Global Warming, Again

A while back, Xark wrote a post on global warming based on the premise that Mankind was the cause of warming, and asked that readers respond with potential solutions.  A lively debate ensued, although the group did not arrive at a consensual solution, and the discussion slowly petered out. 

The discussion ignited the spark of awareness, at least for your scribe, and my curiosity was aroused.  Other bloggers have discussed the same issues, had the same debates, offered many of the same solutions.  It is a subject that ought to stay in the forum of ideas until a consensus is formed, actions agreed upon, and steps taken toward resolution.

With that in mind, Q and O has been discussing the subject, a debate has ensued, and all interested readers should check in periodically for updates.

Some snippets:

My problem with the idea of making policy decisions based on what we know now about global warming is that, before you can solve a problem, the dimensions of the problem have to be defined, then a clear-eyed look at the costs and benefits of the proposed policies have to be weighed. That means there are a lot of questions to which we need to have answers, before we can even approach a political solution….

What if the mechanism is 80% natural, and 20% man-made? Can we reverse the natural component at all? If not, will addressing the human component stop global warming, or merely delay its effects? Again, if the latter, then would our money be better spent on combating global warming itself, or on policies designed to ameliorate the effects?

And while we’re talking about other nature, what natural mechanism exist that might combat global warming naturally? Will increased instability in the weather, or an increase in the rate of water evaporation as the poles melt, cause more cloud cover, increasing the earth’s albedo, and reflecting heat back into space? Will increases in CO2 spur a massive increase in plant growth, which might retard the effect of CO2 by replacing it with oxygen? What were the natural mechanisms that kicked off the various ice ages? What ended them? Can we expect any of those mechanism to come into play? If so, when and why? If not, why?

Mr. Shaughnessy’s position seems to be: Ignore any contrary data! Ignore the lack of precision of our predictive models! It means nothing! We must combat global warming now! Don’t try to foist your silly questions upon me! I have no responsibility to answer them! The path is already clear, and you’re obviously just a selfish churl who doesn’t care if people die, or, at best, a foolish Luddite who refuses to accept the wisdom of the one true path! Your pathetic new observational data means nothing to me! Your professed desire for more—and more accurate—science is merely a thinly disguised pretext for inaction!

Frankly, that is a political, not a scientific viewpoint. It indicates too much of a desire to do something, and too little of a desire to ensure that what we do is actually helpful in any meaningful way. Mr. Shaughnessy isn’t interested in difficult questions about predictive models. His mind is made up.

All in all, an interesting discussion.  Please read the whole thing…


One Reply to “Global Warming, Again”

  1. I am just a 90 year old retired mediocre engineer, used to designing things by methods one could discuss freely without interference by political acceptability.
    I agree with most of the “snippets” – if I was the project manager of a design to reduce damage to life and material from global warming I would feel compelled to put the major effort into protection rather than the fashionable but fictional prevention.

    It may well be that we can reduce greenhouse gases at great upset to our economy but the effect will be tiny, whereas the same spend on sound protection projects could mean the salvation of millions of people.

    This is not to say that economy is use of the Earth’s resources should not be pursued – it should.

    It is sad that the establishment has even intelligent people I know cast into the fashionable mould – when I expess theses views I am thought to be a nut case.

    21 December 2008, 18.50

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