Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Global Warming

Of course, during this area's coldest week in recent memory, I write on global warming. Really, I've been meaning to do so for a while, but I only think of it when I'm in the car. I probably think of it because it seems like everyone on the radio is talking about it...

I'm no climate scientist, but I'm certainly not convinced that all the hoopla about global warming has any basis. In fact, I'm not scared of global warming at all. It bothers me less than the threat of nuclear war bothered me during the Cold War, which is that I've thought about it, but it doesn't make me change my behaviors one iota.

I do have a problem with the whole deal, however. It seems that there has been a call to war, not on global warming, but on the issue of global warming. It doesn't seem to matter what one does; it is how one is positioned publically. The politicians and "journalists" who seem the most adamant that we need to do something (now!) about this "threat" are still consuming like crazy - driving their SUVs, flying their private jets, consuming, consuming, consuming.

On the other side, the "journalists" who don't believe that global warming is a problem are advocating more and more consumption. I actually heard Rush Limbaugh proclaiming this side yesterday. The thought seems to be: it's not a problem, so anyone who conserves is stupid.

Why does this have to be the dividing line? It seems artificial, and it seems like the only thing that is really done is that people get riled up and that the rhetoric gets increased.

On the other hand, much ado is being made of alternative fuels, and ethanol is being touted as the next big thing. Unfortunately, we are experiencing part of the backlash already as egg prices are raising (mainly because of the requirement for more space per egg-laying chicken, but also because of the rising price of grain, fueled by the demand for ethanol).

In Methodist history, we can look back to John Wesley, who was against horse racing and fancy coaches, not because he didn't like the thoroughbreds, but because the horses were eating so much grain while people starved (he also railed against the distillation of gin partly for the same reason).

Is ethanol a good alternative source of fuel if it comes from the mouths of the poor?

7 comments:

Dunce said...

I believe climate change is quite a problem, and has been for quite a long time (perhaps some of this comes from sharing a building with climatologists who have spent the last 20 years or so documenting things like glacial reduction and spread of drought, the latter being particularly problematic for people living in those regions). Climate change is much more noticeable on this small island, although of course the causes are still quite a matter of debate.

My own fairly "green" behavior isn't related to the hubbub about climate change (too large-scale, too vaguely defined, too unclear what effects a change in behavior could actually produce), but a sort of simpler notion about trying to be less wasteful in general.

I agree with you about the ridiculous nature of the publicity surrounding it, though. Suddenly a huge segment of the population are wringing their hands and pointing fingers at each other for crimes against the environment, when virtually none of them cared in the slightest this time last year. And of course hardly any of them have actually made any significant changes in lifestyle to match the changes in their public positions. It would be more impressive if some of these public figures actually put their money where their mouth is (some of these attempts fail spectacularly, like the UK's David Cameron who made a big deal of the fact that he regularly travelled to work on a bicycle for environmental reasons, but neglected to mention that he was accompanied by a car). Otherwise it just seems like another case of saying what they think the public want to hear. After all, the best solution to any problem is one in which other people change their behavior in some way.

It's also the case that "simple solutions" to any problem usually turn out to be anything but simple, and often anything but solutions, just because every situation is so complex (like the knock-on effects of increased ethanol production, which I'm sure go way further than just rising prices of eggs). And everyone involved has their own agenda, which may or may not have anything to do with the common good. So nothing happens quickly (nor should it, in my opinion), leaving everyone who thinks they have a simple solution to rant and rave about it until the cows come home.

But mainly, you ought to stop listening to talk radio if you don't want to get riled up about stupid points of view, polarization of opinions and the attempt to characterize any situation as two extremes, one of which is obvious and the other, idiotic (which is which depends upon the bent of the commentator). Isn't this kind of approach exactly the thing that made this sort of talk radio popular in the first place?

Anyway, perhaps you're right that a truly socialist system is the only way forward ;).

dunce

Anonymous said...

PS: If ethanol can be harvested cheaply and in reasonable quantities directly from poor people's mouths, we should implement this simple, obvious solution right away!

dunce

The Thief said...

After all, the best solution to any problem is one in which other people change their behavior in some way.

That's what I'm talking about. I understand that even climatologists don't agree on the causes of climate change, but the truth is, even if human pollution has nothing to do with it, that's no reason to go on polluting willy nilly, just because one can...

Judy Callarman said...

It seems to me that probably global warming is actually going on, now that I have seen some pictures of glaciers taken ten years ago and now. Of course, glaciers have been melting for thousands of years. But they seem to be going faster now.

Our tendency is to stew and fuss over things but do nothing productive about them until it is emergency time!

So, Mr. Thief, you live in the UK? Somehow I thought you were in America, like me. I have a question, then: I know that in the UK, you have socialized medicine. What is that like, on a common-everyday-people basis? Is the quality of your medical care generally good? Americans tend to think it would be second-rate-- mediocre at best. They believe it would be a great loss not to be able to choose one's doctor. However, the medical costs in the US are appalling, and many people wait until medical conditions are to the emergency stage because they can't afford to see a doctor. Something drastic has to be done about it.

Judy Callarman said...

But NOW I've read your profile, and I see that you are American. Is Dunce in the UK? That's your brother!

Anonymous said...

In response to Judy, the Dunce is indeed the Theif's brother and the Dunce is also my husband. He is working from home today, so probably won't be on the blogs so I thought I would send you an answer. We are both American, but have lived here in London for several years and took citizenship last year and plan to stay. For the most part I have to say I have not noticed any difference between medical care here or in the States (apart from the obvious price). Over here you register with a local doctor, of which you have a large choice particilularly in the city. I have always just asked friends for recommendations, much like I would in America. When I registered with the doctor they took a complete history and family history. They did a much better job of this than any American doctor I have seen. When I mentioned a relative had brest cancer they immediately offered me genetic screening. When I have been sick I can call the doctor's office in the morning and usually get an appointment that day. Luckily I have not had any real problems, but I did have a spot on my nose that the doctor thought should be looked at. I had to wait about two months to have the spot removed, but as a non-emergency thing I thought this was fine. Once I had to wait three months for a gynocologist appointment for a more urgent problem in America. So generally it is pretty even. Also you can choose to go private for a fee. I do know a friend who decided to go private for the birth of her baby for a private fancy birthing suite. I think it cost her £3,000. On the other hand I have had two friends who gave birth with the NHS and got to have a water birth for absolutely nothing. Mostly I think the system works very well and the standard of care is high.

Judy Callarman said...

Dear Dunce's wife,
Thank you for this answer! I haven't really known how I should feel about socialized medicine because of all the fuss about it in the States. But I have known for some time that something drastic has to be done about our system--it is such a mess. I believe your opinion has great value in this debate in my head, because you know about both kinds of medical systems.

Judy