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Conservative Passing Gear New Hope for Education Sufferers

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Climate Science Gets Serious

by Christopher Chantrill
April 24, 2004 at 8:00 pm


FOR YEARS, I’ve scoffed at the Al Gores of the world and their bribed apologists in the science community.  Time after time, they have presented single point departures from an assumed eternal climate equilibrium and forecast imminent disaster unless we did something.  And that something usually involved giving them emergency powers to change the world.

I’ve always said that the big climate issue for mankind is ice ages.  What’s the point of reducing greenhouse gases in a heroic renunciation of SUVs if it just brings on the next ice age?

But now comes Bill Ruddiman from the University of Virginia in Climatic Change with the news that climate change didn’t start in 1800 with James Watt and the steam engine.  It started about 8,000 BP with the invention of agriculture.  And it looks like we have already managed to stave off the next ice age with our evil deforestation of the planet.

Ruddiman’s theory is pretty simple.  About 8,000 years ago, mankind started clearing forests for agriculture.  This released lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  About 5,000 years ago we started flood rice cultivation.  That increased the release of methane into the atmosphere.  This combination of greenhouse gases arrested a global cooling trend that had started about 10,000 years ago.

Ruddiman accepts as established fact that the ice age cycle is driven by cyclical fluctuations in energy received from the sun that seem to exhibit a cycle of about 20,000 years.  The last peak in “insolation” occurred just about 10,000 years ago, when the sun delivered in midsummer about 505 watts of energy per square meter .  Right now, according to the natural fluctuation in the solar energy, we should be receiving insolation at about 475 watts per square meter and plunging into an ice age.  Only we aren’t in an ice age.  Ruddiman says you can thank the family farmer for that.

Of course, since the industrial revolution, we moderns have added about 150 billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere to the 300 billion tons previously put there by the world’s farmers during the age of agriculture.  Our human activities are placing a bigger and bigger bet on the world’s future.  But the date of the Fall into environmental sin must now be pushed back from 200 years in the past to 8,000 years in the past.  It puts a different aspect on things. 

It is one thing to say that we have suddenly polluted an innocent world with our industrial filth; it is another thing to say that our current industrial age intensifies trends initiated 8,000 years ago by the first farmers.  Especially if it seems likely that man-made climate change has staved off a plunge into a new ice age.

The presumption at the core of the environmental movement is that the planet enjoyed a “natural” environment until the dawn of the industrial age, and that if we act now we can restore its natural state before it is too late.  But Ruddiman shows that we have been influencing the climate much longer than that.  It is already too late to return to an environmental Eden.

But if it is no longer possible to return to Eden, then life becomes more complex.  We must like Adam and Eve look forward not back.  If we humans are going to influencing the global climate, for good or ill, what do we want to do with it?  Would we like to move the temperate zones north or south?  Would we like the ocean level higher or lower?   What would be the ideal monsoon for South Asia and its 1.5 billion people?  And who is “we?”  So far, the climate debate has been shockingly Eurocentric.  What will global warming do to the Chinese?  What will it do for South Asia?  For Africa?

The answer is probably close to the advice tendered by ecologist Daniel Botkin in Discordant Harmonies.  Nature fluctuates in all time scales, but it cannot respond to change too fast.  For instance, the North American forests have migrated north and south across the continent many times in response to climate change.  They will do so again, but they would prefer that the change weren’t too sudden.  Likewise, humans have migrated across the world for millennia in search of better living conditions, and will continue to do so.  Intelligent and adaptable, we will continue to respond and to migrate.  But we would prefer if the change weren’t too sudden.  We must decide what we want to grow in our garden and face the consequences of our decisions.

We can no longer return to the Garden of Eden.  We never could.  We must go on, and not look back.  But that is nothing new for humans, for the biosphere, or indeed, for the entire universe.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison

China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

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Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity

Conservatism's Holy Grail

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James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh

Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
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Drang nach Osten

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“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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