Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Global Warming Answer

Jay Bullock wonders why conservatives are so invested in, as he puts it, "denying" global climate change. He wants someone to explain. I'll try.

First, I am not sure that it is correct to say that we "deny global climate change" although some do. It is one thing to observe an increase in global temperatures and even to accept the notion that human activity has something to do with it. It's quite another to buy into Gorean hysteria over what that means and what ought to be done about it. Contrary to Jay's assumption, there is no scientific consensus about that.

Second, I should acknowledge (as I suspect he would) that broad generalizations about what people on the "right" and "left" do and think are only going to be that. But blogging ain't rocket science so let's play.

I might turn Jay's question around. Given a few facts, why are folks on the left so quick to come to the conclusion that everything that we think we know is wrong and that the world as it exists must change dramatically? Jay's comments about the conservative Christians "rejection" of evolution is a case in point. He says that he understands why such folks might embrace "pseudo-science" because "[evolutionary theory's] implications reject the foundation upon which much of their religion is premised: God created the earth and everything on it, and to suggest that human life, which they believe is made in God's image, is a mere accident of biology is quite literally sacrilege."

It is these "implications" that most of us reject. Scientists have proven that evolutionary change exists. They have not proven - and probably never could prove - that life is a "mere accident of biology." Embracing that conclusion, which so many on the secular left believe is an acknowledgment of "scientific truth", is actually an act of faith.

Al Gore's silly movie is an example of this. Starting from the presumption that there is a consensus about the fact that global temperatures have risen and human activity probably has something to do with it, he implies that this consensus includes his dire predictions and extreme (and probably counter-productive) recommendations. The result is ManBearPig.

If I had time for more thumbsucking, I might suggest that these leaps of faith are rooted in a tendency on the part of the left to be skeptical of convention and to, as we reactionaries say, "immanentize the eschaton." But that might be my own kind of overreaching.


James said...

What if global warming is the result of something completely beyond the control of man? It's a big galaxy and we do not have reliable historical data about solar activity.

Anonymous said...

This has been an issue with me since the begining of this debate . . . the left's black and white stance on the issue. Everything is calamity. Disaster. Doom and gloom. There's no middle ground or even an acceptance of the possibility that we might have it wrong.

Articles are now showing up addressing this very issue. The scientists are now saying that what was told to us initially isn't really a "consensus" and that the doom and gloom scenario is wrong. Among the backtracks; the amount of temperature rise over the next decade, the amount of sea level rise in the next decade, and the over all effects of moderate global temperature change. Hmm. Another thing they failed to tell us is that there really isn't anything we can do now that will have an immediate or short term effect on anything . . . if at all. Future benefit is also questionable.

I heard one scientist on a news program (I don't remember who) wonder whether if CO2 levels were actually causing global warming, or is the natural warming trend of the earth causing CO2 levels to rise? He didn't know and said neither does anyone else. I find that incredibly interesting.

There are also reports from other fields of science that want to weigh in. Again, disputing many of the initial claims. Hurricane experts (which are a weather event, not a climate event) oceanographers, volcano experts, astronomers (with regard to the sun and space dust) and geologists (with regard to earthquakes and plate movement). The point here is that it's a broader scope of understanding than what was originally believed. MANY things contribute to global climate. Between the data capabilities, data records, total influence by an obvious many factors, no REAL consensus (that is by everyone in every field of science with influence) and the backtracking that is now occuring . . . clearly there's a possibility of doubt.

Anonymous said...

jimi, what backtracking? Find me someone not on big oil's payroll who denies that human behavior has had an impact on climate over the last century. You can't. They don't exist.

Rick, let me expand on the evolution analogy for a moment, because I think it shows where you diverge from the people I really don't get.

You can write "Scientists have proven that evolutionary change exists" until you're blue in the face, but it doesn't change the fact that a vast swath of Christians in this country deny that--polling consistently shows people reject Darwin, and the teaching of evolution is a constant target all across the country.

You can also write "I am not sure that it is correct to say that we 'deny global climate change' although some do" all you want, as well, but it doesn't change the fact that the conservative political agenda has been to deny it and obstruct every attempt to address the issue. Bush and Cheney didn't get elected on a platform of reducing CO2 emissions and signing on to Kyoto--it was, indeed, the exact opposite. It may not be correct that you deny it, but your commenters do and those you have supported for office do as well.

