The Tourniquet Theory


Matt Ridley's come up with an interesting idea: The Tourniquet Theory. There are times when radical action like wrapping a tourniquet around a limb is a very wise thing indeed to do. Like, say, when the lower part of said limb has been ripped off and your heart is now pumping your life's blood into the dirt. There are other times when it's not so sensible: like applying a tourniquet to the neck in order to control a nosebleed.

This analogy can then be applied to, say, our actions over climate change. Biofuels are the neck type:

The production of biofuels may have led to at least 192,000 additional deaths and 6.7 million additional lost disability-adjusted life years in 2010. These estimates are conservative [and] exceed the World Health Organisation’s estimates of the toll of death and disease for global warming. Thus, policies to stimulate biofuel production, in part to reduce the alleged impacts of global warming on public health, particularly in developing countries, may actually have increased death and disease globally.

Sadly, many more of the things that we're doing seem to be of the neck type as well. For example, wind simply isn't reliable enough to provide the power that we'll need in the future. Even if we covered both the land and the seas with the things we still won't have a reliable electricity generation system. Not using gas on the basis that it's running out also seems to be of the neck, not saving a life, type. For shale gas, frakking, means that once again we've invented a natural resource by advancing technology.

I know that I'm repeating myself yet again when I say that I do think that climate change is a problem, one that we should do something about. But what has me in near despair is that all of the things we are actually doing aren't the right things to be doing. They're very much more like strangling the economy to cure a nosebleed than they are a necessary and vital part of maintaining life.