Saturday, October 30, 2010

Global Warming Deniers

Every time we get horrible weather - monster Gulf Coast hurricanes, the drought in the southeastern U.S., killer firestorms in Southern California - it's hard not to think about global warming. Those types of weather are unrelated to global warming, a direct effect of global warming, or somewhere in between, depending on who you listen to. Most scientists wisely posit that these examples of extreme weather happen no matter what, but that global warming exacerbates the situation (makes them worse). Makes sense.

There are 3 levels of thinking about global warming. On level one, is the Earth significantly warming? By now, everybody agrees that it is. But then there's level two: is that warming largely the result of human activity? Here there is general agreement that it is, although some argue that we can't know that for sure. Finally there is level three: given that the Earth is warming and that Man's to blame, do we need to take drastic actions to minimize the expected and horrible effects it will surely bring? Again, here there is general agreement that we need to take drastic action, but more than a few folks have started to waffle on this recently. We call these people "global warming deniers", and place them in the same general category as those deluded souls who deny the reality of evolution or the Holocaust.

But maybe that's not fair. Maybe these guys have a point that's worth considering. First, let me clarify that I'm not one of these guys. But I do have an open mind. My "green" credentials are better than most, by the way. I'm a very active member of both Wildcoast and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, organizations that strive to protect our coastlines and wildlife habitat, respectively. I drive a pickup truck, but got the smallest engine available and drive slowly enough to beat EPA mileage figures by quite a bit. I also have purchased renewable energy offsets to compensate for my driving, and ride my bike to work once or twice a week. We use energy saving light bulbs and recently added extra insulation in my home. So look, even though I'm not a green extremist, I'm concerned about Mother Earth and I actually try to do something about it.

But back to these deniers. They say that Earth's climate has shifted drastically a countless number of times over the eons. Each time, there were tremendous changes for life on the planet - but it wasn't all bad. Some plants and animals were wiped out, but others flourished. Some areas became unlivable, while other areas opened up new possibilities for life. It's kind of pompous or chauvinistic, they suggest, to think that the climate of the last few millenia is THE PROPER climate for Earth. Why should it be that thick polar ice, a mild climate in California, and hundreds of millions of people inhabiting our present coastlines, is THE WAY it's supposed to be? Had the climate in recent millenia been different and civilizations developed somewhat differently and in other parts of the world, would that have been so unnatural, so bad?

These deniers are invariably accused of being energy corporate shills or otherwise paid lackeys of the status quo. Maybe. But the show "20/20" recently featured a number of respected scientists who are not associated or receiving funding from corporate bad guys. They were, however, members of the IPCC group that gave its stamp of approval to the idea that global warming is real and must be reversed. They point out that many IPCC members were not scientists at all, but environmental lobbyists, governmental bureaucrats, etc. and that the scientists' skepticism about global warming were ignored. These guys accept that global warming is happening, but they question how much we should try to fight it.

Well, I think they might have a point. We should have no claim for "our" climate being the right one. Yet it seems that in transitioning into a new, warmer climate, tragedies almost beyond belief might result. You know what they are, so I won't go there. Al Gore's done a wonderful job with his "Inconvenient Truth" show; I admire him and respect the science he presents. Still, questions remain. A British judge recently ruled that the film contains "significant errors", such as the claims that global warming was to blame for Hurricane Katrina, polar bears drowning, and coral reefs disappearing. OK, so maybe Al pushed the truth a little in order to get our attention.

Apparently, even if we totally stopped putting CO2 into the environment today, the climate would continue to warm for several decades, bringing many of the feared changes - no matter what. And the cost of abandoning carbon-based fuels all at once, such as the very real economic costs of people losing jobs, prices sky-rocketing, etc., would be enormous, Most of the alternative energy solutions bring serious side-affects as well. So what's more likely is that we slowly reduce and reverse our carbon emissions. Again, that's still going to leave us with immense climate changes over many decades.

On the other hand, some suggest, we'd be much better off spending less time and fewer resources on modifying global warming, and more time/resources on adapting to what is an inevitability. We could get "more bang for the buck" by building up low-lying coastal areas, building massive water transfer systems, modifying the crops we grow, etc. than we would get from fighting the inevitable changes, they posit. Yeah, maybe. I dunno.

I think we need to use less energy, pollute less, and treat Mother Earth better - JUST BECAUSE IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Whether we can - whether we should - do it to avoid the effects of global warming, well there I'm not quite as sure. Probably so. But I think some of these "deniers'" points might have something to them, and I wish we'd include them in the dialogue rather than making fun of them or ignoring them.


angel aguilar said...

Many people deny the fact that global warming ios not a probem, when it is. Global warmaning is a serious situation that needs to be taken action fast. If theres still people that deny it then the world its really gonna be in trouble.

drew said...

I agree, that he qlobal warming deniers have a point. But I agree with getting ready for the inevitable. Whether it's going to happen or not I think we're better off just getting ready for it, and putting time and energy into getting ready by everybody treating the earth better. I agree with the deniers point though, that climate has been chaiging for eons and perhaps it's just completely natural. Nonetheless, the essay covers a lot of good points and I agree with most of them. Let's just start taking care of our home.

Natalie Eisen said...

It really can’t be proven that man is the cause of global warming yet. Unless we had some sort of placebo Earth – a planet identical to ours that’s not being polluted by humans – there would be no way to tell for sure. And it would be practically impossible to stop the running of technology in order to double-check. While all of the smoke and cow farts could be damaging the atmosphere, we’ve grown dependent on factories and oil and other potentially damaging resources for our livelihood. Yes, everyone can do their part – ride bikes to work, use reusable grocery bags, drive a smart car. I think those sorts of thing, while maybe not magically making global warming go away, should be applauded. It’s simply common sense.

Nadia Florman said...

After having a discussing with my grandfather a few months ago I have come to realize that both sides of the issue have their reasons and they both are believable. My grandfather, a Global Warming Denier, thinks that the earth is going through another phase, just like it did at the end of the ice age, when there was an increase of temperature. IF that is to be true, it seems to me that everyone should be worried because the ice age's melting, as well as other climate changes have led to the changes that species were unable to adapt to, which led to their death.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, controversial issues (such as global warming) have two (or even more) sides, and every side mentions significant reasons and points to back up its position. We won’t know who is right or wrong but it’s accepted that the Earth’s temperature is rising. I agree with the essay that those deniers should deserve some credit instead of being hated upon. However, the controversy between believers of global warming and deniers of global warming should stop and have them and other people play their roles to preserve the planet.

Alan Tam

Anonymous said...

What you said in “Global Warming Deniers” I only partly agree with. I think that we have definitely impacted earth and contributed to climate change, but that we are only part of the problem. I also believe that natural climate change over the years has also had a lasting affect on our global warming problem. The “Global Warming Deniers” have a point that is worth looking into.

Armando Olea said...

Whether, global warming exist or not, (inductively it does in my opinion through all the changes our planet has gone through for many years and currently,) I agree that we should take the precautions to prevent the effects of global warming whether you believe it is happening or not. It's easily perceived that it is an controversial issue but we should take the time to protect and treat Mother Earth the right way because it is the right thing to do.

Armando Olea said...

Whether, global warming exist or not, (inductively it does in my opinion through all the changes our planet has gone through for many years and currently,) I agree that we should take the precautions to prevent the effects of global warming whether you believe it is happening or not. It's easily perceived that it is an controversial issue but we should take the time to protect and treat Mother Earth the right way because it is the right thing to do.