The Laughlin contradiction

When I first wrote about Laughlin’s essay What the Earth Knows, I focused entirely on the foolishness of equating the survival of the earth with the survival of human civilization, and that the phrase Save the Planet was never meant to be taken literally. But I missed Laughlin’s contradiction.

Thankfully Friends of Gin and Tonic didn’t:

  • On one hand: Carbon dioxide from the human burning of fossil fuel is building up in the atmosphere at a frightening pace, enough to double the present concentration in a century. This buildup has the potential to raise average temperatures on the earth several degrees centigrade, enough to modify the weather and accelerate melting of the polar ice sheets.
  • On the other hand: Climate change, by contrast, is a matter of geologic time, something that the earth routinely does on its own without asking anyone’s permission or explaining itself.

So which is it?

The truth is that climate changes due to what climatologists call forcings. Some of them act on very long time scales (aka geologic time), while some (such as our greenhouse gas emissions) act over much shorter time scales.

One thought on “The Laughlin contradiction

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  1. A triple case of “not only … but also …”.

    Not only was Laughlin being gormlessly literal-minded (aka ‘dumb’) with his simplistic ‘Don’t have to Save the Planet’ claim, but also he was being visibly self-contradictory – though whether gullibly or disingenuously so is left as an exercise for the reader.

    And further, the contradiction was in his admission that not only is climate forced by long term drivers, but also it can be forced by short term drivers. Not only that, but also these different categories of drivers are not mutually exclusive.

    As fine an example of epistemic closure as one could wish to see in a day’s reading. But don’t feel too bad about not picking up on his self-contradiction; it’s really hard when someone is being that thick to keep diligently foraging through the pigshit in the hope of finding a pearl or two somewhere.

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