Feb 22, 2016

My Position on Global Warming

Want to debate global warming with me? Assuming you've made it past my four screening questions, here's my position.


Let me begin by stating my environmental philosophy, which should reduce the likelihood of any ad hominem attacks (e.g. "you're a dirty denier who wants to trash the planet!"). I believe that:
1. Pollution is bad. No one wants to live with its effects.

2. Nature is beautiful and should be preserved as much as possible.

3. Any truly advanced and enlightened civilization should strive to live in harmony with its environment and do the least damage to it possible.

4. It's a bad idea to mess with Mother Nature. Doing anything that could significantly alter our environment is dangerous because we don't really understand, and can't control, the consequences.

Next, let's get the basics out of the way in order to establish what we aren't going to be debating about. I stipulate that:
1. The globe is getting warmer.

2. Human activity is likely a significant reason.

3. Those who think human activity is not a significant reason could be right (see CONSENSUS IS BS), but they haven't provided enough compelling evidence to make their case.

4. As a result, we have to operate as if the first two points are givens.

Everything else about the global warming issue, and much of what is really being debated these days, is beyond what is cited above. For instance, Armageddon is not assured. That is, there is no consensus that we are hurtling toward global catastrophe. That is simply the most extreme potential outcome among several potential outcomes, and it is based on computer models that can't possibly replicate reality.

I call this the "Weatherman Problem" because it is easily falsified by the fact no weatherman can accurately predict the weather beyond a few days -- and often he can't even get tomorrow's weather right. I'm a devotee of several weather-dependent sports (skydiving, scuba diving), so trust me: I know.


Speaking of consensus: Consensus is bullshit. There is no such thing in science. There are only hypotheses, theories and facts. All conclusions are open to falsification, and no scientist would ever suggest something as complex as understanding global climate is "settled science" or any other phrase politicians and activists like to use to shame dissenters.

Here's some evidence that consensus is especially BS when it comes to global climate:

  • Go online and try to find a clear answer to the question: What is the current global temperature? You can't do it. That's because there is no consensus on what source of data most accurately reflects the true global temperature. There are weather-station readings, satellite readings and ocean readings. Each produces different data.
  • One solution to the above problem is to come up with a formula that takes all sources of data into account. The problem? There is no consensus as to how to do that. Different agencies calculate differently, based on various methods for combining the data, and global temperature is always expressed as a range because of this fact (and the margin of error).
  • There is no consensus as to what time period is the correct time period to use as a baseline for global temperature. Different charts plot temperature anomalies against different reference periods. 
  • This last point raises an important question: What is the optimal global temperature? There is no consensus on that point. 


The most important question when it comes to global warming is what to do about it. Here there are many possible answers, all of them worth consideration and none of them falsified by science (yet). These options include:

  • Do nothing because Mother Nature will take care of the problem (see Mt. Pinatubo) 
  • Do nothing because technology will take care of the problem (Crichton
  • Do nothing because there is nothing we can do that would have a big enough impact 
  • Do nothing, at least for now, because a warmer climate is actually a net benefit (Tol)
  • Do something, but only after addressing several more important global priorities (Lomborg
  • Do something dramatic via government initiative (Obama, Gore) 
  • Do something dramatic via public-private initiatives (Gates) 
  • Do something dramatic via private initiative (Musk)

I'm begging the question. If I can actually get you to concede that all of these possibilities are "worth consideration," then our debate should become just a conversation among reasonable people.