Chinese philosopher Liezi once described a story about a man from the Kingdom of Chi who was so worried that the sky would fall down that he was losing sleep and appetite and generally the will to live. The phrase “Qi Ren You Tian”(杞人忧天) has then evolved into a generic idiom describing a big fuss over nothing, used typically in negative connotations. After the global warming theory came into fashion, now once again, people are worried about the sky falling over!
In the 1970s, Soviet scientists were claiming a global cooling based on the fact that Leningrad was one degree colder than it had been in 1940. To this claim, Chinese climatologist Zhu Kezhen commented: “Qi Ren You Tian!” In terms of climate shifts, this debate occurred not that long ago, yet Bernard Shaw is right: we learn from history that we learn nothing from history.
In the ongoing Copenhagen conference, politicians are discussing whether to keep global temperature increase within 2 degrees or 1.5 degrees. I am wondering why they think they can bend the climate one way or the other in such small, precise increments? Who do they think they are?
As an ordinary citizen, I would like to share my 2 or 1.5 cents’ worth, if only to provide a different perspective on the issue. This is the finals week in many universities, so let me use an analogy: if a student turns in a final paper making vague generalizations without making the causes and effects more specific, or without controlling for confounding variables, he or she gets a very low score or even an“F” from the professor. Why, then, can scientists and politicians generalize about the climate change construct in such grandiose terms that will make even the director of 2012 blush? Recent email exchange among scientists accidentally released seemed to indicate that there is something that we in the public are not told about. I would not claim that the whole global warming idea is a hoax, but this should at least have been a more open debate before it is used as a fact upon which much of the Copenhagen discussion is based.
If there is indeed irrevocable evidence proving the trend of global warming (I am open to this result), how should humanity cope? We may be left with more things than fear and panic. Some islands may go under water, but some land will surface from glaciers. Some deserts may become green with more moisture released. The land may become more fruitful with increased heating.
With the current state of the things, I am afraid this is what it is going to come to: People talk about it, sign a general agreement, take a few group photos, smile and then each going back to the way things always are. Unless heads of states have some secret climate buttons in their bedrooms to cause all of our indoor heating to drop, I do not see how they can cause change to happen while keeping the key stakeholders out of the door: the people. There is a little trick about people: each wants to have a better life, which includes the purchase of cars and the installation of air-conditioning. There is no way you can stop that, especially if you base your reasoning upon claims that they may not buy into.
Indeed, too much focus on global warming may take priorities away from more serious issues that threaten humanity, such as poverty and wars, and yes, pollution! Most people, including those who doubt global warming, care about the environment. We are all guardians of this wonderful creation. Everyone wants to leave a world better, or at least not much worse for his or her children and grandchildren. Why not focus more on global polluting rather than global warming? Global warming is dubious in its construct, causes, effects and maneuverability, while global pollution is harmful, real, tangible, and controllable. Water contamination. Oil spills. Nuclear waste. These are issues that government can do something substantial about. So why not stop pretending to be magicians to pull numbers from hats, to focus more on pollution control and prevention? There it is more likely to get people involved to produce a real impact.
First you criticize them for giving concrete estimates, then you criticize them for making things too general. Who do you think you are?
Let me give you an analogy. A university student was taking an intro physics course, and thought “Oh hey look, if a ship is moving at the speed of light one way, relative to the Earth, and another ship moves at the speed of light the other way, wouldn’t the relative speed between the two ships be greater than the speed of light? I’m such a genius.”
Now, which one is more likely. That the student found a theoretical flaw in physics as we know it, or that he/she needs to shut up and learn some more material before believing he’s able to find flaws no one else has ever thought of yet.
Please provide your definition of real and tangible, I don’t see theory of global warming any less evidence-based than that of pollution’s harm to environment.
Science is not democratic, the truth in science is not determined by popular vote. The “common sense” and the voices of man-on-the-street is no substitute for real and hard science done by scientists. There are maybe arguments about what to do with this man-made climate change, there is no real argument about its validity. The scientists, including some descendants of Qi ( and Chu, Wei, Yan, Zhao, Han and Qin) believe that we are close to a tipping point when the warming may become irreversible. The original post, I am afraid, is much too casual about the matter, it borders on irresponsible.
I’m not too surprised if a group of people here do not believe in man-made global warming – most are blogging from the US, and it’s a much more common viewpoint in the US than other parts of the world. Try the same viewpoint in China or the EU and you’ll see what I mean.
Actually, there’s a conflict going on that might be played down in Western media outlets, that between China and the developing countries on one side and the US/EU/Japan on the other. In Chinese media there has been a lot of discussion of the “Danish text” (丹麦文本) where developed countries want to tear up the Kyoto protocol and create a new standard. Their reason is that the Kyoto protocol only binds the developed world; but the proposed new standard would be a big burden on the developing countries whereas EU/US/Japan wouldn’t have to change much at all, something that made the Chinese chief negotiator say that he had been unhappy all along after he arrived at the summit.
Here’s a Chinese blog on the “Danish text”:
S.K. Cheung says
I think the post author makes several important points. First of all, whatever solution that is found/proposed for the global warming problem will require efforts by the world’s people, both in terms of how we live as well as the costs we bear (monetarily and otherwise) for living in a way that is more respectful of our environment and resources. Second, given that reality, it seems important that stakeholders (ie. us) be apprised of the science in a way that is meaningful for non-climate scientists, and that the proposed solutions offer comprehensible benefits that people can justify against the proposed costs. And third, as is the case in any debate, you truly win people over in the long run by the strength of your arguments, not by hook/crook. An open debate is always preferable to the alternative.
However, while “the sky falling” is not based on science, global warming is. And while some might say that “if the sky falls down, they will use it as a blanket”, the prospects of progressive global warming are hardly as cozy a proposition.
I think the criticisms in #1-3 are bang-on. How can that specific a temperature target be characterized as “vague”? I think part of the issue is that exactly such “small” temperature increases, applied globally, can already have massive detrimental effects. It’s not just your perceived difference if your thermostat was at 19C vs 20C.
“Some islands may go under water, but some land will surface from glaciers.” — glass half full is a good way to live. But even on the most simplistic level, loss of inhabited land and gain of barren land is not an equitable exchange. And that’s not to mention the effects on those inhabitants.
“Some deserts may become green with more moisture released. The land may become more fruitful with increased heating.” — I’m not sure if science supports this statement. But it seems unusual to expect that deserts getting hotter will help to make them greener. And ignoring soil composition as a factor in determining suitability for farming, you might think it’s great that maybe they will be able to grow bananas in Siberia; however, the trade-off may be that it becomes too hot to grow anything in Mexico or Brazil. As Wuming suggests, these are things science can answer.
Certainly, pollution should be addressed. However, this should not be viewed as a dichotomous choice. And if both global warming and pollution need to be addressed, then we should try to address both of them.
BTW, if you’re thinking about denying global warming, then you should try to look up acidification of the oceans.
I confess that I am a layman, not a scientist. I said I am open to the possibility that there is global warming going on, but try not to fool or scare ordinary folks with memes and mysteries. I dislike the alarmist tones often used in global warming propaganda.
