Monday, November 05, 2007

Most Persuasive Video You'll Ever See


Marc G said...

The column A risk is the same as the column B risk.

A global economic depression will necessarily lead to war, political, environmental destruction. History teaches us that.

Implications for his argument:
Column A Row 1 = Column B Row 2


Column A Row 1 < Column B Row 2

in terms of poor outcomes in the future.

David T said...

No it's not. The risk of depression is localised. It does not involve climate chaos and rising sea levels. The Stern Report argues that the cost of doing nothing is far greater than of doing something. Doing something also stimulates resource efficiency, therefore savings, and creates jobs and innovation in new industries.

Cigardude1 said...

The fallacy in this seems to me to be this:
Would it be worth spending 50 trillion dollars to prevent 200 trillion dollars of possible damage? Of course!!!! But is it worth spending 50 trillion dollars if there is only 10 trillion in damage. You need to know the scale of the problem before you can make a decision. A simple true/false doesn't give you enough information

Anonymous said...

um, this was pretty much the bush administration's argument for doing iraq ..

Joe said...

Most persuasive? Not even close. It's just another false argument. No rational person would seriously claim that the worst case scenario described here is remotely likely. And another thing; Stern's credibility was lost when it became clear that costs were based on all the worst case assumptions. Such bias embarrassed the author and led to the report being largely ignored.

cato said...

This argument contains numerous holes. I'll just proffer one for now:

The video glosses over an important point: If the cost of averting the threat of global warming (GW) will lead to global depression, then Column A will result in a global depression (GD) regardless of whether or not climate change is a real threat.

The videographer elides this by writing "cost $" and "global depression" in row 1, column A, but inexplicably omitting the words "global depression" from row 2, column A.

So, accepting the videographer's assumptions (for the purpose of this discussion), if we choose column A, we are assured of a global depression (and, I would agree with marc g above, all of the problems attendant with a GD), regardless of whether or not the threat of GW is real.

If we choose column B, however, there is a 50% chance (crudely speaking) that not only will GW not come to pass, but a GD will not, either. Thus, the outcome of row 1, column B is considerably more pleasant than any of the alternatives.

Choosing column A, then guarantees a global depression, while choosing column B gives us a shot at having our cake and eating it too: a depression-free and GW-free future.

There are many other factors to consider, as well. Many GW experts who support action now admit that even if we implemented all of their recommendations today, it would have a quite minimal impact on GW. So, by acting aggressively now, we may suffer a GD and still suffer many of the effects of GW.

Some argue that the best way to prepare for the eventuality of GW is not to beggar our economy in advance. The countries with the strongest economies will undoubtedly be able to weather (no pun intended) the coming GW best.

One final observation: I couldn't help but notice the video argument's similiarity to Pascal's Wager. Pascal argued that an intelligent man should believe in God, since if there is a God, the cost of not believing (i.e., going to hell) is catastrophic compared to the cost of believing and not being right. For some reason this argument doesn't seem to have convinced very many rational people, and somehow I doubt this videographer's will, either.

Anonymous said...

Here is a better video:

If we had $50 billion we might, that is might delay global warming issues by a decade - assuming they can be prevented and are actually happening.

For the same amount the UN has determined we could provide the structure necessary to provide for the basic needs - food, clean water, education, health care - for all mankind.

Which is a better investment? The environmental Einstein might be thirsty and hungry tonight and we ignored them while we spent a fortune dreaming of our all emissions free world.

Larry said...

One word.


David T said...

Marc g: A global depression is not the same as rising sea levels destroying coastal cities. The latter is much worse.

Cato: Who says that there's a 50% chance of global warming not happening? It's already happening. Are you denying the evidence of the Hadley Centre in the Met Office? See Sir David King's remarks on my blog today.

"Beggar the economies"? We're talking 1-2% of GDP. That's less than most spend on arms, and would merely delay expected growth rastes by a couple of years to five years (ref. Stern).

For this reason choosing col. A doesn't guarantee a global depression. It is the least worst option.

The diagram is similar to Pascal's Wager in form only - not in content, so the attempt at ridicule by association won't wash.

Cigardude1 - I refer you to today's blog reference.

cato said...

So, David -- is this still the "Most Persuasive Video You'll Ever See"?

Anonymous said...

Your argument does have holes in it. Lets say global warming is true, and we do nothing about it. You claim all these disasters take place. Based on what evidence? The world as we know, has indeed been much warmer in the past, and I might add, was a time when man and animals thrived. So even in your "worse case," the worse may not be so bad. On the other hand, in the upper left hand scenario, we have economic loss, and worse yet, draconian govt control that will never abate, not to mention people dying for hunger from increased corn cost etc.

David T said...

The evidence is the IPCC reports from this year. Which themselves actually elide over, due to political pressure, some of the more disturbing evidence, such as the massively fast melting of the ice sheet over greenland. - see

"Last year, satellite data collected by NASA scientists revealed Greenland is losing 100 billion tons of ice each year, more than it is gaining from snowfall in the interior. Steffen and others have also detected a new, faster movement of the ice sheet, causing the glaciers to dump more ice into the ocean, where it melts and contributes to sea-level rise.

"Part of this faster flow is caused by moulins, deep holes in the ice sheet that allow water to flow beneath the surface.

"During the summer months, as the ice sheet melts, large running rivers of melt water snake down through the ice, to the bedrock base below. Last year, researchers lowered a camera into a moulin to explore the depth and flow of the melt water. Once the melt water from the surface reaches the bedrock below the ice, it can lift the ice sheet and provide a layer of viscosity for the ice to move faster toward the sea, a process that could accelerate as Greenland continues to warm."

This year, visitors have reported ice sheets moving at up to ten miles an hour. This is really scary to me, I don't know about you. At this rate it's conceivable that the entire ice sheet could melt in ten years - the sea level rise that would result would be several feet.