The issue of ‘beliefs’ and global warming, and why beliefs leading to action are important

In the below post, I argue that Al Gore and most global warming alarmists don’t really believe that increasing CO2 is an immediate, irrevocable threat to the planet because their actions do not support their stated beliefs. I argue that if they truly believed what they say they believe, they would immediately enact a plan to lower their personal CO2 emissions to near zero. Because they don’t do this, I argue they don’t really believe what they preach and we should not believe them either. Therefore, based on the actions of global warming alarmists (not their words), there is no reason to act on global warming.

This entire discussion hinges on the issue of belief leading to action. Let me expand on that.

The entire field of economics is based on rational actors taking specific actions based on their beliefs. If they believe a stimulus check is coming, they will act one way. If they believe a long-term tax cut is on the way, they will act another way. If they believe taxes are going up, they will act yet another way.

So, clearly beliefs do influence the actions of rational people — an entire field is based on it! Let me set out three laws regarding beliefs and actions.

1)In general, rational people will act according to their beliefs. Please note the words “in general.” There are always exceptions. Let me give some examples. Let’s compare three types of people and their religious beliefs.

1)An agnostic who is not sure what he believes.
2)A Latter-day Saint about to get baptized.
3)Somebody who believes she has been visited by an angel who informed her that Jesus is coming to visit her tomorrow at 7 a.m. Mountain Time.

In general, these people will act very differently. I am not talking about your friend who believes more than anybody else but does not come to Church. This is the exception. I am saying “in general,” just as economics is the study of how people will react “in general” based on their beliefs. I used to be an agnostic. Then I decided to get baptized. My personal actions when I was an agnostic were completely different than on the day I decided to get baptized. Nearly ever hour of every day I made different choices and lived my life differently. My actions reflected my beliefs. Now let’s say I am visited by an angel who says Jesus is coming to my house tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. As a rational actor, would I act the same or differently? Personally, I would spend all day and night praying and fasting if I really believed that (you may act differently). But clearly a rational actor acts differently based on what he or she believes.

Let’s use some secular examples. Let’s say you are a huge BYU fan and you are in the stadium in Provo. Let’s say the fourth quarter is starting and your team is behind by 28 points. It is painful to watch this massacre, and you think about leaving. This is rational — you can get to the parking lot early and you avoid the pain of watching your beloved team lose. But let’s say the guy in the seat next to you says as you are about to leave, “look, my son is on the team, and he says that empty seats really depress the players. He says that the coach will put in this new rookie QB who is incredible. Plus, the opposing team’s three best defenders just got injured. There is really a chance for a comeback, and if you leave you’ll miss it and at the same time depress the team.” You actions will be based, at least in part, on how much you believe the guy next to you. Is his son really on the team? Does his son really have inside information? Did the three best defenders really just go down? Your confidence in that information will guide your actions. If you are a huge fan, you were planning on staying until the end anyway. So, your decision to leave the game will be based on your beliefs in this information.

Here’s another example. You have a friend who is a stockbroker. He calls you with a big tip. Apple is about to announce a huge unexpected loss in earnings tomorrow morning. If you get in now you can short the stock and make a bundle. Again, your actions (whether or not to invest in shorting the stock) will be based on your beliefs. Do you trust this guy, does he have a proven track record, etc, etc.

I think you get my point. Beliefs are real if they lead to action.

2)The more urgent people believe the problem to be, the more likely people are to act in urgent, immediate ways. In the other thread, I used several different examples. This rule is clearly undeniable — if the threat is immediate and urgent, you act differently than if the threat is possible and a long way off.

You may believe that your kids could get skin cancer if they play in the sun. But this threat is a long way off, and there is always a chance they may not get skin cancer. Not everybody who plays in the sun gets cancer. But if you truly believed that your kids would be immediately killed if they were hit by sunlight, you would act very differently. You would never let them out during the daytime and probably live in an underground bunker with multiple alarm clocks set for sunset and sunrise.

If your kid is playing on a quiet area of a park far from a street you act completely differently than if your kid is playing on a sidewalk right next to a highway. In both cases, the kid may eventually run into traffic, but your actions are different based on the urgency of the situation.

3)People who really believe something act individually before they organize others to follow their beliefs. This is a basic rule of the gospel — save yourself first and then act to save your family and your friends.

The food storage example is still valid. If you believe food storage is important, and you believe a calamity is coming, you will act individually to get food storage for your family first. You won’t go around trying to organize your ward to provide you with food storage. You will go to Sam’s Club or you will go to an on-line food storage place, and you will buy food storage. And if you were to find out that all of the General Authorities were not buying food storage for themselves you would probably wonder if the threat is real and whether you really need to get food storage for yourself.

Going back to our BYU football game example, the first principle of belief is individual action. That may be followed by group action, but group action is meaningless without individual action. So, the guy sitting next to you says you should not leave the football game in the fourth quarter even though BYU is down by 28 points because he says his son plays on the team and that the team needs fans in their seats. Will you believe that guy if he says this and immediately leaves? No, you are more likely to believe him based on his individual actions — if he stays and cheers loudly. His actions to convince you are meaningless if he doesn’t follow up his stated beliefs with personal action.

So, let’s look at the actions of global warming alarmists based on their stated beliefs. They say CO2 emissions are an immediate, irrevocable threat to the planet. Every time you get in a car or a plane or even turn on the TV you are emitting more CO2 and harming the planet more. Yet the vast majority of alarmists don’t follow up their stated beliefs with actions. None of them have a plan to move to zero carbon emissions. Even Ed Begley Jr. emits a whole lot of carbon. Al Gore emits more by himself than many small cities.

Do their actions conform with their stated beliefs? Are they, as rational actors, acting as if they believe their emissions are harming the planet? Given how urgent the threat, shouldn’t their actions be even more drastic and urgent to get to zero emissions? Isn’t it true that we should judge their sincerity based on their individual actions, not their attempts to organize group action, just as we should judge the story of the guy at the BYU football game based on whether he stays through the fourth quarter or not?