Also I heard that in science communities too, there is much debate on whether carbon dioxide is the culprit of green gas emissions (vaporized steam is a big contributor). Yet you hear carbon emission is all that they talk about nowadays. If carbon dioxide emission is the cause, killing all the cows and sheep in the world is a quicker method, as they produce 50% more carbon dioxide emission than cars. (I read this weird fact from Superfreakoeconomics which has an excellent chapter about the global warming topic.)
@James, I was accusing scientists in being vague and overtly general in establishing relationships among variables, in testing hypothesis, which leads to a dubious claim about human behavior and global warming. And then based on this poorly constructed and hardly tested hypothesis (climatologists confess that current prediction models are very crude), politicians recommends an arbitrary number and ask the public to cooperate in meeting the target. Don’t you think that there is something wrong with the whole process?
S.K. Cheung says
“If carbon dioxide emission is the cause, killing all the cows and sheep in the world is a quicker method, as they produce 50% more carbon dioxide emission than cars.” — it’s long been known that being a meat-eater renders a larger carbon footprint than being a vegetarian, all other things being equal. So our diet choices are but one of the litany of things that may need to be considered if individuals are to reduce their footprint. And those are the informed choices that people may someday need to make. Your suggestion seems flippant and draconian; if you go down that road, may as well argue for euthanizing the entire planet and let mother earth sort herself out.
smith ricardo says
The 70’s global cooling is a myth, very few people said that at this time… already much more where talking about global warming.
You can always find in the past a few people saying the opposit.
The simple trusth is that the scientific things at 95% that it is man made.
And do not forget the earth is a “closed” system, of course if you release huge amount of one gaz you will create consequences on the climate.
Saying: everybody want a car and a air con is stupid. what people really want is way to move around, and be cool or warm at home… you do not need huge car who pollute a lot, or stupid air con who pollute a lot, there is a lot of alternative from less polluting car, public transportation, well isolate house. we could achieve the same result as now with 4-8 times less co2 emition with current technology, so if we invest in new technologie we can devellop well without destroying our planet.
You check the cost of action, do not forget the cost of inaction that we will have to pay if we do nothing. which is much higher than the cost of action.
China electricity production increase 27% in one year… 70% of it come from coal….. now each chinese polute nearly as much as a french, and keep growing very fast….poor earth…
The fact is our environment is being screwed up. We have produced too much stuffs that we do not need.
The speech that could change our ideas on environment – it is not from Al Gore but a young lady.
Hi Wukailong, #4,
That’s something I’ve noticed also. I think it’s rather petty and pathetic that developed countries cannot take a leadership role on this issue. The rich guy has left a steamy pile of poo on the sidewalk. The poor guy is inspired to leave one of equal size soon. And there we are.
(“human rights” and “democracy” campaigners ought to care deeply about this, otherwise, this demonstrates yet again the rich do not give a damn about the poor.)
I think this dichotomy on the issue of climate change is about right – priorities of developing countries vs. developed countries. The U.S. is in a funny position, because culturally Americans like to drive and like oil and like to consume. Maybe this is a competition of 3 sets of priorities – the U.S., developing countries, and developed countries.
I’d give my thoughts about global climate change except that I read a synopsis yesterday that sums it up perfectly for me, from Gregg Easterbrook of The Atlantic, who wrote in his ESPN Tuesday Morning Quarterback column:
• There is indeed a strong scientific consensus regarding climate change. The deniers simply aren’t honest about this.
• The consensus is that in the last century, air has warmed by about one degree Fahrenheit while the oceans have warmed a little and become slightly acidic; rainfall patterns have changed in some places, and most though not all ice melting has accelerated.
• That consensus is significant, but hardly means there is a crisis. Glaciers and sea ice, for example, have been in a melting cycle for thousands of years, while air warming has so far been good for farm yields. The doomsayers simply aren’t honest about how mild the science consensus is.
• Predictions of global devastation — climate change is a “profound emergency” that will “ravage our planet” — are absurd exaggerations, usually motivated by political or fund-raising agendas.
• Climate change has serious possible negative consequences, especially if rainfall shifts away from agricultural regions.
• Global poverty, disease, dirty air and lack of clean water in developing world cities and lack of education are far higher priorities than greenhouse gas emissions.
• Smog and acid rain turned out to be far cheaper to control than predicted; the same may happen with greenhouse gases.
• The United States must regulate greenhouse gases in order to bring American brainpower, in engineering and in business, to bear on the problem.
• A carbon tax, not some super-complex cap-and-trade scheme that mainly creates jobs for bureaucrats and lawyers, would be the best approach.
• If the United States invents technology to control greenhouse gases, no super-complex international treaty will be needed. Nations will adopt greenhouse controls on their own, because it will be in their self-interest to do so. Smog and acid rain are declining almost everywhere, though are not governed by any international treaty; nations have decided to regulate smog and acid rain emissions on their own, because it is in their self-interest to do so.
As for the e-mails hacked from a greenhouse research center in the United Kingdom, e-mails are private correspondence. Copying them without permission is at the least unethical, and perhaps a crime. If you saw private letters on someone’s desk, photocopied them and posted them on the Web, you would be considered a person of low character. Whoever hacked the climate e-mails is at the very least an unethical person of low character, and one should be wary of the agendas of unethical people.
That said, many climate scientists are rigidly ideological and believe dissent must be shouted down. This is partly because of money and privilege. The United States and European Union spend about $6 billion annually on climate change research, and every penny goes to alarmism, because it can be used to justify government expansion. Being a climate doomsayer is a path to cash and tenure — even to celebrity, as making wildly exaggerated claims got Al Gore a Nobel Prize plus stock in companies now winning government subsidies triggered by alarmism. The doomsayers are lauded by foundations, go to parties with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and attend taxpayer-subsidized conferences in Nice. They’ve formed a guild with intense focus on maintaining guild structure. The 1962 Thomas Kuhn book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” is best-known for introducing the “paradigm shift” concept. Kuhn’s larger argument was that science is not an abstract truth-seeking realm, rather, subject to fads and what is now called political correctness, and one in which many scientists are concerned foremost with safeguarding their sinecure by toeing the line.
Plus the alarmists need to divert attention from the inconvenient truth that 20 years ago, Gore and James Hansen of NASA began to say that without immediate drastic action against greenhouse gases, there would soon be global calamities. Nothing was done — and no problem so far. That is no reason to be complacent — warming-caused problems may be in store. But for the self-interested alarmists, this is a reason to shout down their critics.
Footnote: John Siemieniec of West Dundee, Ill., was among many readers to note the 140 private jets and 1,200 limos at the climate summit. World leaders and celebrities rode in comfort to a conference to wag their fingers about how somebody else should stop wasting fossil fuel.
