One Finite Planet

One Finite Planet

Andrew Yang: Dangerous? Or just honest?

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the views?

Andrew Yang is a U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate with several policies fit well with conclusions reached by the deliberations on this website. Recent stories on gizmodo and the atlantic have branded the views expressed by Andrew Yang as dangerous(gizmodo) and ultra conservative(the atlantic). So what are the views, and what is ‘dangerous’?

The Yang Gang View on Climate

It does take a little research to be clear on the views, but after researching, I have the view that there is no candidate that takes climate change more seriously. Firstly, Yang policy states clearly that the US should implement a price on carbon. Secondly, Yang states that problem is so serious, that while honouring commitments such as climate accords must happen, these steps alone will not alone provide a solution and even more steps are required.

When you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. So while you can legislate a carbon price, without a functioning society you cannot get all of society to focus on problems such as climate change, and the ‘freedom divident’ signature policy is the proposed solution to a function society. So people with a view “solve climate before all else, then move on to other issues” do provide an opposing view of “we cannot achieve enough without providing a function society at the same time“. This view does require placating with assurances that steps matching other candidates are planned (carbon pricing etc), and it is just that Yang believes even more can be done by a fully functioning society, which the ‘freedom divident’ can be a key to providing.

There are also statements that people will need to move to high ground and the freedom divident will assist with this. Assist by bringing some out of poverty, yes. But the divident alone will not see people moved to high ground.

The difference from other candidates is that Yang suggests that while all steps possible should be taken to reduce green house gasses and minimise climate change, we have now reached the point when nothing will stop some damaging climate change.

The Dangers

Danger: Off Script.

There is a global accord on climate change, and there have been global agreements on emission reduction targets. The ‘script’ is that if the US fails to honour all these commitments, the result will be catastrophic climate change.

The script does discuss, at least in vague terms, the nature of the catastrophe, but it tends to stay vague. The script does not actually say there will be no more climate change if the agreements are all followed, not that catastrophe will be avoided. Just that if the argeements are not followed, then there will catastrophe. It is simple, and relates to America following agreements.

Even raising that America is only 15% of global greenhouse gas emmisions is going off script.

Raising that even if all agreements are followed, there may still be climate change and possibly still catastrophic climate change, is going off script.

Those against action on climate change tend to take a defeatist ‘if the Titanic is sinking anyway maybe I should just get drunk’ type of approach and declare:

  • why should we bother if the greater impact will be from the other 85% of emmisions?
  • what is the point if current action is not guaranteed to solve climate change anyway?

Those advocating the script consider these arguments will follow if you go off script. That any mention of either of these two points will give rise to ‘deniers’ advocating ‘why bother’.

Danger: Ambigutiy

Being ‘off script’ by mentioning the percentage contribution of the US and the even more action is needed, are the very same points raised by those against action on climate change.

Is Yang advocating a) leaving to others due to America being only 15% of emissions, or b) that America must not only play its own role but also assist others. Listen to the detail, and there are statements of how 3rd world countries will need low cost technology that America can help develop to play their role. There is evidence that the 15% statistic raised in order address how to widen the imparct of America, not in order leave it to others. But ambiguity sees these as the same statistics quoted by those against action in order to not bother.

Is Yang advocating a) not bothering to achieve emissions reduction targets as climate change will not be solved by this alone, or b) achieving emissions reduction targets in order to provide the greatest chance of finding other ways to further reduce emmisions.

Those against action seize on the point that if we need to find a way to do even more anyway…. lets just wait until someone finds a way to do more.

The ambiguities arises from going off script, because the same points that the ‘Yang Gang’ quotes in order to justify even more action on climate change, are those quoted by those against action on climate change.

If Yang is raising the same points, then which side is he on?

Honesty: The Truth?

I see points such as this one reassuring that while climate change could highly problematic, there is no risk of human extinction. The problem is, there are perhaps more credible articles suggesting the risk of human extinction from climate change is real.

The earth has been in existence for around 4.5 billion years, and has been able to support life as we know it for on the surface from around 500 million years ago, (although the earth has supported life underwater for much longer). So for around 11% of the time, earth has supported life on land, but this cannot continue forever. In fact, every other planet that we know of that has been capable of supporting life has supported life for a much shorter period. Studying Venus tells us as the planet warmed due to greenhouse gasses, water in the atmosphere saw a run-away green house gas cycle result in the planet heating to hotter than closer to the sun Mercury. Yes, Venus is closer to the Sun than Earth is, but the Sun is slowly getting hotter and the heat reaching the Earth will reach the level that was reaching Venus when the greenhouse run-away took place much sooner than we would like.

Unless we lose the water in the Oceans first, run away overheating of the Earth due to greenhouse gas is an eventual certainty. The question is when.

The average temperature of the Earth today is 14.9 degress celcius (58.62 F). According to the Brian Cox documentary ‘the planets’ (Episode 1, at around 30 minutes) states the Earth would currently have an average temperature of of -18 degrees C ( -0.4 F) without the greenhouse effect. This means that around 33 degrees C (or 58 F) difference in temperature due to current greenhouse gasses. Double the greenhouse gass could produce an average of over 116 F or 47 C! Average over the entire Earth. A 10% change in greenhouse could produce a 3 C change. A problem is that a small increase in temperature can produce an increase in greenhouse gas, which in turn produces another increase in temperature.

Clearly, when the Sun was younger and cooler, the Earth had more greenhouse effect or it would have been frozen. Earth has a history of balancing greenhouse gases and other factors to maintain a relatively constant climate. Now it could be that some negative feedback maintains this balance, or it could just be a 1 in a 1,000,000 chance we have managed it. That lack of detecting more intelligent life out there points to a perhaps 1 in a billion chance being quite possible. If so, may not be best to disturb the balance ourselves!

The truth is, we do not know of anything that will stop the current global warming automatically. In fact we know of more reasons why it could accelerate. Run away greenhose may not be the most likely outcome of the current process of seeding global warming by burning fossil fuel, but just as being shot from a single turn at russian roulette is not the most likely outcome, uncertainly of our demise may not be logic for testing the odds.

Can We Handle The Truth?

The ‘script’ is that if America sufficiently reduces CO2 emissions, climate change cease- or at least cease to be a problem. The ‘script’ is that this message will get America to adopt and adhere to best practice on climate change, except this has not happened, and the fact that this ‘script’ is leaving out the rest of the world and that are not removed by these steps alone does get out there. These ‘unfortunate truths’ become weapons of those opposing climate change, because they not part of the ‘script’.

It could be that people cannot handle the truth.

The truth that while there is no hope of Americal convincing others to take this seriously if America it self does not take it seriously, even taking climate change seriously may not be enough to get world wide adoption unless there is a real effort to get world wide adoption.

The truth that current steps are only assured to buy more time, and it likely that even more will be required to keep climate change under control.

The truth of just how serious it is if we cannot stop run away climate change.

Perhaps people can’t handle that truth. Perhaps it is too complex. Perhaps too hard to show a problem until the impact is felt, just like someone who is falling from a great height: “so far so good”.

But just perhaps the ‘script’ of not telling all is not working and it is time for the complete truth in place of the script.

Table of Contents


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