this stuff is inherently good why can’t the idiots see that” tribalism.)

Bunkers presumably don’t constitute a safer world, and provide few other benefits, if there is no nuclear exchange. Alternatives to fossil fuels will be necessary eventually in any case, and do provide ancillary benefits along the way, even if there is no global warming.

Wow. You people are insane. Why the hell do I bother ever visiting this website anymore

Well, you’re the one who posted the big fat OP which ended up whooshing a lot of people. :stuck_out_tongue:

There would be a host of correlated benefits, starting with reduced pollution levels and thus healthier ecosystems and thus presumably farmlands, along with a reduced dependence on fossil fuels. To say that reducing greenhouse gases would merely reduce greenhouse gases, and nothing else, nothing left to see here, move along, is a pretty ignorant and short-sided view.

Well, even Lomborg, the Danish economist, that was the best proponent of not using resources to deal with the issue until later, threw the towel recently.

Reasonable people change their minds because of better arguments, not because of the unsupported preferences of prestigious people (appeal to authority.)

John: if you want to have reduced pollution, then reduce pollutants (hint: we’ve done a pretty good job of that already.) That is not only a different cost-benefit calculation (you would want to put more effort into combatting pollution + global warming than you would pollution alone) but it targets entirely different molecules and industrial processes. You might want to care more about pesticide runoff, say, than fossil fuel burning. Saying that this fringe benefit justifies the expenditure regardless of whether global warming is a factor is like saying building bunkers is good because either way, you’re creating jobs and stimulating innovation in the concrete industry.

(It’s really weird that people don’t obviously see the tradeoff between different environmentalist goals - say, dedicating resources to fighting pollution vs. global warming. This is more evidence that people lump them into a fuzzy mental category “Green stuff,” and then have a positive emotional reaction to Green stuff. This is not how practical people think.)

That is not how you can brand an appeal to authority as a fallacy.

It is a fallacy if the expertise of the authority is not in the field that is the subject, Lomborg has done work related to poverty and other global issues, it is just that before he did not consider Climate Change to be a good reason for spending resources to deal with it.

Unfortunately for your point of view, he was the most relevant expert that dealt with the evidence and the economics of the issue.

Now, if we go to the experts in Climate research your choices of what is “reasonable” in regards to supporting a view that says that we should not mind about the CO2 that we are releasing into the atmosphere are even less. And then if we concentrate on the science itself, it is not really reasonable to wait for the bad effects that are coming, specially if we do nothing.

I agree with athelas. A lot of “green” proposals are not inherently good - they’re good because they benefit the environment. That’s a real benefit and it’s worth the cost but it would be stupid to pretend that there isn’t a cost.

Does anyone sort their recyclables because it’s fun? If energy was free and non-pollutant, why shouldn’t you heat your house to 90 degrees and drive an SUV? Why not use disposables when they’re convenient if there’s no environmental cost?

If there were no such thing as environmental damage, why would a green world be better than a non-green world? Remove environmental damage from the issue and it just becomes a matter of opinion.

But there is environmental damage. And the same general processes that are producing climate change are also responsible for other kinds of damage. So even if there were no climate change (an academic stipulation), most of the things we’re now doing, or will begin to do, in response to climate change, are also not bad things to be doing on other scores. They are not like building bunkers. Granted, imperfect information about exactly which kinds of environmental damage are most pressing isn’t helpful in forming policies, but the real insanity would be waiting for perfect information before doing a thing.

I agree that environmental damage is real. The evidence is clear and overwhelming. But my point is that the reason for being green is to avoid environmental damage not because being green is morally superior.

Well, generously assuming the question in the OP was sincere, I don’t see a problem with more efficiency being a worthy result in and of itself.


I’m going to take a wild stab and say it’s Joel Pett, in USAToday, on December 7, 2009. But I’m psychic like that.

And don’t worry, it made me smile too.

Tribalism cuts both ways. I know lots of people who are urgently upset about the scientific consensus on climate change, although they don’t understand it, won’t look into it, and won’t like the affects runaway climate change could have on them personally. They’ve been told by “their tribe” to be upset about it, and they repeat rumor and innuendo to each other and worry that something might be done about climate change…even if it winds up costing nothing – the idea that “the other side” might get its way pisses them off.

I know this because I’ve inadvertently eavesdropped on some of these folks – I share a chat server with some of them, and for some reason they talk freely about their political concerns when I’ve muted my microphone, as if they assume I’ve also muted my headphones.

Late at night, they mutter to each other, the same complaints, over and over, like Gollum pining for the Ring.

Sure, I can buy that (incidentally, my do you manage to paint your opponents as low status!) But I don’t see that in this thread; I see halo effects that “stuff I emotionally associate with environmentalism is good.” See, we’re not playing status games of whose team is better; we’re looking at actual arguments.