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Response to AverageJoe90 (Original post)

Wed Aug 22, 2012, 12:41 PM

55. One Reason Some People Believe Global Warming Will Drive Humans to Extinction

is that like most groups involved in a contentious war of ideas, opinions that minimize or temper accepted wisdom tend to be frowned on. On the other hand, opinions that make more extreme projections or take accepted wisdom further tend to be welcomed, even when they are highly questionable.

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It may appear that even if extreme opinions are incorrect, they may still help uninvolved members of the public "wake up," or create a sense of urgency that will help the larger goals be achieved. These inferences, while true in some cases, have to be balanced against repercussions such as:

1) Opinions that are not well supported by fact tend to be used by the opposing side in damaging ways. Look at the predictions from the 1970s about the state of the world over the coming decades. They are routinely used by global warming deniers to cast doubt on global warming as a whole.

2) Incorrect projections can lead to bad policy. If the optimal policy involves long-term measures, overly aggressive projections can lead to less effective crash programs on the theory that the horizon is too short. It can be argued that Jimmy Carter's $88B energy plan, which contained provisions for breeder reactors and coal gassification, was affected by alarmist views of the future of oil production.

3) It can lead to the rejection of proposals that are not considered "pure" or draw some measure of support from the opposition. In the case of global warming, this appears to be particularly true for solutions involving some type of geoengineering.

4) While the pattern is universal, it is fundamentally the same group dynamic that has led the GOP to become so extreme. This should be a warning.

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