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Thou Shalt Believe In Global Warming

December 12th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

National leaders from all over the world are meeting in Copenhagen this week to discuss what needs to be done to stave off the impending Climate Catastrophe that threatens billions of lives and could potentially make life uninhabitable on planet Earth unless drastic measures are taken. Faced with such an incredibly dire threat to all of humanity, surely our leaders will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent this unspeakable horror from coming to pass, no matter what the cost. No amount of effort could possibly be too great when faced with such peril. Even if we have to tear down every fossil-fuel generated power-plant and live by candle-light for a few decades until an entirely new global clean-energy grid can be constructed, I’m sure we can all agree that the alternative—total annihilation—would be far worse.

Oh, but what’s that you say? Nobody is suggesting we tear down the fossil-fuel power plants? Okay, then what is the solution to this mind-numbingly serious problem that is being proposed? Wait, this sounds complicated. Explain it to me slowly. We establish a limit for how much CO2 a given polluter can spew into the atmosphere each year. Okay, well that sounds like a start. If CO2 is causing this catastrophic rise in temperatures to occur, then forcing companies to emit less of it is only logical. But wait, you say we aren’t forcing these companies to pollute less? That they can pollute all they want, but if they do so they’ll have to pay for permission slips called ‘carbon-credits’ to go beyond the limit, and that these permission slips can be bought and sold and traded? You mean like Credit-Default Swaps and Collateralized Debt Obligations, the fantasy-paper-money financial products that led to the global economic crisis?

Well gee, that sounds like a great idea…I guess the Climate Crisis is solved. I guess we can all go home now.

*heavy sigh*

So if you’re like me and you like for things to make sense, you might be a little flabbergasted by this whole Climate Change issue. On the one hand we’ve got Al Gore and an army of liberals shouting that this is the greatest threat that humanity has faced since the dawn of civilization. On the other hand we’ve got conspiracy theorists and wingnuts claiming that it’s all a big hoax designed to set up a Global Socialist Fascist World Government. And in between you’ve got Energy Companies, Wall Street Executives, and politicians all scheming for how they can exploit this issue to their own maximum benefit. Somehow, when you add all of that together, we get “cap-and-trade”.

Wait, am I forgetting anyone? I feel like I’m leaving something out. No, I mentioned Al Gore. I covered Wall Street. Who else is involved in this? Oh yeah—scientists. I forgot about the scientists.

So what do the scientists say? According to Al Gore, every single one of them agrees that the earth’s temperature is rising more rapidly than ever before thanks to CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel power plants…what? They don’t all agree on that? But I distinctly remember reading an article about how every person with a college-education knows with 100% certainty that Global Warming is a result of human activity, and that anyone who disagrees is an idiot who also thinks the earth is flat. Right?

Okay, after doing a little research it now appears to be the case that while everyone agrees that the Earth’s temperature is rising, many scientists actually think this has much more to do with the sun than with CO2 emissions, and that capping those emissions really won’t have any affect at all.

Well now I’m really confused. I thought we all knew for certain that Global Warming was manmade. After all, Sarah Palin says it’s not true, and since everything Sarah Palin says is a lie, then ipso facto it must be true. Right? Seriously, Sarah Palin and a bunch of conservative full-of-shit politicians can’t possibly have it right while all of my favorite liberal bloggers and commentators have it wrong. If that were the case my whole world would just implode in on itself.

Shit, now I’m really losing it. Somebody, anybody, please prove to me that Global Warming is manmade! I can’t handle the doubt! The more I think about it, the stronger the doubt becomes. The idea that global warming really isn’t manmade and that people like Al Gore are only insisting it is to profit from it is just too easy to believe. I mean, Al Gore seems like a nice guy and all, but what has he ever done to earn my complete trust? Doesn’t it make sense, given all that potential profit that could be made through the new “green economy” that many people would have a very real financial interest in promoting the idea that Global Warming is manmade? And doesn’t it just seem to fit all too perfectly, considering how our proposed “solution” to the problem is the creation of a carbon-credits market for Wall Street to feed on and grow even fatter and more powerful?

Hey, hold on! Why all the sudden vitriol and name-calling? I’m just asking questions, people! Suddenly I’m a “flat-earther” or even worse, a “denier” like I’m some kind of neo-Nazi who refuses to believe the Holocaust really happened. I just want to know the truth is all. I’m not saying Global Warming isn’t manmade, I’m just saying that nobody has convinced me of that yet.

Okay, thanks for lowering your voice. You’ll explain it to me. Good. So CO2 traps heat, right? So the more CO2 we pump into the atmosphere, the hotter the earth will become, and if it gets too hot, there will be irreversible damage to the ecosystem. Thank you, that makes sense. Simple. Logical. Something we learned way back in grade school.

