Michael Battalio

Friday, May 16, 2014

My Politics (part 3b): Climate Change

        In part 3a I talked about the science itself. I want to talk about a fallacious argument I hear frequently.
        The “appeal to authority” fallacious argument is brandished about as an argument against listening to scientists. That is misapplied. An appeal to authority is NOT fallacious if the authority is legitimate expert on the matter and if there is consensus on the matter (see post 3a). The appeal to authority is a sound argument when it comes to climate change. I also hear that people say that they shouldn’t simply believe authority – that questioning authority is part of their proud conservative heritage or some prattle like that. To prove that as nonsense allow me ask a couple of questions. Would you make a kindergarden teacher a general in the war in Afghanistan? Would you put a dentist in charge of a nuclear reactor? Would you want to drive over a bridge that had just been built by a clergyman? Would you receive open-heart surgery from a gas station manager? Would you want to be represented by a carpenter in a trial? NO, of course not. They might be the best kindergarden teacher, dentist, pastor, manager, and carpenter on the planet, but you wouldn’t want them doing those jobs. The people that do those jobs have been specifically taught to handle the matters in their field. Our entire society is built upon correct application of the “appeal to authority” argument; society would fall apart if you didn’t believe it. You trust expert consensus hundreds of times every day. I therefore implore you to rely on it again. You shouldn’t trust physicists, modelers, atmospheric scientists, mathematicians, and climatologists just because you’ve been told to, but you should recognize that most of these scientists spend inordinate amounts of time becoming experts. Consider for a moment that they know more (and better) than you.
        So the only place this becomes a political issue is what (if anything) should we do about it? I won’t go on about what will happen if we ignore it. There are plenty of places to find that now. Suffice it to say that we are screwed if we do nothing. The US is a top producer of
CO_2 in amount and per capita. Although that will change as time progresses, we are the biggest problem. As the most powerful country on the planet it is our responsibility to curtail the damage by reducing our own production and pressuring other large emitters to reduce as well. This is easier said than done. Renewable energy is being developed tragically slowly. Clean coal and natural gas aren’t enough. The subsidies to oil companies need to be given to renewable companies and to the fusion project. Despite the Japanese disaster in 2012, I believe that fission can hold us over until we get fusion working (though we’ve been 20 years away from fusion for 40 years now). Thorium reactors should especially be developed. Cap and trade would have been a great interim solution, except Democrats are politically inept. The best each of us individually can do is conserve, conserve, conserve. If you don’t need to drive somewhere, don’t. Save electricity. Think of it this way, the less CO2 you produce, the more money you save.

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