As regular readers will know, the precautionary principle is a prime element in Envirostatist rhetoric. For example, it justifies a Luddite opposition to genetically engineered plants, and encourages a reflexive support of the Kyoto treaty. The fact that “golden rice” could eliminate beriberi as a disease, for free, is irrelevant. The risk posed by
global warming climate change is said to be so great that no preventive expenditure is too large. Failure to act could mean extinction of all life.
However, by estimation of its proponents, the Kyoto Protocols might reduce
global warming climate change in the year 2100 by two-tenths°C (from 2.1°C to 1.9°C) – at a cost of a trillion dollars. It is argued that the enormity of the risk justifies the expense, despite the fact that the prediction, and its mitigation, rely on computer models which – beyond even their serious methodological deficiencies and “plugged” data – cannot even “predict” past climate change given certain knowledge of the variables.
The precautionary principle seeks to convince you, ipso facto, that the absolute minimization of risk is desirable. It pays no attention to the costs. The idea is that you should be allowed to live a zero risk life. Strike that, you must be forced to live a risk free life.
This is mistaken. Had we followed the precautionary principle throughout history, we would have forgone, for example, fire, penicillin, electricity, the wheel, internal combustion and aspirin. None of these technologies are risk-free.
Following the precautionary principle results in conclusions such as this: Since the
global warming climate change threat is so serious, we must ban incandescent light bulbs because they are less efficient than Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs. Carbon dioxide production must be reduced, or we will all become bit-players dying in a movie imagined by Al Gore.
So, do you prefer incandescent light-bulbs to CFL bulbs? Too bad. Incandescents have been banned through the efforts of “environmental lobbyists” and, specifically, the corporatist whores at General Electric.
This has come to pass despite the fact that CFLs contain mercury in sufficient amounts to cause the Feds to tell you to clear the room for 15 minutes if you break one; while leaving the windows open. Used CFLs present a mercury pollution problem for our landfills far beyond that of dry cell batteries, and infinitely larger than incandescent bulbs*.
Now, we find out that you should not have a CFL near your head, as you might do if you were reading, because CFLs give off toxic chemicals while intact and in normal use.
“They should not be used in unventilated areas and definitely not in the proximity of the head,” because a fog of carcinogens is generated when they are on.
Where is the precautionary principle when you need it? Well, it isn’t about risk, it’s about power.
*Apparently, the tungsten lobby wasn’t up to the challenge.