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Common sense global warming FAQ

This is a page from the original version of Pagan Vigil. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at

My long delayed but necessary explanation.

Considering how confusing the issue is, I thought I would put a brief FAQ together. This is a work in progress, I welcome comments and suggestions.

Since this FAQ was originally written, “global warming” is no longer considered acceptable. The current phrase is “climate change.” Since changing terms and definitions distract attention from the argument’s failure, I’m keeping the original phrase.

Why do you have a problem with the global warming theory?
Actually it is several theories bound together in one dogma that people aren't allowed to question.

I've no problem with theories until someone starts demanding I change my behavior to accommodate the theory. Then I want to see facts, or at least observable evidence. I've not see that yet with human caused global warming.

Several theories?
Yes, several theories. To keep things brief and sort through the confusion, I break the global warming theories into two groups, the political theories and the climate theories.

For most people, the only reason to consider the political is because of the climate.

So what are the climate theories?
That is where things get confusing. I've read several books on it, studied what I could, cross indexed and drove myself nuts.

In basic terms, the climate theories of global warming say that the global temperature is increasing catastrophically and human produced greenhouse gases are to blame.

I don't agree with the "science" because it doesn't seem to be backed up with observations, just computer projections.

Supposedly greenhouse gases increase the amount of water in the atmosphere and that leads to warming. Sure enough, high humidity can increase temperature.

Unless the water in the atmosphere turns to clouds, which can lower the atmospheric temperature.

We don't yet understand what makes atmospheric water clouds or just very humid air.

Then there is how the temperature is measured. A parcel of land as small as an acre can have different temperatures at opposite ends, based on everything from soil composition to caves to vegetation to groundwater. It's one thing to look at the map and say that Cincinnati is 72 degrees, but is that downtown or uptown? Do the suburbs run cooler or warmer? Los Angeles is much more spread out than New York City, so why does it get only one temperature?

Finally, there is the assumption that excess carbon dioxide is bad. Plants live on carbon dioxide, much as animals live on oxygen. More carbon dioxide means more plant growth, which in turn means more oxygen. You can't take one piece out of the cycle and say "this is BAD."

Can you give specific examples?
I could, but it would make this FAQ incredibly long. One draft was about twenty-seven pages before I decided to focus on common sense instead of facts, statistics, and charts.

Didn't you write something about global warming science before?
Yep, I did. I listed four questions. In my opinion, each of these questions should be answered before we can justify taking action.

So here are my questions.

Is it unusual?

Is it entirely or mostly human caused?

Is it evil or bad?

Can human action reverse or slow it?

Unless each and every one of these questions is answered "yes," there is no moral need to confront global warming. We will return to that moral need in a bit.

Perhaps the biggest disservice that the global warming movement has done is convince people that our weather is unusual. Weather is a natural cycle and natural cycles change all the time. For example, I live not far from the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest. Both are the result of geological changes taking place over thousands of years.

Specific weather is not predictable, especially not long range. You can't tell me what the exact temperature will be next June 3 at 9:07 in the morning. You can told me the probable range, and that will get better as we get closer to the date. Even then, it's only one spot on the globe. The weather in Newark doesn't have any relation to the weather in Houston. Ontario will have different weather than Cairo.

You can't tell me what next year's precipitation is going to be. I am willing to lay odds you can't tell me last year's rainfall, or how that compares with the average.

So why is there all this bad weather?
The simple answer is that there isn't. Two things contribute here. We're plugged into more information and more information sources than ever before. A cascade effect is pretty common, where the same information (right or wrong) hits you from several channels at once, making it seem more important or more widespread than it actually is. That is why the number of channels is not nearly as important as the diversity of channels.

Also, you've been conditioned to look for unusual patterns, even if none exist. If I told you that your grandmother was coming to visit you and she would be in a blue car, you'll pay more attention to the blue cars that pass than you will the other colors.

What about the temperature readings?
I'm glad you asked. The readings aren't entirely accurate, depending on where the weather station is placed, how things have grown up around it, if it has been moved, if the building has been altered, and so forth. Just because there is a written record of temperature doesn't mean it is totally accurate. In fact, many stations have their number "adjusted."

Here is a project to survey all the American weather stations, and here is an explanation of some of the obvious problems with the raw numbers. Thanks to this Coyote Blog entry for cluing me in on the measurement problems.

But don't most scientists believe in global warming?
Who are you to say they are wrong?
Here's what I keep stressing. Science is not about what people believe, it's about what can be proven. Yet almost every time lately I see an argument claiming human caused global warming, they always bring up something like "this is what most scientists believe."

Science is not about consensus. Science is about what can be proven because it can be measured and predicted.

By some counts, approximately 76% of Americans are Christian. Certainly an "overwhelming majority," but in and of itself that's hardly proof that Jesus Christ existed. Christianity only comprises about a third of the world population, which means that an "overwhelming majority" doesn't believe in Jesus Christ, but that is not definitive proof he didn't exist.

Belief does not equal fact.

I can prove that there are Christians but I can't prove Christianity. Just because there are Christians doesn't mean that Christianity is factual, any more than the existence of Buddhists proves that Buddhism is factual. Neither can I prove the case for atheism, nor the case for my own version of Paganism. I can count the number of people who believe, but I can't use that number to prove the case. Beliefs aren't a problem unless someone else demands I change my behavior because their beliefs are absolutely factual and never to be questioned under any circumstances whatsoever. That case demands proof because it depends on objective measurement instead of subjective experience. Only when there is tested proof can we move beyond belief to fact.

