Monday, February 19, 2007

Newsflash: Humans are the cause of global warming

Well, it's not much of a newsflash. As much as anything can be, the finding that humans are the cause of global warming has become established science. The American Association for the Advancement of Science did its part with this report on Sunday to advance the debate. And by "advance the debate," I mean move on from arguing over whether global warming is real or whether humans are the cause. The debate should now focus on, "What are we going to do about it?"

Unfortunately, it will be a while before the debate moves on to policy solutions. This is as frustrating to science-types as waiting behind a row of cars stopped at a green light. But this is par for the course. Creationists cling to their non-science nonsense and continue to confuse biology students. And as far as I know, the Flat Earth Society hasn't closed up shop.

The problem is that we all feel entitled to an opinion. An opinion that must be respected on the merits of arguments one might construct on its behalf. That's how normal discourse works. But in science, we respect evidence and simple, logical explanations. So science doesn't really care about opinions or impacts on the economy. So disrespectful and reckless, science. But that's how it goes.

And maybe you've heard, "But in the 1970s, they were scaring us with global cooling." It would be an amusing exercise to source that gem. Who were "they?" What was the evidence? Nevertheless, science moves on. Ask proponents of that argument if they would prefer medical treatment and medicines from the 70s or something from the 2000s. I mean, if we have better medicines now, that means "they" were wrong in the 70s. And hey, if they were wrong in the 70s, why trust them now? The logically consistent answer for "global cooling"-objectors should be, "No!" They should be skeptical of today's medicine because it has changed since the 1970s. Therefore it must all be wrong!


Stevie Ray said...

Could the reason why Global Cooling predicted in the 70's did not come to its cataclysmic Ice Age fruition is (do I dare say it?) Global Warming? We certainly burn more fossil fuel (gasoline, jet fuel, diesel) today than we did in the 70's. Maybe carbonate rocks are formed much faster than we thought (just ask any Creationist).
Just thinkin' out loud.

Dean Baird said...

The point that Al Gore missed in An Inconvenient Truth is the cascade failure with CO2 dissolved in ocean water. As the water temperature rises, it becomes less soluble to dissolved gases. So out comes the CO2. But more CO2 in the atmosphere brings on more greenhouse effect and more warming. And that results in more CO2 coming out of the ocean water...

A friend back in Michigan hopes for global warming. Especially in February. It's all good fun until we approach venusian temperatures.

The disconcerting reality is that we're on a path that we can't get off from at this point. Best we can hope for is to do something nice for distant future generations. As I recall, a Native American traditional value was to consider how one's actions would affect the next ten generations.

Of course, James Watt-type evangelicals are convinced we're living in the End Times and hey, we might as well run the earth into... the ground.

Stevie Ray said...

Regarding the Global Warming issue, I guess the Bush administration policy (sic) is, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, "If you've seen one planet, you've seen them all."
Wouldn't it have been intereseting if the now nearly defunct Chrysler Corp. had spent its energies and engineering expertise (with the help of Dr. Z?) developing a vehicle and an add campaign around the concept of "It's got a Fuel Cell" rather than the moronic "It's got a Hemi"?

Dean Baird said...

People who tend to look backward see "global warming" as a scheme hatched by Al Gore (they don't think he invented the Internet, but they do think he invented global warming). They imagine it's a leftist plot to hurt big business and free enterprise.

Forward-thinking folks know that there will be plenty of money made in the name of curtailing global warming. Plenty. Those who innovate on that front first wil be the ones raking in the profits. Those who deny global warming will be last to the table and thus they will be the ones *providing* the profits.