Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Climate Politics & Microcosmographia Academica

I came across a reference to Microcosmographia Academica (A Study of a Tiny Academic World) a pamphlet written by F. M. Cornford of Cambridge University and published in 1908 during an ALL class today at USF.

It struck me immediately as exceptionally humorous, but also apropos to politics other than those encountered in academia. Imagine discussing such things as "The Thin End of The Wedge" and "The Dangerous Precedent"

The Principle of the Dangerous Precedent is that you should not now do an admittedly right action for fear you, or your equally timid successors, should not have the courage to do right in some future case, which, ex hypothesi, is essentially different, but superficially resembles the present one. Every public action which is not customary, either is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time.
One comparison came to mind, concerning the so-called 'debate' over climate change and what actions a responsible government might take to anticipate impending potential harmful effects and attempt mitigation. If you have witnessed the same level of denial on that issue that I have, you'd probably be tempted to just give up trying and let whatever happens, happen!

Today, this article on NASA's latest assessment of the causes of climate change appeared in USA Today. Note it directly refutes yesterday's Wall Street Journal article that named 16 'top' scientists who allowed themselves to be listed as dissenters from the view of 98% of 'top' scientists -what, 800 or so- that see clear adverse impacts from humans via greatly increased burning of fossil fuels during just the last 150 years.
It's difficult to understand anyone doubting carefully verified historical world temperature trends & cycles over the past 400,000 years, especially when these lengthy trends between successive ice ages have been so remarkably regular until just 150 years ago! What's up with that thinking? Do we get to believe science only when it suits us?
That surely wasn't the way we went about trying to land on the moon! That was an ambitious goal we used our best scientists to achieve, despite the many inconvenient uncertainties that had to be overcome.
NASA's motto then was NOT 'It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time.'

If that sounds like the ultimate in modern 'conservatism', it is - at least for those things these 'conservatives' don't want!