A couple of weeks ago, The Economist Magazine posted a thought-provoking question on Twitter: If the Earth was dealing with global cooling--instead of global warming--would a strong global plan already be in place to deal with the issue? The logic being that because man evolved in a tropical climate--and not one where our early ancestors had to deal with brutal winters--we as a species prefer it warmer than colder, therefore seeing the possibility of another ice age as a greater threat than it being a few tenths of a degree warmer every year.
From a strictly social aspect, that argument makes sense. Colder weather longer means shorter growing seasons in our most fertile regions--which means less food--which means fewer people can survive on the planet. Plus, colder temperatures are more expensive to deal with. We need to spend more to heat and light our homes. Our vehicles run less-efficiently and any work done outdoors usually takes longer. A warmer climate means longer growing seasons on the Great Plains and more food. Heating bills are lower. We are more inclined to walk or bike somewhere rather than take our cars and warmer days allow us to get more done outside faster.
But the "we would have already addressed global cooling" argument falls apart when you apply the political aspect to the issue. Do you really think that scientists and world leaders would back a plan to combat global cooling that would implement the causes of global warming that they now condemn? Would the United Nations encourage US and Chinese utilities to build more coal-burning power plants to produce lower-cost electricity? Would we be encouraged to use incandescent light bulbs and keep our furnaces turned up to 72-degrees? Would oil drilling be encouraged around the globe--with efforts made to keep gas prices as cheap as possible? Would Al Gore and President Obama praise General Motors for producing gas-guzzling, oversized SUV's and pickup trucks sold without catalytic converters? Would there be "single passenger vehicle only" lanes on urban interstates?
Of course, those measures would NOT be supported to "prevent the planet from freezing over", because they would benefit private sector corporations and the US economy. Americans wouldn't have to "sacrifice to save Earth". In fact, we would probably enjoy it. Instead, the "solution to global cooling" would involve the same economically-punitive measures that "reducing our carbon footprint" entails. There would be large, bureaucratic agencies created to "fix the problem"--funded, of course, with new taxes, surcharges and fees.
I look forward to the next Economist tweets that ask if the dinosaurs should have spent more time working on anti-asteroid detection systems or what wooly mammoths should have done to extend the last Ice Age.