The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Friday, December 02, 2005

Blue Greens

The ongoing struggle over greenhouse gas emissions, as with other environmental issues, is peculiarly pernicious in that it is a struggle of ends -- between an Earth subdued by Man, and a circumscribed and earthbound Man -- masquerading as a bloodless exercise in Bayes Theory. Because neither side is honest about its desires, the battleground has spread to infect the whole fabric of science, a loss for which we are likely to pay dearly in time to come. There are other divisive environmental issues, but global warming is clearly primus inter pares, as well as being unique in this collateral damage. It's past time to show our colors.

Here are mine: First world countries represent our best chance of a cure for global warming, and it is better that they should grow wealthier to find the same. Developing countries will soon be the main source of greenhouse gases, and it is neither moral nor feasible to hold them back in the name of climate preservation. Poor countries, which are also disproportionately close to the Equator, are screwed either way; but the money spent on emissions targets would do far more if it were spent improving their lot [though of course, dragging them out of destitution would increase CO2 emissions].

It follows that in practice I am willing to do the following to prevent climate change:
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On another note, I would like to address anyone who believes that we should be acting now against global warming. I have just one question: Shall we have plentiful nuclear power?

A "yes" answer here shows a willingness to work within the constraints of the problem -- those being mostly six billion people who wish to live longer and better lives. It may be painful for those inculcated with Green thinking, but I hope many will practice saying it anyway.

A "no", conversely, means that the doctrinaire Green program is more important than the putative goal. Without nuclear power, nations will develop other sources. Wind and water power will provide a couple of drops, but the bucket will be filled with coal, then shale oil, then tar sands. [More extreme Greens will at this point start proposing punitive measures against these alternatives. It is fairly clear why this command-and-control environmentalism is undesirable.] Everyone can see these consequences -- they are far clearer than any likely climate change. Trying to wish them away simply marks you as a fantasist whom it is pointless to engage.

Support of nuclear power is a break with Green orthodoxy, and a blow to those who have spent the last twenty years demonizing it. [Do they still have regular summer brownouts on Long Island, by the way?] But it establishes a defensible position for you, showing a willingness to use the tools at hand for the problem you claim needs solving.

I imagine that there must be some plank of the anti-Green [magenta?] platform which Greens consider indefensible. I don't immediately see it myself.

[Update 5 December: in the comments, "longtime nuclear energy worker" James Aach points to a novel he has written and is making available for free, at]