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  1. Phil Ward June 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm |

    I’m not sure it’s right to say that the 1965 committee report was “much too optimistic” about the rate of rise of sea level, due to Antarctic melting. The EPA’s projected maximum sea level rise by 2100 is 6 feet, which concurs roughly with the recent report stating that 1-3m rise in one or two centuries is now inevitable. Sea levels have risen about 6 inches in the last century (15mm per decade), way below this estimate, although of course accelerating. Similarly, the estimate for the rise that would result from melting of the whole Antarctic ice cap is generally 70m, just over half what the Presidential committee said in 1965.

    I think if we were already experiencing a 4ft rise in sea level every decade, there would be no climate deniers left. That said, the situation is bad enough and I don’t think early over-estimates of the consequences of climate change can be used to discredit the scientific facts.

    I will use the invitation to speculate as to why the left did not take this issue up. Here in the UK, I think the problem was that the left responded to many sections of the environmental movement’s neo-Malthusian attitude to population by rejecting everything the movement said.

    I also think they did not understand that “having lots of stuff” and “getting lots of use out of stuff” (to put it crudely) are different things, so they were suspicious of the “anti-cornucopian” argument. Many on the left still make the – to me – somewhat “faith-based” argument that technology can get us out of the climate change mess.

    A sort of “left cornucopianism” may have been a response to statement of Trotsky’s about the bureaucratic consequences of scarcity, with its graphic depiction of shortages leading to queues and these requiring a force to police them. Despite being very strong on the need for a radical shift in what is produced and how it is used in order to combat the environmental crisis, I’m still troubled by the likelihood that there will be such (perceived?) shortages – especially in energy supplies – and what the political consequences of that might be.

    Whether this is how left thinking on climate change developed in other countries, I don’t know.

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