Aug
18
2012

"Apocalypse Not."

That is the title of a slightly surprisingly good article from Wired, slamming the stunningly bad track record of various groups when it comes to predictions of looming catastrophe - and that 'surprisingly good' is not meant to be a reflection on the magazine; more like a reflection on the oddity of finding people willing to deprive our modern apocalyptic cultists of their 'fun' via the administration of objective reality.  Besides, author Matt Ridley is to be commended for taking the next logical step of bringing up global warming, particularly since the first batch of Great Prophecies of Climate Change DOOM are past their sell-by date (Ridley even calls out IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri for declaring in '07 that '12 was the 'tipping point'). 

Just... one quibble.

...should we worry or not about the warming climate? It is far too binary a question. The lesson of failed past predictions of ecological apocalypse is not that nothing was happening but that the middle-ground possibilities were too frequently excluded from consideration. In the climate debate, we hear a lot from those who think disaster is inexorable if not inevitable, and a lot from those who think it is all a hoax. We hardly ever allow the moderate “lukewarmers” a voice: those who suspect that the net positive feedbacks from water vapor in the atmosphere are low, so that we face only 1 to 2 degrees Celsius of warming this century; that the Greenland ice sheet may melt but no faster than its current rate of less than 1 percent per century; that net increases in rainfall (and carbon dioxide concentration) may improve agricultural productivity; that ecosystems have survived sudden temperature lurches before; and that adaptation to gradual change may be both cheaper and less ecologically damaging than a rapid and brutal decision to give up fossil fuels cold turkey.

The 'lukewarmers' actually do have a voice; it's just that we've mostly discovered that the only place where we can be heard is over on the climate skeptic side.  I know a lot of skeptics who qualify as 'lukewarmers' - in fact, I suspect that if you go to a climate skeptic conference and poll the attendees you will find that pretty much everyone will agree with at least one lukewarming position up there, and that a majority might even agree with all of them.  Frankly, it would not shock me to hear that we're seeing something like the Medieval Warm Period; but it would probably shock the climate change people to hear that I am not upset about the planet becoming slightly warmer and wetter.  Which is to say, 'slightly more hospitable to life.'

I note all of this because, as was said earlier, the first set of Predictions of DOOM on the climate are coming false.  I expect to be whaling on the expression bad climate science predictions in popular media for, well, the rest of my life...

Moe Lane

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9 Comments

  • Robert Mitchell Jr. says:

    Yes, it’s quite frustrating. Our geological records show a cycle of warming and cooling periods lasting about a hundred thousand years +/-, for at least a million years. Proof of Warming (which itself has been fraud worthy) is not proof of Anthropomorphic Warming. The idea that we might send people to their deaths because we blamed ourselves incorrectly in our Hubris turns my stomach.

  • Catseye says:

    I like how they missed out on predicting the explosive growth of the wild pig population or the rise of the MegaHogs, 3 have been killed so far. You have to wonder how many of the things there are. The wild pig population is growing in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Russia and the Middle East, if the whole population started achieving MegaHog size humans would have a serious problem.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      “… if the whole population started achieving MegaHog size humans would have a serious problem.”

      Only until we built enough smokehouses to deal with the sudden influx of BBQ ribs.

      Moe Lane

      PS: We killed off the sabertooth tiger when ‘hi-tech’ meant ‘I lashed a rock to this stick!’ We can handle this. 🙂

  • Skip says:

    @Moe, I know you’re just joking there, but in Central and Southeast Texas it’s impossible to keep up with the hog population today, and it’s having serious negative consequences. On my hunting lease I could probably get 100% of my meat needs for the year pretty easily from ferals, without making a dent in them.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      Skip: I’ve heard that a lot of states that are having this problem are increasingly saying “Fine. Shoot as many of the damned things as you want. We don’t care.” I assumed that this would take care of the problem.

  • Catseye says:

    In Michigan all you need to hunt a wild pig is a CCW permit. The problem is at 3 and a half feet tall and 400Lbs only the more powerful pistols are going to work well. Also we’re going to need bigger dogs. For the 12 foot long 1200lb monsters a pistol will probably just piss it off. I too tend to think we’re in for a replay of the Medieval Warm Period but if that also helps the boars that isn’t good.

  • Skip says:

    @Moe that’s pretty much the rule here, no limits on them. The problem is that only a small fraction of the land is hunted, and the pigs can live anywhere. They’re pretty happy in pasture that you wouldn’t normally hunt. And each sow’s going to have two litters a year, for probably 15-20 piglets total. Most of the ranchers I know have traps up constantly, but a sow or boar that lives to be 3-4 years old is too smart to be caught that way, so you actually do have to hunt them.

  • Catseye says:

    A few years ago they were only in a couple southwestern counties in Michigan now it’s 72 of the 83 counties the problem is growing and fast.

  • Free-range Oyster says:

    I’m surprised that there aren’t more local entrepreneurs with a 4×4 and a .30-30 offering to take out the problem for something like $40/head and a cut of the meat. Turn around and process that sucker into “free-range organic jerky” and you just made yourself a tidy profit. Heck, if I could rustle the money for travel and lodging I offer the service myself!

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