Mostly, I don't see why this is a left-right issue at all. This is not a case of hippie environmentalists vs. business-school suits. There is a clear scientific consensus, both about what's wrong and about what kinds of things should be done in response. I cannot understand why some--often the most vocal, often the elected ones--conservatives plug their ears and hurl insults at anyone who deviates from their party line.

Rick Esenberg said...

Jay writes that there is a consensus "both about what's wrong and about what kinds of things should be done in response." I don't believe that is the case. If you want someone a respected academic that has recently made that point in the general press, look here. For a recent explication of the way that Gore turns what may be a thin recipe into a prescription for radical environmentalists to run the world, go here. People like jimi aren't calling people names, they are presenting arguments that need to be answered. WeatherBabe (actually not so much)(ed: sexist pig!)Dr. Heidi Cullen wants to blackball dissenters. I don't know about you, Jay, but groupthink makes me nervous.

Anonymous said...

It is the case, Rick, and only those who have something to lose in the debate--like Lindzen--will say otherwise.

Lindzen has been on the payroll of companies with a stake in maintaining the staus quo, and he is famously unwilling to put his money where his mouth is. That the Wall Street Journal will publish him is no evidence that he's not misleading you.

In fact, later that week Andy Rivkin--among the best-regarded science journalists in the business--took the pulse of the climate science community to see if Lindzen was right about the lack of consensus:

[H]as global warming been spun into an "alarmist gale," as Richard S. Lindzen, a climatologist at M.I.T. wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed article?

There is enough static in the air to simultaneously confuse, alarm and paralyze the public. Is global warming now a reality? What do scientists know for sure and when are they just guessing? [. . .]

Between the poles of real-time catastrophe and nonevent lies the prevailing scientific view: without big changes in emissions rates, global warming from the buildup of greenhouse gases is likely to lead to substantial, and largely irreversible, transformations of climate, ecosystems and coastlines later this century.

The rest of the article is worth the read, not only for why Lindzen is wrong that there's not consensus about either the fact of human-caused climate change but also for a sense of what the consensus is for how to combat it.

And for the Cullen story, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you read Mike Plaisted's take.

Dad29 said...

When one actually reads the entire article, Jay, one sees things like this:

Many scientists say that to avoid a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations, energy efficiency must be increased drastically, and soon. And by midcentury, they add, there must be a complete transformation of energy technology. That may be why some environmentalists try to link today's weather to tomorrow's problem. While scientists say they lack firm evidence to connect recent weather to the human influence on climate, environmental campaigners still push the notion.

Or this:

Among its recommendations, the Yale book suggests something radical: drop the reluctance to accept adaptation as a strategy. Adaptation to climate extremes has long been derided by many environmentalists as defeatism. But, the book says, adaptation may help people focus on the reality of what is coming — and that may motivate them to cut emissions to limit chances of bigger changes to come.

Finally, the article is utterly devoid of historical context--unless "history" begins in roughly 1900AD.

No mention of prior similar events, parameters thereof, etc. None.

Anonymous said...

Dad29, those paragraphs are about whether certain trees are in the forest. No one seriously doubts there is a forest, though.

And adaptation means preparing for the results of warming--that paragraph is about focusing instead on prevention. It would be like saying that we have to give every woman a crib instead of making sure men all knew how to use a condom.

Anonymous said...

Backtracking? Well for starters, the IPCC itself.

Another point before I post a few more links . . . if one doesn't think there's a money trail to researchers and research grants, you're living in another galaxy. MANY scientists are on board with universities where all their money comes from us, of course, but through federal and state money paid to support various programs. Including climate research. Yes, big oil has a stake in the issue, and yes, they stand to lose if certain policies are put in to place, and yes as a result they are trying to diminish the (so called threat). I don't deny any of that. Simply, it works the other way as well.

Now, here's some "consensus":

Right from NASA:

To me the point is that global climate is more than just about CO2. There are many factors that influence our climate globally and the main problem with the IPCC reports is that it doesn't address the many other influences. Particularly satellite temperature readings. We have to admit one thing . . . technology has changed immensely in the past several decades. We can certainly question past results on, if nothing else, inaccuracy of the equipment.

Let me draw a comparison. Earthquakes and volcanos. We think we know a lot about them . . . and we do. But we can't predict them for squat. Are they any more or less complex than the climate of the earth? As they are both part of what can influence climate on a vast scale, my guess is that they are at least AS complex as global climate.

I posted this question on another board. For all the alarmists, what do you think will happen in 100 years? If we do warm up by 2 degrees, so what? What if it's for the better?