Let’s call this theory what it is – global warming. It implies that human activity is causing greenhouse gasses to accumulate in the atmosphere, and as a result the average global temperature has risen, and will continue to rise as the over production of greenhouse gasses continues. I reject the ‘climate change’ moniker as an evasive if not cowardly attempt to soften the theory’s controversial point.
How can so many Americans be skeptical of this theory when so many in the scientific community support it?
The ‘tribe mentality’ argument, which claims that many people reject the concept of global warming out of a fear of being ostracized from their social groups, must be rejected. While it is true that many people allow their opinions to be influenced by their social groups, you can easily project this argument in both directions – even within the scientific community. Further, claiming that people who disagree with you are irrational - for whatever reason - is unconvincing. The skeptics have many legitimate criticisms of the evidence scientists have presented in support of this theory.
The theory has three primary legs: that the average global temperature has risen over the last hundred years, that an accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere has caused the increase in average global temperature, and that human activity is responsible for the increased presence of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Scientists claim to have measured an increase in average global temperature of approximately one degree over the last hundred years. Obviously there is no single measurement for ‘average global temperature,’ therefore is must be the product of modeling, which must inherently include certain assumptions. The use of modeling and assumptions introduces a margin of error. This margin of error is compounded by: the varying methods of temperature collection around the world and over the last hundred years, the variability of the measurement equipment, and human error recording and transferring data.
Solar activity has a greater impact on average global temperature than any other factor. Even if the model considers known historical solar variation, the measurement and impact of the solar activity introduces a significant margin of error. The combination of all of these effects would certainly make a measurement so precise as one degree over one hundred years fall within a necessary margin of error. The public’s instinctive skepticism over this claim is well founded. Even today, average annual global temperature cannot be easily measured, only modeled.
The quantity of greenhouse gasses produced by human activity is impossible to measure. Most of the models developed to estimate this are derived from GDP or other industrial production data. Even if these models produce reasonable results, a necessary margin of error would preclude any precise claims.
The American public also has skepticism of scientific claims in general. Scientists have forecasted ice ages, population explosions, oil shortages, viral epidemics and killer comets. We’ve been told by researchers that eggs are good, bad, and good again. The public is justifiably skeptical of the accuracy of scientific claims.
The American public is also skeptical of the objectivity of scientific claims. The scientific community has a pro-environmental political leaning to begin with. Billions of dollars have been poured into researching the existence and impact of global warming. Having money to fund research has tremendous sway.
In spite of all its failings, the scientific community generally does the best it can with what it has. Scientists are often wrong as history has shown, but even when wrong they often lead us closer to truth.
The greatest mistake made by advocates of the theory of anthropologic global warming is the attempt to prove it by measurement. It cannot be proven by measurement, and attempting to do so invites distracting criticism. It doesn’t need to be proven by measurement, because it is proven by logic.
If half of the people in an auditorium lit cigarettes, we may not be able to measure the amount of carcinogens released by their smoking, or the specific health impacts their smoking had on the people in that room. However, we do not need specific measurement to know that inhaling toxins will have a negative impact on health, and if continuous will reduce life expectancy, sometimes abruptly.
We know that many aspects of our behavior produce greenhouse gasses. We know for a fact that an accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere will contribute to increasing global temperature. We know that increasing global temperature will have severe environmental impacts.
Whether or not we can measure the environmental impact of our behavior at this point is irrelevant. Maybe the average global temperature has increased over the last hundred years, maybe it hasn’t. Variations in global temperature caused by solar or volcanic activity could mask the beginnings of a greenhouse gas effect. The insidious nature of greenhouse gasses is accumulation. The impact on global temperature by these gasses will accelerate as the accumulation of gas increases, not unlike interest accumulating in a bank.
There is a level of human greenhouse gas production that the earth can absorb and dissipate without causing accumulation in the atmosphere. It is possible (albeit improbable) that our current rate of greenhouse gas production is still within this absorbable limit. Even if it is currently, if our rate of greenhouse gas production continues to climb unabated we will soon exceed the limits of earth’s ability to absorb our greenhouse gasses and cause accumulation in our atmosphere to begin.
We do not have to accept this fate. We can ban some activities and limit others, form international agreements establishing standards with our trading partners, and most potent of all – make positive choices at a personal level. We can choose to eat less meat, downsize our homes, and drive more fuel-efficient vehicles. We’ll live longer, save money, and protect the environment by accident.
Will passing laws that limit greenhouse gas producing activities destroy our economy? No, but it will hurt it and some industries will be hit hard. The negative impact on the economy overall could be more than offset by the complete elimination of corporate income taxes. Ironically a tax-free America could attract industry to the U.S. and cause them to comply with our environmental standards by choice. Within a few years the loss of tax revenue from corporations would be offset by increased tax revenue from payrolls.
Some nations will refuse to participate in the international agreements and continue to pollute, and others will cheat the agreements. Over time, as more and more nations joined the group, the negative trade impact of exclusion would be a powerful enough incentive to cause most industrial nations to participate and comply. Ultimately, the goal of significantly reducing the pace of greenhouse gas production can be achieved.
Isn’t it time to kick the habit?