Proven science means that the theory must not only account for past and present observations, but can predict future conditions. Here's where the global warming theories fall down. No one can take the numbers from five years ago and produce numbers that show what is happening now. That means that future conditions can't be predicted from the theory, which in turn means that there is no science behind the theories of human-caused global warming.

The official climate change models haven’t been able to accurately predict weather in almost two decades. There is a peer-reviewed pocket calculator model that shows some of the flaws n the official model.

Unless and until global warming can be verified, it is a belief system that must be taken on faith.

In other words, a religion.

How can you say that carbon dioxide doesn't cause warming?
I read about this study that says it does!
It's a statistical anomaly. At first glance there seems to be a strong link from about 1975 to 2000, a less strong link from 1950 to 2000, and a weak link from 1900 to 2000. But no one has managed to show a link between carbon dioxide and temperature outside that century. Since 2000, human caused carbon dioxide has increased but the global temperature hasn't.

That's a pretty good guess that something else is responsible.

Our best guess right now is that solar activity is the cause, especially since the polar ice caps on Mars have been retreating for about the same period.

But what about the glaciers falling off into the ocean?
That is what glaciers do. Better to measure the temperature and thickness away from the coast at the interior. Those show no significant change. Neither does the Antarctic interior.

What about the polar bears?
There is a problem there and it is partially caused by warmer temperatures. It looks like the solar activity will die off and the planet will get cooler for a while.

The other major cause for the polar bears dying off is human encroachment and shrinking habitat. Humans and bears occupy about the same ecological niche.

Now we need to consider the political theories.

So what are the political theories?
First, that we can "decarbonize" industry without major economic and political implications.

Second, that government can do a better job at controlling economic actions than the free market.

Third, that a group of elites is better equipped to decide what people need instead of what people want.

Fourth, that humanity's progress in science and technology during the last century or two is tainted and any economic gains because of that progress is EVIL.

There are others, but those are the major ones.

Can we "decarbonize" industry?

In the U.S., a good portion of the power is generated by coal plants or natural gas plants. Shutting those plants down would mean no power and no jobs. There isn't a place in the country that wouldn't be devastated.

Reliable wind and solar power on that scale is years away, maybe decades.

Hydroelectric might be able to pick up the slack, but it would mean damming every river on the continent, probably several times. There would be a huge and probably irreversible environmental impact. Many public lands would be gone. Not to mention the cost of paying for all those dams.

The only known technology that could be scaled up with off the shelf parts is nuclear power, and somehow I don't think that would be tolerated.

Can we at least "decarbonize" transportation?

Ethanol still produces carbon dioxide. It also produces less power than an equal amount of gasoline. Without substantial government subsidies, ethanol costs significantly more than gasoline.

Remember that, ethanol costs more but delivers less.

Government subsidies of ethanol research are driving world wide corn prices up, because as of yet no one has figured out how to use plant waste instead of food crops on a large scale. As of May of 2007, these subsidies have caused corn shortages in Mexico, much higher prices for corn products (especially corn syrup) in the United States, much higher cattle feed prices in the United States, higher milk prices in the United States, and a world wide shortage of milk and milk products for the poor. Beef prices are now going up as well.

Ethanol is much more volatile than gasoline. It’s harder and more expensive to store and transport. Ethanol requires special tanks and pipelines or it will escape to the surrounding land. An ethanol spill has a larger environmental impact than a gasoline spill.

I bet you weren’t told that.

Electric cars have a limited range and speed. To increase both, the cars have been pared down to the absolute minimum. There is some evidence that pure electric cars aren't as safe in an accident. Because the range is typically under a hundred miles and the cars take several hours to recharge, pure electrics are useless outside of city driving.

Hybrids are better, but still rely on gasoline for long trips.

And when it comes to freight, well, no one has managed to build the electric equivalent of an 18 wheeler. Without freight services, prices away from seaports would skyrocket.

At this point, an electrical plane is extremely impractical.

Can't government do a better job controlling the economy?
You mean like they did with the ethanol subsidy? Or the Medicare drug plan? Or the gas crunch of the 1970s? Or Social Security? Or the Federal budget?

No, they can't.

A controlled, centralized economy will create high prices and shortages. Not to mention a black market and rampant crime.

Can't some elites decide what is best?
And would those be Republican or Democrat elites?

If it's the side you don't agree with, would you be willing to live under those rules?

What makes the elites so qualified anyway?

Who gets to pick the elites?

What about the environmental issues?
This is probably my biggest problem with the human caused global warming movement. Everything environmental has become secondary to "fixing global warming." You can't talk about pollution without being told that global warming is a higher priority. Water shortages and dropping water tables take a back seat. Forest management to control wildfires is frozen by lawsuits.

I do believe that we humans should take a hard look at the planet and what we are doing to it. Just as one suggestion, why can't we locate more of our industry underground and then build parks above them?

Humans should take an active role, and that means doing something more than it would be "naturally."

What about that moral need?
In times of emergency, people can sometimes be persuaded to put aside their needs for the greater good. Our culture recognizes this as noble and honors the sacrifice. But it requires a clear moral need. The question of human caused global warming fails this test because the conditions that demand the moral need must be taken on faith. Unless human caused global warming can be proved, there is no moral need for sacrifice and no "greater good."

As I said, this is a work in progress. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

Last Updated February 6, 2015

Posted: Fri - March 2, 2007 at 05:35 AM

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