Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See, A Break Down of Choices on Preventing Global Warming Catastrophe

There is a 9 minute video on YouTube entitled “Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See,” posted in Sept. 2007, and had already been viewed by over 3.3 million people.

A spectre of rising seas can awaken primal
fears in even the most rational among us.

In the video, a very articulate man with a white board presents a clever argument based on the precautionary principle, applied to a discussion on Global Warming.

The gentleman politely makes his case, claiming that nobody has been able to dispute his reasoning. Comments are disabled on the video.

He sets up two dichotomies:

  1. Climate change is real and we can do something about it – true or false?
  2. Humanity takes urgent action in an attempt to prevent climate change – yes or no. He then dissects each case, using a box divided into four squares.

Working clockwise from upper right, here are his cases:

  • Climate change is not happening – it is false to think so, and yes, we attempt to do something about it. The worst case outcome here is the actions taken cause the worst depression in the history of the human race, and it was all for nothing.
  • Climate change is not happening, it is false to think so, and no, we don’t do anything about it. In this case everyone is happy.
  • Climate change is happening – it is true to think so, and no, we don’t do anything about it. In this case our inaction results in the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of the human race, and we could have avoided it.
  • Climate change is happening – it is true to think so, and yes, we do something about it. In this case everyone is happy.

There are huge problems with this analysis – here are three that immediately come to mind:

First, if action to avert climate change causes a global economic depression in the case where there wasn’t any climate change after all, it will also do so in the case where climate change is real. So the case assumes we save the environment, but it is misleading to think we avoid economic catastrophe in the attempt – and the loss of civil liberties.

Second, it is misleading to think any action on the part of humanity to change the climate is going to be effective. If we stopped burning all carbon-based fuels tomorrow – which is precisely how we can guarantee a global economic meltdown and catastrophic war – it is not certain it would have any positive effect on the global climate.

Third, it is even possible that actions we take could have the opposite effect – what if CO2 emissions are the only thing preventing the planet from slipping into an ice age? The point is we don’t know. We don’t understand the role of water vapor, solar cycles, or why the holocene period has lasted 2x as long as any interglacial period in the last 500,000 years. There’s a lot we don’t know.

The presenter in this video encourages the viewer to see shades of grey. The problem is the precautionary principle makes shades of grey difficult to discern. Before any newcomer to this website dismisses this rebuttal as biased nonsense, please read “Global Warming Questions,” or our interview with noted climatologist Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr. Read other posts in the Global Warming section of this blog, or review our feature articles for in-depth reports on the topic of global warming. We’ve done our homework, and there are shades of grey galore.

To say “the risk of not acting outweighs the risk of acting” after presenting an argument based on a permutation of the precautionary principle as beyond debate – when it clearly merits vigorous and ongoing debate – is not advancing the dialogue on what do do about the global climate, or for that matter, how to constructively channel global warming activism.

3 Responses to “Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See, A Break Down of Choices on Preventing Global Warming Catastrophe”
  1. Celtic Solar says:

    The video was by “wonderingmind42″. “johnq5″ just reposted it. wonderingmind42 has posted an update to address the holes that you (and others) pointed out. It is titled “How It All Ends”

  2. Ed Ring says:

    Celtic Solar: Thank you for the link. This is a persuasive pair of videos, but still falls short of adding substance to the debate, in my opinion. Here’s one argument he makes (or restates):

    “We took action, and it was a good thing too, because the doomsayers were right, we still got the economic costs, but everyone’s ok with that because we saved our cookies…”

    Wait a minute. “Saved our cookies?” How do you know? Even if we did this, it isn’t clear this would solve the problem. It isn’t even clear there’s a problem!

    Let’s evaluate this “action:” We aren’t going to significantly reduce CO2 emissions – it isn’t going to happen. The world uses 500 quadrillion BTUs of energy per year, and as China and India complete their industrialization, this overall total will increase significantly, up to 700+ quad BTUs probably within the next 10-20 years. This is well documented, and will be necessary even with very impressive improvements to energy efficiency, since the per capita income in these populous countries is still quite low relative to Europe and the USA.

    Alternative energy will be challenged simply to provide these 200+ incremental quad BTUs of energy – and currently fossil fuel accounts for 80% of power in the world – the rest is as follows: 10% biomass (still burning something), 6% hydroelectric, 3% nuclear, and only 1% alternative energy, mostly geothermal!

    This is the global energy reality. To make cuts in CO2 emissions meaningful enough to possibly (emphasis on possibly) impact climate, you wouldn’t just have economic inconvenience, you would have an economic collapse. It isn’t going to happen.

    But what is happening is well illustrated in the video – we are sweeping other problems off the table. Our rainforests are burning so well-intentioned environmentalists can purchase biofuel. Our fisheries are in free-fall and where are the environmentalists on that? Chinese coal plants emit plumes of dark soot that coat arctic ice, heating it up – what if that is the tipping point? And why not install modern scrubbers to get the soot and other dangerous pollutants out of these Chinese stacks? Because we think they’re actually going to stop burning coal. Well they’re not.

    The video also claims “prestigious organizations” have called for drastic action. At the risk of sounding cynical, any organization can become politicized. Is the U.N. prestigious? I notice the presenter didn’t mention the IPCC – are they politicized? We spend more money on climate research today than we do on cancer research. As for “even the polluters calling for controls on emissions,” why not? The more CO2 emissions are regulated, the more monopoly power will accrue to any cartel that is already well established.

    These videos are entertaining and persuasive, but ultimately they are scare-mongering propaganda. My hat’s off to the clever presenter, and I applaud his sincerity. I recommend he start to examine the science again with an open mind, and apply his risk management skills to alternative policy recommendations that recognize the incredible expense, the faint likelyhood it will make any difference, and the compelling alternative targets for us to make our priorities.

  3. On purely economic grounds, how much would the US economy benefit by importing no oil? Perhaps we would have great economic benefit by “going green”.

    The trade defecit would drop to zero. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be created. Health problems would be avoided.

    In fact, there is no “perhaps”. The answer is that the US would have an unprecedented economic expansion!


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