The Paris Climate Accord and Reasoned Debate

                                                                     The center cannot hold…
                                                                     The best lack all conviction
                                                                    While the worst are full of passionate intensity
                                                                                            WB Yeats

President Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord has brought forth a torrent of anger from those in favor of this agreement. This dissent appears to someone not emotionally involved in the issue to be specimen of behavior resembling the Dancing Mania of the middle ages. The problem seems to be that people with expertise in politics and economics are issuing pronouncements about science, an area in which they have no special knowledge. The same seems to be true of scientists who offer expert opinion about economics and politics, areas in which their knowledge is no greater than anyone else not professionally active in economics and politics.

John Kerry’s declaration that the abandonment of this accord by the US will increase the severity and/or incidence of childhood asthma in the summer is an example of expertise confusion. Mr Kerry has had a long and distinguished career as a politician and diplomat, but he has no expertise as a pediatric allergist. So a dispassionate observer might do well to listen to his analysis of this issue from a political standpoint, but certainly not as a medical expert.

Assume that the worst conclusions about climate change are true. What is the time scale which will measure the unfolding of dire events? It’s close to a century. Is it best to use the technology of 2017 to solve the problems of 2067? And to impose this soon to be outdated technology from the top down? I think it would be better to encourage innovation from the many in search of solutions which will protect the planet without crippling its economy and imposing great cost on those least able to bear it.

One third of the Netherlands is about 20 feet below sea level, yet it is dry. Another third is subject to flooding. The Dutch have using the best technology they could find over the last 8 centuries to keep the water out. And it has mostly worked.

Venice has long been subjected to flooding. It is both sinking and confronted by the rising of the Adriatic Sea. The Venetians and the Italian government have been late to the problem. Their solution, which took almost four decades to decide on, is the MOSE project –  a nod to Moses who had his own water issue. It stands for Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico. Mobile underwater gates will be used to keep the Adriatic out of the city. The project is set for completion in 2020. The answer to the threat of climate change is not a toothless ukase, but the best research into the problem leading to a solution that will be used and which will strengthen not weaken our economies.

Reproduced below is an article by Ryan McMaken which I think shows how to deal with this issue without succumbing to passionate intensity. It is presented here with the permission of its author. If you disagree with me or Mr McMaken please show us where we have gone wrong and how we could make a better analysis of this important public policy decision.