Re: Kyoto, Driving our car

Warrl kyree Tale'sedrin (
Mon, 8 Dec 1997 16:13:14 -0800

> From: Arjen Kamphuis <>

> (the problem in a nutshell - IMHO)
> We're driving on a misty night at full speed along a road we don't
> know. Brakingdistance is about 100 meters, visibility about the
> same. Someone on the backseat claims that there is an obstacle ahead
> but can't tell whether it's something solid or just a slight
> thickening of the fog.
> Now, we're in a hurry to get to a party (Cryo, Far Edge,
> whatever...) and the driver wants to keep everybody happy so he's
> not going to slow down because some backseater 'thinks' he sees
> something. So here we are rushing toward an object that could be
> anything from a whisp of fog to a solid wall of concrete. After some
> discussion the still unclear object is now to close for a full stop,
> the choice is: we just drive on and 'see what happens' or the ask
> the driver to brake and hit 'whatever it is' at the lowest speed
> possible. Bumpers and airbags might minimize the damage (if any).

Really bad analogy.

A better analogy:

You're driving along a road through low hills. It's a rather twisty
road and you can't see all that far ahead, but you're driving at a
reasonable speed. One of the back seat passengers thinks he sees a
fog bank up ahead, and says that he vaguely remembers the road
turning abruptly downhill somewhere along here. Another back seat
passenger says he saw no fog bank, and remembers the first backseater
claiming a few days before that the road turns abruptly UPhill. A
third backseater (it's a big vehicle) says that if we go any higher
we'll run out of oxygen, and a fourth points at the lambs gamboling
at the top of a nearby hill and claims the oxygen problem ain't so.
Meanwhile the first backseater claims we're near sea level and so
going down could be bad, and the fourth guy notices that off in the
distance (through a conveniently timed gap) it appears we can see a
lot further down and there's no sign of an ocean.

And in response to this confusion, some want us to come to a dead

> An international panel of scientists have some pretty good theories
> that something will happen to the global climate

The evidence for an ice age is as good as the evidence for global

> due to the usage of
> fossile fuels

Actually, if the ice-age theorists (who were the panick mongering
government-must-intervene-to-save-us crowd when I was in high school)
are right, then the usage of fossil fuels might be why we AREN'T
having problems.

> (the only countries that don't agree with the
> IPCC-reports are a few OPEC-members). Increased downward infrared
> flux trough increased CO2 concentration is a well-accepted fact (and
> maybe a way to terraform Mars someday). The precise effects on the
> global climate system cannot be estimated at this point, it may take
> another 10 to 15 years to find conclusive evidence for (or against)
> a human-induced climatechange.

There is no need to wait for this evidence at all. We can state
categorically that previous eras when the temperature was rather
higher than it is today were clearly NOT caused by human technology
(being as they occurred variously before the dawn of man, up to as
late as about the time humans started trying to domesticate fire).
We can further say with equal confidence that they were NOT
environmental disasters in any way that we would recognise. That
while there have been fluctuation in shorelines all over the place
all the time, there is no compelling evidence that any particular
fluctuation was due to temperature variations in the range the
global-warming-doomsday theorists are predicting. (The
ice-age-doomsday theorists, score rather differently on this point.)

We can further state with confidence that human action did not make
all that much difference in the CO2 content of the atmosphere over
this century -- and the times it WOULD have made what difference it
DID make, don't match up with the times of temperature changes or CO2
level changes.

> But: if nothing is done before then
> it may very well be too late do to anything.

> Given the fact that we have a resonable indication that something is
> going to happen that _may_ be very damaging to to the only habitable
> planet we have it does not seem unreasonable to try to do something

But what? The choices are, with no particular reason to believe one
over another:

(a) an ice age is coming, we need to increase the greenhouse effect

(b) we're increasing the greenhouse effect and threatening to cook
our planet, we need to reduce the greenhouse effect

(c) neither of these is happening, there's no big deal

> (IMHO).
> Maybe we could somehow include the cost of bonding the CO2 again (by
> reforrestation) in the price of gasoline or electricity, as an
> alternative for complex regulation. That way anybody can drive (&
> fly) as much as he/she want as long as the true global cost of
> 'closed-cycle' consumption is paid. The funds could be used (by
> oilcompanies?) to plant trees that will bond atmospheric carbon or
> put into energy research.

Even if we assume that you are right about the problem, it may be
that you are wrong about the solution. The fundamental need is to
increase the amount of organic matter. If your solution compels poor
people on marginal land to continue the agricultural practices now
turning that marginal land into desert, you are being

For that matter, according to some studies, if 1/100 of what Clinton
proposes US businesses should pay out of their own pockets each year
to cut their CO2 emissions were applied to dumping dusts of
metals-rich organic chemicals into the southern oceans, we might
solve the problem not only for the US, but for the entire world.

That is, still, assuming for the sake of argument that the
global-warming doomsayers are right in their predictions. What if
the ice-age doomsayers are right?

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