Thursday, April 2, 2009

Accepting Global Warming

If there is one thing that all conservatives agree on, it is that the theory of manmade global warming is a myth. It’s all hype perpetuated by overzealous environmentalists who want to impose their nigh religious environmental hysteria on everyone. All the scientific claims supporting global warming are part of a giant hoax to spread fear about the health of the earth. But conservatives are not fooled.

In reality, they are fooling themselves. Global warming is happening, and people are responsible. (Not solely responsible, of course, but humanity’s actions have a large impact). Whatever conservatives believe about global warming (their narrative varies) is wrong.

Conservatives can’t seem to keep their story straight regarding global warming. Sometimes it’s that the earth isn’t warming at all (“it hasn’t warmed in ten years!”), other times it’s that it is but we aren’t responsible (“natural cycles”), and sometimes that humanity’s carbon emissions are insignificant compared to other sources of carbon dioxide (“cows/volcanoes/some other non-manmade cause emits way more carbon dioxide than humans do”!).

This inability to decide on a narrative doesn’t say much for the scientific rigor of the anti-global warming side. Those who disagree with the theory of global warming seem willing to seize on any possible interpretation of the available data, as long as it fits one of their theories. Even if the theories contradict each other (the earth’s temperatures can’t be holding steady and rising due to global warming at the same time), climate change deniers just try to accept both.

The “natural cycles” theory is the most common among global warming opponents, since it’s pretty clear that the earth has been warming and if humans are causing global warming, worrying about alternate sources of carbon dioxide emissions (like volcanoes or cows) is beside the point.

The natural cycles theory has two very large weak points. The first is that even if we are in a natural warming cycle, human activity could still have a hand in global warming. Human activity could very well be warming the earth, even if it is already in a warming cycle.

Also, there isn’t really any real evidence to suggest that we are in a warming cycle. It’s a possibility, but simply proposing alternate hypotheses doesn’t prove anything at all. There has to be some evidence backing it up, and there is precious little evidence to back up this theory.

The rest of the anti-global warming arguments are even worse. The weakest goes that since some scientists predicted global cooling during the seventies, and were wrong then, then all those scientists predicting global warming must be wrong now. This is pretty flimsy reasoning, especially since there were very few scientists at any time who seriously suggested that the planet was cooling.

Another idea is that since so many global warming advocates undeniably see preventing climate change as more of a religion than anything else, then climate change must be wrong. Of course, this doesn’t alter the scientific arguments at all, and is a simple ad hominem attack.

The case for global warming is simple, and logical. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means it traps heat from the sun. Human activity has increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by a significant amount since the Industrial Revolution. Over that time, earth’s temperatures have risen. The reasoning seems conclusive.

Most scientists agree, since there really is a consensus about global warming. Ever wonder why anti-global warming people advertise every single scientist that agrees with them, no matter how sketchy his credentials (does the founder of Weather Channel really qualify as an expert on climate?), while those who believe in climate change seem to have every scientist in the world on their side?

That’s because almost every scientist believes, to some degree or another, in manmade global warming. And unless there is a massive conspiracy to promote global warming, or every scrap of scientific data is being reading wholly incorrectly, then the scientific world’s belief in climate change is an indicator of whom the science favors in this argument.

If people are causing global warming, that fact doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone must wholly agree with Al Gore on everything. For myself, I believe that global warming is an inevitable part of human development, and that we would be better served by planning for a world in which global warming is a reality, instead of futilely trying to prevent it. But wherever one stands on this issue, ignoring the science and clinging to a ridiculous idea that global warming isn’t happening serves no one.


At April 3, 2009 at 9:54 PM , Blogger kerrjac said...

Thanks for the post. I think I'd fit the bill as a conservative who doesn't believe in global warming, & who doesn't know much of the science behind it either. I'd love to be better informed, tho allow me to state some of my skepticisms.

Firstly, the evidence really isn't on us to disprove global warming, it's on environmentalists to thoroughly prove it. That's just not how science works. Poking holes in criticisms against a theory in no way suggests that the theory is correct.

"The case for global warming is simple, and logical."

Most theories are (take communism). But that doesn't make them correct. Not by a long shot.

Science is an imperfect undertaking. There have been many instances where scientific results seemed very straightforward & concrete, but ended being quite wrong. A concrete example relates to the treatment of cholesterol, as it's looking like African American's may have higher baselines of where cholesterol levels place them at risk. In other words, millions of African Americans have likely been prescribed statins unnecessarily.
(see, for more).

Of course, in no way does that disprove man-made global warming, but it's just an instance where the science seemed so straightforward, but it actually wasn't. Oftentimes, there are simply alternative explanations, which appear so clear, but only in retrospect. One rather strong alternative hypothesis to man-made global warming relate to sunspot cycles.

A final point is that proposed responses to so called man made global warming - or at least those that seem like they'd be effective - are rather drastic by anyone's standards. Which is to say that before we act, we need to be absolutely certain that, 1st, it is a man-made problem, & 2nd, attempts to remedy it will be effective. This might sound obvious, but it bears repeating: we need to be really really sure before proposing such a heavy burden on the economy. Poor people the most depend on the economy. We're placing their lives at stake. The latter is quite clear, more clear than man-made global warming.

At April 4, 2009 at 6:12 AM , Blogger Beth said...

I am skepical as well because it seems to me that the people cramming it down our throats are either looking to profit from it, or they are into globalization and this is a way to get Americans thinking that way (that we need to work together as a global community to fix this problem, and then since we did that together let's fix the ecomony together, then what will be next and how much of our sovereignty are we giving away to do this?)

At April 4, 2009 at 8:04 AM , Blogger BB-Idaho said...

The scientific consensus is that there is a global warming trend (Kerrjac, the sunspot cyle is taken into consideration in the modeling). Most scientists think as well that it is anthropogenic.
The consensus is less well defined
concerning the rate and effect of the phenomenon, and even less on what actions are required to stabilize and reverse..or if that can even be done. Nor is the study complete, we learn more every day.
Take that current state of scientific understanding and throw it to the politicians and the perceptions become skewed, amplified, inverted, marketed.
So, depending on our politics, we
view the science as flawed...or not.

At April 13, 2009 at 11:46 AM , Blogger Z-man said...

I've always said the Goracle might, might have the smidgeon of a point. All I know is that up here in Westchester County New York we haven't had ice-skating on ponds and lakes in practically years, used to be the norm. I'm open to the idea more because I miss my winter sports and know something's up. Gore turns people off however, could've used another spokesman imo.

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