Monday, January 4, 2010

Sadly, Your Personal Observations Alone Are Irrelevant to Global Warming

I make it a general rule to avoid the Drudge Report, but today he is leading with the big, bad headline: Cold, Cold, Colder. It is cold right now, no question, but clearly the idea Drudge is shoveling is that global warming cannot possibly exist when it is so cold outside! He also links to the following stories:

Temps Plunge to Record as Cold Snap Freezes North, East States...
CHILL MAP...
Vermont sets 'all-time record for one snowstorm'...
Iowa temps 'a solid 30 degrees below normal'...
Power outage halts flights at Washington Reagan National Airport...
Seoul buried in heaviest snowfall in 70 years...
Peru's mountain people 'face extinction because of cold conditions'...
Beijing -- coldest in 40 years...
World copes with Arctic weather...

It's almost like we are trying, at times, to show how little we understand about logic and reasoning and critical thinking. Let me start here: the terms "global warming" and "global climate change" have something in common, can you spot it? Yes, it is the word global. As in, the entire globe throughout the entire year. So a few news stories from a smattering of places that happen to be cold are not persuasive, at all, to refute global warming.

Here are some items that Drudge and others have conveniently omitted from their crack efforts to debunk global warming:

In 2007, the 11 hottest years occurred in the previous 13 years.
2009 was the fifth hottest year on record.
The Aught's was the hottest decade on record.
The polar ice caps are melting faster than expected.
Polar ice is at record lows.
New sea routes are opening because of melting polar ice.

Here we have stories in which scientists that are remembering to take into account the global part of "global warming" find compelling evidence that global warming is occurring, and that man-made actions are a major factor. It is no longer sufficient to walk outside your house to see if it's a cold winter to have an opinion on the global climate. We're a little more sophisticated now.

And I am by no means an alarmist. I tend to think we still have time to take a measured approach to this problem as long as we start now. I think the legislation that is making its way through Congress now, which reduces emissions of greenhouse gases by around 17% by 2020, is a nice sensible step. I think the modest agreement Pres. Obama arranged in the Copenhagen climate change summit can do some real good. By taking moderate steps now we can avoid having to make drastic, economy-altering changes in the future.

In a perfect world we would all voluntarily cut our personal emissions drastically for the good of Earth and ourselves. We would demand more fuel-efficient cars, drive less, use less electricity, buy locally-produced food, recycle everything possible, and demand real investment in alternative and renewable energy sources. We would have a cleaner planet and lead healthier and happier lives.

But in the real world, on a global economic scale, we unfortunately have to take more moderate steps. What doesn't help, though, is people drawing conclusions about global issues based on infinitesimally small data points, like how cold it got last night in their back yard.

13 comments:

Daniel H. said...

I have a friend that believes Drudge because of that bullcrap "Oh, it was snippity cold in my back yard yesterday!"

*rolls eyes*

Can someone roll those back? (har har)

And as for recycling, &c we can't necessarily impose these things on a national scale but we can do them locally and encourage those around us to do the same.

Moreover, whether you believe in global warming or not, you have to agree that what we're doing to the Earth right now is not "dressing" or "keeping" the planet with which we've been made stewards.

Molly said...

Let me say that I agree that we should do as much as we possibly can to take care of our earth, our space, and our environment. You've made some good points.

However, in light of "climategate" I find it nearly impossible to know who is telling the truth. When groups of scientists cannot come to an agreement, we have a limited amount of knowledge on which to rely. Once the information we rely upon to make an informed decision is discredited or found to be based on less than honest models, etc., it becomes almost impossible for us to do more than simply have an opinion and do what we can individually to further our own beliefs.

Jacob S. said...

Scientists have spent years studying global warming. The scientists come from dozens of nations and every conceivable background, and have spent thousands and thousands of man-hours on this issue. As bad as those leaked emails may have seemed, they represent only the tiniest sliver of the resources that have been poured into global warming research. I was as upset as anyone about them, but they shouldn't color our entire view of the issue.

Frank Fisher said...

Liberal Mormons, I didn't think they existed and I've lived in Utah for almost 20 years now. I guess you do learn something new everyday.

Now hear this- the earth has been warming and cooling in various degrees since the planet formed. It may also have something to do with the earth not being at a static distance from the sun. That distance also varies.

