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Your daily dose of doom

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Sean Speer interviews Andrew Potter. Potter sets out his case:

“Here are the factors. One is what Tyler Cowen, the economist, calls the “great stagnation” to convey the three- or four-decade-long stagnation in technological development, innovation, and economic growth that has been going on since the 1970s.

Second, I think Benjamin Friedman, the economist, doesn’t get enough credit for connecting the dots between economic stagnation and its socio-political effects. He wrote a really interesting book about 15 years ago called The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, where he says, “Look, growth is great not just because it gives you stuff and raises your standards of living, but it also makes you better people.” That is, it makes you more open to immigration, more tolerant and open to diversity, less risk-averse, and generally less fearful about the future. In effect, it makes you more cosmopolitan and less Hobbesian about the world.

This points to the other key factor in what is going on, in addition to the “great stagnation”, which is almost a downstream effect, which is the rise of conservative populist politics. Right-wing populist politics is, in many ways, a consequence of economic stagnation, including in household incomes.

A third element is the rise of the internet and social media, which a lot of people thought was going to amplify productivity and democracy, but which has had the opposite effect. I used to be pretty optimistic and even cavalier about the effect of the internet on our civil discourse, but now I’m very, very pessimistic.

So, together with a stagnating economy, the rise of populist politics, and the toxic effects of social media, you get this toxic brew of lack of trust: lack of trust in institutions, a lack of trust in experts, and a lack of trust in one another.

Finally, there is another element in all of this, which J. Storrs Hall, an engineering sort of tech guy, reflected in his bookWhere Is My Flying Car?: A Memoir of Future Past, where he argues, “The great stagnation actually became the great strangulation.” That is, what’s standing in the way of growth is not the fact that we just plucked off the low hanging fruit and we can’t figure out new sources of economic growth, but it’s because we’ve buried our economy in a big mass of regulations and risk-averse bureaucracies. So even if we could resolve the political problems that have arisen in the last few years, there’s a more longstanding issue about whether we’re even capable anymore, as a society, of getting anything done.”

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The Hub bears watching.

Duggan’s Dew of Kirkintilloch

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Duggan’s Dew. He died without warning in his sleep sometime on the night of Saturday October 2- Sunday October 3. He was 71 years old. He was a man of many talents, a writer by trade, and a sterling chap. English Canadian at his best. Thought the world was going to hell with the elites pulling the wagon of society to the cliff’s edge.

In that he was attuned with the rest of us at Barrelstrength.

We can only hope that upon his passing he was able to correct his atheism by the sudden influx of new information. I suspect that many more people of a materialist persuasion, like Duggan’s Dew, are in for a big surprise.

RIP brother.

 

Steven Koonin on climate change

Steven Koonin, an advisor to Obama on climate change policy, has issued a sensible position on the issue.

His soon to be published bookUnsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters” notes that global average temperature has risen by about 1C degree since 1900. More important, it decries any notion that we are in a “climate emergency”. He expects another 1C increase in this century.

“Humans exert a growing, but physically small, warming influence on the climate. The results from many different climate models disagree with, or even contradict, each other and many kinds of observations,” he wrote. “In short, the science is insufficient to make useful predictions about how the climate will change over the coming decades, much less what effect our actions will have on it.”

 

The New York Post article on Koonin’s opinions says:

“Among the most significant revelations were that human activity had no significant influence on hurricanes over the past hundred years; Greenland’s ice sheet has been shrinking at the same rate for the past 80 years; and parts of the world that have been destroyed by wildfires have declined by greater than 25% since 2003, with 2020 being one of the lowest years on record.”

This is congruent with a more extensive set of graphs produced by Willis Eschenbach in Watts Up with That.

Among the charts that interest me most in Eschenbach’s article was the one on sea level rise. It shows that between 1990 and now, sea levels have risen about 80 mm in 25 years. Let us extrapolate this to 320 mm in 100 years, without further justification.   This is about 12 and one half inches in a century, which is far less than the rise expected by the physicist Lawrence Krauss, who wrote The Physics of Climate Change . He predicted a rise on sea level of about a meter (39 inches) by mid century.

