Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Global Warming: Imminent Peril or the Greatest Hoax of All Time?

with 13 comments

gulf_stream_fails.JPG
Did the Gulf Stream “falter” in December?

There’s been some interesting weather this winter, and not in the good sense of the word interesting. Much of the US has suffered unusually severe weather, much of Europe has been unseasonably warm and/or is also suffering terrible storms. I also came across a curious report that the Gulf Stream has both weakened in the past twelve years, and faltered for ten days in December (above.) Some people connect these events all together some sort of unfolding calamity, though that point of view seems extreme. On the other hand, scientists are reporting that global warming will be faster and more devastating than previously predicted. What the heck does it all mean? Is global warming to blame?

No one really knows. The news about the Gulf Stream appears to be alarmist and unsubstantiated. The theory that it has weakened in recent years doesn’t seem to be borne out by further analysis, and faltering like occurred in December does not appear to be unusual. A good thing too, if the Gulf Stream were to fail or even substantially weaken, northern Europe would go into a deep freeze. For the most part though, it’s best to assume that regional and seasonal weather events are unrelated to global warming and don’t provide evidence pro or con. That’s certainly the mainstream view, global warming is a forest issue, the individual trees don’t mean anything.

Regional fun aside, it is now unequivocal that global warming is a reality. All over the world glaciers are in retreat, ice shelves are collapsing, and ice caps are shrinking. Even the few areas where this is not occurring are still consistent with overall global warming. The only real issue at this point is how much human activity is contributing to this problem. And while there is still debate, the scientific consensus is stronger than ever that human activity is likely a large part of the problem. What do I think? I tend to agree with majority view. And as a general rule, most of the arguments proposed by the “global warming is a hoax” crowd are pretty unconvincing…

I’ve heard the theory that scientists made up global warming as a way to get research grants. Um, since when do people who will do anything to get money choose science as a career? Not to mention that the oil and gas industry has almost infinite amounts of money to pass out to fund anti global warming studies, what special interest group has piles of money to fund global warming research? I hate to be rude, but the idea that scientists made it all up to get research grants shows how intellectually bankrupt the anti global warming crowd is.

The other silly idea one hears is the “ice age scare” of the seventies. Anti global warming proponents claim that scientists falsely claimed in the seventies that an ice age was imminent, since this didn’t pan out global warming must be the same. The problem with this argument is that the “ice age scare” of the seventies was two scientists giving a press conference where they said that preliminary data from Greenland ice cores indicated that an ice age might be starting. The media picked it up and had a brief field day, within a year follow up research showed that the whole idea was wrong. To put it mildly, this in no way shape or form is an analogy for the current global warming situation, which involves tens of thousands of scientists and numerous studies over a period of decades.

And speaking of false arguments, another that is raised is that humans simply are not producing enough CO2 in the greater scheme of things to affect the climate. This argument is backed up by the fact that humans only contribute a few percent of the CO2 in to the atmosphere that is produced every year. Superficially this is a very persuasive argument. The problem is that while the human contribution to global warming may be small, that’s all it takes. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is kept remarkably constant by natural influences, a small push one way or other can throw it out of balance. At this point in the interglacial period the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere should be dropping as more and more CO2 is tied up in organic matter. Instead, it’s rising as humans add ever increasing amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere. We should be nearing the end of the interglacial period, instead the globe is warming? The fact that CO2 is at a higher concentration in the atmosphere than any time in the preceding half million years makes it seem like a no brainer that adding even more CO2 is a bad idea.

Personally, I’ve decided not to worry much about the issue. Humans haven’t been able to get together to solve far more simple and obvious problems, I don’t see this as being any different. If history teaches us anything, it teaches us that the rich and powerful will continue to pursue their own self interests no matter what the cost to society at large. That’s why there have been about seven thousand civilizations in Earth’s history. We may be the largest and greatest civilization ever, but all that means is that our rich and powerful are the richest and most powerful of all.

This also means that when our civilization finally does fall, it will be the greatest fall ever. Hopefully it won’t happen in my lifetime, something like that would be really annoying and could conceivably interfere with the writing of this blog.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and it is central to illustrating the post.)