I’ve seen the raw data on historical atmospheric gases going back hundreds of thousands of years (I sold the cold heads used to create temperatures of single degrees K involved in analyzing ice core samples) and the numbers are pretty scary, but all that proves is that the numbers are at historical highs. It doesn’t say anything about the consequences of what those numbers mean. Temperature effect is not irreversible, but it does have a lag effect and cannot be changed quickly. The earth isn’t a closed loop system, saying so would mean the sun has no effect and of course it does. Ozone depletion allows space radiation levels to have more of an effect, another example of a non-closed loop system. Even within the earth’s system, there is such a complex relationship with so many variables that no computer modeling program can be very exact. Computer weather modeling programs are still in their infancy, no matter what you are told.
Sometimes you have to take science with a grain of salt. After all, they tell us that 95% of the universe is composed of “dark matter” or “dark energy”, yet they have no proof or even evidence of either, it just makes their theories work since they don’t work with current measurements. Rather than say they don’t have a clue how the universe operates beyond a certain distance from our solar system, they come up with a theory that explains nothing. I think it’s far more accurate to just say they don’t know.
What we do know is that pollution is a very bad thing and we also know that lowering pollution also lowers climate change. Voila! We can kill two birds with one stone.
Hi Steve, thank you for such thorough analysis. If I had read this earlier, I wouldn’t have written the post in the first place. My main point is that given the many problems that the global warming construct is having, we should focus more on concrete issues such as pollution control. That at least gets people moving to solve one problem, or probably even kill two birds as you have suggested.
@James – You are an XKCD reader I see . . . .
Steve (13), good points.
berlinf (14), glad I didn’t have to rip into your original post. 😉
Great article but here’s a couple observations…
Man Made global warming isn’t about the science. If it is all about science…than there would be nobody saying “the debate is over. It’s a fact.” That’s not what scientists say. Politicians say that… not scientists.
The e-mails that came out in East Anglia are proof of what I just said. EVEN with scientists fudging the numbers it doesn’t raise anybody’s eyebrows… they still barrel on. Sooooooo, if the e-mails don’t stall anything or anybody… how is this about science and not about BLIND BELIEF.
The concept of Chinese face enters into this. These people, scientists and politicians and bloggers etc have really put all their eggs in one basket… it would be a massive loss of face if they have to say they were wrong.
Isn’t Carbon Dioxide Plant food???
This is all a very bad idea. The science is not there… it’s all political.
Let’s all focus on REAL science and REAL issues.
Copenhagen is an anti-capitalism joke. It’s all very embarrassing. People like CHAVEZ getting thunderous applause as he rails against capitalism!?
Of course climate change is real, climates are always changing. Why can’t man adjust just like the animals do and like man already did in history.
And if it IS warming… is that really a bad thing? Perhaps with warmer temperatures it will be easier to grow more things… think GREENHOUSE! Perhaps we can grow oranges in Beijing!
People like Al Gore are nothing more than a guy walking along the street saying the world will end. Who listens to people like that?
China is smart to just say they will do stuff but just laugh at the rest of the world and not do anything. India too.
There is so much potential for CORRUPTION in all of this! What if ten years later with all the money given, then nothing changes in African countries and Bangladesh…then what? More money? Government change? Hurt the developed countries more??
Everybody has their hand out at Copenhagen.
Hi Berlin, #14,
I feel there are couple of key issues your OP have pointed out and are very important:
1. “global warming” was used as a rallying point in which the media has latched on. Its an important rallying point. But, I think simply “climate change” would be a lot better message. How the pollution issue is position to the population on this planet is very important. I think the media makes the issue worse as a problem on its own – if they try to sensationalize and stray away from the “truth,” then that tends to make the issue more controversial than it needs to, and thus making a solution harder to come by.
2. Politically, I don’t see developed countries having the will to be able to curb their consumption in the near future. Nobody knows what the ideal “norm” ought to be in terms of per capita carbon footprint in which this planet is capable of sustaining. China has been encouraged to increase consumption in fact. Just wait until Chinese and Indian citizens start to consume like the way developed country citizens do.
You’ve made a very good point about pragmaticism. Governments should focus on things within their control.
#2 will have to be figured out eventually in a systematic way.
“Of course climate change is real, climates are always changing. …”
We are talking about the SPEED of the climate change, which scientists assert is unprecedented and supported by real data. Do you have evidence to the contrary?
“… Why can’t man adjust just like the animals do and like man already did in history.”
The living world has indeed adjusted to the changing climate of the earth. But such changes occurred either in much longer time span or at prices of extinction of species. I am pretty sure if the human population is cut in half and kept there, the problem will be solved automatically. So who is going to play Solomon in this case?
I will not get into other similar arguments presented here. Scientific consensus on the issue is clear, I would trust that consensus infinitely more than the “common sense” opinions of the non-experts, no matter how numerous they are. However, the solution to the problem is a political issue and it is far from a consensus. This second consensus would be a much better subject for discussion here.
WuMing….look at the Experts who you are relying on. Were they e-mailing each other? Don’t talk about how the e-mails are personal… and shouldn’t be viewed by the public… and how unethical that is. Somebody was saying that above in another comment. How ethical is it to force people to only have one child…? How ethical is it to not allow people to have children? Plus the media publishes a lot of other things that are not ethical…
I’d rather have animal species go extinct and not have people go extinct by our own government’s hand!
You wrote, “I am pretty sure if the human population is cut in half and kept there, the problem will be solved automatically. So who is going to play Solomon in this case?”
I don’t understand the reference to Solomon except if you are talking about his story about cutting a baby in half… but I don’t know what the connection is…
But anyway…Investor’s Business Daily has a great Editorial about this. If you are willing to read it and see if you agree with controlling the population. You probably won’t…. but here’s a quote:
“Other population control supporters simply harbor a misanthropic bitterness, obvious to those who don’t share their worldview, toward their fellow man. They might have friends and maybe even families. But within them is a deep-seated loathing for their own kind because they see man as just another of Earth’s many animal species. Human life, for these people, is cheap.”
I certainly hope this doesn’t explain anybody… but sadly it explains a lot of people.
here’s the link to the article. It’s called PEOPLE PROBLEM
the problem with population control and with even carbon emission control is that you are voluntarily giving up your freedom and liberty…if you have any in the first place. Let the free market do it…! Get the government out of it.
@wuming, I am afraid there isn’t a consensus on global warming issues, especially in terms of human activity as a major contributor towards climate change. It is yet to be confirmed. I included two videos in this post just to show that. New evidences have recently emerged that there is data manipulation among scientists who advocate global warming, such as the recent climategate as well as Russian scientists’ claim that the British scientists did something to their data to make facts fit theory, other than the other way round. People deserve to have benefits of the doubt on this issue.
As for the second consensus, it has to depend on the validity of the first one.
I would encourage a move away from this global warming concept towards more concrete issues. With all the problems that global warming theory is having, it is better to leave it and focus on combating more concrete issues as Steve has also suggested above.
I agree with the overall position expressed by Steve’s post. What I want to emphasize is that I also do agree with Berlinf’s general position as well. If you read the post carefully, you’d realize that the point is not necessarily what one believes – what most people believe – or what most scientists believe. The point is that our understanding and our models of the earth and the climate is simply not good enough for us to predict what emission cuts are necessary to “cause” say a 1.5 vs. 2 degree rise in temperature to demand a regulatory agreement. We need to understand this.
