Monday, June 20, 2011

Reinventions: Climate Change

I've decided to make YouTube videos describing some of the reinventions I plan to include in my book, Reinventions: Fresh Ideas on the Big Issues. Here's the first of those videos. If you'd rather just read the text, the transcript appears below:

Climate Change
by Marty Nemko
(transcript of the video above)

I'm Marty Nemko and this is the first of my reinventions. I want to reinvent our approach to climate change from one of nearly religious zeal to one of dispassionate agnosticism. Here's why.
The science is NOT yet clear enough to justify the enormous cost and severe restrictions on our freedoms--for example the gridlock we'll ever more be forced to sit in because environmentalists are blocking freeway building. And then there are the opportunity costs: what the money and efforts could otherwise be devoted to, for example, figuring out how to cure cancer, or improve education.

You might ask, "How can you say the science justifying making major efforts to try to cool the globe is unclear? The UN's International Panel on Climate Change, consisting of 1,200 scientists say it's true."
Fact is, of those 1,200 scientists, only a few have power and those few are a politically stacked group--scientists ideologically predisposed, data or not, to want to be "strongly green."

When one looks dispassionately at the data on climate change, it's clear that more and better data are needed. Remember, to justify the huge costs, all of five things must be true:

1. Climate change must be occurring.

2. The climate change must be significantly manmade. The most recent study by the prestigious European agency, CERN, calls that into serious question.

3. The climate change must be a net negative. (In fact, global warming will make much of the world's cold climates more livable and arable.)

4. The plan to cool the planet must actually work.

5. There must be substantial worldwide compliance with the greatly increased costs and severe incursions of freedom that the effort to cool the planet would require. Even more problematic, that worldwide compliance would need to remain in place for the 50 to 100 years until technology advances enough to make such costs unnecessary.

The odds of all five of those things occurring are tiny--and that assumes that the computer prediction models are valid. And no less than top scientists MIT's Richard Lindzen, Harvard's Willie Wei-Hock Soon, and Princeton's Freeman Dyson (arguably the world's most eminent living physicist,) and many less well-known but credible scientists are convinced that the computer models are based on very dubious assumptions. That too is the upshot of Climate Change Reconsidered, a 430-page, September 2011 report written by 11 scientists and sponsored by three climate-change-related nonprofits. (It should be stressed that their questioning the wisdom of making massive efforts to cool the planet remains only a dissent from the dominant position held by the IPCC, Al Gore, etc.)

Certainly, bang-for-the-buck efforts to reduce our carbon footprint should be implemented, for example, raising gas-mileage standards. That minimally impedes freedom yet saves a fortune, reduces pollutants, and increases energy independence.

The reinvention I ask for is for scientists, the media, and all of us to recognize that there are responsible narratives other than "The world is doomed unless we spend, virtually without limits, to attempt to cool the planet." We need to replace the censorship of the dissenting view I outline here with a careful consideration of it. It's time for research and for debate, not massive spending. There are too many surer ways to spend money and effort to improve humankind: immunizing children in developing countries, better funding research on sudden heart attack, improving the quality of education everywhere so it lives up to its yet unrealized promise as a magic pill.


Lightning Bug's Butt said...

What a sensible and well-put take on climate change.

While you allow for the possibility of man-made climate change, you call for a rational approach. That's how I'd like to see us move forward. Let's hope cooler minds prevail.

And I dig the t-shirt!

Monika P said...

Hi Marty,

I'm not sure who your target audience is for these videos, but personally, I found this one difficult to follow. I had to wait until minute 2:32 before you answer the important question: "What is the reinvention I ask for?" That should be at the top, followed by your reasons. Also, I'd recommend you speak slower, more clearly, and edit your words down some to key points/concepts with just one or two clarifications per each.

hightide said...

I think discussions of how best to address climate change are useful, and that discussions of how much climate change we can expect are useful. Arguing that people like Lindzen are somehow censored is hard to swallow; a search on his name turns up 250K results. Arguing that there's serious dissent about human-induced climate change is also hard to swallow; the scientific community is close to unanimous on the issue:

There are certainly over-the-top proposals for climate engineering, and I welcome Marty's point that much of the debate is more heat than light, but the core science is really quite solid: More CO2 = more captured solar radiation = warmer planet.

Monika P said...

Hi Marty,

I like the changes you made to the video both in content and visually (talking head size) - I find it much easier to follow. Although I liked your t-shirt in the first one, I think dressing professionally helps your cause.

Maybe I missed your explanation in your blog but I am still uncertain who you're audience is. Is it the random blog reader or are you using these to sell your upcoming book to a publisher?

As someone who works in advertising I have a hard time ignoring the "flaws" in the quality of your video, and if you're interested I'd be happy to give you specific feedback on how you might improve them further. Quick example - with complex ideas containing multiple points, visual aids can be very helpful. I'd also encourage you to try to moderate the volume of your voice (to prevent distortion) or perhaps invest in a higher quality microphone. That said, I think this is a great improvement.

I love that you made the change so quickly and that you've since been so prolific! Admirable.

I enjoy your blog and your radio show.


Marty Nemko said...

Monika, of course, you're right about the quality issues with the video. I've improved it in the most recent one and frankly, just haven't had the time to redo the others. You say you admire my being prolific. Well part of that is that I just turned the webcam on and started talking. Hopefully the substantive value is there and that viewers can forgive the lack of style.


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