Friday, July 30, 2010

Belief Systems

Megan McArdle is a conservative economist/blogger with relatively rational climate skepticism (compared to the usual fact proof crackpots and idiots). You can read her post on the possible phytoplankton die-off. My untrustworthy summary: we might be doomed, probably can't do anything about it, but should have a hefty carbon tax.

Of more interest to me was this comment from aka_scoop:

I won't give serious consideration to the arguments of any eco-doom prophet who does not first demonstrate that he has invested all his money in a way that hedges against that which he professes to expect.

The more extreme the predictions, the more extreme the investment must be. If these guys haven't spent all their money on -- I don't know -- oxygen tanks, canned food, firearms and property on very high ground, they should shut up. Because there's no internally consistent way that a person could actually believe such things while spending their lives blogging from costal cities...

I think that this post very well epitomises the error of logic implicit in the idea that idividual action can create a sensible response to a predicted long term catastrophe. What's my logical "hedge" against world wide eco-catastrophe likely to collapse ecosystems fifty or seventy-years from now, given that I'm already in medicare generation? I won't be alive but my children, and hopefully future grandchildren, could be, so I should invest in trying to persuade the world to avoid the catastrophe. I won't be moving to Vaanuatu, but ought to be secure against sea-level rise here at 3900 feet above sea-level. As far as near term warming, it makes sense to invest in air conditioning - a technology that unfortunatelythreatens to make global warming worse. That's the problem - individuals, trying to optimize their personal results, collectively destroy the ecosystem upon which we all depend.

This scenario has played out again and again in human history, but never before on a global scale. The best way to hedge against the catastrophe is to keep whacking the knuckleheads between the eyes and hope that enough of them finally get a clue.