Uncertainty definitely is not be a screen to justify lack of concern. But we should not demand certainty when only uncertainty is to be had.
My problem with Al Gore and other climate nuts (don’t criticize me, I’ve been a hard-core environmentalist ever since 3rd grade, so I feel confident in attacking other environmentalists where it is due) is that they keep hypothesizing doom as if they were Nordstrom Damus or some priest writing the Mayan calendar. They treat global warming as a religion -as the only religion. CO2 is king, and it must be evangelized … or else!
We know the carbon concentration in the world has increased roughly 50% in the last 100 or so years. But we also know annual man-made production of CO2 is only about 3-4% of natural production of CO2. We have seen slight, gradual increases in global temperature over the past 2-3 centuries (a major part of that increase cannot be due to human activity). BUT WE DO NOT KNOW WHERE THINGS ARE MOVING NECESSARILY OR WHAT HUMAN ACTION OR INACTION WILL NECESSARILY RESULT. WE DO NOT EVEN KNOW IF WE ARE AT A TIPPING POINT OR NOT.
There are also other equally, perhaps more pressing, environmental issues facing humanity such as those relating to local pollution, ecological destruction, water quality, etc.
I personally am more prone to be cautious and believe that moving toward building a green economy is the right thing to do. But I do not necessarily see a regulatory based deal – that must be sealed in the next few days – as critical. In light of uncertainties about what humanity can (or cannot) do to affect future climate change, and in light of uncertainties about what the cost and benefits of going green really is, I just don’t see the logic that says we must buy a comprehensive Copenhagen agreement today or face extinction. I am reminded of TV infomercials that tout: our product are not sold in stores; you have a chance to buy now – and only now; or, our prices will never be lower; buy now or forever live in peace…
If climate change is the problem it is, a one-time deal alone is not going to solve the problem anyways. What we need is continual political leadership, dialogue, coordination, and innovations. As things change, the world should always be prepared to gather to act. This Copenhagen thing can be a good start. But this do or die attitude that we must create an agreement today to regulate something that we really don’t quite understand yet – I don’t find it healthy, necessary, or effective in the long run.
An opinion piece from wsj: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704541004574599981936018834.html
I however disagree with the author that just because there has been wild fluctuations of temperatures before that we ought to be careless about the effects our activities have on global climate, but I agree that it should not be a forgone conclusion that we can or must stabilize earth’s temperatures. If climate cycle is going to happen anyways, it might be better to adapt than trying to preserve what we think we know.
I am sorry to say that I feel very alienated from this current discussion, and saddened to see a mere email gate can drive so many very intelligent people to take on views that are so similar to anti-science stance of Fox News.
Scientific consensus is not a lock stepped agreement. Anybody worked in research science knows that a convincing proof that overthrows an established theory is an ultimate prize in any field of science. In this sense, a scientific consensus is a state when the strength of the evidences and power of the theory explaining the evidences is so overwhelming, such that majority of scientists in the field are no longer interested in challenging the basic soundness of the theory.
On the other hand, climate science is one of the hardest scientific field. Any mathematical model that simulate the weather has to be a “crude simplification”, otherwise all the computing power in the world will not be enough to carry out the simulation. Therefore a consensus in this field has to be an evolving consensus, more so than most of the other fields.
I wish to stress the elitist nature of such scientific field — we, the no-experts, have essentially no say about the validity of the theory. Instead of wasting our energy on arguing about something that we are not really qualified to argue, we can look at proposals, pledges and commitments put forward by US, China, EU and OASIS. And trying to argument about their fairness, validity and practicalities.
Steve quoted “strong scientific consensus” but also “how mild the science consensus is”.
Wuming, you also wrote that “Scientific consensus on the issue is clear,” but when you define Scientific consensus in #24, your strict definition “no longer interested in challenging” tightens the achieved Scientific consensus mainly to the data collection, but does not include the models and their results. The models I would not call elite, as they are neither abstract or difficult to understand, but very complex, and therefore, the reproducibility, which is required for a consensus, is hard to get.
The data are not frightening, but the results and extrapolations from some of the models are. What speaks nevertheless to work on this results, is the (usually accepted) ocean liner behavior of the climate.
My point is, I do not see it as a anti-science stance to challenge the results of the models (“the validity of the theory”, you called it and to use your words, “where many scientists still are interested in challenging”).
Especially if they are the starting point of expensive actions, as I agree to the comments from others, who regards other topics as more urgent.
@Josef, this article lists a few other environmental crises that are equally worth our attention. This is exactly what I was trying to say. Shifting attention to more concrete issues is more useful than packing everything under the “global warming” umbrella which many scientists as well as the general public do not believe in.
One worrying tendency is that global warming advocates often try to shout down the skeptics as anti-science or anti-environment, ignoring the fact that many skeptics care equally, if not more, about ways to improve the environment, except that we may not need a general label like global warming.
Since my Solomon reference only elicited a groan, I will change to the role of Don Quixote, when indeed not being a climate scientist, I barely qualify as a Sancho Panza.
“tightens the achieved Scientific consensus mainly to the data collection, but does not include the models and their results. ”
I disagree, at lease the model part. A model determines what factors are the principle components. More importantly, the model determines those factors that are ignored in order for the model to be computationally tractable. I can’t see we laymen have anything to contribute on that front, I can’t even see these models can be simply explained to us without loose their essential complexity (i.e, the non-linear and dynamic nature of these factors). As for the results, the model will probably make statistical predictions on temperature, rain fall distribution and so on. And after that, how our lives will be affected is out of the realms of these climate scientists. That is probably the junction a much wider circle of people can join the discussion.
As for the talk of “more urgent issues”, who said that the world can only deal with one problem at a time?
Let me clarify my point a little more. Perhaps we finally have something we disagree … or perhaps not.
I agree with you that scientific consensus takes time to build. The Capernicus and Galileo concept of the universe, Newton’s laws of motion and gravity, and Darwin’s theory of evolution all took time to take hold. But just because scientific paradigms takes time to advance does not necessarily mean that theories about man-made global warming is correct. We’ll have to wait.
I want to make two points about climate “science.” As you mentioned, it’s “one of the hardest scientific field.” I agree. But I might venture it’s also a “soft science.” Science refers to a method of gathering knowledge – through making testable theories – that is capable of making predictions or predictable outcomes. Climate science as we understand it today cannot be a real science. We have theories (models) but none have been able to make disprovable predictions. But having theories that can be disproved is the hallmark of science. None of the climate theories can be disproved today because it takes time to test these models (these models make predictions over the long term) and because all of the models make simplifying assumptions make them difficult (if not impossible) to disprove. (By the way, no model would have predicted the cooling of the last decade).
The second point I want to make about climate science is that it is a models based discipline. The 5 years I spent in graduate school I spent modeling complex mechanical systems (structural mechanics, fluid mechanics). When you spend time modeling, you quickly find that so much of how good the system is depends on the assumptions you make: the simplifying parameters you input, the boundary conditions you input, the simplifications you make to equations. Climate science also requires a lot of parameters – effect of water vapor, clouds, ozone layer, co2, methane, ocean mechanics, forest cover, glaciers, etc. Climatic system is probably non-linear also, but most models I see are based on linear models (complex, non-linear systems are very, very difficult to solve).
