I’ve been trading E-…
I’ve been trading E-mails with a reader recently (not naming him for now; don’t think that’s particularly relevant) on the topic of global warming. He noted my glib remarks about Al Gore’s global warming speech and took me to task on them. I’ll admit they were rather glib, but then I noted to him that I’ve covered this topic more meaningfully on a number of occasions, most notably:

  • Two NY Times stories declaring that Alaska is both melting and freezing
  • The well documented Pacific Decadal Oscillation
  • The shrinking of the Antarctic ozone hole (and lack of reporting thereof)
  • The observation by the Wall Street Journal that those predicting global warming used to be predicting global cooling
  • A study noting that the claims by environmentalists (that this is the warmest weather in the past 1,000 years and that it is producing the most extreme weather, both hot and cold) are false, and that it was warmer in the Middle Ages than it is now.
  • A study reported by NASA showing that sunspot activity is a large factor in earth temperatures. My favorite line from this study is that there was such global warming in the 980s that the Vikings were able to settle the thawed-out coast of Greenland and even harvest wheat.

This reader’s points boiled down to the idea that we simply have no possible way of knowing if or how global warming is going to affect us, so we should act. He compared reaction to Iraq to reaction to warming; “You can’t logically conclude that war with Iraq was justified and conclude that acting to stop global warming is not. Both have the same degree of certainty – which is none.” He’s said that we didn’t know for certain that Hussein had WMDs; “You don’t know for sure that Saddam was going to somehow attack us with WMDs, or give them to terrorists, despite the events of 9/11. These were unproven risks, that no one can accurately ascertain.” And yet we did go into Iraq not knowing for certain what would happen. Therefore, we should do the same for global warming.

If, by his suggestion, there is absolutely no scientific certainty that global warming is either man-made or reversible by man, yet he still wants to pass drastic legislation to “deal” with it, there’s a million other theories that have no certainty either that I’m sure are waiting in the wings to get legislation passed for their pet concern. The chance of their being aliens preparing to obliterate us has the same degree of certainty – which is none.

The comparison to the war in Iraq is particularly wrong. The fact is that having used them on his own people, it is certainly not an unproven risk that Saddam would use them on foreigners intent on removing him from power. Therefore, at least logically, the concerns about the war in Iraq had a bit more than a 0% degree of certainty, to say nothing of the many Republicans and Democrats (liberals tend to forget about that) that proclaimed with differing degrees of certainty that Hussein had them.

Frankly, he had quite a number of good points to make, especially regarding the multiple personalities the Bush administration has had on this topic. He’s certainly done his homework, and more so than I have, to be honest. But while he made references to the affects of global warming, I don’t think the case is there to say that man is doing it and that man can reverse it. Warming may in fact be occurring. Even the studies that I cite show that it is, but those studies show that it’s part of a natural process (actually, a complex combination of a number of natural processes) that man has not altered much, if at all, and hence cannot effectively, if at all, reverse.

I appreciate his acknowledging that scientists said 30 years ago that the earth was cooling, but he’s quick to pass on by that and say that they think differently now, and that doesn’t do much for my confidence in their predictive powers. If we’d started acting on global cooling in the 70s, what upheaval might we have caused economically only to hear them say, “Oops. Turn around; we meant to go that way”?

What would it take to change my mind? For starters, a much higher degree of certainty than “none”. We’ve been there and I’m glad we didn’t take the bait.

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