The answer is clear. Global warming alarmists do not act in their personal lives as if the threat is real. Therefore, we should not take the threat seriously.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

44 thoughts on “The issue of ‘beliefs’ and global warming, and why beliefs leading to action are important

  1. I agree with Laws 1 and 2, but you have yet to prove #3. It simply does not account for the concerns I brought up on your previous post.

    You insist that every leader must lead by example, and while that often works it is not the only method that works (otherwise we’d have, for example, a whole lot of army generals on the front line).

    Moreover, there’s no reason—according to your laws—to insist that a rational believer must only perform worthwhile, efficient, effective actions. So maybe you think that Gore calling people to repentance while he himself gluttonously consumes is a poor strategy, poor leadership, dishonest, and so on, but you cannot deny that it is action. He is doing something, and has been doing it for years.

    Here’s a nice little (preposterous) example: I have four daughters. The youngest needs help using a public restroom. Rather than take her myself, I hypocritically ask one of my older daughters to do it. Clearly, I do not fully believe that she needs help, or I would help her myself.

    Another example: I am Pharaoh. I want a monster-sized pyramid built. I make a bunch of slaves build it for me, but I never touch a single brick myself. Clearly, I am not committed to the building project, or I’d be hauling rock.

    “And if you were to find out that all of the General Authorities were not buying food storage for themselves you would probably wonder if the threat is real and whether you really need to get food storage for yourself.” Absolutely right. Thus, it would be a really bad strategy for them to employ if they really want us to get our food storage. But just because they picked a really dumb strategy, does not mean that they aren’t committed to the goal—or is this like a sports game where the team who “really wants it more” always wins?

    Also, there’s a big difference between this example and climate change: the food storage is primarily meant to benefit the person who stores it. In contrast, there’s no reason to think that Gore would suffer from climate change, so the threat to him is not imminent; i.e., he can personally afford to be a hypocrite.

  2. I just wrote a long response that got deleted. Drat.

    Can’t do it again. Let me summarize.

    You are picking around the edges of my argument but not taking on the entire thing. I mention three laws that apply to the issue of global warming. Your two examples do not consider law 2, urgency.

    If you knew that your youngest daughter was going to wet her pants if you personally didn’t rush to take her to the bathroom because your older daughters were incapable, you would act differently than if you had time and your older daughters could handle it. In the first case, you would probably do it yourself — in the second you would see how things turned out. Same with the Pharoah — if he knew that he was going to be killed if he didn’t finish a pyramid in one month, he would act differently than if he had a lot of time to finish. In the first case, he would be down there whipping people and picking up rocks himself. In the second, he would take his time and get the pyramid finished sometime in the next few years.

    Al Gore says we should act as if the pyramid needs to be finished within a month or we’re all going to die. But he acts as if we have years and years to finish the pyramid. That is exactly my point.

    I wrote a lot of other things but no energy to re-write them now. 🙁

  3. I’m having difficulty seeing this as a good-faith argument. You say that people who think AGW is a problem worth dealing with are hypocrites unless they personally embrace extreme measures that will have no effect on the problem. Meanwhile you hold up other extremists as evidence of the moral bankruptcy of issue while simultaneously opposing policies that would help us deal with the problem without having to go to extremes.

    this policy has been praised by people as “mainstream” as Thomas Friedman

    I’d like to see you prove this. If you can, then I’ll be sad. But I’m sorry to say that I think the best you’ll be able to do is make the tenuous connection that because Friedman thinks China does some things well because it doesn’t have the political log-jams that we currently have, that he therefore supports the Chinese policy of forced abortions.

  4. Jared*, fascinating that you believe going to zero manmade CO2 emissions will have no effect on the problem. We agree!

    If you really believed what you say you believe, you would implement a plan to go to near-zero emissions yourself and you would encourage all of your friends to do so. What if you could personally influence 100 people, and they could each influence 100 people and on and on? Why don’t you start that movement? Again, your actions are not in line with your stated beliefs. Every time you get in a car or use electricity or get on an airplane, you are destroying the planet! How can you justify that?

    Regarding China, Friedman clearly loves authoritarian governments that force people to do things they don’t want to do.

  5. Geoff: I’m not picking around any edges. Laws 1 & 2 are not the heart of your argument: Law 3 is. And even if they were all at the heart of your argument, I only need to prove one of them wrong to prove your argument wrong. And your #3 is wrong.

    Your response to my preposterous examples shows how unwilling you are to reconsider your position. We’ll just take in Pharaoh for now: “In the first case [of utter urgency], he would be down there whipping people and picking up rocks himself.” Why? Why must Pharaoh be a total moron who spends his time whipping and lifting when he could use his unique talents and abilities to greater effect—organizing, commanding, schmoozing, and so forth?

    “Al Gore says we should act as if the pyramid needs to be finished within a month or we’re all going to die. But he acts as if we have years and years to finish the pyramid. That is exactly my point.”

    No he doesn’t!!! He does not act as if “we” have years. He acts as if “we” need to change right now! The Green Movement has practically been Gore’s full-time job for the last, what? 10 years! He’s been telling us to change our lives all that time. How can you not see that?

    True, he acts as if he personally can do whatever he likes, but there is not a single hint that he wants you and I to do anything but reduce our carbon footprint.

  6. [Note for any confused readers: my comments here were intended for the last post.]

    I can’t tell if you are just having fun whacking your opposition with this, or if you really buy into this oversimplification of the issue. Either way, I’ve said my piece (here and on the other post).

    re: Friedman

    Hey, what do you know? No mention of abortion.

    Friedman clearly loves authoritarian governments

    Couldn’t it be that Friedman is using a little hyperbole to shame Republicans for their intransigence? I know that doesn’t fit into your narrative, but I think it’s a fairer reading of his column.

  7. BrianJ, exactly my point. Al Gore acts as if he does not believe what he says he believes. He wants us to do the work for him.

    Jared*, I truly believe that global warming alarmists do not believe what they say they believe. If they did, they would act differently. If I really believed that my carbon footprint was ruining the Earth, causing destruction, loss of life and irreparable harm, I would make significant changes in my lifestyle immediately, just as my friend did. I try to act according to my beliefs. I took a job in international telecom sales because I believe that my job of promoting connectivity brings prosperity to poor people worldwide. I try to live my religion. I fervently believe in the good of globalization and international free markets. I cannot imagine believing that the world is being damaged by my activities and not changing my behavior to cause significantly less damage. So, I am having fun, but I also believe what I am writing.