Krauss situated the problem of global warming principally in rising sea levels, caused by melting glaciers and the expansion of water itself under the influence of greater heat. Krauss believes that places such as the Mekong Delta will be flooded with sea water at high tide, and rendered sterile, by 2100. This would have a disastrous effect on food production in a nation of 90 million people. Krauss is an alarmist but not a catastrophist, and his arguments are persuasive as long as you don’t look at contradictory data.

 

I have come to the views expressed by Koonin: that humans have had a small warming effect on the climate. and even if we stopped CO2 production right now, we would still be increasing global temperatures by a degree or two for another century at least. But in terms of the policies the elite wankers want us to adopt, I side with General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove. I have smelt it for a long time.

 

 

 One mania substituted for another

It is apparent that CO2 madness is being replaced by COVID as the mania of choice for members of the elite. The opportunities for direct social control with COVID are so much greater and more satisfying to the control freaks, and the willingness of people to go along with the scare so much greater than is the case with CO2. Decades of panic mongering about CO2 as the master control knob for global climate change have not succeeded in making the case for turning off our oil refineries and shutting down civilization as we know it. Always go with the panic that grows government authority most readily, and that is COVID, not atmospheric carbon dioxide.

 

I wish I could illustrate 415 against a million, but a million is 10,000 (10 to the 4th) times greater than a hundred (10 to the second). I am not proposing that we need orders of magnitude more CO2 in the atmosphere. What I am saying is that a trace gas is vital to plant life. More of it is greening the planet.

It will be evident that any serious policy aimed at reducing carbon emissions will have to focus on more nuclear reactors, as our Liberal government now understands.

 

 

 

So is this truly the end of Greta Thunberg’s influence? Hardly. The damage is now institutionalized in the poilicies of governments that seek to shut down tar sands and other sources of petro-chemical energy. Fanatics like Greta are mascots for the movement. But the attention has moved on from long term abstractions like climate change to hospitalizations and actual deaths.

Summer daze/ Styles of Pessimism

Dalwhinnie is on vacation and Rebel Yell is cycling around Ottawa a lot. The world continues to go to hell at its accustomed pace and there is little we can do about it. For my part, I am trying to spend fewer hours at the computer. A vacation involves the lessening of worldly concerns, and the Internet is a relentless nag about being concerned. I do not really care about any Democratic candidate for the Presidency in 2020. Donald Trump will crush the one eventually chosen and only wilful blindness will prevent people from seeing it and the media from saying so.

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An interesting article appeared in Quillette regarding styles of pessimissm. “Four Flavours of Doom: A Taxonomy of Contemporary Pessimism” examines the issue well. The author, Maarten Boudry, identifies four kinds of doomism. I am guilty of at least one kind.

The Nostalgic Pessimist

In the good old days, everything was better. Where once the world was whole and beautiful, now everything has gone to ruin. Different nostalgic thinkers locate their favorite Golden Age in different historical periods. 

The “Just You Wait” Pessimist

Some are prepared to admit, unlike the nostalgists, that the world has improved considerably over the past two centuries. But, they maintain, this cannot possibly last. The hubris of modern man, with his naïve belief in progress, must be punished sooner or later. I call this the “Just You Wait” school of pessimism

The Cyclical Pessimist

This kind of pessimist will agree that things are going pretty well at the moment, but he doesn’t think our current run of luck is historically exceptional. Humankind has experienced periods of relative prosperity and peace before, but all have come to an end sooner or later. The course of history, for the cyclical pessimist, comes and goes like the tides or the seasons

The Treadmill Pessimist

The treadmill pessimist accepts the reality of some objective measures of progress (more wealth, less violence, longer and healthier lives), but maintains that—despite everything—we haven’t really made advances where it truly matters. Like Alice and the Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking-Glass, we have been running ourselves ragged only to find, when we take a breath and look around, that we are still in the same place where we started

Beaudry concludes:

Of course, we are not living in the “best of all possible worlds,” as Voltaire’s Dr. Pangloss believed, but we may well be living in the best of all hitherto available worlds. If we want to create a better one, thus proving Dr. Pangloss wrong once again, the methods of science, free markets, and liberal democracy provide our best hope of succeeding. When will Westerners regain their belief in progress?

I am not an eco-doomist I am a cultural declinist and concerned about Islam’s invasion through adventitious exploitation of our lack of cultural antibodies.

Choose your doom. You can talk about one (ecological carbon fixation) but you cannot talk about the other (educational decline and islamic invasion). Why is this? Whose interest is served?