torsdag 28 juni 2018

Is Pinker Enlightened Believing in AGW?

Steven Pinker's book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progresspresented by Bill Gates as My New Favorite Book of All Times, has a long chapter on The Environment with focus on Anthropogenic Global Warming AGW from burning of fossil fuels:
  • To keep the rise to 2°C or less, the world would, at a minimum, have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by half or more by the middle of the 21st century and eliminate them altogether before the turn of the 22nd. The challenge is daunting. 
  • Fossil fuels provide 86 percent of the world’s energy, powering almost every car, truck, train, plane, ship, tractor, furnace, and factory on the planet, together with most of its electricity plants. Humanity has never faced a problem like it.
  • Anthropogenic climate change (AGW) is the most vigorously challenged scientific hypothesis in history. By now, all the major challenges have been refuted and even many skeptics have been convinced.
Pinker says that the world has to get rid of the fossil fuel that today supplies 86 percent of the world's energy and that this is a daunting challenge. Pinker suggests that this can be achieved in the spirit of enlightened environmentalism:
  • An enlightened environmentalism recognizes that humans need to use energy to lift themselves out of the poverty to which entropy and evolution consign them. It seeks the means to do so with the least harm to the planet and the living world. 
  • History suggests that this modern, pragmatic, and humanistic environmentalism can work. 
  • As the world gets richer and more tech-savvy, it dematerializes, decarbonizes, and densifies, sparing land and species. 
  • As people get richer and better educated, they care more about the environment, figure out ways to protect it, and are better able to pay the costs. Many parts of the environment are rebounding, emboldening us to deal with the admittedly severe problems that remain.
To decarbonize human civilisation Pinker points to carbon taxes, nuclear energy and climate engineering, however with the following caveats:   
  • Carbon taxes, to be sure, hit the poor in a way that concerns the left, and they transfer money from the private to the public sector in a way that annoys the right. But these effects can be neutralized by adjusting sales, payroll, income, and other taxes and transfers. (As Al Gore put it: Tax what you burn, not what you earn.) And if the tax starts low and increases steeply and predictably over time, people can factor the increase into their long-term purchases and investments, and by favoring low-carbon technologies as they evolve, escape most of the tax altogether.
  • A second key to deep decarbonization brings up an inconvenient truth for the traditional Green movement: nuclear power is the world’s most abundant and scalable carbon-free energy source. Although renewable energy sources, particularly solar and wind, have become drastically cheaper, and their share of the world’s energy has more than tripled in the past five years, that share is still a paltry 1.5 percent, and there are limits on how high it can go.
  • The very idea of climate engineering sounds like the crazed scheme of a mad scientist, and it once was close to taboo.
Does this indicate that Pinker is Enlightened? No, it is rather the opposite. Pinker's thinking is darkened into believing that science says that burning of fossil fuels will overheat the globe. But the enlightened scientist knows very well that the evidence to this effect is very weak, if any. Pinker's mind is further confused into wishful thinking that anything is possible in the hands of politicians and engineers ready to act, and this is rather Dark Age than Enlightenment. Paradoxically, Trump appears to be more enlightened than Pinker.

Pinker shares the AGW alarm of "greenism", but not its ideology in opposition to Enlightenment:
  • Starting in the 1970s, the mainstream environmental movement latched onto a quasi-religious ideology, greenism, which can be found in the manifestoes of activists as diverse as Al Gore, the Unabomber, and Pope Francis.
  • Green ideology begins with an image of the Earth as a pristine ingénue which has been defiled by human rapacity. 
  • The root cause is the Enlightenment commitment to reason, science, and progress. 
  • ....unless we repent our sins by degrowth, deindustrialization, and a rejection of the false gods of science, technology...
  • As with many apocalyptic movements, greenism is laced with misanthropy, including an indifference to starvation, an indulgence in ghoulish fantasies of a depopulated planet, and Nazi-like comparisons of human beings to vermin, pathogens, and cancer. 
  • For example, Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society wrote, “We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion. . . . Curing a body of cancer requires radical and invasive therapy, and therefore, curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach".
Pinker seems to have forgotten the proverb: When you give the devil a little finger, he'll take the whole hand. The best for Pinker would be to take a serious look at the scientific enlightened evidence of AGW to find that it is not much, and then he could keep his little finger and whole hand as a convinced enlightened AGW skeptic.

Paradoxically perhaps, Trump appears to be more enlightened than Pinker, by understanding that AGW has weak scientific support and therefore leaving the (empty but misleading) Paris agreement.

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