In mechanics, at least we can test our model against real-world result immediately. In climate science, it takes years – at least decades – to test. If we can’t even model major trends in our economy (the gov’t didn’t foresee the financial crisis), what are we to say we can model now trends in global climate?
What I’m trying to say is that climate science is not really science. That doesn’t mean we should ignore the implications of climate warming. The fact that global co2 concentration has increased as a result of industrialization shows that human beings have the capability to alter earth on a global level. The worst case scenario from continuing our ways is pretty dire. That by itself should call us to arms to deal with the effects of industrialization seriously. But to me at least it does not justify calling something a science when it is not yet a science, or assuming the worst and making important global economic decisions based only on the worst when clearly the worst is not pre-ordained.
We don’t live our daily lives assuming the worst (otherwise I’d never get out of bed!). Without more, we shouldn’t plan our economy by assuming the worst either.
If we’re looking at past and present CO2 levels, you may want to refer to this chart which can give everyone a better idea of what is being discussed and where the levels actually were and are. Talking heads on TV make all kinds of pronouncements but never back up what they say with data.
@ Allen #22: I’ve also been a big environmentalist all my life, but for me that meant clean air, water and setting aside undeveloped land as national or state parks. At one time I wanted to join the Sierra Club but when I went to their office and talked with them a bit, I realized they were spouting scientific nonsense (at the time mostly nuclear) and I didn’t have much in common with them. I didn’t have a problem with Al Gore’s data but I had a huge problem with his conclusions drawn from that data, which I felt were highly speculative.
I also agree with your overall position. As far as that opinion piece from the WSJ, I felt it was a straw man argument. Comparing climate history covering tens and hundreds of thousands of years with the 150 year history of burning fossil fuels is misleading and disingenuous at best, and deliberately deceitful at worst. Climate change is having an effect, just not very much at this time and impossible to predict how much of an effect in the future. I agree with Easterbrook’s recommendation that rather than international treaties, we create a carbon tax and let technology and profitable efficiencies solve the problem, just as it solved the acid rain and smog problems. Currently, excessive CO2, methane and other harmful emissions engender no financial cost. Cap and trade sounds to me like a bureaucratic nightmare, subject to political manipulation.
Remember, back in the smog and acid rain days, there were plenty of “scientists” saying that the effects caused no long term harm. These scientists were on the payroll of big corporations not wanting to spend any money to solve the problem. Today, many of those “no CO2 or man-made problem” scientists are operating under the same parameters. Let’s not be naive; both sides have financial incentives to overstate their case.
@ Wuming: I liked your Solomon reference. 😛
@ Allen #28: Not only are you correct that climate models take decades and perhaps centuries to verify, but temperature has a “lag effect” that makes the time line even longer. The most difficult process control parameter is temperature, and for a number of reasons. So when it is very difficult to control temperature in a closed loop system inside, let’s say, a petrochemical plant, and that loop has only a limited number of factors, how difficult is it to even understand the complexity of the earth’s climate system? I’d say it’s impossible so as you correctly pointed out, assumptions are made all over the place and many times those assumptions create the final verdict.
When controlling temperature, we use something called PID control (proportional, integral, derivative) to try and dampen the cyclical nature of temperature control. Even then, adjusting those parameters or “tuning the loop” is more of an art than a science.
Then I think about the melting of the Arctic ice cap and it sounds like things will warm up, yet if that ice water from the melt lowers the temperature of the Gulf Stream, Europe will suffer under MUCH cooler conditions. It’s very, very complex.
BTW, did you all see this story about two ships traversing the Northeast Passage?
I think that Western Nations, particularly the US just want to play politics to push this ‘climate deal.’
First, according to the article: The US House of Representatives this month unanimously voted to make it US policy to prevent the Copenhagen treaty from “weakening” US intellectual property (to China) rights on a wind, solar and other eco-friendly technologies. How can China go green if they don’t have the tools to do so? Because they are afraid that China will ‘steal’ their technology? It is like telling China to row a boat without an oar. This is such crock.
Second, I heard Hillary is dangling out 100 billion to tell China that the US must ‘monitor’ China’s co2 emissions. Why can’t China do it themselves? Is China too incompetent to monitor their own co2 emissions?
When Barack Obama come to Copenhagen later today, blaming China for not signing the climate deal is just a smokescreen.
One more thing I think is interesting is the deference you’d like to show scientists.
Would you defer to economists also to make economic policy? Or do you doubt whether economists really know what they are talking about?
I ask because in general I agree with you. In general I think we should have experts make important policy decisions. I care less about elected officials doing so because to me they are just popular figures, not necessarily experts.
My thing about the scientific community is that over the long time, truth will come out. But in the short term (decades), the community can be blindsided by “paradigms” just as much as anything other community…
I know someone is going to ask me, if I question economists and scientific communities, why don’t I question the CCP as rigorously?
Shucks… I think I’m going to defer for now.
I think you know how I theoretically despise my current profession — financial engineering. Much of the activities of this profession is not contributing to the real economy. Therefore it does not matter how sophisticated the theories in mathematical finance has become, it’s built on sand. The field of economy is unfortunately dominated by the financial people.
You touched on two fashionable 20th century philosophies of science, Thomas Kuhn’s scientific paradigms and Carl Popper’s falsifiability. Influential though they are, they are still just philosophies. For me, the ultimate criteria of science is a circular one: science is what scientists say it is.
It’s nice to be able to disagree with a fellow 50cents’er from time to time, if only to maintain a facade of objectivity
S.K. Cheung says
Interesting discussion so far. It does seem that the “science”/fund of knowledge on the global warming issue is imperfect. And naturally, any sort of prediction founded on imperfect knowledge deserves to be looked upon with intense scrutiny and an healthy dose of skepticism. That said, just as a person can have the right answer for the wrong reasons, predictions based on imperfect knowledge could turn out to be correct (just as they could turn out to be incorrect), and at the end of the day, there’s no way to know without the benefit of a crystal ball.
So what is a person/society/humanity to do? Short of a parallel “earth”, there is no way to model a “global” phenomenon then test it, in a fundamental scientific sense. I’m as much an advocate of the scientific method as the next guy. But if the scientific method cannot be applied properly in the assessment of an issue/problem, what then? One extreme might be to insist that any deviation from the current status quo be delayed until scientific data of adequate “purity” is provided so as to compel action. The other extreme might be to suggest that we take scientists at their word, and do whatever they tell us to, without critically examining the basis for their recommendations. As with just about anything in life, some middle ground position is probably the reasonable and defensible way to go.
There’s also more-than-simply-healthy skepticism directed towards the scientists themselves, it seems. E-mail-gate notwithstanding, a legitimate scientific process or resultant theory should be open to, and in fact, should welcome critics and detractors. With global warming, there are certainly naysayers among scientists. So on the spectrum of scientific evidence, not only do we not have a perfect model which has been tested and independently verified, but even the imperfect knowledge we do have does not engender a consensus (not even close, actually).
