An Inconvenient Uncertainty

It’s time to make up my mind about global warming. I’m sure that that statement is leaving many of you scratching your heads—most people I know or encounter view global warming as unassailable and cannot fathom how anyone could question such a settled matter. To be honest, I haven’t seriously surveyed the science since 1999 but my position has always been that I was skeptical of the claims for anthropogenic global warming. The time has come for me to re-examine the scientific findings since then and re-acquaint myself with the chief arguments for and against the skeptical position. In the next couple months (or less), I’ll review the links I’ve collected at del.icio.us and the links presented by those links. In the end, I hope to have a much firmer grasp of the issues as they stand today so I can make a decision about what I believe.

For the record, I don’t believe that man has had anything to do with a global increase in mean surface temperature if such a thing has actually happened. That means two things: I’m dubious that surface temperature has increased significantly and I don’t believe that man’s activities on the planet have affected the climate globally. My scientific basis for believing that was quite solid back in 1999 (and earlier) but I’ve really grown out of touch with the current scientific body of evidence one way or the other.

The global warming faithful always have trotted out the fact that 2,500 scientists signed a position for this or that contention or that the entire world (except us) ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Such arguments don’t hold much sway with me and they shouldn’t with anyone, except that the consensus position deserves greater attention. All the scientists in the world can be wrong about something and all of the Third World nations might accept a treaty that adversely affects the United States. There are definite incentives in believing the global warming hype or taking America down a peg; whether they are currently at work remains to be seen.

The modern environmentalist movement espouses what I call a “watermelon” ideology. It’s green on the outside and red on the inside. (I’m not sure where the black seeds fit in to this analogy.) In other words, the environmentalists frequently take positions that Marxists and Communists wouldn’t have a problem with. Carbon reductions will stifle nascent economies and cause substantial displacements in established ones. The United States, with the largest economy in the world, will bear the brunt of environmental restrictions—and there’s a sizable contingent of the green movement that is positively giddy at that thought.

Governments around the world, including those at the state and federal levels in the United States, can see the expediency of using global warming as a pretext for increased economic and social regulation. At the very least, global warming has allowed for greater expenditures and taxation. If people believe that the seas will rise 150 feet over the next century or that the global average temperature will rise 10°, then they’ll accept a lot of internal restructuring of society. Most people will accept a deterioration of rights in return for safety and security.

Those are the reasons for my skepticism at present. They are largely based on the arguments put forth by proponents of global warming and my experience with past movements. At one time, as I mentioned, I could marshal scientific rationales for my positions as well. That made the arguments of the other side seem much more dishonest. Now, though, I’m inclined to think that there might be some merit to the belief that global surface temperatures are rising. My review of the scientific literature will focus on that aspect: I have plenty of questions on the methodology of determining a global surface temperature as well as about the specific mechanisms by which the minor amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can cause such significant variances.

Once I’ve determined whether or not the basic scientific questions have been answered, then I’ll be in a better position to evaluate the proposed solutions. If the science doesn’t jibe, then the proposed solutions’ motivations will be exposed quite readily. If the science is good, then I’ll look at man’s role in the matter and whether it can be mitigated at this point. I’m quite unsure as to which route my study will take and I will post my findings on this blog once I’ve settled my mind.

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