Resistance Begins at Ohm!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On the irrelevance of the climate change debate

This is something of a thought experiment. There is a life analogy that says if you hold on to something so tightly you can't let go, you will not be able to grasp the next marvelous thing that comes along. Hold things loosely lest you lose out. In other words, don't let your dogma run over your karma either.

If, for a moment, the AGW proponents allowed that climate change is NOT a result of human activity and not changeable through any adjustment in human activity... Just take the human component out of the equation and consider the situation as it is.

And if the skeptics allowed that with or without an anthropogenic component, climate --or weather-- change is negatively impacting developing nations for a variety of reasons... (Simply because the populations are living much closer to the edge of starvation and disease with little resource to do anything about it.)

Then what is the rest of the world's obligation to offer assistance? Whether by confiscation or charity, some wealth will need to change hands in order to improve the lives of millions above an unreliable subsistence level. We offer such generosity in times of other natural disasters such as the earthquakes and tsunamis in Southeast Asia and Haiti. Are not some of the outcomes of climate/weather change the same, they just take longer to materialize? Tsunami/sea level rise/floods; destruction of economic means by earthquake, desert, drought or deforestation. What I am suggesting is that whether by natural disaster, natural cycles or even anthropogenic causes/poor choices (like building a city below sea level),
some people at various times will be facing likely devastation or destruction.

I actually think maybe it is time to stop arguing about the motives and failures of various institutions and individuals. It is much energy expended without serving to change the situation as it is today. Too much time spent on whose fault and not enough time spent on whether and how to improve outcomes. You don't need billions spent on climate research to see people starving because their crops fail year after year and their livestock cannot be sustained. You don't need billions spent to see people dieing from preventable disease. Quite frankly, I don't see that containment of bovine flatulence is a particularly effective way to address these problems.

Obviously, the world cannot offer all nations a middle class lifestyle such as enjoyed by North America, the EU and the oil rich Middle East. There actually isn't enough wealth to go around. None the less, is there not some obligation to help a brother in need? Maybe the problem isn't our will. Maybe if we remove the process from governments and empower NGOs to manage regional (not just single country) intervention programs, something can be achieved. No, I'm not talking about the UN as it has become as corrupt (or worse) than many of its member states.

Haitians were desperately poor before an earthquake (once again) devastated their homeland. Haitians will be desperately poor later after the current flood of charity dries up.  If one house collapses, then the occupants have choices. If every house collapses, then choices are much more limited. The Haitian economy collapsed years ago and there simply aren't resources there to deal with many day to day problems, let alone a disaster. We can "fix" the disaster but the other problems remain. Don't we have the same obligation to people who are living hand to mouth when the TV images aren't so compelling?

PS: Sorry I haven't posted since Feb 5, I've been digging out from under two blizzards. A mile of private road and a flat tire on the tractor. That's what I mean by limited options. *irony button off*

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