Against such a backdrop, I think the most fundamental question might be this: can we simply do nothing at all, and assume/pretend that this whole global warming question is a non issue. If the answer is yes, then there’s really nothing more to discuss.
If the answer is no, and the sense is that something ought to be done, then the question might be “what, and how much”. For the first part, i would agree with others that “warming” should not be the sole focus, and that other issues such as pollution, water purity, air quality etc be factored into the equation/solution. “cap and trade” doesn’t accomplish all of that; nor does a “carbon tax”. In fact, we need to be doing more than is being currently discussed. For the second part, it’s seemingly purely speculative. It’s like asking this convoluted question: “how much reduction of something, whose causal role is not definitively established and whose inter-relationship with other variables is not well defined, will be needed in order to reap some quantum of benefit for which the effect on future outcomes is not well -understood?”
I do agree that the sense of urgency in Denmark seems somewhat manufactured. To borrow from the OP, “the sky is not falling” if a “deal” is not consummated at these talks. On the other hand, if you answered “yes” to the question of whether something needs to be done, then at some point, a pragmatic person has to take the information they have, however imperfect that might be, and make some decisions moving forward. If the decision is made to engage in some change, then some commitment towards making said change is useful, and a goal/target for the magnitude of said change is important. And if you’re of a mind to making a commitment for a certain amount of change, then you have to make that commitment at some point in time. An international meeting of individuals representing countries purportedly interested in making such changes might be an arbitrary time to make such a commitment, but it does seem as good a time as any.
So at this time, are we perfectly equipped to make the ideal agreement to target the precise amount of change in the exact required variables in order to ensure the eternal existence of mankind on earth? Maybe….but I doubt it. In that case, should we all just go home and make plans for using the sky as a blanket if it does in fact fall? Maybe, but i doubt that too.
We can start with ourselves to do less harm to the environment. We should conserve energy, recycle, not buy stuffs we do not need… We should live in smaller houses and closer to each other (I am guilty on this), drive smaller cars, use public transportation… There are a lot we can do.
With the high energy use per capita, citizens in US can do more than citizens in China. The world’s natural resources are not evenly distributed with the population.
With the high energy use per capita, citizens in US can do more than citizens in China.
But given the size of China’s (and India’s) population it’s important that such countries don’t let pollution/carbon emissions run away in the coming years. Otherwise smaller developed countries will say “what’s the point of us cutting emissions if you’re going to hoover up all those savings” and refuse to co-operate. The US can contribute, but regions like Europe have much to give too – provided they think there’s a point in doing so.
I’m not sure how honest China and India have been in promising to cut “carbon intensity”, as supposedly based on even current economic models most/all of that was going to happen anyway. Wen said China would make a “tremendous effort” to cut carbon intensity by 40-45% but is the truth more like it wouldn’t be all that much of an effort? I’m not sure, but it’s important the big polluting countries (and those expected to pollute a lot in the future) not pretend they’re doing all they can when they aren’t – US included of course. Though given we always hear about how wonderful Chinese autocracy in “getting things done” is, maybe China should step up the plate and make the biggest sacrifices given there will be little or no opposition.
Furthermore China’s opposition (may change as the day develops) to outside verification of carbon levels is not good, because we all know how unreliable official figures in China are. If any country can declare “we have cut carbon emissions by x” without having anyone be in a position to check whether that’s correct or nonsense, the delegates in Copenhagen might as well go home now and start investing in flood defences, because everyone would cheat assuming everyone else will.
We can become responsible citizens of the world without having to subscribe to the global warming belief. One really does not need a “rallying point” to save energy, and reduce pollution in little acts like using less plastic, not dumping used batteries in daily garbage, etc. One can also contribute to a cleaner and greener world without having anything to do with the global warming belief. Students of our university, for instance, are working to bring clean water to Africa through a project called “wishing well” without using global warming to rally them. They do it one well at a time, motivated not by a belief that the sky is falling over, but rather care of some fellow human being somewhere out there who get sick or even die by drinking water not properly treated. These people are true heroes of environment protection, while the global warming rock stars take private jets to lecture the world what they need to do to save the planet. The assumption that we cannot do anything unless we believe in global warming is ridiculous.
China may do a more vigorous job in curbing pollution with or without a Copenhagen deal, because, as the country develops, ordinary citizens want a blue sky. Just look at all the real estate ads in China, one of the strongest selling point is the environment. That essential human motivation should be something to tap into.
@Berlin, you wrote. “We can become responsible citizens of the world without having to subscribe to the global warming belief. ” I totally agree. But again there are so many Global Warming people trying to push their “truth” on the rest of us. Then when we act like scientists and express doubt, we’re called “DENIERS”. just plain insecurity.
You also wrote, “China may do a more vigorous job in curbing pollution with or without a Copenhagen deal, because, as the country develops, ordinary citizens want a blue sky.”
This goes for every other country at Copenhagen with their hands out. All the poor countries now have a great reason to stay UNDEVELOPED and keep their people living in POVERTY…! Global Warming! The developed countries will give us money… Great. If we develop and get our people out of poverty, then we won’t get money anymore… BAD! As China develops it will turn to the ENVIRONMENT. Only rich countries can and then do focus on the environment. That is a fact. Killing capitalism will thus kill environmentalism. It’s that easy.
This goes for every other country at Copenhagen with their hands out. All the poor countries now have a great reason to stay UNDEVELOPED and keep their people living in POVERTY
Why does this have to be a zero-sum game? It is perfectly possible to develop in an environmentally-friendly way. And given developing countries are most likely to be hit by the effects of climate change if they believe it’s happening it’s in their best interests to do something about it!
Plus they’re being offered $100 billion to help do it. What, do they want Obama to slit his belly into the bargain?
A BBC article on skeptics. I wish our skeptics will read this article and see if you have arguments against that.
Charles Liu says
Allan @31, the politicians, who are supposedly experts on their nation’s sovereign interest, have made agreement on climate change:
LA Times just reported US, China, India, Brazil have agreed to a climate deal.
S.K. Cheung says
To Raj #35:
“carbon intensity” is no different than any “per capita” argument. Your “intensity” can go down even as your total carbon emissions go up. As I’ve suggested elsewhere, I suspect mother earth cares about the latter, and couldn’t care less about the former.
“We can become responsible citizens of the world without having to subscribe to the global warming belief.” — true enough. But concerning ourselves with global warming gives us one more objective, and one more target, for improving the environment we live in. Hopefully,folks will have the time, and the capacity.
“The assumption that we cannot do anything unless we believe in global warming is ridiculous.” — I don’t think that’s the prevailing assumption. And the assumption that paying heed to global warming detracts from peoples’ capacity to “do anything” is equally ridiculous.