    One person can change the world. Your decision to live a near-carbon zero lifestyle really could make a difference. Gandhi and MLK were inspirations to the world — they lived their beliefs. Why can’t you?

  8. Geoff- what if you believe in something, but just don’t care? In the example of the person visited by the angel about the imminent coming of the Lord, what if your reaction really was- so what? Even if you believed as a Latter-day Saint does about such things? And, if your beliefs are swallowed in apathy, how do you force yourself to care enough about them to do something.

    Based on personal experience (which speaks louder to me than economic theory), I think that someone can sincerely believe in something but just not care enough to do something other than resign to what one’s beliefs dictate is coming.

    So how do you make yourself care in addition to believing?

  9. “Al Gore acts as if he does not believe what he says he believes.”

    No. Or maybe. That is one way to view his actions. But the other way, which you have not ruled out, is that he acts as if he believes that his individual carbon emissions are, by themselves, insignificant. And that’s perfectly consistent with his message; viz., that change will only happen if whole nations get on board.

    “He wants us to do the work for him.”

    Darn straight. At least we agree on something. (And I’ve been saying that about Gore for years.)

  10. Jordan F, that is where the issue of urgency comes in. Again, we are talking about general actions here by rational actors. I am talking about the majority of people who say they believe in global warming, not just the occasional person or the exception. The thing they claim they believe in is that the Earth is being irreparably damaged by every single particle of CO2 that anybody emits. If true, that is a worldwide calamity. This is a urgent problem that calls for immediate action. That is like a moon-sized asteroid heading for the Earth. We need to mount a Bruce Willis-led team to go get that asteroid, and I need to help pay for it because if not, everything we hold dear (our entire Earth) will be destroyed.

    That is why I use the example of parents acting to save their kids. Parents will do extraordinary things to save kids. You don’t stay in the house and hope everything is going to be OK if you hear a Mack truck speeding down the street and your kids are playing outside. A rational actor cannot not care about his or her kids. You act immediately — you run out of the house NOW to go save them.

    This principle — urgency of belief — helps us get to the heart of the matter. Bruce used the example of the national debt in the other post. I am a fiscal conservative. I am really concerned about our national debt. Why don’t I sell everything I have and give the money to the government to help pay off the national debt? Why don’t I organize all like-minded people nationwide to do the same thing? Well, the reality is that I am concerned about the national debt but I really believe things are going to be OK. Fiscal conservatives are going to be elected to Congress and in 2012 hopefully we’ll get a new president. The problem will resolve itself one way or another.

    So, the reality is that people who claim to believe that global warming is a calamity like the asteroid heading to the Earth really don’t believe that. They believe it is a problem more like the national debt, ie a problem that eventually will resolve itself one way or another. So, even though they won’t admit it for political reasons or because they want to fit in with the scientific community or because it’s cool to be “green.” the reality is that in their heart of hearts they simply don’t believe global warming is all that urgent. If they did, they would follow up their beliefs with action. At the end of the day, they believe the same thing I do, which is that there is not much we can do about the AGW problem, so we should probably do nothing because it will resolve itself.

  11. Geoff,

    Couldn’t this same line of reasoning be turned on the average Mormon’s religious beliefs? After all, if they REALLY believed it, they would act VERY different, no? Therefore, no Mormon actually believes in Mormonism.

  12. Jeff G, interesting question. Global warming alarmists say they believe that every particle of CO2 being emitted by man is irreparably harming the Earth. Therefore, every time we drive a car, ride in an airplane, etc, we are irreparably harming the Earth. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is one of the signs that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that modern-day prophets are on the Earth preparing for the Second Coming of the savior. They believe that people should change their behavior to become more like the Savior and the first sign of that change is baptism. From there, you take other steps and make other covenants that bring you closer to God.

    It seems to me that Mormons who get baptized are actually showing they believe in something very big and very different. It is a big deal to get baptized, as any convert who has gotten baptized can attest. It involves a big change in lifestyle, changing your friends, your habits, etc.

    Baptism, it seems to me, is a BIG sign that you actually do believe in something different. To use my comparison, making the decision to get baptized, especially as an adult, is kind of like selling off your cars and making a commitment to get to near zero emissions, like my friend did.

    But you are not even close to getting to near zero emissions yet. And by being baptized, you are showing one level of belief. As you continue in the religion, getting your endowments, going on a mission, getting married in the temple, doing your home teaching, scripture study, FHE, family prayer, etc, you are showing a new level of commitment at each level.

    So, if we wanted to continue the comparison, we could conclude that as you stay active in the religion (keeping the word of wisdom, etc) you are showing new levels of belief as the years go on, just like a person who makes a commitment to get to near zero emissions shows new levels of belief every year he lives on his wind- and solar-powered farm eating locally produced meat and produce.

    Does this mean every Mormon doesn’t believe when he is rude to somebody or doesn’t help the poor or swears or commits a sin? Well, we can forgive the near zero emissions guy if he occasionally gets in his car for one reason or another, can’t we? He still TRIES to live his life according to his beliefs. My feeling is that most Mormons try to live their lives the best they can, but we all fall short one way or another. That doesn’t mean we don’t believe — it just means we are not perfect. Which is what the Gospel is all about.

  13. “Global warming alarmists say they believe that every particle of CO2 being emitted by man is irreparably harming the Earth.”

    Hogswallop! Straw-man! Argument in ill-faith! General Silliness disguised as mediocre argument! Good day to you sir!

  14. Jeff G, let me follow up on your question in #11. You say “the average Mormon.” This is correct. The question is, “do Mormons, in general, act like they believe in their religion?” I think the answer is unequivocally yes. Every Mormon I know has a story about being the only one not drinking at a party or the only one who didn’t go to a strip club at a business trip. They stand out, they act differently. They spend their time going to the temple, cleaning the ward. Mormons kids go to seminary when they are teenagers every single day! Weird. Most men go on missions — two years of your entire life! The ACT differently than other people.

