Thursday, January 21, 2010

Revisiting Global Warming, Part 1

My dad posted a link to a local San Diego news show debunking the global warming myth. I’ve watched part 1…here’s my initial thoughts.

The first three minutes were spent telling us just how terrible – and expensive – it would be if we believe all this global warming nonsense and try to act on it, with an emphasis on new taxes and new spending. Well, that’s undeniably true – but says nothing about the truth or falsity of anthropogenic global warming. It appeared to be a classic argument from consequences fallacy – claiming that if something were true, it would lead to bad results, so it must not be true. More charitably, it might instead have been an attempt to show the importance of the issue by showing the consequences if we wrongly take action. Either way, it is completely useless for determining the truth or falsity of the proposition.

The show then presented six scientists who made various statements about the errors in the science that claims to show evidence of man-made global warming. Two of them didn’t actually make any researchable claims, simply stating that the other side’s science was faulty. The other four said things that can be examined, though. Let's look at just the first one.

Dr. Craig Idso noted that, in that famous graph of CO2 to temperature over the last 650,000 years, the level of CO2 actually lags the rise in temperature. That would seem to disprove the cause-and-effect relationship, as the purported cause, CO2, comes after the effect, the higher temperatures.

The problem is that things are more complicated than that. According to several other scientists, as noted here, historically warming trends have started from cyclic orbital variations that cause the Earth to receive more or less sunlight. When we get more, things warm up. This causes the oceans to release CO2, hence the lagging rise in that gas. However, that increased CO2 level then serves to amplify the warming trend, as well as spreading that trend planet-wide rather than concentrating it at the poles.

And obvious even to me, a non-scientist – that long-term graph didn’t show the effects of a man-made increase in CO2 because there hasn’t been one before. On a 650,000 year timescale, the ability of man to dramatically affect CO2 levels is pretty concentrated on the far right end of the timeline – the CO2 levels there looked significantly higher than anything seen before. So stating that the natural pattern has always been temperature first, then CO2, doesn’t do anything to disprove AGW, which has never before been possible.

So what does this prove? Not a durned thing. Dr. Idso demonstrated that the graph in An Inconvenient Truth oversimplified the situation, leading to the wrong conclusion. The several scientists referenced in the link above showed that Dr. Idso ALSO oversimplified the situation, leading to the wrong conclusion, and thus returning to Gore’s conclusion. It’s possible that there is yet another level of complexity that would invalidate that one. And another beyond that...

All this really shows is that this stuff is complicated. And for this reason, I'm not going through the other claims to try and counter them - I am pretty certain that such counters are out there on the web, and it wouldn't take any more time to find them than the two minutes it took me to find this one. But I’m not qualified to sort out all the conflicting claims. Neither is Arianna Huffington, nor Glenn Beck. Nor is John Coleman, the host of the video. And since I know pretty much everyone who reads this blog, I can state with fair assurance – neither are you. That’s why, as I discussed in an earlier post, I find it necessary to use other means to make my judgment on this issue.

I've got more to say on this, specifically regarding the financial factors on both sides. But it'll probably be several days before I get that one up. If you want to criticize Gore or the scientific establishment for their self-serving attempts to enrich themselves by promoting this, please wait for that post - but for anything else related to AGW, feel free to comment on this one.