One of the ideas behind CAGW is that, even if the current CAGW scare turns out to be the great big fraudulent fuss about nothing that most of us here now believe it to be, it would be wise to have in place the political machinery for coping with any future collective human disasters of a similar sort that might require collective human action to survive them, before such a disaster really does threaten to strike, and this time for real. Better safe than sorry. Better to get prepared now. CAGW may be a lie, but this is one of several ways in which it is regarded by those pushing it as a noble lie.
Paul Murphy identifies an important weakness in such thinking. Crying wolf can make the real wolf, if he does finally show up, more rather than less dangerous:
The deeper issue here is not that the political action now strangling western economies is politically motivated, but that accepting the arguments for seeing warmism as sheer political fraud means accepting that the talking heads citing science to sell it to the masses are either deluded or dishonest – but because no wolf today doesn’t mean no wolf tomorrow, it also means that warmist politicization of the research process has to be seen as having destroyed the credibility of all involved, and thus as having greatly weakened the world’s ability to recognize and respond to a real threat should one now materialize.
Quite a few libertarians of my acquaintance (including, I seem to recall from comment threads here, our own Johnathan Pearce) think that libertarians, to quote the words said to me on this topic a few days ago, “miss a trick” by failing to describe what should happen in the event of such a real collective disaster. Yes, CAGW is almost certainly a lie, noble or just plain wicked. But what if something like that really does look like it really is about to happen?
My personal answer is that the decisive variable will probably not be political preparedness, but scientific and technological and economic preparedness. Not: Will we be politically organised to do the necessary? Rather: Will we be able to do the necessary? If our species suddenly finds itself facing a real collective disaster, the political will to tackle it will surely be there. What may be lacking, however, is the means to avert disaster, and even to understand it correctly. The best defence for humanity as a whole, just as it is now for the people in your town facing flood risks or tornadoes, is to be rich and clever and alert. Anything that gets in the way of that is bad.
Murphy is quite right that this ghastly CAGW episode has degraded our collective alertness. Even warnings of disaster from impeccably scrupulous scientists, utterly unconnected with the CAGW argument, will now be taken only with vast pinches of salt added.
For those who do think that political preparedness might make all the difference, I’d add that, in addition to being richer, cleverer and more alert (not least because in a free society a wider range of potential dangers will have been speculated about – e.g. by science fiction writers) than a less free society, a more free society is also more public spirited. You can never, of course, be sure, in the event of a one-off global crisis. But, when collective action really is necessary, free societies tend, quite aside from doing everything else better, to do even that better than unfree societies.
An unfree society may be great at imposing immediate unanimity, but what if what it immediately imposes unanimously is panic and indecision? (Think Stalin when Hitler attacked the USSR in
1942 1941.) And what if it then imposes a wrong decision about what needs to be done? A collectivity that is hastily assembled by freer and more independent persons is just as likely to act in a timely manner, and is far more likely to have a proper argument about what must be done, and hence to arrive at a better decision about that.
Besides which, what is often needed in a crisis is not so much collective action, but rather individual action for the benefit of the collective. That is a very different thing, and clearly a society which cultivates individuality will prepare individuals far better for such heroism than will societies where everyone is in the habit only of doing as they are told.
I will be interested to hear what commenters have to say about this.