    Does this mean that the average Mormon does what he should do all the time or even the majority of the time? Definitely no. We all can think of people who say they believe but act differently than they should.

    But there is no denying that in general Mormons act as if they believe something different than other people. Their beliefs are followed up with action.

    Do AGW believers act differently than other people? I have seen no evidence of this. The vast majority don’t really do anything differently at all. The leaders — the Al Gore, the Jim Hansens, Michael Mann, etc — act WORSE than average people because they emit much more CO2 than the average person.

    There are obvious exceptions like Ed Begley Jr. Even though he still emits a lot of carbon, he is at least changing his life in line with his beliefs.

    So, if a group of LDS scientists who believe in AGW would get together, move their family to a non-emissions farm, give up cars, make a pact to fly as little as possible — in short, act as if they really believed what they say they believe — I would be the first to say, “bravo to them — here are some people who are living their beliefs.” Instead, we are so far getting a lot of excuses. I don’t believe they really believe what they say they believe.

  15. John C, I wish it were a straw man argument. I would love somebody to show me this is NOT what the alarmists believe, because frankly the argument is ridiculous. But it is what they say they believe. Haven’t you seen “An Inconvenient Truth?”

    Here’s a good summary of the “scientific consensus.” Bruce’s many posts on the subject also address this issue.

  16. Geoff says:

    …the first principle of belief is individual action. That may be followed by group action, but group action is meaningless without individual action

    I’m going to repeat myself somewhat here…

    Geoff, what you have now done three times now is called argument by analogy. Despite the emotional resonance analogy has with us, this is generally considered logically week. The problem with an argument by analogy is that the strength of the argument depends fully on whether or not we believe the analogy is precise on the points that matter to the discussion.

    In this case, I seems to me that none of your analogies are precise in the one area that actually matters. Specifically both of your analogies are things you can take care of on your own whereas I am going to venture a guess that Gore does not believe that about global warming. (Remember, we are solely discussing what Gore personally believes, not any sort of objective reality.) Therefore everything else fails for me in your arguments until you shore up that weakness.

    You are also mixing levels. You are suggesting that until Gore gets his own carbon footprint to zero, his (you are defining it) ‘group action’ should not matter. I simply can’t see how this is the case if you are a using a correct analogy like the one I suggested. Let’s go over my counter analogy again:

    …Gore living in a household with everyone in the world and that he is saying stamping out termites with your shoe is a good idea, but that it’s insufficient compared to getting the whole house hold to tent their house. I think this is a much more precise analogy to the situation if we are trying to see if Gore ‘believes’ what he preaches.

    Now in this analogy, I simply do not see stamping termites with your shoe as the only meaningful action you can personally take and that you somehow you must do this before you can meaningful take (as you are calling it) ‘group action.’ Therefore your analogy fails for me because it’s logically invalid for the case in question.

    Furthermore, what exactly is ‘group action’ vs. ‘personal action’? Does Gore take ‘personal action’ of running around alot trying to get people to tent the house? I think he does, so in fact — once you have the correct analogy — it’s obvious that belief and individual action are hand in hand for Gore. Just because you attempt to label it ‘group action’ does not change this.

    So you now rationally must do one of two things:

    First, you could establish that your analogy is more precise than mine. Good luck with that.

    Two, you can take my analogy and show that Gore isn’t doing the equivalent of stamping out enough termites with his shoe to be believable. Obviously that is a much harder argument — though perhaps still possible. But that’s the argument by analogy you’d have to make for your argument to matter to a fair minded audience.

  17. Geoff says:

    This principle — urgency of belief — helps us get to the heart of the matter. Bruce used the example of the national debt in the other post. I am a fiscal conservative. I am really concerned about our national debt. Why don’t I sell everything I have and give the money to the government to help pay off the national debt? Why don’t I organize all like-minded people nationwide to do the same thing? Well, the reality is that I am concerned about the national debt but I really believe things are going to be OK. Fiscal conservatives are going to be elected to Congress and in 2012 hopefully we’ll get a new president. The problem will resolve itself one way or another.

    So, the reality is that people who claim to believe that global warming is a calamity like the asteroid heading to the Earth really don’t believe that.

    Good analogy Geoff, but you failed to understand the it works against your point, not in favor of it.

    Let’s follow your own analogy and argument through to the very end.

    Now I’m a fiscal conservative too. And I believe the national debt is going to be a complete disaster. In fact, I personally think that we’re going to have a second depression because of it.

    Now this isn’t a matter of whether or not I am right or wrong. This is about my beliefs only. So let’s keep that in mind. A discussion about how I’m wrong that there is going to be a second depression would be logically irrelevant.

    According to your own assessment of your analogy, I should be out selling everything I have personally to pay off the national debt and avoid imminent disaster or you have produced proof that I’m lying when I say that I believe an economic doomsday is coming.

    Therefore (goes your logic) you have now proven I don’t really believe an economic doomsday is coming, because if I really believed it then the first principle of belief would be ‘individual action’ not ‘group action.’ Therefore, I’d be selling my house and paying down the debt rather than pushing for good legislation to balance the budget. Why? Because selling my house is ‘individual’ action and ‘good legislation to balance the budget’ is ‘group action.’ Group action is fine, but individual action comes first so we can (according to your argument) judge me to not believe that a real economic doomsday is coming because we see that I never sold my house and did my ‘individual part’ to pay off the debt and instead just took ‘group action’ which does not constitute actual belief.

    This argument by reductio ad absurdum should be sufficient to demonstrate the logical flaws in your argument by analogy. This is also why your analogy fails for me.

  18. Bruce, let’s deal with your #17 first. I think you actually make my point for me pretty well.

    There is a difference between arguing the national debt may cause a depression and arguing that manmade CO2 will cause irreparable harm to the planet. We have lived through depressions. We have never lived through the kind of armegeddon AGW believers say we will face if we don’t control manmade CO2. And this is precisely the point of their argument — it is the evil factor mankind that is making the world so dangerous and unlivable. The catastrophe will be unprecedented — never happened before in the world’s history.