But allow me to play devil’s advocate for just one second…hold on, let me just…it’s just for one second, okay? Because I also read that CO2 makes up only 0.03% of the earth’s atmosphere, that water vapor is far more prevalent and actually traps more heat, that there is a definite correlation between the sun’s energy output and earth’s temperature, that CO2 levels in the atmosphere have always gone up over a period of about 800 years after a rise in earth’s temperature, that CO2’s ability to trap heat actually follows a logarithmic curve rather than a straight line anyway and that it’s already absorbing the maximum level of heat it can…okay, I see I’ve lost you.

My point is, every “Global Warming Is Not Manmade” article I read is filled with facts and figures and sciency-sounding-stuff, while every “Global Warming Is To Manmande” article just seems to be name-calling and insults directed at those who aren’t convinced. They are so completely sure that they’re right that they don’t seem to think they need to bother convincing anyone. If I don’t believe it, I’m just a willfully blind ignoramus who deserves to drown when the sea levels rise.

But I don’t not-believe it. Lots of very smart people say it’s true, there’s a legitimate scientific basis to support the claim that global warming is manmade, and according to most sources it seems that most scientists agree that we are causing it. But forgive me if I don’t consider “Most scientists believe it” to be conclusive proof of anything. There was a time, after all, when most scientists believed that the sun revolved around the earth, that everything was composed of four basic elements, and that all mental and physical problems were caused by an imbalance of the bodily humors.

Yes, our techniques for acquiring information are much better now, but they’re not perfect, especially when it comes to a system as complex as the earth’s atmosphere. And if you read about global-warming from any purely scientific, non-biased source, you’ll hear the same thing: “We think this is the case, but we don’t know.”

And that’s the only reasonable conclusion anyone can draw here. Those on the left side of the political spectrum, where I reside comfortably when it comes to most issues, have set up Global Warming as something akin to a religion. They can’t possibly have conducted experiments themselves, so every one of them are relying only on what they’ve read, just as religious people rely on Scripture to justify their beliefs. Nobody has ever seen God, just as no liberal has ever proved the correlation between CO2 emissions and Global Warming, but they absolutely believe with every bone in their body that They Are Right. And when convinced of their own Rightness, both religious people and the proponents of Manmade Global Warming will see anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs as an infidel, a blind ignorant fool, one of the damned.

Perhaps my philosophical training has done me a disservice here. To me, the most interesting area of epistemology, the Theory of Knowledge, is the question of whether and to what extent our beliefs are volitional. Basically, to what degree are our beliefs chosen by us? Naturally, some beliefs are more volitional than others. For example, I can’t decide whether or not to believe that there is a computer in front of me—there is overwhelming direct evidence to suggest that there is. But the less evidence you have, the more room there is for volition. That’s why whether or not one believes in God is usually a result of choice.

The fact is, even the scientists who support the idea that Global Warming is manmade will admit that they aren’t sure. So nobody knows with any certainty if it is or it isn’t. Which means that it’s open to everyone whether or not to choose to believe in it. Liberals choose to believe it because it fits in with the rest of their worldview, while conservatives choose not to believe it because that fits in more closely with theirs.

Personally, I like to withhold my judgment on any factual matter until I feel I have conclusive evidence one way or another. That’s why I’m an agnostic when it comes to God, and why even though I really really want to believe that Global Warming is manmade (it fits in so well with my misanthropic, pessimistic worldview) I just can’t accept that conclusion unless someone makes a convincing case that acknowledges and successfully rebuts all of the reasons for doubting I mentioned above. Perhaps someone has, but I haven’t found it. I might be able to find it, but I’d have to look really really hard first.

So my critique is essentially this: if you want everyone to agree that Global Warming is manmade, stop being so damned condescending to those of us who aren’t convinced yet and start talking facts and evidence. I’m inherently skeptical of religion, so if you stop acting like devout followers of a religion, then maybe I won’t be so skeptical. It’s reasonable to believe that CO2 emissions are causing Global Warming, but it’s also entirely conceivable that we’ve all been duped by wealthy elites who see this whole thing as an enormous untapped source of potential profits (which it is) and that they have therefore inflated the idea of the threat so that we all go along with it. It wouldn’t be the first time the masses have been deceived for the benefit of the elites. Religion has served that very role for centuries.

But if it is true, if humanity is facing its own potential extinction due to the carbon it’s emitting into the atmosphere, we’d all better fucking do something about it before it’s too late. Something a little more drastic than “cap-and-trade”. But as long as this whole thing is just another big Right vs. Left Battle Royale in which facts and evidence take a back-seat to pre-existing ideological preferences, then we’re not going to get anywhere, and before you know it we’ll all be living in wooden huts at high elevations, arguing over who we should blame.

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