Thursday, June 28, 2007

From Negligible to Severe

At Planet Gore, a titanic battle is being waged between Jim Manzi and "sound science" advocate Steven Milloy.

Milloy shrieks that climate change is a fabrication of doomstruck lie-beral alarmists who will kill us all, and that climate feedback loops are completely hypothetical, and then spatters a photo of Ayn Rand with clumpy yellowish semen (I'm paraphrasing here).

Manzi accepts that some amount of anthropogenic climate change is happening, but feels that "its impact over the next century could plausibly range from negligible to severe." Therefore, addressing it is a good idea, but possibly not, and he's not being indecisive (splunge!).

In other words, Manzi favors pretty much the same approach the Right takes to the threat of nuclear terrorism. You don't want to be too hasty about changing laws around, and spending billions of dollars on prevention, and taking staggering geopolitical risks, when the catastrophe you're afraid of may not even happen.

Kidding aside, Manzi deserves plenty of credit for taking a flamethrower to Milloy's army of strawmen, and for making this simple but effective point to an audience who may well resent him for it:

Milloy doesn’t seem to get that “I don’t know” is not the same thing as “No reason to worry”.
I have some problems with Manzi, of course. For instance, he calls the threat of climate change to the United States "incalculably small," and insists on a market-based approach to mitigation, while arguing that "the process of science tends to be self-correcting, but like all markets, this can take a long time to work, and is imperfect." Still, I'd gladly buy him a drink.

That's more than I can say for Henry Payne, who calls Richard Lindzen "the Milton Friedman of atmospheric science" and claims that Lindzen's WSJ piece from a year ago remains "the most comprehensive, layman-accessible article written on GW science." That isn't quite as silly as calling Genesis the most comprehensive, layman-accessible article written on evolutionary biology. But it comes pretty fucking close.

In related news, Sir Oolius anatomizes Tom DeLay, with amusing results.


Thers said...

"The Milton Friedman of atmospheric science..."?

Good grief.

Phila said...

Been trying to figure that one out since I read it....