Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Anthropogenic Global Warming: Separating Scientific Fact from Political Ideology

One of the best and most balanced articles I have read on the issue of Anthropogenic Global Warming recently is in the National Review Online by Kevin Williamson.

He proposes the following propositions, in “ascending order of unlikeliness”:
  1. The planet is getting warmer.
  2. The planet is getting warmer, and human activity is the reason.
  3. The planet is getting warmer, human activity is a main factor, and the consequences will be catastrophic.
  4. The planet is getting warmer, human activity is a main factor, the consequences will be catastrophic, and some U.N.-style climate policeman is going to be able to manage a mitigating response.
  5. The planet is getting warmer, human activity is a main factor, the consequences will be catastrophic, and some U.N.-style climate policeman is going to be able to manage a mitigating response — in an economically efficient manner.
  6. The planet is getting warmer, human activity is a main factor, the consequences will be catastrophic, and some U.N.-style climate policeman is going to be able to manage a mitigating response — in an economically efficient manner that also is consistent with our political liberties and national sovereignties
There is the most agreement on the first proposition, less on the second and so on. The sixth proposition is embraced only by people with a certain left-wing and globalist ideological bias. A great many people, even those who embrace the first three propositions are highly skeptical about the last three propositions.

What needs debate now is the feasibility of action that could prevent AGW being taken in an efficient enough manner to prevent disaster without causing a deep and damaging world-wide depression. What if the cure is worse than the disease?

People who just get impatient at this point and demand that talk cease and action begin just don't have any credibility and what credibility they may have possessed in the past has been shredded by Climategate. Where does this leave us? It may leave us in deep trouble and the disaster man indeed be caused by man - but not in the sense the true believers think.

The CBC has refused to cover the Climategate story. "Our Mother" has decided that us little people would only be upset by talk about fraudalent science and related skullduggery. But Rex Murphy somehow slips through the blackout and has, as usual, a few caustic comments to make in his own inimitable style:



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UPDATE: I meant to say when I originally posted this list that I find it frustrating when someone objects to one or more of the last three propositions and is accused by the "Warmists" of denying #1. There is a lot more good, scientific evidence for #1 than for #4-6, which are not really about science at all, but rather politics. It seems to me that for many people politics drives the whole thing with the science as a convenient excuse - and that needs rational discussion instead of hysteria and ad hominum attacks on anyone who raises warning flags as "Deniers" and "Anti-Science." They may not be denying the science at all and they may not be anti-science at all. They may just be afraid that the UN might just make the problem worse instead of better and the hard scientific evidence for worrying about that is quite overwhelming.
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4 comments:

Peter Dunn said...

That is an excellent list. I'm still stuck on the first point. I asked my friend who is an atmospheric physicist who spent many years studying climate in a private research firm about global warming. He said, "I think the planet is warming." He was not certain because he is a scientist who did not make rash decisions based insufficient data. The means of determining the average temperature of the planet is not by any means settled science, and is far more complex than most of media would suggest. Since the mathematics to determine the average temperature would be extremely complex, nearly every piece of evidence provided to show that the planet is warming is anecdotal and local. My own anecdotal evidence is just as convincing to me as the alleged melting of the ice caps. This last summer I did not use or need an air conditioner for the first time. The previous summer we used it for about three days; only a few years ago it would be on for several weeks at a time.

It is however clear from history that the medieval warm period was much warmer than it is today, and that was well before the invention of machines that run on hydrocarbon energy. Mankind is not the cause of climate change but much larger forces are at work, such as the sun which is the most important source of heat for planet earth; and the sun is conveniently ignored by the climate alarmists in their calculations.

Josh said...

This article is hardly "balanced"--it's from a source that is self-described as "conservative." Moreover, it isn't written by a scientist. One question the climate change debate has raised for me is this: Why are some people more inclined to listen to non-experts than to experts? I wonder if distrust of the government has spilled over to the scientific community; perhaps there is simply an anti-establishment mood in the air. We may also be witnessing a continuation of the ideological suspicion of science long held by some religious folks.

In any case, I doubt anyone--whether climate change believer or climate change denier--would argue that #6 is more likely than #1.

Craig Carter said...

Josh,
Or we might be witnessing the credulous science worship of modern culture. Don't you see the irony of the Fundamentalists taking on the role of "skeptics" "unbelievers" and "doubters" while the secularists take on the role of "true believers" in the "Church of Climatology"?

As for why many people are dubious about listening to the experts, just google: "Climategate." When experts behave more like evangelists than scientists, they quickly develop a credibility problem. I especially recommend the blog by James Delingpole at the Daily Telegaph.

Josh said...

"Don't you see the irony of the Fundamentalists taking on the role of 'skeptics' 'unbelievers' and 'doubters' while the secularists take on the role of 'true believers' in the 'Church of Climatology'?"

When were Fundamentalists not skeptical of science?