20 November 2007

Why to Take Action

Summary: We can't ever know for sure what the future holds. What we can know is the worst case scenario. If that scenario is bad enough, then we MUST take action to reduce that risk, regardless of what the chances are.

Let's say you're handed a gun with six chambers. You have no clue how many bullets are in the chambers. You are told we have to put the gun to your head and pull the trigger. You have the choice to either (A) do it now, or (B) first pull the trigger once while pointing at the wall, then spin the chamber and point the gun at your head. Which do you do? Of course you should fire at the wall first - if it was an empty chamber you spin it and then point it at yourself, losing nothing; if it was a full chamber you have emptied it, spin it, and then point it at yourself and have gained one additional empty chamber.

What if you were told you could either (A) pull the trigger now, or (B) take 10 lashes, empty one chamber, and then point it at your head? I would still take choice (B). 10 lashes will not kill me. I have no clue how many bullets are in those six chambers, it could be that they're ALL full and my only chance of survival is emptying one of them in exchange for the lashes. It's not worth that risk of my life, so long as the cost (10 lashes) is not enough to kill me either.

That's what this guy is arguing about climate change - even if we had no clue about whether it was happening, the cost of trying to reduce it just in case is so much less than the potential consequences, that we must take that choice.

And there's his various replies here.


Wally Banners said...

lmao Zan the weather wont get you. The Muslims and their nuclear weapons will get you first. apply your theory to American politics and lets see who you vote for next year.

zandperl said...

Ah, but the problem is that the consequences in the social sciences are not as clear-cut as in the natural sciences. Looking at worst case scenarios as the author of that video did: voting Republican means invading foreign nations which turns everyone against the US, and they nuke us; voting Democrat means allowing rogue nation-states to develop nuclear weapons to nuke us. Either decision is a really really horrible option, leaving us with only one thing we can do to not support an action that will get us nuked: NOT VOTE!

Allison said...

All that logic, largely wasted on a world full of magical thinkers and naysaying shills. His approach makes a lot of sense, but in my experience people simply don't WANT to do anything, because in the short term it might be inconvenient or even expensive.

IMO, a BIG part of the problem is that the people discreetly backing the anti-anthro-climate-change movement would be the last to suffer from any ill effects, and are the first to benefit from lack of action. The corporate rich and their political frontmen (when these two groups are even separable) are the ones with the top-notch insurance policies, the private aircraft or luxury evacuation services to whisk them away from disaster, and the ability to permanently relocate to wherever climate change hurts them the least. They are also the ones who profit outrageously from fossil fuel and internal combustion use.

Conveniently, they also control enough of the "public" discourse that human-made climate change will keep being presented as a mere opinion, no matter how skillfully scientists and intellectuals present their case.

If the next hurricane leveled Washington DC, that might force people to think. I'm not sure what else will.