    In fact, if you study economic history massive depressions have hit economies pretty regularly throughout history. And the truth is that depressions are horrible but most people live through them and learn to adapt. If you study the actual lives of the people during the Great Depression in the U.S., a very large percentage of people did not lose their job. A very large percentage actually did OK. Yes, at its height nearly one-third of the people were out of work, but human beings learned to adapt. Friends and neighbors help out. Don’t get me wrong — the Depression was horrible, and as a fiscal conservative I do agree that our debt may lead to another Depression. But the threat of another Depression is not a serious enough problem to cause me or you to sell everything, cash it in and send it to the government to pay off the debt. A rational actor would look at the world’s economic history and determine that such events have happened before and chances are he will be OK.

    If global warming alarmists made the argument that “well, manmade CO2 is bad and could lead to some really big problems, but history shows the world can adapt and probably will,” they would be making the same argument you are making about the Depression. But that’s not their argument. They make the absurd claim of irreparable harm and worldwide catastrophe. That is precisely why I reject their argument.

    Now, you can come back and say, “well, maybe the world will adapt but it will be pretty horrible in the meantime.” That’s fine — you can make that argument. But that is not the claim put forward by global warming alarmists. Their claim is irreparable harm leading to worldwide catastrophe. Rising seas wiping out hundreds of millions. Disappearing polar ice caps. More numerous and harmful hurricanes. Basically armageddon. This is precisely my point: it is exactly this exaggeration of the threat that causes me to believe they don’t believe what they are peddling.

    Therefore, my analogy stands pretty well.

  19. Bruce, regarding your #16, no analogy is ever perfect. Jesus taught in parables, but some of them did not always ring true with His audience. But the purpose of an analogy is to use it to make a point, which I think I did pretty effectively.

    I still see Al Gore behaving as if he really believes the termite problem will go away somehow. His personal actions show me he does not believe what he is peddling. I think it is literally impossible to think that he really believes the threat is as serious as he claims it is based on the fact that he flies his own private jet when there are plenty of commercial flights and the fact that he has chosen to live in two carbon-spewing mansions. I think the vast majority of people would agree with me.

    To repeat what I have written many times, the claims of AGW believers are NOT that global warming may be a problem some time in the future, they are NOT that global warming will create some really bad problems. The claims are of unprecedented, worldwide catastophe. If you really, really believed that you and I and all rational actors would take actions in our personal lives radically different than what Al Gore has taken.

  20. Between these two posts, we’ve seen something like 4,000 different analogies arguing both sides. And yet, the one thing Geoff still hasn’t addressed is the reality that Gore has been promoting AGW for the last decade. How that does not qualify as “action” is beyond me.

    (Also, I don’t really care to defend Gore. It’s Geoff’s faulty definition of “true belief” that bugs me.)

  21. Geoff,

    My point was meant more of an invitation for more charity and nuance in viewing the other side. I would say that the Mormon message, if taken as both true and literal, is far, far, FAR more urgent than any stop global warming message. And yet, I don’t think I’ve ever met any Mormon that acted with a corresponding level of urgency. One is hard pressed to find anybody who REALLY consecrates all that they have and are to the kingdom. But we still each member say for themselves whether or how much they really believe the Mormon message.

    Why can’t we allow the same with regards to global warming? Of course the vast majority of tree huggers don’t actually hug trees, just like the vast majority of people who say that believe in the Mormon message don’t consecrate all that they have and are. But some do. Lots of people drive hybrids, ride bikes and install solar panels. Some go even further. Most don’t go that far.

  22. Personally, I find the global warming arguments compelling, but I still don’t do anything all that different really. I don’t think this makes me irrational or somehow involved in self-contradiction. The same way how a faithful Mormon who doesn’t get 100% home teaching for a year straight doesn’t seem to be irrational. Indeed, I think it is actually due to a persons rationality that they don’t let one set of beliefs and desires in their lives overrule all the others that come into play daily.

  23. Geoff said:

    Why don’t I sell everything I have and give the money to the government to help pay off the national debt? Why don’t I organize all like-minded people nationwide to do the same thing? Well, the reality is that I am concerned about the national debt but I really believe things are going to be OK.

    Geoff now says:

    But the threat of another Depression is not a serious enough problem to cause me or you to sell everything, cash it in and send it to the government to pay off the debt.

    You have changed your stance from ‘If I really believed an economic disaster was coming I’d sell me house or it means I don’t really believe it’ to the more realistic ‘well, actually it wouldn’t make sense because we can survive economic disasters, therefore I’d keep my house and it would still mean I believed it.’

    Hmm… did you just make my point for me?

    Here’s an even better one for you: Selling your house to get proceeds to pay for a national debt is always a bad idea no matter what because it’s actually the wrong type of action for the type of problem.

    Geoff says:

    …no analogy is ever perfect.

    That’s the problem with arguments by analogy. They are only good if the analogy is in fact perfect for everything that matters to everyone for that argument. If they are not perfect, then they are merely misleading. An argument by bad analogy is an argument without merit.

    Geoff, I issue a rational challenge to you now: If you think arguments by analogy actually work — that is to say they aren’t just bad arguments covered by emotional rhetoric — then prove me wrong. Take my analogy of killing termites with shoes in a 6 billion person household and see if you can still prove your point within the framework of that analogy.

    Of course if you are allowed to pick your own analogy, you can always find an ‘imperfect analogy’ that doesn’t actually fit Gore’s situation, claim it does, and then claim you’ve proved something. Anyone can do this for absolutely anything in fact.

    The real challenge is to take an analogy that we all agree actually fits Gore’s situation — I see no one arguing over mine at the moment — and still be able to prove your point. Until you can do that, there is no reason for anyone to buy your argument by analogy.

    Incidently, did you notice that I already said I agree with your conclusion, just not how you are deriving it? I think your conclusion is (at least somewhat) right. But your arguments by analogy to ‘prove it’ are all wrong. You can’t get there from here.

  24. With all this gospel/AGW analogizing going on I’m surprised that no one has compared Gore to Monson with respect to practicing what they preach.

