Global warming

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Revision as of 21:29, 18 October 2007 by Woozle (talk | contribs) (Overview: status of the debate, and a suggestion)

Overview

Also known as: climate change

Global warming (GW) refers to the idea that the Earth's average temperature could significantly increase to the point where it will have noticeable (and probably detrimental) effects on how people live. The debate about the existence and nature of this phenomenon has grown increasingly impassioned in recent years.

Part of the problem seems to be that the debate has been reduced to a sort of all-or-nothing false dilemma:

  • GW exists and we are causing it and we should do something to stop it, or else
  • GW doesn't exist; if it does, it's not our fault; if it's our fault, there's either nothing we can do about it; if there's something we could do about it, the effects won't be that bad if we don't so it's really not worth the fuss.

Each side in this debate argues as if "winning" means getting to set the entire agenda for what will (or won't) be done in response, and "losing" means having no input at all into what will or won't be done. Very little is said specifically about what each "side" wants to do if they "win", and those who like to keep debates stirred up rather than seeking to resolve them are feeding happily on this and encouraging it.

In order to have the arguments start to make sense, then, perhaps the debate should be about what should be done under various conditions, where the conditions are stated in terms which can be measured. For example, "If a forecast is made which everyone agrees was done using sound methodology, and that forecast shows global temperatures averaging more than 5 degrees above normal over the next 25 years, then we as should be willing to spend at least X dollars of global resources, divided proportionally among the signatory countries by GNP, towards either reversing the temperature change itself or at least ameliorating the effects of said change on the most vulnerable members of our global habitat (to be divided amongst humans and non-humans according to a formula set out in Appendix C etc. etc.)"

Related Articles

  • If humans are at all responsible for global warming (a point currently under debate, as described here), then by definition global warming is a sustainability issue.
  • James Hansen, "NASA's top climatologist", has claimed in writing and on TV that the Bush Administration has tried to restrict and suppress discussion of global warming
  • Prominent deniers of global warming include Bjorn Lomborg

Debate

Resolved Points

The following points of debate have pretty much been resolved (see #News for details regarding the answers):

  • whether or not the Earth is currently on a general warmining trend – yes
  • whether or not this will have significant effects on anyone – yes
  • whether or not those effects will be bad – in the short term, yes; beyond that depends on a lot of unknown factors

There continues to be debate on the following points:

  • whether or not this trend, if it is real, will continue
  • whether or not the warming is being caused by humanity (strong circumstantial evidence that it is)
    • Could be caused by random climatic drift
    • Could be caused by changes in any of countless variables, e.g. the sun's energy output
  • whether it is in humanity's best interest to attempt countermeasures (as opposed to "letting nature take its course")
  • what sorts of countermeasures should be taken (e.g. should we try to counteract the warming trend itself, or just be prepared to deal with the changing climate and rising sea levels as they happen?)

There appears to be some considerable political pressure to deny that there is a dangerous warming trend.

Difficulty of Resolution

Part of the problem is that the issue has become heavily politicized, largely because direct countermeasures (attempts to counteract the warming trend) tend to be unpopular amongst those who would need to implement them, and those who would need to implement them are generally large businesses with significant amounts of political clout and ability to drive the discussion in directions favorable to them.

Another part of the problem is that determining whether or not the phenomenon is of genuine concern requires the integration of large amounts of data – over long timespans and a large number of different geographical locations – in order to notice subtle real effects without raising false alarms due to temporary or local effects.

Contrary Opinions

Although the majority of scientists agree that global warming is occurring and is caused by humanity, a few disagree; each of these few generally express one of the following positions:

  • The Earth is not warming: surface records seem to show a warming trend, but satellite and weather balloon records do not.
  • The Earth is warming but the cause is unknown
  • The Earth is warming but mostly due to natural processes
  • Global warming is occurring but not as much as feared

(Reference: wikipedia:List of scientists opposing global warming consensus)

Arguments Against

Arguments against global warming:

Editorials Against

wikipage=Issuepedia:Debaticons tooltip=claim that is the main subject of a debate img_src=Image:Arrow-button-rt-20px.png img_alt=right arrow debaticon </linkedimage> (premise) The only reason global warming matters is how it affects life, and the evidence that global warming will have serious effects on life is thin. Most evidence suggests the contrary.

      • <linkedimage>

wikipage=Issuepedia:Debaticons tooltip=claim that is the main subject of a debate img_src=Image:Arrow-button-rt-20px.png img_alt=right arrow debaticon </linkedimage> (evidence) During the past 2.5 million years, a period that scientists now know experienced climatic changes as rapid and as warm as modern climatological models suggest will happen to us, almost none of the millions of species on Earth went extinct.