Is man contributing to what some consider to be the latest round of warming? Who knows, after all the glaciers started receding before the industrial revolution of the late 1800's.

Believe what you want, but the Deity in Washington and the collective idiots in Copenhagen are not going to be able to save us from what occurs naturally.

Jacob S. said...

You must be from Utah County. Which is not in itself bad, but you should know that there is a whole world out there which contains all sorts of people like Mormon liberals or New England conservatives. Stereotypes and generalizations are dangerous things.

Now, no one has ever disputed that the Earth naturally goes through climate changes, so this is a classic strawman argument. But what we are seeing now is the compression of what naturally takes thousands of years to occur into mere decades. And there is indisputable scientific evidence that man-made factors are playing a significant role. What that means is that plants and animals that in the past had ample time to adjust and evolve simply can't keep up and are dying off at an accelerated pace. Not only that, but we are not allowing ourselves time to adjust to this new climate that we have created (or monumentally accelerated).

Similarly, we are not trying to stop nature, that would be arrogant. What we are trying to do is minimize our own deleterious effects on natural processes which, if left unchecked, will likely spiral out of control.

All of this is grounded in solid scientific research, peer reviewed the world over, tested over and over. Which leads me to a more broad issue: why is there is a significant bloc of conservative voters and thinkers that are so adverse to science? Where does this aversion come from? I'm not sure I understand where this is coming from.

Josh said...

"Scientists have spent years studying global warming."

The same scientists that studied global cooling in the 70's and 80's? It's all about money. Read State of Fear, a novel by Micheal Chrichton. It's fiction, but it seems like the climate change crowd is following the novel exactly.

grayfox said...

The CRU emails did nothing to disprove anthropogenic global climate change.

http://www.factcheck.org/2009/12/climategate/

Andrew said...

Y'know, the atmosphere is only a small part of the story when it comes to global climate change. Compared to the oceans, the atmosphere is a drop in the bucket. The oceans act like huge heatsinks, and water temps down thousands of feet have been steadily going up as a result of human-caused warming. Now, whether or not it's cold or hot in the atmosphere generally has much more to do with the dynamics of heat transfer from the oceans -- examples being El Nino or La Nina types of events. If we have a mild El Nino, temps will be cooler (as has been the case over the last decade or so). A strong El Nino, on the other hand, will raise temps rather drastically. Again, though, the real action is in the oceans, and they're storing massive amounts of excess energy.

Jacob S. said...

Josh, I would say that there was nowhere near the effort, time, and resources put into global cooling, which was a minor theory for a short amount of time, as there has been in global warming. Also, remember that scientists were studying global warming way back in the 60's and 70's.

Andrew, you make a good point about the oceans and also remind me of something else worth thinking about. One of the effects of increased CO2 in the atmosphere is not only atmospheric and oceanic warming, but also increased acidity of the oceans, which is one the causes of coral reef die-offs and other harms. Like I said, I don't think it's too late to take a measured approach to the problem, but I do think now is the time to start acting.

grayfox said...

Jacob you are correct. "Global cooling" in the 70s/80s was a minor blip in the scientific community compared to anthropogenic global climate change of today.

This can be seen with the tiniest fraction of effort on google.

Joseph said...

I love when global warming proponents refer to their "indisputable scientific evidence", as if they can simply cancel out opposing views by saying that they simply don't exist. Then when they are forced to acknowledge that opposing viewpoints do exist, they equate them to "holocaust deniers" and "moon-landing conspiracy theorists". Then when Climategate comes along, they mindlessly take the word of the establishment mass media that there's nothing to get excited about because they don't really say anything important. Stop being so trusting. In a science debate, the loudest voice isn't always correct. I appreciate the good intentions of honest individuals who worry about global warming, but please do your own research of both sides of the argument before you start giving away your rights in the name of being green. "Green" as defined by wall street-backed, corporatist, social-engineering, eugenicist, wealthy elites, whose paid off academics conjure up feel-good causes for the subservient masses to buy into, at the cost of their personal freedoms and worth. Real GREEN is good, but I dont trust corporate GREEN.

M.Galt said...

That darn Drudge, making up all these stories around the world. When will some one stop him from posting stories posted by reputable news outlets?

Jacob S. said...

No one is disputing the veracity of the stories themselves, we're disputing the implication that they refute the years of science pointing to man made global climate change.