Sunday, October 21, 2007

A clear view of Global Warming

Daniel Botkin writes in the Wall Street Journal that global warming hype is being overdone apparently for political purposes. As he mentions in his article, one of his colleagues said
"Wolves deceive their prey, don't they?" one said to me recently. Therefore, biologically, he said, we are justified in exaggerating to get society to change.

So, the global warming alarmists consider us to be prey? So much for the scientific consensus having any application to the debate (I know, there is no debate, but I am talking about the steps that are being taken to deal with global warming).
Botkin also talks about the use of computer modeling to justify the alarmism of the Gores or the world. In my last job in the military, I worked at a theater level wargaming facility. In conjunction with some smart programmers, we were able to set "dials" on the program that could change the expected result in order to test the staffs that were being trained. As a result, I really don't accept the use of computer modeling as definitive of prediction. Modeling requires trying to isolate as many variables as possible, assign to them the correct value or weight, and then run it to see what the result would be. Sometimes, we got wholly unexpected results and had to go back to figure out why.
Using computer models for climate change is curious to me because of the large number of variables, we can't predict accurately the weather two weeks out, but somehow we think that we can predict climate 100 years out. I know that climate is different than weather, but climate is the cumulative effect of weather. If the underlying premise of your proposition is wrong, it is highly unlikely that your proposition would be correct. But still, we are all in a panic about global warming.
What happens if the world does warm? There are going to be changes in which areas are arable, and which not. Some species may go extinct and others could thrive. But for humans, warming is preferable to cooling.
Scoop Montana had a posting on global warming that included in the comments a question by Colby Natale where he asks what happens if the global warming alarmists are wrong versus those who disagree with them. As Colby said:
We don't know for sure either way, but what are the stakes in both sides being wrong? If Rebecca is wrong, all that happens is that we throw some money away and waste some effort on saving energy and changing our habits; no blood no foul.

On the other hand, if you are Scoop - the repercussions could be much more dire. If global warming is real and we don't work to rectify it, we will be faced with any number of dangerous changes in the world. Floods that claim human habitat, loss of crops when we loss growing weather, animal extinction due to habitat loss, loss of water in third world nations, etc.

I am not stating those things WILL happen, but I am saying they might. Why take the chance that we are wrong with such possibly high stakes? That is what I never get. Why isn't it worth it to change our habits, drive more efficient cars, carpool etc if it MIGHT save us from such ends?

Why is resisting the possibility that the science of global warming is right so appealing to you when, if you are wrong, we are so screwed?

First off, are we screwed? Things will change, but they are always changing. The increase in desertification of the Sahara can be traced directly to the 1-2 inch increase in the height of the Himalayas every year blocking out the monsoons from the Indian Ocean. The increase in the desert is not as directly due to warming as other factors. But if we assign the growing desertification to Global Warming are we solving the real problem? And what about changes in growing seasons? One thousand years ago, the Vikings were cultivating crops on Greenland. It was the mini Ice age that happened from the 12th to the 15th centuries that changed it to the ice covered block that we know it as now. So maybe, global warming is returning to the norm that the earth should be at and trying to stop it is like King Cnute who demonstrated his lack of authority over nature in a most dramatic fashion.
But let's take Colby's example. "all that happens is that we throw some money away and waste some effort on saving energy and changing our habits; no blood no foul." Except that it will have a tremendous effect on those in the Third and Fourth World economies that are going to be affected the most. If you are happy with keeping them poor, then you want to reorient the world's economies. That is not a small price for being wrong.


Anonymous said...

All Colby is doing is plagiarizing Pascal’s Religious Wager, wherein it is better to believe that God exists and turn out to be wrong, than not believe and burn in hell. I told Colby it was a dumb idea when he first tried it, but apparently he is still persisting in making a public jackass out of himself.

Anyway, the proposition does point out the similarities between religion and global warming.

Steve said...

Good point! I had been thinking something along those lines for awhile now, but you put it extremely well.