Sunday, March 04, 2007

McCarthyism, Heresy, and Romanticized Peasant Life

Drudge today linked to an article announcing a forthcoming documentary that purports to expose problems with the global warming theory. As in this country, some folks in the UK are apparently concerned about the viability of this theory, as well as the impact it may have on policies in the developing world.

Policies to reduce CO2 emissions are decidedly against traditional forms of economic progress, including the progress from expanded access to cheap and reliable coal-fired electricity generation. Consider these statements from the article:

[Begin Quote] “The programme claims efforts to reduce CO2 are killing Africans, who have to burn fires inside their home, causing cancer and lung damage, because their governments are being encouraged to use wind and solar panels that are not capable of supplying the continent with electricity, instead of coal and oil-burning power stations that could. Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore is shown saying: "Environmentalists have romanticised peasant life, but this is anti-human. "They are saying the world’s poorest people should have the world’s most expensive form of form of energy – really saying they can’t have electricity."” [End Quote]

A “romanticized peasant life” succinctly captures the attitudinal problem of trying to constrain development by limiting CO2 emissions. Not everyone can afford a Prius and a solar array – thus the “green privilege” is simply too expensive for developing countries where resources must be allocated to more basic needs. To the extent that you want to help the developing nations by taking and redistributing wealth from developed countries, it seems a fair question to ask: is this simply a preference for “green privilege” or is it “survival of the planet”?

If the former, then the redistribution scheme is not a matter of public good, but an imposition of one’s conception of the good on others. As for the latter, it makes sense to impose the burden of proof on those seeking to constrain freedom and progress in this way. Of course, Al Gore suggests it is a matter of survival. But he has not, nor have others in the movement, met the burden of proof. Criticism of his inconsistent behavior (if your behavior was ending the world, wouldn't you change it?), as well as the science and the outcomes underlying his policies, are met with a big "hurumph" by his followers. You can't criticise the prophet without incurring their wrath.

I also found it interesting that this article reflects a concern in the UK that religious or political fervor, rather than cold hard science, is at work in the global warming movement. In fact, some are simply glad that competing voices can be heard to challenge the orthodoxy of the movement:

[Philip Stott, Professor Emeritus of Biogeography, London stated this about the documentary:] "It is a brave programme at the moment to give excluded voices their say, and maybe it is just the beginning. At the moment, there is almost a McCarthyism movement in science where the greenhouse effect is like a puritanical religion and this is dangerous." In the programme Nigel Calder says: "The greenhouse effect is seen as a religion and if you don’t agree, you are a heretic.” [End quote]

You can find the story here:

Happy Sunday.

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