  25. Bruce,

    I don’t think there’s such a huge difference between the two analogies (yours and Geoff’s). The main point is that if some folks are truly frightened at the fact (as they see it) that the house will come tumbling down if they don’t kill the termites then they’re probably going to try to do something about it regardless of whether or not everyone is convinced of the danger. So what you may get is a billion people killing termites while the other 5-6 billion don’t give a hang — and we’re not seeing anything like that kind of a response with respect to the AGW scare.

  26. Jack says:

    …and we’re not seeing anything like that kind of a response with respect to the AGW scare.

    Ah, finally we’re on track.

    As a matter of fact, that’s precisely what we’re seeing! You just have to realize that AGW Believers see killing termites with shoes as good by mostly symbolic. They are concentrating (rightly so from within their belief framework) on legislation because even they don’t believe killing termites with shoes will work in either the short or long run.

    In other words, Geoff’s analogy is just fine if you want to prove that Gore doesn’t really believe he needs to get his carbon footprint to zero today, but that’s as far as it goes. (And in fact, Gore tells us point blank he does not believe that.)

  27. Bruce, I’m not sure what more to tell you. I think my analogy was pretty darned good, and some other readers also did and some didn’t. But it’s not convincing to you — that’s cool. People see things differently and read things differently and come to different conclusions. I honestly can’t think of anything new that will get you to see it my way. Peace brother, have a good rest of the Sabbath day (or night at this point, I guess).

  28. “Bruce, I’m not sure what more to tell you. I think my analogy was pretty darned good, and some other readers also did and some didn’t”

    Geoff, no worries. We can always agree to disagree. You are right about that.

    But I’m curious. What did you think of my argument that my analogy is closer to Gore’s actual beliefs and that therefore it’s only fair to tackle it and see if you can still prove your point?

    Doesn’t that just make sense? And if the argument fails with the ‘better analogy’ and only works with the ‘worse analogy’ doesn’t that pose a problem to the original analogy no matter how many people liked it?

  29. You are missing the rational response analysis. I might well think that my personal input doesn’t matter, only what happens in bulk, so that I want to force you to cut your carbon in half while not worrying about my own.

    The miss-match I saw, that bothered me was:

    * First, the solutions were not sufficient to solve the advertised problem. E.g. unless carbon is cut by 90% we will all die, so lets cut carbon by 15% (I’ exaggerating, but that is pretty much the disconnect part A).
    * Second, the actions, “the world is coming to an end, so I will not flee to the northern mountains” don’t make sense. Where is the hunkering down?

    But I think it can make a lot of sense to (a) believe in global warming and (b) not do much personally about it. It doesn’t make much sense to believe in a specific model and then push for solutions that don’t match it or take steps consistent with it.

  30. All I have to say is this. The LDS Church preaches that personal wickedness and unrighteous desires are the root of destroying societies (i.e. greed lust, fear, racism, etc.). The Global warming movement paints the picture as a statement of technology, in which combustion-powered apparati are the problem. The big difference is that the global warming, if at all, only hits leaves or branches, while the LDS Church hits the roots. The root is, greed. Resource consumption would be far less of a problem if people were far less conservative and mindful in the first place, this would also apply to wars, crime, etc.. Whether or not Global Warming preachers believe it is another story, but the truth is, CO2 is hardly the root of various problems going on while lust and greed amongst people are.

    @ Jeff G, you have to reconcile regarding consecration and sacrifice in the context of what was being said, as well as in the context of other teachings.

    I certainly wouldn’t throw away or neccessarily give up all I had when I was living with my wife and children in a house. That would be a violation of the commandment that I not “abuse spouse or offering”

    The context of these sacrificial comments was in relation to the losses and persecution some people suffered, or could suffer. If you would suffer losses because of a choice to fulfill the Lord’s commandments by persecutors, would you still make that choice? The apostles and the rich young man were asked these questions by Jesus, and pretty much payed the price by losing their lives to the irrational prejudice of the Roman Emperors and others because they were willing to lose what they had as a price for not denouncing their faith.

    Would, if there was a disaster, someone be willing to shelter a family who lost their home in the disaster, or be willing to provide various neccessities? certainly!

    In addition, if someone’s fixation on something other than one’s worship

    The question here is a personal one, and it is not about randomly or irrationally throwing away all you have, which is a violation of God’s laws, by the way, but is rather about willingness and priority. Would one’s commitment to one’s religion supersede the value of various things. It sure could.

  31. Geoff,
    I don’t need to see An Inconvenient Truth to understand that people who are arguing that humans should produce no carbon are crazy (How do we breathe then?). Stating that that is the baseline argument for people who care about global warming/carbon emissions/etc. is an extreme strawman. As I understand it, people are talking about limiting carbon impact, not eliminating it (for that would mean killing every living thing). There are plenty of crazies on both sides of this debate (which I why I usually ignore these debates), but there is no cause to assume that there aren’t rational arguments to be made.

  32. John C, I agree 100 percent. The rational argument that could be made is: “CO2 may be a problem. Let’s monitor the situation and respond when it is.” But unfortunately, that is NOT the argument that Gore & Co. are making. The only reason an international businessman like me even cares about this issue is that the alarmists ARE making irrational proposals (cap and trade, etc) that could cause literally millions of people to lose their jobs. If their proposals are adopted worldwide, the losses would be in the tens of millions and a worldwide economic death spiral.

    If you have been following this discussion from the beginning (meaning when Bruce started posting on it 5-6 weeks ago), you will find that Bruce has come to the conclusion that CO2 is almost certainly a problem but he is looking at cost-effective, relatively minor measures to deal with it. I am getting the feeling that he might consider geo-engineering, which is a common sense solution IF CO2 proves to be a problem (and the cost would be relatively small).

    If we were hearing common sense arguments from the Dems like that, no problem. But, as I say, we are hearing gloom and doom, the world ending tomorrow.

  33. “Let’s monitor the situation and respond when it is.”