Written by unitedcats

January 25, 2007 at 5:49 pm

13 Responses

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  1. The question that arises for me is the panic sensible (I a skeptic on that one) but more to the point even if it is real are the things proposed to fix it possible scientifically, and more importantly politically. I agree with you that humanity can’t fix things of a far smaller magnitude and I tend to think that adaptation is the only answer. :)

    Iain

    January 25, 2007 at 7:37 pm

  2. Doug, I did a little research (very little) and it seems very contradictory…

    http://shoulung.wordpress.com/2007/01/25/global-warming-research/

    Check it out.

    Shoulung

    January 25, 2007 at 7:58 pm

  3. Panic is never sensible, I agree. I wouldn’t buy any coastal property, but coastal property is a risk at the best of times. And it’s always prudent to be ready for disruption caused by natural or man-made disaster, the planet’s surface didn’t come with any sort of safety guarantee. JMO — Doug :)

    unitedcats

    January 25, 2007 at 7:58 pm

  4. Thanks for an entertaining and enlightening post. Just one note: humans are responsible for increasing the atmospheric CO2 concentration by 35% — not a trivial amount. If you want more information, you can view this post on my blog.

    tamino

    January 25, 2007 at 9:27 pm

  5. Came across this article which nicely covers the topic of my post:

    http://www.livescience.com/environment/070125_gw_weather.html

    Thank for the comments and links, I am still checking them out. —Doug

    unitedcats

    January 26, 2007 at 9:49 am

  6. Hi Doug,

    As I have mentioned before I have seen so many issues like this arise in my lifetime–issues based on incomplete science, incomplete intelligence (Iraq war?), etc. that people are all too willing to take advantage of to further their own ends. In the religion of environmentalism, the structure seems to be the same as any. There is the pope(Al?), cardinals/bishops, priests, and the ignorant masses whose fears are played upon to advance the power, control and ultimately coffers of those willing to exploit. Any time politicians are involved I am a ready sceptic, because it has been decades since I have met one or witnessed one who truly cared about anything other than themselves, their own re-election and power.

    I understand everyone is disturbed about the weather, but is it that the weather is that different or just that we are more aware of it? I remember when I was in Australia we had hail the size of baseballs in the middle of January (middle of Aussie summer). I also lived through a flood in Ipswich, Australia that took place in the middle of a draught. I have witnessed hurricanes, tornados, horizontal (yes) lightning during snowstorms, thaws in Maine February, you name it. All of the sudden, freak weather becomes evidence of man-made CO2 emmissions, when they have happened since the dawn of time. Not long ago, a study came out indicating that the earth’s cow population produces more CO2 than all of the automobiles combined…what are we going to do about that? Cow-beano, catalytic converters for cows? Cow quotas? I wouldn’t put it past the government to come up with some kind of related regulatory agency!

    Just over a year ago, everyone was panic-stricken about Social Security–it was a crisis of huge proportion (of course it still is:) but notice that no one is talking about it now? Why is that? Political expedience?

    Who knows what the flavor of the day will be tomorrow. I don’t. But you can bet that whatever it is it will be something else the government uses to justify its existence.

    DEFINITELY JMO! ha!

    -Jack

    P.S. Glad you’re back on your feet.

    bereans

    January 26, 2007 at 8:19 pm

  7. Al Gore is busy flying around in his jet, burning 20,000 gallons of JP4 (kerosene) to tell people he invented global warming! He might just be right!

    But seriously, weather has clearly been chaotic throughout history. The previous global warimg occurred when the larger dinosaurs started driving instead of walking !

    Present day humans have no sense of perspective and think far too much of themselves. People are also very prone to mass hysteria and the media which feeds it ! People also think they know all of the physical relationships in our world, yet we have not explored but a tiny part of it..

    Sure, smoggy cars are no good for the environment. It is a huge and crazy leap to blame our current ‘warming’ on cars. We can also blame the third world for cutting down all their trees! Why not? Put that one in the media long enough and say “leading scientists believe..” and a whole raft of simpletons will believe that too!

    LOL

    Edward

    January 27, 2007 at 9:20 am

  8. >> That’s why there have been about seven thousand civilizations in Earth’s history.

    Have there? How fascinating. Where does that particular factoid come from?

    Oh, and I agree with you about climate change, by the way. It is here already. Whether it nets out as warming or cooling is pretty moot so the term “global warming” allows people to say “ah, but it snowed all week here so it can’t be happening”.

    I was listening to a Business Week podcast this morning about environmental sustainability, and John Byrne, the presenter, really spat out the word “European” in the phrase “Sustainability, now that sounds so-o-o-o European. Is that really becoming a trend to take seriously in the United States?”

    http://www.businessweek.com/mediacenter/podcasts/cover_stories/covercast_01_18_07.htm?chan=search

    An unhappy thing to listen to.

