Jesus. He’s written a climatological ‘Dear Muslima’ for Scientific American, defending Bjorn Lomborg. It feeds directly into a common Republican trope: ‘sure, climate change occurs, and maybe humans contribute to it, but it’s just too costly do what is necessary’. He lists a bunch of problems, and then does a “cost-benefit analysis”.
The ranking is based on a cost-benefit analysis. For example, an investment of $300 million “would prevent the deaths of 300,000 children, if it were used to strengthen the Global Fund’s malaria-financing mechanism.” Another $300 million would deworm 300 million children, and $122 million would lead to total hepatitis B vaccine coverage and thereby prevent another 150,000 annual deaths. Low-cost drugs to treat acute heart disease would cost just $200 million and save 300,000 people.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do more about climate change. But what? Both books posit technological solutions: Lomborg’s Copenhagen experts recommend spending $1 billion for research on planet-cooling geoengineering technologies; Oreskes and Conway have humanity saved by the creation in 2090 of a lichenized fungus that consumes atmospheric carbon dioxide. Whatever we do about climate, we should recognize that the world has many problems. If you are malnourished and diseased, what the climate will be like at the end of the century is not a high priority. Given limited resources, we should not let ourselves be swept away by the apocalyptic fear generated by any one threat.
I fucking hate “cost-benefit analysis” — it’s always accomplished by sweeping a lot of costs under the carpet to reach the desired conclusion. It’s such an easy way to create imaginary books that you can fudge without consequences. Do they factor in the cost of losing New Orleans and Miami? Wanna bet everything is lowballed?
The argument about other problems is bogus, too: if we could wrest government out of the control of goddamned Libertarians and Republicans, we could talk about rational policy making and trying to fund all of those projects. Does anyone really believe progressive politicians are arguing we can’t save those children because we’ve only got money for ONE project, and we can’t prioritize to support humanitarian goals? Does anyone seriously believe for one second that if we follow the Libertarian dream and spend less on carbon reduction (as if we spend enough now), that suddenly the wretched conservatives in congress will decide they can invest a few hundred million dollars to prevent the deaths of foreign children?
NO ONE is claiming that we need to stop everything else and deal only with climate change right now. But they are arguing that we need to carry out an appropriate, necessary, and immediate change in our carbon consumption habits — which we are not doing, thanks to obstructionists and pseudo-scientific rationalizers for the status quo, like Shermer. Pretending that climate scientists want everyone to be “swept away” to deal with “one threat” is simply dishonest. Reprehensibly dishonest. What they’re doing instead is explaining how the long term costs of climate change represent a far greater concern than phony ‘cost-benefit analyses’ allow.
And citing Oreskes and Conway…they wrote The Merchants of Doubt, which is all about how industry assholes have connived to lie to us about the scientific consensus on tobacco, ozone, acid rain, and climate change — Oreskes does not agree with Lomborg. Yet here Shermer lumps Conway and Oreskes into the same camp with Lomborg. And what is this nonsense about ‘lichenized fungus’ in 2090? Nobody can make that absurd claim now, nor give it a date of arrival, let alone a couple of historians of science. What are they going to do, switch to molecular biology and develop it themselves? Why should we trust magic bullet solutions to complex problems?
Simply citing the discredited conservative hack Lomborg is grounds for suspecting Shermer’s ability to judge the quality of the arguments. He might have been well off reading Scientific American’s 12 year old demolition of Lomborg’s credibility. I don’t know what has happened at SciAm that they continue to encourage a Libertarian crank to publish in their once respectable journal…and this after his bogus article on a liberal war on science, and his more recent lying with statistics to dismiss concerns about wealth inequity. Do they simply not care any more?