Monday, December 12, 2016

Climate Crisis: A Little More on Long-Lag

An additional thought on the long-lag problem as a concept.  There was a certain resistance to it, but people now generally accept that actions in the present can cause cancer in the future.  Smoking is the most obvious, but there are others such as exposure to certain chemicals, air pollution, etc.

So the idea of a long-lag is pretty clear.  This is despite the fact that most people have no idea of why smoking causes cancer, other than it ruins the lungs.  This is based on simple drawings (black smoke makes black spots on lungs etc.) that may not be all that accurate.  And they have even less knowledge on how various environmental factors cause cancers, partly because medical experts aren't entirely sure either.  But there's a cause and effect relationship.

People accept this long-lag effect even though it doesn't always work.  Some people smoke for forty years and don't get cancer.  Other people have never smoked and do get lung cancer.  It's a long-lag lottery.

The physical mechanics of the cause and effect of global heating are quite clear.  The phenomenon can be understood with basic physics, basic chemistry.  For science semi-literates like me there are simple models that explain it.  And there is plenty of historical and experimental evidence, as well as models that have predicted real world events.

 The cause and effect relationship of greenhouse gas pollutants and global heating (as well as generally from global heating to climate change) are much better understood and easier to explain than the cause and effect relationship between smoking and lung cancer.

Moreover, there is very little long-lag lottery about the climate crisis.  The chance of polluting the atmosphere with greenhouse gases and ending up with no heating and no climate change is vanishingly small.  Especially since the effects of past pollution are demonstrably happening right now.

 Moreover, there is is at least as much consensus among scientists in the field on climate change as there ever was on cancer and smoking.  Yet that science and those scientists are disbelieved, whereas the long-lag causes of cancer are accepted.

So once again, the problem isn't understanding long-lag cause and effect relationships.  It's other stuff.

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