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:
- Climate change is real and we can do something about it – true or false?
- 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.