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Global Warming Clarification

December 13th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

For the record, I do believe that humans are responsible for the dangerous rate of global warming that the earth is currently undergoing. The point of my last entry was not to cast doubt on the science or call into question the scientific consensus that exists on the issue, but merely to acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons to doubt, and that advocates of fixing the climate problem are making a mistake to dismiss them.

I suppose my point got lost in all the snark, but I was only making a comment on the nature of the debate at this point. Since the 2007 IPCC report on climate change was released, proponents of the proposition that global warming is manmade have simply declared that the debate is over, the verdict is in, and that if you don’t accept it they’re not even going to bother trying to convince you anymore. And perhaps that’s an understandable attitude, but it’s not the right attitude if you really want to move things forward. Polls are showing that the number of people who doubt that global warming is manmade is actually growing, not shrinking, so clearly you’re doing something wrong. You can’t just dismiss nearly half of the entire population as willfully blind fools. To be fair, a great deal of them are exactly that, but it’s a disservice to your cause when you lump everyone who has doubts into the same category.

I compared the belief that global warming is manmade to a religion, because I do think that many liberals actually treat it as such. They may have a lot more evidence to support their claims than the followers of religion, but they treat their conclusions more like Absolute Truth than the result of the scientific process, which itself is all about questioning and re-questioning your conclusions. I was completely convinced that global warming was manmade until it seemed that everybody suddenly declared that the debate was over. That naturally made me suspicious. Really? The debate is over? You’re not even going to entertain alternative theories anymore? Maybe I should take a look at what these alternative theories are…

The people who are putting forth these other theories, meanwhile, are being labeled “deniers”, the same word they use for people who don’t believe the Holocaust really happened. Anyone who expresses any doubt on the matter gets leapt on and attacked by those on the left, accused of being shills for big corporations or worse. Many of them may be exactly that, but again, you shouldn’t lump all your opponents into the same category. That makes me suspicious too. Why won’t you just examine the merits of what they’re actually saying? Give a scientific counter-argument to their scientific arguments instead of just dismissing them as a corporate shill. If you won’t argue in terms of facts and evidence, then the only facts and evidence I have before me is that offered by the skeptic. Yes, the IPCC report is there for all to read, but if you really want to help your cause you’ll refer to it, cite it, quote it, use it however you can to counter the argument being made. But if you just dismiss it right away, I start to think that there might be something to it.

Finally, when you’ve framed this issue as one of the biggest threats to humanity and future generations, when you characterize the situation as a dire crisis that requires drastic and immediate action, why is the solution you are advocating something as pathetic and transparently profit-motivated as cap-and-trade? Introducing a financial incentive to cut emissions is logical, but will we really be cutting emissions or merely the profits of energy companies? And if energy companies want to offset the cost of these carbon credits, couldn’t they just…say…raise the price of energy? They may take a few half-hearted measures to cut their emissions for PR purposes, but at the end of the day they’re going to keep polluting because polluting is what they do. Making pollution more expensive will just make energy more expensive—it won’t stop global warming, not by a long shot.

And naturally, with this whole new carbon-credit market Wall Street will have a whole new bag of goodies to speculate on, overvalue, buy and sell and inflate and get super-rich from. They want this climate legislation more than anyone, and that makes me more suspicious than anything else.

The point is, from the perspective of a layman who doesn’t want to go crusading without some degree of certainty that the crusade is necessary, there are too many WTF-aspects of this climate debate to feel sure of oneself at all. That’s the problem I was highlighting, and the solution I was suggesting is A) to stop treating Global Warming like a religion and attacking everyone who has doubts, and B) if you really believe in your cause, don’t just sit-back and accept this bullshit cap-and-trade deal. Keep referring to the facts, and insist on a solution to the problem that takes those facts into account.

One more point—my cousin mentioned “climate-gate” in the comments, referring to the incident in which e-mails circulated among a few climatologists revealed that they were willing to fudge data in order to support their pre-existing conclusion that global warming is anthropogenic. I think this is just another instance of the right-wing blowing something hugely out of proportion and drawing conclusions that don’t follow from the evidence. The fact that we know some scientists are unethical does not entail that all scientists are unethical. That logic is so simple even a four-year-old could grasp it. But conservatives have leapt all over this story and declared the debate has ended in their favor with just as much unjustified self-assurance as the liberals who have declared that the debate has ended in theirs.

Finally, I should say that even if I have my doubts about the degree to which global warming is manmade, I absolutely do not believe we should do nothing about it, or that we shouldn’t act until we know for certain. If we’re going to err, it should be on the side of minimizing our environmental impact. If you ask whether human activity is destroying the planet, I’d be the first to say “yes, of fucking course we are.” Deforestation, over-fishing, damming up rivers, dumping waste into the ocean—we are absolutely on the fast-track to destroying ourselves. I’m just not as sure about the climate thing, for reasons I hope I’ve made clear. But this entry has only been about the debate, not the issue itself. When it comes to what I think we should do about the issue, I absolutely think we have to do something whether we’re sure about the science or not.

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