This article appeared in the November 2007 edition of the Unification
News. This is a pretty "hot" topic -- and I'll tackle just about anything.
This month's article is about climate change. Especially the headline grabbing version, dubbed Global Warming.
Many scientific terms are used in discussing climate change, and it's important to grasp their meaning. A key one is Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). That is: an overall heating of the climate, caused by human activity.
Whether this is real is a complicated and controversial subject. To make the plot thicker, advocates have lined up, on hostile opposing sides, according to their personal Left/Right ideology.
Even climate scientists may be tainted. If not by personal ideology, then by the need to please their source of funding. Whether government agencies or liberal universities or activist foundations or private corporations; there are agendas, plus monetary and PR connections, both public and hidden.
All sides now use religious terminology, with 'prophets' like Al Gore, 'deniers' like Roy Spencer, and 'heretics' like Bjorn Lomborg. There are public appeals to Believe, and denunciations of skeptical Deniers. The warnings of 'doom at hand' resemble those of 'last days' Christian fundamentalists.
This ongoing controversy is a gold mine for the media, mainstream and alternative alike. Over the past century, they've followed a 25 year alarmist cycle, alternately about global warming and cooling. (Before, the problem was a "new Ice Age.")
The media loves to show videos of ice melting. Never mind that, at reported (or even accelerated) rates, Greenland would take thousands of years to melt away.
Millions of school children, and adult employees, have been told to view Earth in the Balance. Its creator just won a Nobel Peace Prize. Without questioning anyone's sincerity, it's important to point out (as a British judge just did) that this documentary contains numerous factual errors.
Little kids are terrified that polar bears will drown, spurred on by certain animations and one mislabeled photograph. National Geographic, which believes in AGW, has pointed out that polar bears can swim across miles of open sea.
New markets for 'cap-and-trade carbon offsets and credits' have become another sort of gold mine, with national governments and international financiers cashing in big time. Meddling and fraud are rampant, while newly planted 'offset' trees are dying, and Chinese factories open and shut like a jack-in-the-box. (In this author's opinion, any environmental group that pushes these plans, without mentioning that corrupt mess, is either foolish or on the take.)
My friends on the Asimov's magazine discussion board helped create a list of common theories about AGW. The whole spectrum needs ten points:
1) No one knows if Global Warming is occurring, because climate science is too primitive.
2) Global Warming is not occurring at all.
3) Global Warming is real, but it's a harmless phenomenon of nature that has nothing to do with human activity.
4) Global Warming is caused by some mixture of natural and human factors. The effects will probably be mild, and insignificant overall.
5) Global Warming is caused by humans and may do some damage. However, there is nothing to be done about it, and those who try will do more harm than good.
6) It isn't important whether Global Warming is real or caused by humans. It's an exaggerated scenario propagated by activists, who'll use any pretext to advance their anti-Capitalist agenda.
7) Global Warming is caused by humans, and might cause catastrophic damage. It is possible to mitigate the worst consequences, and such actions will benefit, not damage, the global economy.
8) AGW has been promoted by humans via agriculture and industry. For several millennia, this has staved off the next Ice Age. Humankind has flourished during historical periods of maximum warmth.
9) AGW has reached a 'tipping point,' and drastic changes will soon occur. Severe droughts and storms will strike, and sea levels will rise. Humans deserve this punishment, because of the damage they have done to Gaia.
10) The global climate has been changing for billions of years, and will continue to do so. No human has sufficient data, or the impartial perspective, to state that our current climate is the optimum one. It's uncertain whether humans ought to stabilize it, assuming we could, which is doubtful.
How much has the climate changed before? Over the history of the Earth, there have been thick glaciers all the way down to the Equator, and dinosaur-filled jungles at the North Pole. Several times! Earthly life, in case you haven't noticed, does continue.
Point #10 says nothing about possible causes, or the primacy of humankind. The idea is of that one is, to get people to look at unexamined assumptions in the other nine points.
The Principled view contains some genuinely hopeful ideas. In previous UNews articles, I've pointed out that Fallen Nature is the greatest pollution of all. The greed, disunity, and ignorance it causes are harmful in every way. Wars are bad for the environment, too.
You know the old saying about the devil being in the details? In this controversy, there are thousands of experts (and non-experts), each pouring forth thousands of pages of data and studies. Many are cherry-picking the data, thus to skew their findings. "Science by press conference" has taken on a whole new meaning.
Here are some actual details:
Temperature measurements are done by thermometer. But how are they calibrated, and more importantly, how accurate were they a hundred years ago? I have a friend who consults for industries worldwide, who points out how difficult these factors usually are.
The location of those thermometers is important. In many areas, cities have grown to engulf weather stations, bringing along their overheated roofs and pavement. Activists have noted individual spikes in a reported temperature range, and taken pictures of HVAC vents that got installed right next to an official thermometer!
Temperatures at sea are also important. Over the decades, ships have made detailed reports during their voyages. But ships have grown larger, so those thermometers have gotten higher above the sea surface. This has a distinct effect on temperature, so careful scientists make a correction to account for it. But, within that range of several degrees, a tiny error in the correction factor will skew everything.
Temperature measurements made by airplane are newer, and by satellite, newer still. These do not always jive with surface data.
No one disputes that carbon dioxide levels have increased. It's a nutrient for plants, and forests and crops are growing noticeably faster. Instead, it's being depicted as a harmful pollutant, subject to harsh regulations. People once joked that the ultimate loss of personal freedom would come when the government figured out how to tax breathing. Well, guess what? Carbon dioxide is emitted with your every breath . . .
Water vapor is a far more potent 'greenhouse gas' than carbon dioxide, and its levels vary everywhere, changing all the time. No comprehensive measurements exist, for local rainfall and water vapor levels.
I'm not going to make the usual conclusion, because the story is not over. All the data isn't in, studies are still coming out, and the conclusions are in flux. Drastic solutions have been proposed, and one hopes that freedom will not die, in the face of this alleged crisis.
The phrase Global Warming is being replaced by the more "flexible" term Climate Change. A few years ago, England suffered from drought, and AGW was blamed. In 2007 there were floods, and guess what got blamed? My consultant friend told me, 'tis a wonderful cause that can be blamed for any result.
Please study all sides of this issue. Look at the Greenpeace and World Climate Report web sites. Wikipedia does a great job of summarizing the data. Don't panic! Our planet isn't going anywhere, and humanity has adopted to big changes before. During two historical periods, a warmer climate proved beneficial.
Above all, keep working to support God's Providence. Humanity must be united in heart, and able to cooperate across ideological lines, to fully understand the issue of climate change. Whatever their cause, droughts may compel population shifts, and spark wars. Leaders, scientists, and the public must be impartial and honest, to handle any changes effectively.
© 2007 by Paul Carlson
Here are some reference sites:
This overview is from a professor at Stanford:
Here is a US government site:
This site is maintained by Australian scientists:
Australian Climate Science Coalition
This informative site is frequently updated:
Watts Up With That
Here is Reason magazine's take on 'Cap and Trade' policy:
The Real Deniers
For expert readers, this site is rather technical:
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