    Since scientists have been monitoring and have reached a consensus it would appear that no standard of evidence would satisfy you. If scientific methods, using best practice methods, is not enough to convince you, then really you have made up your mind not to believe this, and no amount of data or monitoring will meet you standards of evidence. You have entered the Middle Ages I’m afraid. When science and rationality are not how you decide the way things are, you impoverish us all. It’s a pity people do not understand the connection between ‘their jobs’ and the ecosystem services that sustain their life and the economy. It’s the same mentality that believed nothing could harm our economy. Ignore data. Reap the results.

  34. SteveP, as much as you would like to deny reality, there is no scientific consensus on global warming. Your great claim to a consensus is a six-year-old paper by Naomi Oreskes. That consensus has been updated and debunked here:

    Other studies have found that the consensus is not valid. There are discussed here:

    Even the most recent attempt at a blacklist by Schneider (may he rest in peace) showed that there are more than 500 scientists who have written and published and spoken out against the supposed consensus.

    The central claim to the consensus is that the polar ice caps are on their way to melting. This was a central part of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the IPCC report and all major alarmist literature. The truth is that the polar ice caps, taken as a whole, are growing nicely, and in fact ice at the Antartic is at record levels. You can read some more inconvenient data about that here:

    In addition, there has been no significant warming on a global scale since 1998, which was 12 years ago.

    To sum up: there is no consensus, and the main claims of the consensus, ie, that polar ice caps are melting and that the Earth’s temperatures are increasing, are not true.

    By the way, SteveP, what are your plans to get to near carbon zero emissions sometime soon?

  35. Geoff,

    I accepted your invitation to read your posts. I hope you don’t mind if I disagree, and strongly.

    I think this whole discussion of hypocrisy is a red herring. It is specious to make these generalizations about all these folks who are apparently not doing enough to move you. You have no data as far as I can tell to prove that believers in AGW are across the board hypocrites, your frequently mention of Al Gore notwithstanding. Since you have no such data, I also assume you have no data about how much evidence is actively denied or willfully ignored by those in a position to make a big difference. Wouldn’t that be as important to acknowledge? Indeed your frequent reliance on Gore and mention of extremists raises the eyebrow in suspicion that you are ideologically motivated. I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, but how many passionate believers in AGW do you know personally? We are from all walks of life, from across the political spectrum, and the way this smacks of an ideological attack on the left just misses the boat altogether. Not to mention, it is a tad condescending! 🙂

    Most of us understand that individual actions are not going to make enough of a difference and while we do what we can individually, there is only so much that can be done in a complex economy like ours that is so entirely dependent on fossil fuels. We urge, write, speak out, and work to get politicians, businesses, and cities on board because they are the big players. Can’t you respect this? This in your view is hypocrisy, I guess, or socialism, but it is how I understand democracy to work. It is something I am proud to be a part of and proud to join others in. Some of us are better than others in the individual arena, but that is not the only arena of concern by any stretch. To conclude that the appearance of hypocrisy (and it is nothing but speculation) is enough to decide you don’t have to listen to the science is strange, frankly. Any Mormon can recognize how wrong it is when people judge the gospel based on individual members–I think others have refuted your argument on this pretty persuasively. Besides, AGW doesn’t boil down to a question of belief and integrity of action, but is rather a matter of empirical evidence. It is either happening or it isn’t. The earth and its atmosphere don’t care about Al Gore or Rush Limbaugh–the needle doesn’t move according to political party or passionate conviction. You are either earnestly and honestly exploring the science or you have decided it is corrupt, inevitably leading to forms of government you don’t like, or false. As Steve points out, if the preponderance of evidence at this point doesn’t provide enough evidence for you, then it would appear that you have no standard of judgment to assess empirical reality. What is your standard? It would seem you are more driven by ideology than by evidence. The burden of proof is in your hands as a denier. Show us the scientific evidence that we SHOULDN’T be deeply concerned about CO2 emissions. Which scientific studies, which scientific research are you drawing from to come up with your views?

  36. Geoff,

    These are not scientific studies themselves, so what about the science itself? What’s the evidence to back up your claim about the climate since 1998? This is Lord Monckton’s favorite statistic and it gets repeated in the denier industry, but it doesn’t coincide with the data. The data are too interrelated, there is too much corroboration across many related fields of science for warming to be dismissed in one statement like that. You can’t get away with this by isolating one statistic. You have too many correlated statistics across the globe to have to explain away–ocean temps, biodiversity loss, coral reef degradation, acidification of the ocean, biogeographical shifts of flora and fauna, weather patterns, glacial patterns, droughts, floods, atmospheric data, etc, etc.

    But on the question of consensus, EOS recently published an update on Oreskes’s study in 2009 (vol 90, no. 3 @, finding 97% agreement. But that really isn’t the issue. The issue is the science itself.

  37. George, thanks for your well-intentioned comment. As much as you would like to take this personally, and claim it is an unusual, uncharitable attack on your beliefs (I am summarizing your comments as I read them), it is not unusual for people discussing things to look at the actual actions of people and see if they line up with their stated beliefs. This happens in politics practically every minute. Right now, we have a pretty big discussion on a national scale regarding the national debt. The debt has soared under the watch of the Democrats. The primary claim of the Democrats in response to Republican complaints is hypocrisy: when the Republicans were in power they let the debt soar — therefore why should we take their complaints seriously? And even though I am a Republican, the Democratic claim is valid — the Republicans DID allow the debt to soar when they were in power. Charges of hypocrisy are relevant, normal and worth considering on all issues. You must practice what you preach or else people don’t take you seriously.

    I have been waiting for several days now for some global warming alarmist to step forward and say, “you know, you are right. I really need to do a better job of keeping my emissions down. You have inspired me to bicycle to work more often.” I would take ANY sign that alarmists are practicing what they preach as a positive development. I have yet to get that response. Instead, we get a lot of excuses and long comments saying how we shouldn’t concentrate on others’ hypocrisy, etc, etc. I think it is extremely telling that global warming alarmists are not willing to make any significant changes in their actions — can we possibly believe them when they claim we must act immediately because of the coming global warming catastrophe?

    Regarding the burden of proof, actually you are completely wrong. I believe there is no reason to do anything about global warming. If there is a need for any drastic action, the burden of proof is instead of global warming alarmists to prove the need. As for the “consensus,” I address that red herring in #34.