“ordinary citizens want a blue sky.” — okay, so ordinary citizens share certain common goals. Now, what needs to be done to achieve those goals? What needs to be done to improve the sky’s “blue-ness”? How blue is blue enough? Hmmm, those seem like vague goals, and rather nebulous targets. I wonder if there might be something more specific that people can aim towards……
“Then when we act like scientists and express doubt” — but that’s just it. We’re not climate scientists. On what basis do you formulate your “doubts”? If you go see a mechanic cuz your brakes squeak, and he/she says you need new brakes, do you then typically say “nah, I don’t believe you”? Hopefully, you’re basing your “doubts” at least on the ideas of the skeptical scientists, who may have a more learned basis for their skepticism. As I suggest in #33, maybe you’re looking for more incontrovertible evidence. That’s fine. But in the meantime (and incontrovertible evidence might be a long long time coming), are you comfortable with the status quo? Perhaps you are. But I suspect some aren’t.
nice article. Thanks for the link.
@ SKC #41: I agree with you about intensity as being only half of the real equation that matters so the “per capita” argument, though it sounds nice, doesn’t make a whit of difference to mother earth. However, I have to give China huge kudos for taking extraordinary measures to get its population under control, even before there was much mention of CO2 levels or pollution problems. India hasn’t done much in that regard and will soon surpass China in population. I don’t see much hope that she’ll be able to get her population growth under control for a very long time.
I think when Berlin talked about a “blue sky”, all he was referring to was a decrease in air pollution to the point where the numbers meet acceptable international levels of what is considered healthy. When I lived in Shanghai, I rarely saw a blue sky so the phrase had real meaning for me. Jerry has complained about the pollution levels in Taipei since he’s a cyclist and has to suffer through the haze, so I sent him the website for the daily readings in Beijing and it knocked his socks off. The numbers were multiples of what he was experiencing in Taipei. No one wants to breathe that stuff, not politicians, not army generals and not average working people.
I agree with your last point. Many of the “scientists” who argue against climate change aren’t climate scientists at all, but have expertise in other branches of science. The data is there, but interpreting that data can lead to all sorts of arguments. However, those should be arguments of degree, not arguments of existence. There won’t be “irrefutable proof” of climate change until it’s too late to change. Even large scale decreases in CO2, methane and other pollutants will not bring climate back to an equilibrium until decades have passed. That’s just the nature of temperature control. It’s why I like the idea of a carbon tax. When businesses make more money by lowering their CO2, methane and other types of emissions, it will be profitable to create the technology to lower those emissions and companies will use the technology willingly. I’ve read stories of power plants in China with sophisticated scrubbers installed, yet those scrubbers were turned off because it is less profitable to run them and lowers their overall profit. When running those scrubbers increases their profit, the scrubbers will be used. Until that happens, it’s a “cat and mouse” game.
As for increasing auto mileage, all they’d need to do is establish horsepower to weight maximums for each style of vehicle. Today’s Honda Accord family sedan goes from 0-60 MPH faster than a 1960 Corvette sports car. I very much doubt there is a need for that kind of acceleration. Increasing mileage dramatically would also lower emissions dramatically. Outside of a couple of cars (Prius/Civic, etc.), most of the hybrids have used the extra power from the batteries to increase horsepower with only a portion going towards increased mileage. What a waste!
S.K. Cheung says
I gather they’ve reached a tentative agreement where “developing” countries start by having intensity targets. I suppose it makes for an agreement. And if an agreement of some form helps to coalesce resolve and spur action, I suppose an agreement is useful in its own right. But to me it’s still a useless target.
I figured “blue sky” was wrt a decrease in air pollution. My point was just to ask how blue is blue enough in terms of adequate pollution reduction. If you’re going to have targets, best to have a tangible and measurable target. And I think that’s what they’re trying to do in Copenhagen.
Limit power to weight? No, say it ain’t so! But at least leave torque alone…that way car buffs might at least fall back on turbo diesels.
Does anybody know Global dimming ?
I still have trouble understanding how the balance between Global dimming and global warmming works for our environment ,whether this balance will break.
Wuming, I read your reference in #39 and they did not convince me, I pick some examples
3. THE EARTH HAS BEEN WARMER IN THE RECENT PAST
Counter: There have been many periods in Earth history that were warmer than today – for example, the last interglacial (125,000 years ago) or the Pliocene (three million years ago). Those variations were caused by solar forcing, the Earth’s orbital wobbles or continental configurations; but none of those factors is significant today compared with greenhouse warming.
So it was warmer (=fact), but the “factors are not significant compared with greenhouse warming” (=theory with respect that it might get even warmer). So, they are not comparable significant, although their effect was larger? Or how do you read some sense in there?
4. COMPUTER MODELS ARE NOT RELIABLE
Sceptic “… are unable to model all the processes involved”; and following a very clear list for lacking items, while the counter does not go into details at all, just says: “All of the robust results from modelling are backed up by theoretical science or observations.”
As a joke: In the 12th century: all the alchemist back up that you can make gold. (that is not a consensus)
also #5: a very clear critics, detailed, measurable, the counter:”Interpretation of the satellite data has not always been straightforward”. That is another joke.
As a physicist, I call that “bla bla” starting even with the 1st point, where the sceptic quotes “large errors” while the counter seems not to know, that a measurement is as precious as the errors bars are. It simply does not go into the argument.
And the counter arguments go on like that, like politicians would (sometimes simply changing topics or not answering, like the last sentence in #10 from the sceptic: “Some economists believe that a warmer climate would, on balance, improve lives” – no answer.
We are having a record level blizzard today here. Even though you can call it weather not climate, but this is not making global warming very convincing.
S.K. Cheung says
that’s no different than someone in Europe, in the midst of their record heat wave last summer, saying “yes, the fact that it’s hot enough for me to spontaneously combust right this second is proof of global warming”. Global warming is not proven or disproven by the mercury level of the thermometer hanging outside your kitchen window. Nor is it proven or disproven by the presence of snow at the end of December.
“How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room.”
Interesting article about how China undermined the Copenhagen climate talks by Mark Miliband of The Guardian at
S.K. Cheung, if global warming cannot be proven or disproven in mercury levels, what do you recommend we prove it with, Dow Jones index?
Geographically, there are blizzards in most parts in America and Europe. Beijing’s temperature is also experiencing a very sharp drop. It looks like this Christmas is a global snowstorming season. Historically, in the past 10 years, average temperature has actually dropped. In my hometown in China, there has been two coldest snowstorms in the last five years, including one towards the end of 2007 when many people were stranded on the road.
So at least I think people should take this global warming theory with a grain of salt, if not deep suspicion, instead of assuming it to be a truth or fact as the advocates have been saying.
@ SKC & Berlin: Here’s some temperature data from Wiki. In the last century, the earth has warmed about one degree C, no more and no less. One consistent prediction has been that there would be abnormal weather patterns. Blizzards could be a part of that but nevertheless, I agree with Berlin that changes have been minor and not major, at least not yet. Rather than say “global warming”, the correct term is “global climate change”. Temperature rise is minor but it has been on an upward trend.
S.K. Cheung says
Here’s what you wrote: “if global warming cannot be proven or disproven in mercury levels, what do you recommend we prove it with…”
Here’s what I had written in #47: “Global warming is not proven or disproven by the mercury level of the thermometer hanging outside your kitchen window.”
— thanks for providing me with my daily helping of examples of people reading what they want to read, rather than what’s actually written.
