September 2, 2006
Global Warming & Bush's Reading List
The Washington Post has a very good review of James Lovelock's new book about global warming, "The Revenge of Gaia: Earth's Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity." [See Here] To be sure, Lovelock tends to the extreme, at least in his colorful descriptions of, and basic nihilism about, global warming. But his basic view is shared by most mainstream scientists and even if his predictions are off by a substantial margin, the prognosis remains bleak.
When it comes to science policy, three factors in particular must be considered. The first is the quality of the science that supports a particular prediction, the second is the gravity of harm that will occur if the prediction occurs, and the third is the cost associated with remedying or avoiding the harm. Global warming presents a particularly challenging issue given these three considerations. Most mainstream scientists agree that the science is solid, though it is complex and not unassailable. The consequences of global warming, especially if the most dire predictions prove true, will be catastrophic; and even many of the most modest forecasts predict very severe effects. Finally, as Lovelock believes, there is some question whether there is very much that can be done to avoid the inevitable tragedy that lies on our collective horizon. Admittedly, therefore, global warming presents no simple problem for policy makers, even those most knowledgeable about the science. One thing is for sure, however, policy makers ignorant of the science are unlikely to handle the complexities of this issue very well. Perhaps George Bush should consider adding Dr. Lovelock's book to the 60 books he claims to have already read this year. It may not be as compelling as "Pride and Prejudice," but there are valuable lessons to be learned nonetheless.
September 2, 2006 | Permalink
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