Matt Ridley on the Cure for Global Warming
One of my pet projects is spreading the idea that there are no solutions, there are only tradeoffs. Matt Ridley, in the transcribed text of the Angus Millar lecture he recently gave, drives the point home with reference to global warming:
The problem is that you can accept all the basic tenets of greenhouse physics and still conclude that the threat of a dangerously large warming is so improbable as to be negligible, while the threat of real harm from climate-mitigation policies is already so high as to be worrying, that the cure is proving far worse than the disease is ever likely to be. Or as I put it once, we may be putting a tourniquet round our necks to stop a nosebleed.
I also think the climate debate is a massive distraction from much more urgent environmental problems like invasive species and overfishing.
However, I have seen a far more convincing case made for the idea that the economic impact of mitigating climate change will outweigh the possible damage from the climate change itself.
Certainly, terrible things can happen at the hands of Mother Nature, but I am not sure why we would assume a passive population. As weather changes, people will change, adapt, move, and just generally roll with the punches – like they always do. Nobody will be lounging in their living room utterly surprised when the floodwaters suddenly begin to lap at their knees.
Then again, people will only adapt, and they will only adapt in positive ways, if we let them. Adopting a top-down approach to this problem will simply backfire. It will assume too much, and when circumstances change in unforseen ways, top-down policies will prove too sclerotic to adapt, thus locking people into a situation worse than that which they were attempting to avoid. The real question is not “how should our government deal with global warming?” but “which decisions do I prefer to make under the circumstances presented to me?”
Or in other words, there are no solutions. Only tradeoffs.
(H/T: Random Nuclear Strikes)