  38. George, the 97 percent study is debunked here:

    This was from an on-line poll in which only 79 climate scientists chose to participate. Please look at the details in comment #34.

    As for global temperatures and their connection with manmade emissions, take a look here:

  39. Geoff,

    Of course you are right that we all need to be doing more. No one who believes in AGW argues with the need to do more. Ever. I know I can do lots more, but not because I feel answerable to your criticisms but because I believe in the science. I have said to you before that lots of people are doing things to reduce their impact. I thought that would be patently obvious to anyone. The fact that you seem to be unaware of the efforts of AGW believers doesn’t diminish their inspiring efforts. Congregations across the country are making incredible strides in all religions–Evangelicals, Baptists, Muslims, Jews. Need I mention the efforts of lots of businesses and far too few politicians? I know of people creating and using community supported agriculture, people buying wind power, who eat less meat, etc. etc. Perhaps you have heard of a church that will now build all of its chapels LEED certified with, ahem, carbon meters. Do you really know no one? Why do you feel compelled to belittle their efforts?

    You still have no data to prove that believers aren’t doing anything. You simply repeat that assertion. And my point is still this: this has nothing to do with what the science is saying and should not be the ultimate litmus test of the science. The test of the science is in the evidence provided. If you read the science, even as I do as a non-scientist, it is plainly obvious that dismissing AGW is a really, really steep mountain to climb in terms of the evidence you need to dismiss it. I have yet to talk to someone who denies it flatly who admits as much. Even if you remain skeptical, an honest response is to admit it is a challenging case to make. Skeptical scientists admit as much.

    Not admitting it is proof that they are not thinking objectively or rationally about the science but are instead emotionally and politically driven. And everyone I know who denies the science likes to cite the same pet theories and websites and ideologically driven “primers”. In my view, this isn’t science–it is politics.

    BTW, what is the difference between an extremist, an alarmist and someone who just believes in AGW? I can’t tell why you use one term or another. As far as I can tell, they are unhelpful terms used to stereotype. For the record, I don’t think you are an extremist or indifferent or unethical. 🙂 You are bright, articulate, and passionate. I just don’t agree with you.

  40. George, I walk to work everyday, but that doesn’t count because I work from home, so walking downstairs from the bedroom to my office isn’t much of a stretch. 🙂 I can guarantee you my carbon footprint is pretty darned small compared to many people.

    Look, flattery will get you everywhere, so keep it coming, but the bottom line is you need to face the fact that you are now communicating with a skeptic who has more information than you do. I can guarantee you I have read more about global warming in the last 20 years than you have. Dozens of books, literally thousands upon thousands of articles. As you have noted, it is a passion. This doesn’t necessarily make me right — time will prove me right or wrong. I would say that, based on the evidence I have seen, so far I have been spot-on correct. If you read the links I sent you with a fair mind, you will see that I counter your points with data that builds up my case.

    Many years discussing this subject with believers has shown me that only time convinces people to give up on the fantasy of manmade global warming causing irreparable harm. I am confident that time will prove me correct — 10 years from now the climate will very likely be cooler than it is now and the extent of Arctic ice will be greater than it is now. More and more people will look back at these years and wonder why they were so concerned about this issue.

    Extremist, alarmist and believers are all used in these threads as short-hand. Bruce has settled on the term “AGW believer,” which I can’t completely support, but it is as good a term as any.

  41. Does Geoff B. believe in Zion? Has he sold all his goods to feed the poor? If you believe in zion you will start living it now. It’s all or nothing? Hold yourself to the standard you hold Gore. Stop talking about Zion if you cannot live it yourself. Are there people in your neighborhood, city, country with less than you? Even it out.

    Many times we want to live our life consistent with our believes. I believe in Zion and I do what I can but I’m not ready yet to go in all the way. Still I teach of Zion. I work towards it. I recognize that it is a true principle. Your standard for Gore is not only misguided but it would negate any kind of transition that moves from poor to better to best. Pity. Much is done though growing awareness and small steps. But then you don’t believe in Zion, right? Your clearly not living it as it should. (Forgive me for judging if you’ve given all your money to feed the poor and are writing from the public library. I didn’t know. )

    Oh, and my six year old paper by Historian Oreskes has turned into a full length book, called Merchants of Doubt that traces the movement of key individuals who moved from Tobasco Company payrolls to Oil Company (she as access to the records, she is a historian). How the same people (same people!) fighting to cast doubt on cancer links to tobacco became doubt on anthropogenic climate change. You may want to ask yourself why the evil and designing men of the last days switched from tobacco to climate change. Why are you on their side?

    The blog you provided that climate change papers don’t reflect the reality is because most papers on climate change are not about the change. This is like saying most economic papers don’t talk about money. It’s true but it doesn’t mean that that is not assumed. Talk to anyone but TV weather people and I know of no one that is not seeing the changes on the ground. I see it in the ecology of Africa everywhere. But my papers are about the local movement into new areas they have not been in geologic time scales. I just write about the movement. I would not show up as anything but an implicit CC change paper. 97 % of scientists studying the climate believe it is anthropogenic. Traveling to Ecology meetings and places where this is discussed I’ve never met that 2%. Likely they are talked about in Oreskes book. I just came from the biggest simulation modeling conference ever held. Many were on ACC. I met no one, saw no presentation, that was not supporting ACC. That’s because to do so gives up science as a way of knowing. I am struck by the dishonesty, the lack of integrity, of the denier crowd. They have sold a bill of goods to the American public. Go back to the tobacco adds from the 50s and 60s and you get a feel for how good they are. It’s the same people. Older, but wiser from having lost that battle.

  42. SteveP, how do these ecological changes compare with changes seen over the 20th or 19th Centuries? You’ve said before that change doesn’t matter, but that excessive rates of change can be problematic. Has anyone taken a stab at quantifying the effects of rate of change?

  43. SteveP, I think I have answered the Zion question effectively in many other comments on this and the other threads. Thanks for taking the time to actually put together a cogent, longer argument. I am doing some actual work for the next few days but I will answer when I can. Cheers, Geoff B

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