Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Global Warming Debate Rages On

I know, I know... you're all getting tired of hearing about global warming. But this subject is just too important to let it go. Just like with the Vietnam war, where the mainstream media (MSM) told us one thing, but the truth was something different, you'll think that human activity is solely responsible for global warming if you listen solely to the MSM. While no one here at the LTS is a scientist, and certainly I am not, we remain skeptics (if you haven't already figured that out) on the subject.

It would be so much easier to simply shut up and go along with the mainstream view on this, but I get very suspicous of 'coincidences'. The fact that those who see humans and our capitalistic society as evil and wrong now have this convenient tool to use to try to bring down all that we have built. That is just too coincidental for me. I don't know for sure that global warming isn't caused by human activity, and it seems logical that we contribute to it.

For that matter, if anyone wants to have a discussion on ways to cut the levels of pollutants we put into the environment, I am ready. I want a clean environment as much as anyone, but it should be done in a reasonable and responsible way. To try to shout down opposition to the prevailing view of the causes of global warming, as it seems so many are want to do is irresponsible at the least. To not question the veracity of science is also irresponsible. Many scientists in the field of climate change DO question the veracity of the prevailing view, and part of our purpose here at the LTS is to try to bring those points of view into focus.

Once such view we saw recently supports our skepticism: (Via Greenie Watch)

At a recent global warming conference in Exeter called by UK prime minister Tony Blair, all the usual fears were aired. Yet real debate about climate change seems to be strictly prohibited.

The week before, another conference organised by the Scientific Alliance at London's Royal Institution raised critical questions about the global warming thesis. This time the Royal Society's president Sir Bob May received frontpage coverage for arguing that the event would be biased and dangerous.

'On one hand we have the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change], the rest of the world's major scientific organisations, and the government's chief scientific adviser, all pointing to the need to cut emissions', he wrote. 'On the other we have a small band of sceptics, including lobbyists funded by the US oil industry, a sci-fi writer, and the Daily Mail, who deny the scientists are right. It is reminiscent of the tobacco lobby's attempts to persuade us that smoking does not cause lung cancer. There is no danger this lobby will influence the scientists. But they don't need to. It is the influence on the media that is so poisonous.' (1)

But in fact, those labelled 'sceptics' and those regarded as 'mainstream' actually share much in common. Professor Richard Lindzen of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), usually regarded as a sceptic but also a lead author for the IPCC, agrees that there is consensus among scientists. That consensus is as follows:

1. While there are inconsistencies in the temperature data, it is very likely that the world has got a bit warmer over the past 100 years - 0.6 degrees Celsius, on average, give or take 0.2 degrees either way.

2. That carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the warmer the world will tend to get.

3. That human activity has led to a significant increase in carbon dioxide levels, from 280 parts per million in the centuries before 1750, to 380 parts per million now.

4. Economic trends will tend to further increase carbon dioxide levels - so it is very plausible that the world will get warmer in the coming decades, all other things being equal.

Here is the whole article.


Steve said...

The comparison between tobacco scientists and global warming skeptics is indeeed very apt, considering the fact that the sceptics are vastly outnumbered as well. Skepticism, on the whole is a good thing, but at some point, one has to either yield to authority, or admit to a lack of knowlege on the subject.

I'm glad you're concerned about clean air. For me, this is a more immediate and politically expedient issue. Given the connection between emissions and birth defects, it's hard for me to understand how anyone who wants clean air to vote for Bush, whose policies weaken the Clean Air Act, and asks, ever so politely, for polluters to regulate themselves.

John Pepple said...

Not only does the MSM want no debate about global warming, but there is no call by anyone -- left, center, or right -- for a debate between the environmentalists and the postmodernists. Postmodernists, who can generally be found in the humanities departments of any college or university and who were greatly inspired by Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, believe that science is incapable of discovering the truth about the natural world. If they are right, then obviously all the science showing that global warming is happening is worthless.

Oddly enough, both environmentalists and postmodernists are on the left, even though each party's message contradicts the other's. For those of us outside of both groups, we need to ask environmentalists questions like this: "What do you say about the postmodern critique of science?" "Kuhn has said there are always anomalous facts that don't fit in, so what are these facts in connection with global warming?" The postmodernists need to be asked: "Do you accept global warming as an objective, scientific fact?" If they are consistent, they will say no, after which we ask: "Then why should we change our lifestyles for something that isn't really happening?" And "Why don't you have the integrity to weigh in on this very public debate?"

I, for one, refuse to give up my skepticism about global warming until I see this debate.