    Aphra.

    Aphra Behn

    January 27, 2007 at 1:27 pm

  9. OK, I am surprized by some of the comments. Note:

    “10 of the world’s warmest years on record have occurred since 1995.”

    This is not hype, politics, a hoax, a media sensation, or anything even remotely resembling the “Social Security Crisis.” This is fact, the globe is heating up. Where it’s going from here, why it’s happening, and what should be done about global warming are all very debatable…but not the fact that the world is warming up. At least I haven’t seen anyone still contesting that in any reasonable way, but post a link! JMO –Doug

    unitedcats

    January 28, 2007 at 9:47 am

  10. Hi Doug,

    I don’t think that the issue is whether the globe might warm up or even cool–I don’t know if you remember it or not, but back in the 70’s we were all concerned about the impending “ice age”– it is the political and ideological issue it has become. For the political leaders or money-makers, it is just an convenient issue to exploit, for the “blame-America-first, blame-humanity-first” crowd it is spiritual affirmation. Then, of course, there is everything in between.

    We have people like Kerry saying that its all Bush’s fault that he “walked away from Kyoto” (http://www.kxmb.com/getARticle.asp?ArticleId=89952) which we know is not the whole truth of the matter–can I throw the “blame-Bush-crowd” in there too? Al Gore out there making a ton of dough through fear promotion, and a global push by many governments to increase regulation and taxation on private enterprise as a means of taking control of the earth’s natural resources (that is my pet conspiracy theory–believing that global fascism is a future reality and that man-made global warming may be one of the issues to make it more convenient to bring it about–“Hail Might Government – Come and save us from our unrighteousness. We have sinned against thee and Mamma Earth.” (Just a quick note–my former partner is the head of a regulatory compliance engineering firm. They work closely with the EPA, but represent private business–advocacy work, compliance audits, training and development, etc. I was talking to him the other day and he said that environmental regulation has consistently increased throughout the Bush Administration as it did during President Clinton’s last year in office. In other words, all of these people who are talking about Bush’s environmental record are just hacks that know nothing about it, and make statements based on the articles from the liberal equivalents of Newsmax.)

    I don’t think anyone thinks that we shouldn’t have responsible environmental regulations, or that we should not monitor such things as CO2 levels in the atmosphere. The issue at hand is the alarmist nonsense that is being promoted in its name is more counter productive than anything and clouds the whole issue.

    Here are some links I found interesting:

    UN Downgrades man’s impact on climate:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/12/10/nclimate10.xml

    Right before it upgrades it again:

    http://earthchurch.wordpress.com/2007/01/23/gods-right-hand-speaks/

    Manipulation: (Of course because its from CNS–this may be suspect. Need an “unbiased” source like ABC, NBC, CBS or CNN :)

    http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewNation.asp?Page=/Nation/archive/200701/NAT20070123a.html

    Death to the heretics:

    http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewNation.asp?Page=/Nation/archive/200701/NAT20070123a.html

    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/1/18/225915/286

    Infidels:

    http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/financialpost/story.html?id=3711460e-bd5a-475d-a6be-4db87559d605

    http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=E58DFF04-5A65-42A4-9F82-87381DE894CD

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/15/AR2006101500672.html

    I guess I’ll stop there.

    Doug, I do believe that the hysteria and hype surrounding the issue is similar to every issue the government or ruling class promotes to further their own political ends. I wish for once that the “blame-humanity-first” crowd would notice THAT consistently across the board, and not only when it fits their paradigm.

    Take care!

    -Jack

    P.S. BTW, I am not referring to average moderate-thinking people like you and me above.

    Jack

    January 29, 2007 at 7:24 am

  11. that’s why it will never wor. Merrill Amram.

    Merrill Amram

    October 21, 2007 at 2:02 pm

  12. global warming is true, duh!

    boby fred

    January 8, 2008 at 11:30 am

  13. I don’t hear mention of the current fuel prices, fewer folks flying driving etc. It looks to me as if the market might take care of a substantial part of the alleged problem way faster than legislation, which usually causes more problems than it solves. By the time government finishes with this issue our wallets will be way thinner.

    The upside could be breaking the bond to foreign oil some in the coming years and that is a good thing for sure.

    Jim

    April 23, 2008 at 1:23 pm


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