Dyson on climate

by Russ Roberts on August 29, 2007

in Environment

Freeman Dyson joins the ranks of those who are skeptical about the global warming "crisis" (HT to Arnold at EconLog):

There is
no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is
not global. I am not saying that the warming does not cause problems.
Obviously it does. Obviously we should be trying to understand it
better. I am saying that the problems are grossly exaggerated. They
take away money and attention from other problems that are more urgent
and more important, such as poverty and infectious disease and public
education and public health, and the preservation of living creatures
on land and in the oceans, not to mention easy problems such as the
timely construction of adequate dikes around the city of New Orleans.

Another good part:

When I
listen to the public debates about climate change, I am impressed by
the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations
and the superficiality of our theories. Many of the basic processes of
planetary ecology are poorly understood. They must be better understood
before we can reach an accurate diagnosis of the present condition of
our planet. When we are trying to take care of a planet, just as when
we are taking care of a human patient, diseases must be diagnosed
before they can be cured. We need to observe and measure what is going
on in the biosphere, rather than relying on computer models.

And one more:

believe that nature knows best. For them the highest value is to
respect the natural order of things. Any gross human disruption of the
natural environment is evil. Excessive burning of fossil fuels is evil.
Changing nature’s desert, either the Sahara desert or the ocean desert,
into a managed ecosystem where giraffes or tunafish may flourish, is
likewise evil. Nature knows best, and anything we do to improve upon
Nature will only bring trouble.

The humanist ethic
begins with the belief that humans are an essential part of nature.
Through human minds the biosphere has acquired the capacity to steer
its own evolution, and now we are in charge. Humans have the right and
the duty to reconstruct nature so that humans and biosphere can both
survive and prosper. For humanists, the highest value is harmonious
coexistence between humans and nature. The greatest evils are poverty,
underdevelopment, unemployment, disease and hunger, all the conditions
that deprive people of opportunities and limit their freedoms. The
humanist ethic accepts an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
as a small price to pay, if world-wide industrial development can
alleviate the miseries of the poorer half of humanity. The humanist
ethic accepts our responsibility to guide the evolution of the planet.

Except for maybe the last sentence, you could replace "humanist" with "economist" and capture the way a lot of economists think about the environment.


Add a Comment    Share Share    Print    Email

Previous post:

Next post: