ETHICAL ISSUES: GLOBAL WARMING

ETHICS and GLOBAL WARMING

A (very) recent study by the United Kingdom’s Meteorological Office reports that “global warming has been virtually nonexistent for the last 16-years.”  The report states that prior to that time was a 16-year period when temperatures rose; and prior to that (a period of 32-years) temperatures were stable or declining for 40-years.  You don’t need to be told that these trends are as open to scrutiny as any others, but at least they’re not politically motivated.

What does this mean?

It certainly supports the GIGO  (Garbage In, Garbage Out) phenomenon of modeling  Models are no better than their inputs.  Existing models are necessarily incomplete–there are almost innumerable uncertainties that have significant effects on each other and the final output.  Carbon dioxide is only a minor component of the greenhouse gases that make life on earth possible (without them the planet would freeze).  Seventy-five percent of greenhouse gases consists of water vapor, which will always defy human control.  Here’s why.

The very existence of greenhouse gases speaks volumes for the ability of earth processes to have created a balance necessary for life as we know it, and to make the ‘automatic’ corrections necessary  to maintain what it itself has wrought—the biosphere.  There have been countless variations and consequent adjustments to climate throughout geologic time.  How does this balance come to be?  The fact is that it’s a natural system we’re dealing with, not just a bunch of neatly-categorized variables, and to think that we can control an entire system without even knowing what it consists of, is an exercise in futility.

Professor Michael Gordin of Princeton University writes: “when mainstream science is attacked in politically-credible ways” the dangers will come not from the fringes but via the inside.  Could this possibly mean that credentialed scientists might lend their prestige to whichever side will pay for their support, which may well include government?  Example?  The EPA acts administratively (rather than constitutionally) to impose billions of dollars in unfunded mandates on select industries without clear scientific bases for doing so (Wall Street Journal, October 23, 2012).  You can think of more…

Whom do we believe?

Well, for starters we know that there are many factors affecting climate change other than carbon dioxide, and that we do not appreciate, much less understand, the effects of whatever these may be on global climate. How can one model what one does not even know about?  Quite simply, we don’t have enough data to draw a meaningful conclusion.

It’s time that earth scientists (geologists, by definition) wrest the initiative from the politicians who dominate the argument currently.  Political correctness is by definition a lie.  Science seeks the truth, and it’s time to pursue it.  Scientifically.

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