Monday, August 31, 2009

Comment Sense

Two excellent comments today from the National Post.  Lots of journalism is for effect, much of it sensationalist.  Much comment is political opinion and as laden with as much rhetoric as the best spin.  But some, some, offers comment that reflects regular common sense: what I shall call comment sense. 
The first is from Lawrence Solomon, continuing his series on "green" energy alternatives, a topic he has followed for longer than the topic has existed.  His latest words of comment sense concern the future prospects of coal in a "de-carbonized" society:
  • We can be confident that coal use will keep on growing for decades to come, in line with official projections that show worldwide demand soon doubling —without coal for electricity production, most jurisdictions will be unable to keep the lights on.
  • We can also be confident that communities will successfully fend off many if not most of the carbon storage schemes that threaten them and their environments.
  • Finally, we can be confident that governments, after spending tens of billions on carbon storage schemes of dubious benefit, will conclude that the safest place to store today's relatively high levels of carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere, where it now resides.
The second snippet of comment sense is courtesy of Peter Foster, who discusses the ramifications of disputing the politically correct consensus on global warming: which in certain social circles is a dubious, if not heinous, sin:
  • We rely on authority for the vast majority of what we believe, but global warming theory does not rank as knowledge of the same order as whether Iceland exists or the moon is made of green cheese. My reason for believing in the existence of Iceland is that a conspiracy to conjure it out of geographical thin air is passing unlikely. But anthropogenic global warming is different. Far from being an established fact, it is a hypothesis whose allegedly disastrous consequences will occur sometime in the relatively distant future. It also comes attached to considerable psychic satisfactions and political advantages for its promoters.
  • It conforms to a broad view — long and fondly promoted by fans of Big Government — that capitalism is essentially short-sighted and greed-driven (just look at the subprime crisis!). This stance is not merely appealing to activist politicians and bureaucrats, it is pure gold for the vast and growing army of radical NGO environmental lobby groups, whose raison d'être — and fundraising — are closely related to the degree to which nature is seen to be "endangered." It is also appealing to rent seeking businessmen who see the profit potential in the vast array of controls and subsidies.
  • However, once you get people believing in "authority," then you're pretty much home and dry. Authority relieves us of the anxiety of uncertainty and the pain of thought. If the issue can also be portrayed as "moral" (millions of poor people dying from biblical droughts and floods!) then to question it is not merely cause for rejection but censure. Skeptics must be either crackpots or in the pay of Big Oil or Big Coal.
Comment sense reminds us that, despite the dogma peddled in the name of environmentalism, skepticism is scientific and consensus is political.