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.