Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Global Warming Catch 22

Whichever way you look at it, you can't win with Global Warming.

Scientists seem to agree right now that human beings are responsible for the current increasing trend in world temperatures. And this scientific consensus has spurred Europe (and to a lesser degree, the US) into action. (Well, not into action, but into talking about action). Now, hypothetically, suppose this green rhetoric does indeed become green action - and we do avert the worst of climate change by the middle of the century. Suppose we do save the planet from the doomsday predictions of current scientists by timely action.

There's this old question that people associate with Erwin Schrodinger. If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody's around, does it make a sound? Is a fact a fact if no one observes it happen?

And similarly, if our actions do stop the planet from warming - but we can't ever prove comprehensively that they did - then was the planet warming in the first place? What's to stop some Rush Limbaugh's grandson from going and pontificating on air that global warming was an evil hoax perpetrated by the jealous developing world on America? After all, any global warming control plan is likely to force stringent caps on the emissions of the developed world, not the developing world (because the poor countries don't emit much per-capita). It is very likely that a successful anti-global warming campaign will get a more skeptical government in place in developed countries. And pollution will start again.

On the other hand, suppose we do what is likely: almost nothing. We talk a lot about reducing emissions, but we don't do anything, because a reduction in standard of living for the west is utterly unacceptable to its democratic voters. We don't stop the planet from warming. Whatever is left of the planet will regret listening to Limbaugh's nonsense. No one wins.


My stand on Climate Change

What do you think scientists would do if they were sure that the planet was warming because of human emissions? They would sit down together and form a huge committee and unanimously agree that is indeed happening. That's what they have done. The IPCC report.

To me, based on our current state of the art knowledge, it seems very probable that human carbon emissions are responsible for climate change.

Not one peer reviewed publication argues that the planet is not warming because of man. How many peer reviewed papers argue that tadpoles are human? None! How many peer reviewed papers argue that heat flows from cool areas to warm areas? None.

If you are skeptical of climate change, you are in essence arguing that the current process of peer review is fatally flawed. You are also arguing that the entire scientific community is governed by agendas of developing nations. A ludicrous notion.

If you have a fundamental reason to have such revolutionary philosophical stands, then you need listening to. Perhaps you're the next Einstein.

But if you have these stands just because you blindly agree with the simple minded incentive system that Rush Limbaugh (or James Inhoffe) are trying to sell, then your opinion is not your own. You're an impediment to progress - just like one of those Popes who imprisoned Galileo.

Faith in science is not blind faith. Faith in science is faith in human skepticism.


Anonymous said...

What you are missing is the motivation behind the climatologists. Lets see we have an entire community of research scientists who are dependent on grants and government spending in order to keep working. If their findings indicated that in fact the earth's climate has been changing dramatically for billions of years and will continue to do so regardless of how many billions of dollars we flush down the toilet of cap and trade how much money do you think they would get? Just like Bush used terrorism fear to fund his war in Iraq, climateologists use global warming fears to fund themselves. If there is no crisis, there is no money. Heck even Al Gore's mentor who invented the idea of global warming renounced it before he died and Al Gore convienently brushed that away. Not a single short term prediction of what will happen has actually taken place. the climate is cooling and when the evidence contradicts them they come up with a study that says "hey no matter what we do we won't make a difference for a thousand years so keep giving us money but sorry, you won't be able to tell if it works". There is one thing I trust more than scientist coming up with research that proves they deserve more money to do more research. Try common sense. If it looks like a pig, smells like a pig, it probably is a pig. The world will warm, and then the world will cool and humans could never do a dang thing about (except waste money and ruin economies).

Rap said...

What you are doubting here is the integrity of our ENTIRE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY.

Even if there were a funding incentive system (I doubt it) for climatologists to claim that the world is warming up, it is clearly not adequate to explain the fact that NOT ONE PEER REVIEWED PUBLICATION exists in literature today which says otherwise.

Arguments about the inaccuracy of short term weather predictions do not hold water primarily because weather is a chaotic dynamical system. One can always say that June will be warmer than January, but cannot say much about the second week of January in comparison with the first week of January.

The funding incentive system, again, is not clear to me. Because there's a lot of money in making fuel-guzzling automobiles. A lot of money in making coal power plants. The industry lobby has got a lot of ridiculous things passed. Tough to imagine a bunch of scientists being influenced more by lobbyists. But one can see an incentive system for scientists to argue that the planet is NOT warming. Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Shell are among the world's richest corporations.

Of course, to really appreciate climate change, one must understand why it is happening. The physics in simple enough to be trivial; the evidence backs it up overwhelmingly.

robbieclarken.com said...

Hi Rap,

There are actually many peer reviewed articles that question whether human activity is the main cause of global warming. See here for example: http://petesplace-peter.blogspot.com/2008/04/peer-reviewed-articles-skeptical-of-man.html.

Also, surveys suggest that "only" 80% of Earth scientists believe that humans are causing global warming.

While I agree that there is "a consensus" regarding anthropogenic climate change, it is wrong to suggest that there aren't any reputable scientists who disagree with this theory.

Rap said...

I suppose whenever one makes sweeping statement (like I did when I said that there is a 100% consensus in peer reviewed literature that warming is happening), one is asking for it. I was quoting Gore's movie, a non peer reviewed source in good faith.

I thank robbieclarken for posting the link. Nothing like good, solid facts to shut a loudmouth up, eh?

This, however, does not reduce the import of my argument - since getting 80% of scientists to agree on something is no mean achievement