Thursday, February 01, 2007

The 90 Percent Doctrine

The title of Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine refers to a philosophy that supposedly guides Dick Cheney-- if there is even a one percent chance of something with potential catastrophic consequences (such as the terrorists getting their hands on a nuclear weapon), this should be treated as if it were certain. Well, take global warming. There is more than a 1 percent chance that global warming is man-made, with potential catastrophic consequences. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)--representing the scientific consensus)-- there is at least a 90 percent chance that global warming is man-made. This is a stronger position than it took in 2001, representing a hardening consensus.

And yet, many right-wing Catholics-- wedded to both individualistic materialism and secular nationalism-- simply don't want to hear about this. I've talked about this before, here and here. They will dismiss concerns as mere "prudential judgment", and feel qualified to question the IPCC and the scientific consensus. But what exactly is prudential judgment? It does not mean "something I can willingly ignore because it does not fit my with secular ideology". No, it means "the application of Catholic doctrine to changing concrete circumstances." And according to this new consensus, there is a 90 percent probability that "changing concrete circumstances" are leading to man-made global warming at an alarming rate.

Remember, this could be the ultimate moral issue. And discounting the welfare of future generations for the comfort of those alive today is an exercise in the crudest utilitarianism.

1 comment:

Mike E said...

Has it ocurred to you, MM, that some "right wing Catholics" are actually curious, reflecitve, and intelligent? That some might look at the data and see...uh, an engineering problem, rather than some gaia-loving moral problem?

So it's warmer, more tempestuous, and less predictable... like I said... "so?"

Even ideologues like Gore don't actually say that we'll wake up one morning to 20 inches of increased sea level or 3 degrees of temperature change. It'll be gradual. And smart folks, who don't have degrees in Social Work or World Peace, or Comparative Religion will figure out solutions.

Give. It. A. Rest.

Were I to stipulate all that the Climate Change Chicken Littles assert, I'd still sleep soundly with my 5.0 L Dodge in the garage, my 2 (2!) AC units running all summer, and my 'carbon footprint' - cuz we'll figure it out, and we'll live comfortably with it, like humans have been doing for thousands of years, we'll adapt.