Screw the planet, save the humans
August 1, 2008 1 Comment
Today in the NY Times, Paul Krugman has a column asking “Can This Planet Be Saved?”
It’s a good piece about offshore drilling that makes a similar argument to the old philosopher who said that you can either believe in god or not, but if you do believe in god and there is no god, you lose nothing. However, if there is a god and you didn’t believe, you lose it all:
While there’s a chance that we’ll act against global warming only to find that the danger was overstated, there’s also a chance that we’ll fail to act only to find that the results of inaction were catastrophic. Which risk would you rather run?
It’s a great argument for climate policy, even if it is not so good for the whole faith thing.
Martin Weitzman, a Harvard economist who has been driving much of the recent high-level debate, offers some sobering numbers.
Surveying a wide range of climate models, he argues that, over all, they suggest about a 5 percent chance that world temperatures will eventually rise by more than 10 degrees Celsius (that is, world temperatures will rise by 18 degrees Fahrenheit).
As Mr. Weitzman points out, that’s enough to “effectively destroy planet Earth as we know it.” It’s sheer irresponsibility not to do whatever we can to eliminate that threat.
But that being said, the problem is the assumption made right off the bat and then again in that quote:
Recently the Web site The Politico asked Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, why she was blocking attempts to tack offshore drilling amendments onto appropriations bills. “I’m trying to save the planet; I’m trying to save the planet,” she replied.
I’m glad to hear it. But I’m still worried about the planet’s prospects.
I am not. The planet will be fine. Life will be fine. It will continue and evolution will help species adapt to the new, warmer world.
What I am worried about is the Humans.
Odds are, we will not make it. We are excellent at adapting, but it looks like a shift of this proportion will definitely end human existence as we know it and perhaps even human existence all together.
That’s not to say the (warmer) planet won’t be here and won’t be filled with all sorts of new life, just that in the way the dinosaurs couldn’t adapt to the new environment created after the asteroid that killed them hit, humans might not be able to make it through this one.
So perhaps we should stop trying to “save the planet” and start focusing on “saving the humans.” Maybe that will help bring it home for the people who oppose climate protection measures…