        • "i" debaticon "The exceptions were about 20 species of large mammals (the famous megafauna of the last ice age -- saber-tooth tigers, hairy mammoths and the like), which went extinct about 10,000 to 5,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, and many dominant trees and shrubs of northwestern Europe. But elsewhere, including North America, few plant species went extinct, and few mammals."
      • <linkedimage>

wikipage=Issuepedia:Debaticons tooltip=claim that is the main subject of a debate img_src=Image:Arrow-button-rt-20px.png img_alt=right arrow debaticon </linkedimage> (evidence) Also, scientific papers by Prof. Sarah Randolph of Oxford University show that temperature changes do not correlate well with changes in the distribution or frequency of [certain dangerous] diseases; warming has not broadened their distribution and is highly unlikely to do so in the future, global warming or not.

      • down-arrow debaticon The evidence given relates solely to natural life, and says very little about how rising temperatures will affect human habitats, especially those in low-lying areas.
    • The article also argues that exaggerating the truth in order to get a sluggish, complacent public to react is not justified
      • I have to agree with this completely. The truth must be protected from political abuse; that is part of the purpose of Issuepedia. --W.
  • 2007-10-03 Stop the Global Warming Campaign: We Have the Power to Win This Fight by Phil Brennan: argues that global warming is a fiction which the government as using as an excuse to enact new laws which will gradually restrict our freedoms. Sounds like a twisted version of the reality that the War on Terror is being used for that same end -- is this a partial truth (our freedoms are in danger) concealing a lie (the claim that GW is a fraud), or is there some truth to it (that GW, fraud or real, is being used as an excuse to curtail freedoms)? The only GW measures even being considered, as far as I am aware, do not in any way restrict personal freedom, but only the "freedoms" of giant corporations which emit environmentally-significant amounts of waste.
  • 2007-05-02 From Papal Indulgences to Carbon Credits Is Global Warming a Sin? by Alexander Cockburn
  • 2007-03-04 All in a Good Cause by Orson Scott Card: see global warming is junk science for details
  • 2006-07-02 Don't Believe the Hype: "Al Gore is wrong. There's no 'consensus' on global warming." Umm... yes, there is? (need article about scientific consensus on global warming, I guess...)
  • 2006-06-12 Scientists respond to Gore's warnings of climate catastrophe by Tom Harris (warning: popups)
  • 2006-04-12 Climate of Fear by Richard Lindzen: "Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence" Yeah, right. It's those darn fascistic GW people trying to intimidate poor helpless oil and chemical companies into not polluting the atmosphere, for their own selfish purposes...

Links (other than Against)

Reference

Articles & Blog Entries

Editorials

Debunking Myths

Discussion

  • 2007-04-15 Freeman Dyson on Global Warming 2of2 Stratospheric Cooling: "A prominent scientist who's followed the science of global warming from the beginning, Dyson explains why climate models have no scientific merit, why average global ground temperature is a great fiction, and what he believes the real dangers of increased CO2 in the atmosphere are. He suggests that the relatively simple solution of land use management could potentially give us the ability to control the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at any level we'd like, and there's no need to stop burning coal and oil."
  • Chaos Manor Special Report: collection of short & long pieces, some very detailed; does not seem to be parroting anyone's party line

Significant Points

  • Al Gore at the TED 2006 conference has some good overviews on the Global Warming situation: "There's no real disagreement about global warming – a survery of peer reviewed papers showed 928 supporting a theory of global warming and 0 opposing it. But there's a powerful lobby that is producing doubt, and suceeding – a survey ... reveals that 53% of popular press articles have some doubt about global warming."
  • 2005-05-04 ExxonMobil Spends Millions Funding Global Warming Skeptics: doesn't automatically invalidate global warming skepticism, but any argument which starts with "many authorities seem to agree that it's not happening" should be aware that the balance may have been tilted a bit.

Possible Solutions

  • "stabilization wedges": No single solution will be efficient enough fast enough, but in combination they may be enough
  • 2006-09-01 A Road Map to U.S. Decarbonization by Reuel Shinnar and Francesco Citro, Science magazine: "Alternative energy sources could replace 70% of fossil fuels in America within 30 years at a cost of $200 billion per year."

Humor

  • 2007-04-17 cold outside: cartoon by D.C. Simpson, I Drew This
  • 2006-08-24 grant money: cartoon by D.C. Simpson, I Drew This

News Articles

For twenty years you and the other faithful lapdogs of industry have dutifully parroted the sophistry fed to you by the fossil fuel crowd and by free-market ideologues. As the evidence mounted, you moved on to the next set of bogus arguments... and you blame scientists for being dishonest?
Also, the claim that there is no scientific consensus on global warming is a myth; see The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

Bad Reporting

  • The 2006-10-27 report that the Atlantic current came to a halt for 10 days in 2004 was a severe misrepresentation of what actually happened, as explained here: a new monitoring array is recording more precise data on the current than has previously available, and one of the things it noted was a "very weak" flow during those 10 days in 2004. However, due to the newness of the data set, scientists don't yet know if this is unusual, part of an accelerating trend, or perfectly normal. As yet, it has no known implications for the climate of Britain or Europe.