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Wouldn’t want to be in this logic professor’s classes

Those are the wrong questions. What I want to know is why would any sensible people allow the US petrochemical industry annually to produce 7.2 million metric tons of a poison that causes liver, lung, and brain cancer, and to distribute it as polyvinyl chloride in water pipes, gutters, rubber duckies, and My Little Pony dolls?

Because people like having water pipes, gutters, rubber duckies and My Little Pony dolls.

These types of prohibitions prompted a similar brand of handwringing — the question being posed in op-eds and comments sections running along the lines of, “How can anyone ask us to sacrifice our gas stoves, just to cut carbon emissions?”

That’s the wrong question. What I want to know is what sacrifices we are already making to support a fossil-fuel industry that earned $4 trillion in global profits last year, an industry whose control over us extends even to how we cook bacon-and-eggs.

Because people like being able, to cook bacon and eggs.

How Big Oil is manipulating the way you think about climate change
A logic professor explains how a persistent, subtle fallacy has infected public discussion of climate change

Yet asking how you, individually, can calculate and reduce your carbon footprint is very much asking the wrong question. I don’t want to know what I can do to reduce my estimated 0.00000005 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. I want to know what Big Oil is going to do to phase out the 73 percent of greenhouse gas emissions that they empower — which was 37,190,000,000 metric tons of CO2 in 2021. Of course, the fossil fuel industry would rather send me nosing into the compost in my backyard, than sniffing under the closed doors of political dealmaking that props up the hegemony of the fossil fuel economy.

They’re entirely an idiot, aren’t they?

The reason Big Oil exists is because people enjoy the things that the use of fossil fuels provide. Perhaps it should be so but the logic is really pretty simple, no?

The best way to defend against a red herring fallacy, I tell my students, is to call it out by name — “Oops. That’s a red herring, a question that is intended to distract us from the central issue” – and then to restate the central issue – “Let us focus full attention on the real issue here, which is, how can we stop the fossil-fuel industry from destroying the life-sustaining systems of the planet in their seemingly endless, and certainly shameless, quest for profit”?

By, err, changing the behaviour and desires of 8 billion people, actually.

18 thoughts on “Wouldn’t want to be in this logic professor’s classes”

  1. There’s certainly a remarkable number of red herrings in that article.

    Of course, as you point out Tim, the reason I like fossil fuels is that they make my life so much easier and more comfortable. Indeed without them I’d be cold, miserable, hungry and diseased. But perhaps that’s what the whiners want for me.

  2. There’s also the chance that by now, there’d be no whales left, and we’d have started on dolphins. We need oil. Then, of course, when they were used up, we might start on genocide, using some people for oil, and clearing vast swathes of depopulated land to produce vegetable oils. We might even wish that there was more CO2 in the atmosphere so that plants grew faster!

  3. She doesn’t even know that a kipper or red herring has been smoked to prevent it becoming stinking and inedible.
    Does she know that China generates more than twice as much CO2 as the USA, more than all the oil burned in the Rest of the World (i.e, world excluding China)? If not why not?
    Does she spare a second to condemn the world’s worst polluter (more than all the customers of all the non-Chinese oil companies combined)? No – why not?

  4. “Allow me to explain how the world works.” – woman who doesn’t know how magnets work.

  5. By, err, changing the behaviour and desires of 8 billion people, actually.

    Ending their desires by changing their behaviour to being dead.

  6. Ah….. Philosophy professor… not Logic… Big Difference.

    There’s a solid reason philosophers don’t design electronics, or, in general, can’t program to save their lives…

    Honestly Aristotles is to actual logic what Galen was to actual science.
    We got rid of Galen post-haste in the Renaissance, seems we just can’t get rid of that dusty old greek.

  7. Q. How many philosophy professors does it take to change a light bulb?
    A. That’s the wrong question.

  8. Given how many governments say they are on the CO2 is killing us wagon if we don’t act even more, I can’t explain why there’s no international agreement to tax aviation fuels at the same level as motor fuels, or even why they insist on calculating emissions using the territorial rather than consumption measure.

    They subsidise green stuff, banish useful products like gas boilers and new petrol cars, and ban fracking – but they won’t use prices, or make obvious international agreements or calculate things correctly.

    It doesn’t make sense. The only way it can make sense is if they just hate the public.

  9. The reason Big Oil exists is because people enjoy the things that the use of fossil fuels provide. Perhaps it should be so but the logic is really pretty simple, no?

    Sure, but BP pulling the “Oh! Look! A Squirrel” thing with their bullshit about personal carbon footprints is just a distraction when it is far easier for them to make marginal (but effective and meaningful) changes in their carbon footprint rather than a single individuals contributions, however significant they are personally.

    Kill yourself to reduce the impact on the climate? Yup. It’s been done.

  10. John Galt
    Sorry to pick on you twice a day but what do you think that BP should do to make “marginal (but effective and meaningful) changes” to their carbon footprint? They’ve already reduced gas flaring by 95%, spent a lot of money on R&D for non fossil energy sources, among a host of other (mostly useless expensive virtue signalling) initiatives.
    Please don’t leave us in the dark.

  11. philip. Having grown up when nukes were all the rage, I’d argue for a major nuke building project to ensure all electricity was generated by them. Perhaps the small modular reactors they’re all shrieking about these days’d provide the peaking power.

    But of course the very people who’re howling about horrid CO2 are those most adamant about strangling the awful atom. So the nukes are useless for the virtue signalling which is the real reason for BP pissing away its cash.

  12. Bongo,

    “They subsidise green stuff, banish useful products like gas boilers and new petrol cars, and ban fracking – but they won’t use prices, or make obvious international agreements or calculate things correctly.

    It doesn’t make sense. The only way it can make sense is if they just hate the public.”

    It doesn’t make sense because it’s mostly a religion. Putting out your recycling every week is a token gesture, like going to church, taking communion. The push to get everyone onto bikes or walking is a modern form of self-flagellation. Greta Thunberg is the modern Saint Bernadette, the child who can see CO2 instead of Mary. And it has the same doomster perspectives about armageddon as other religions. If we don’t cut emissions, the planet will be destroyed.

  13. Global population by 1AD was 200-300 million and had only increased by about 0.05% a year from 8000BC. By 1700 before the start of the industrial revolution the population had slowly crept up to about 700 million. Were we to overnight drop fossil-fuel production and abandon use of the derived products like that polyvinyl chloride in water pipes and electrical insulation most of the 8 billion people currently alive would soon be dead as the population reverted to the less than a billion.

    His red herring question is how can we stop the fossil-fuel industry from destroying the life-sustaining systems of the planet . In reality the fossil-fuel industry is the most potent life-sustaining system of the planet. Lets be very very careful about how we replace it with anything better.

  14. AndyF @ 7.27, “most of the 8 billion people currently alive would soon be dead”.

    That is entirely the point…….

  15. I seem to recall that Sir David “Kill-the-plebs” Attenborough’s Optimum Population Trust was talking about a managed global population of about 500 million.

    Remember – You are the carbon they want rid of.

  16. Having had to deal with houses wired up before PVC sheathing was invented, plastics is one of the most life-sustaining inventions in history.

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