Sunday, August 05, 2007

One more rant on Global Warming

Here's the conclusion I have come to re the whole global warming debate. The earth is warming, indisputably. CO2 concentrations probably make the warming somewhat warmer still. And then warmth begets higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations as it comes out of ocean-water solution.

At this point the science takes a back seat to the other agendas. Who is to say that warmth is worse than cooling? More people die because of cold weather than warm weather. Who is to say that warming is more important than any other widespread problem that we face? The answer to the 'who' questions keeps bringing me back to people who are against economic development on principle, who believe that the earth would be a better place if all these filthy people were not on it, and those who believe that their rules for how people should live trump any individual's preferences. The kind of people who would scratch a large SUV with a key to show their disapproval.

There are legitimate environmental / public health issues which get little debate, and no publicity. Malaria would be the best example; water and air quality in developing countries ought to be next. But it is reminiscent of why AIDS gets more funding than breast cancer, or prostate cancer -- the public is influenced by a vocal campaign that makes us take action to prove that we care, even if we don't know why we care about this issue compared to the others that we might care about. We get 'guilted'.

The heat balance in the earth's atmosphere, and the relative impacts of CO2 vs water vapour vs solar radiation vs ocean temperatures vs whatever else we might consider, are still poorly understood. The satellite and radiosonde temperature trends still agree with each other better than they agree with the surface records, and it is only the surface records that show much heating. I question even the basic surface records, as many surface temperatures are now being taken in the proximity of air conditioning units. Here is a link that shows an extreme example, but one that is far from unique. Or this one: Check out more at

So when we hear of record temperatures being set, recognize the source of the temperature data. Then ask why someone isn't removing these second rate measurements before telling us that the trends are unmistakable and we have to take drastic action.

My own opinion? GW has become a religion. There are believers and non-believers, and the debate that we experience is a religious debate between fanatics and heretics.

As a society, we have limited resources, and unlike Shiites taking on Sunnis, it matters to me personally when industrial policies and tax systems are changed as a result of this religious debate. The precautionary principle, so often invoked at this point in the discussion, works on the assumption that the matter in question in unmistakably the most important one to be addressed. When we are being asked to lower our standard of living, the consequences will be real at the individual family level. And for me, the evidence both about the extent of the warming AND about the implications for our planet does not justify any extreme action. I don't believe that warming is even a bad thing, taken on balance.

I always ask the Greenpeace people the same question: is it morally right, or morally wrong, to give people the opportunity to live longer lives? Then I ask what has led to our increased lifespan in the past three generations, and how they would decide which people on the planet should be denied the same opportunity. In the end, the debate comes down to whether mankind should look out for himself on the planet, or look out for the planet at the expense of himself.

End of rant.

1 comment:

Kobayashi Maru said...

Amen, brother! You nailed it.

Given all you've said (and I agree with it), the question then turns to how one 'de-programs' an entire society from a religion that's both demonstrably false and demonstrably dangerous to both adherents and non-adherents.... which kinda reminds me of another problem we've got over there in the Middle East.

But I digress. :)