Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jeremiad on the Economy

Did anthrogenic climate change cause Hurricane Sandy, the current midwestern drought, and the rain that started right after you washed your car? The standard answer is "You can't say." What you can say is that higher levels of "greenhouse gases" in the atmosphere will cause weird weather in general, but there are too many steps between letting energy into the system and not letting it our, and any one event. And not much point in lingering over the argument.

You can also say that it's valid and legitimate to discuss the composition of the atmosphere when something unusual and unpleasant has happened.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I'd throttle back my energy use, and so should you, if I'd never heard of "global warming." I want to use climate change as an analogy for something else.

I've mentioned The Limits to Growth before. Limits was a 1972 report on a computer study that predicted global economic collapse in the 21st century unless the world limited births to deaths and industrial investment to depreciation. Australian Graham Turner surveyed the trends that Limits modeled: population, industrial production, agricultural production, services, and pollution. 1972 to 2000, those trends were as predicted.

Can we blame Greek and other European economic problems on Limits' predicted economic collapse? How about post-Sandy gas lines? 8% unemployment? Lockout at the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the NHL?

Sure. Take them as warnings.

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