“Geographically, there are blizzards in most parts in America and Europe.” — where, if my calendar serves me correctly, they are currently in a season better known as winter.
“Beijing’s temperature is also experiencing a very sharp drop.” — perhaps you can tell me what season it is in Beijing right now. I’ll give you 4 guesses.
“It looks like this Christmas is a global snowstorming season.” — I would hazard a guess that most places in the Southern Hemisphere are currently not seeing a lot of “snowstorming”. Coincidentally, they are in the throes of what some might call summer.
“Historically, in the past 10 years, average temperature has actually dropped.”— historically, global warming is discussed in frames of reference that somewhat exceed 10 years.
S. K. Cheung, I would not take you up on these grade 2 level arguments, sarcastic as you have intended them to be. Nothing good is going to come out of such kind of argumentation. I wish you good luck with your calendar, your definitions of seasons, your guesses, and your daily helpings of examples.
S.K. Cheung says
Dude, if you come up with a phrase like “global snowstorming season”, it’s not going to take sophisticated arguments to put it in its place. I’m quite adept at my calendar, as it were. So of the two of us, I’m not the one needing luck in that regard.
There is nothing wrong with my phrase “global snowstorming”, because it is occurring. Check the news and see for yourself the grand irony unfolding, of a global warming conference followed by blizzards after blizzards and people being frozen or stranded.
In your argument there seems to be an assumption that this is all natural because it is winter. If you say these are all fluctuations within a general trend, that would have been more convincing. But if you insist that global warming is occurring no matter what, I would have reasons to question why, then, would global warming (or the absence of it) even matter?
Besides, you have so rightly claimed that in the southern hemisphere it is summer. I get what you are driving at, but this is so typical of global warming believers, trying to lower skeptics by labeling them as either stupid (disguised or not) or as your earlier comments suggest, irresponsible. This is not going to help, in the long run.
S.K. Cheung says
“nothing wrong with my phrase “global snowstorming”” — listen, at the farthest stretch of the imagination, you might say there is, currently, Northern Hemispheric snowstorming. I can guarantee you, just as the sun will rise from the east tomorrow, that global snowstorming is most definitely NOT occurring, nor is it likely to unless/until the earth once again becomes a very very cold place.
Yes, there are blizzards abound. It’s probably as ironic this year as it would be next year, or the year after. There is no particular irony with the timing of COP15, apart from the fact that they chose to hold it in the Northern Hemisphere in December.
“If you say these are all fluctuations within a general trend, that would have been more convincing.” — that’s the point. If it’s winter, it’s gonna be chilly, and might even snow. The fact that it gets chilly, or snows, demonstrates nothing apart from the fact that it’s winter. It no more proves global warming than it disproves it.
“global warming” is a bit of a misnomer anyway. It confuses people, and certainly confuses you. The earth, as a whole, on average, is getting warmer, quite possibly in part due to greenhouse gas emissions. But that doesn’t mean that, on any given day, at any given place, it’s going to be hot. If it’s winter, it’s still gonna be cold. The better thing to talk about is global climate change, as a result of said global warming. So you see multi-year droughts in places where it’s never happened before; you get glaciers melting; you get the Northwest Passage remaining ice-free for more and more days, such that the projection will be that the sea lane will remain open year-round in the foreseeable future. And you also get harsher winters than the norm from time to time. But whatever is happening is occurring over time, and you detect it by looking at trends over time; you don’t sit there while you’re shivering, digging your car out of the snow, and say “see, there’s no global warming”.
“trying to lower skeptics by labeling them as either stupid” — I think Wuming provided a link earlier that listed some arguments of the skeptics, as well as the scientific counterpoints. Those are open to debate. But you should really examine if your recent points qualify as the basis of legitimate skepticism, or maybe something more worthy of those labels to which you referred.
@ SKC & Berlin: Don’t mean to barge in on your discussion but I’m confused… you both seem to be saying approximately the same thing but in different ways, and arguing vehemently about it. From what I’ve read from both your posts:
1- You both believe there has been a slight rise in the earth’s average temperature, but nothing dramatic.
2- You both would rather use the term “global climate change” over “global warming” since you feel it is more accurate.
3- Neither of you believe that a catastrophic event will occur in the near future regarding climate change.
4- Neither of you believe in cap & trade proposals; SKC prefers (as I do) a carbon tax/tariff so CO2 producers will have a cost for it’s creation.
5- Berlin believes, as I’ve also stated, that there are far worse problems confronting the planet (air and water pollution, poverty & disease) than CO2 emissions. From what I’ve read, SKC hasn’t really commented on that one way or the other. I used to tell people that the way business travelers judged whether a country was first or third world was whether you could drink the tap water without getting sick. I still use that as my primary standard.
With a temperature change of one degree, snowstorms by themselves don’t prove or disprove climate change, especially since the breadth of blizzards is more dependent on the moisture content of the air rather than temperature. The prediction by reasonable climate change people is that geographic regions will get non-traditional weather patterns. I’m not sure what the traditional weather patterns are in the American Midwest so I can’t really comment on that part. The rest of this argument seems.. well, I can’t really figure out what you’re arguing about. Both your positions seem reasonable and relatively similar.
There IS a strong scientific consensus on global climate change, it’s just not considered to be a crisis. It’s certainly not the global doomsday scenario portrayed by some for political and financial reasons. Again, both of you seem to be saying that this exists but isn’t the certain disaster that some media people claim it to be.
So what are you really arguing about?
S.K. Cheung says
your #1-5 pretty well sum up my position. So does this statement: “The prediction by reasonable climate change people is that geographic regions will get non-traditional weather patterns. ”
I can’t say how well you’ve summarized Berlin’s position. But I err on the side that human activity parallels greenhouse-gas emissions, which contributes to global warming, which contributes to global climate change. It’s the last bit that actually is detrimental to people. Berlin and I probably agree that the sky is not falling. But I think he errs on the side of denying the aforementioned sequence of events, or their consequences.
Worthwhile to note, as it concerns China, but a little complicated to explain. In a German written article I found that the IPCC report has a flaw: NEW YORK, Jan. 19 (UPI) — A report that glaciers in the Himalayas would disappear by 2035 was wrong, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Tuesday.
According to this German article http://kurier.at/nachrichten/1971261.php some people extrapolated this disappereance into a severe lack of drinkable water for China and India.
The german article referred also to Jeffrey Kargel of the University of Arizona:
from where I extracted this statement and the (english) quotation above:
Jeffrey Kargel of the University of Arizona told the BBC in December it would be physically impossible for the Himalayan glaciers, some of them more than 1,300 feet thick, to melt in 25 years
r v says
While I am for protecting the environment, (for very least so we do not all choke on smoggy air), I cannot support any policies that will impose unequal burden on people.
Thus, I bring up a term that is rarely used in Global Warming debate: Energy Equality.
While most of the debate center around what we can call “energy responsibility,” ie. the amount of efforts of each countries in generating less waste of energy, there is almost no discussion about “energy equality,” where people of all nations have equal access to sufficient energy.
Unfortunately, energy is still wielded as a geopolitical weapon. As such, Global warming is also now a geopolitical weapon.