He is so convinced of the moral and intellectual supremacy of people like himself that he makes no effort to prove that there is a linkage between human progress and liberal enlightenment ideas. He takes that for granted. His method in the book is to offer lot of data on human progress (which he could have easily collected by using a team of researchers) in a certain area, throw in some cliched sentences on reason and humanism, and then have a discussion of the liberal views on the same area. But by merely presenting the data on progress alongside the liberal talking points one does not establish a correlation between the two.
This blog is on Pinker’s advocacy of the Global Warming/Climate Change agenda which is dear to the modern liberals. So I will go directly to the Chapter 10, “Environmentalism,” in which Pinker asserts that he is a supporter of enlightened environmentalism.
Here’s an excerpt:
Whenever we burn wood, coal, oil, or gas, the carbon in the fuel is oxidized to form carbon dioxide, which wafts into the atmosphere. Though some of the CO2 dissolves in the ocean, chemically combines with rocks, or is taken up by photosynthesizing plants, these natural sinks cannot keep up with the 38 billion tons we dump into the atmosphere each year. As gigatons of carbon laid down during the Carboniferous Period have gone up in smoke, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen from about 270 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution to more than 400 parts today. Since CO2, like the glass in a greenhouse, traps heat radiating from the earth’s surface, the global average temperature has risen as well, by about .8° Celsius. The atmosphere has also been warmed by the clearing of carbon-eating forests and by the release of methane from leaky gas wells, melting permafrost, and the orifices at both ends of cattle. It could become warmer still in a runaway feedback loop if white, heat-reflecting snow and ice are replaced by dark, heat-absorbing land and water, if the melting of permafrost accelerates, and if more water vapor (yet another greenhouse gas) is sent into the air.
If the emission of greenhouse gases continues, the earth’s average temperature will rise to at least 1.5°C above the preindustrial level by the end of the 21st century, and perhaps to 4°C above that level or more. That will cause more frequent and more severe heat waves, more floods in wet regions, more droughts in dry regions, heavier storms, more severe hurricanes, lower crop yields in warm regions, the extinction of more species, the loss of coral reefs (because the oceans will be both warmer and more acidic), and an average rise in sea level of between 0.7 and 1.2 meters from both the melting of land ice and the expansion of seawater. Low-lying areas would be flooded, island nations would disappear beneath the waves, large stretches of farmland would no longer be arable, and millions of people would be displaced. The effects could get still worse in the 22nd century and beyond, and in theory could trigger upheavals such as a diversion of the Gulf Stream (which would turn Europe into Siberia) or a collapse of Antarctic ice sheets. A rise of 2°C is considered the most that the world could reasonably adapt to, and a rise of 4°C, in the words of a 2012 World Bank report, “simply must not be allowed to occur.”Pinker wants his readers to blindly accept that rising levels of CO2 is responsible for Global Warming or Climate Change. But what is the proof? CO2 levels have been rising and falling on this planet before human beings even evolved. For instance, in the Jurassic Period, the CO2 levels were much higher. But Pinker is alarmed by the present levels of CO2 and he calls for all kinds of coercive measures, including the policy of carbon pricing, which entails “charging people and companies for the damage they do when they dump their carbon into the atmosphere.”