Global Warming – Is It A Natural Cycle?

Posted on March 1st, 2007 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

First, I want to start this article by saying that I don't identify myself as a Conservative or a Liberal. If forced to tag myself, I'd say I was a Realist. I agree with the right, the middle, and the left based on the particular issue at hand and my opinions of that particular issue – no dogmatism for me. In my political, corporate, ethical, and personal lives I've come to two realizations (well, more than two, but realizations that include these two):

  • Sometimes people who don't have your best interests at heart still manage to get some things right.
  • Sometimes people who have your best interests at heart still manage to get some things wrong.

One other caveat here is that the only absolute knowledge that I have attained is that I know nothing. Everything else has a degree of uncertainty, so I don't claim to be an infallible voice pontificating from an ivory tower. I'm just a boy in the world, trying to make sense out of things.

Case in point: Global Warming. This has become a huge, hot-button topic for every candidate of every party, has introduced us to the concept of carbon-neutrality, and has put humanity itself on trial as the slayers of Mother Earth. Now, I will admit without hesitation that humans do bad things to nature – pollution, strip mining, deforestation, overfishing, oil spills, refuse, snowmobiles, The Amazing Race, greased-up Channel swimmers, blue-ice-airplane-restroom-meteorites, dams, invasive species, cruel husbandry, over-watering, under-preserving, species endangerment, and golf courses, just to name a few.

All of this drastically changes the ecosystem of the Earth. There is a philosophical question here, which is, should we consider that any impact by man on nature is negative and should be curtailed? I think stated in that way most of us would agree that no, it's a given that man can and should have some impact on nature. But, how does one define nature? Is it all non-human life on earth? Are humans not natural? Is there a fundamental difference between a dam built by a beaver and a dam built by humans, other than scale? And who draws the lines between acceptable and unacceptable? The NRA? OPEC? GreenPeace? PETA? So many differing opinions – they can't all be right…and they can't all be wrong, either.

Before you think that the cause and effect of global warming is a known fact, check out this article on WikiPedia:

Scientists Opposing the Mainstream Scientific Assessment of Global Warming

Check out the list of scientists in that article – climatologists, geologists, geophysicists, and meteorologists from places like MIT, Harvard, USC, and Duke. They all agree on one thing, which is that we don't yet know that human CO2 production is causing global warming, nor do we know that the warming of the global temperature is necessarily a bad or unnatural thing. These are not radical people from questionable institutions – these are reputable people from respected institutions, making what to me appear to be very reasonable objections to the dogma that man creates CO2 which creates global warming which is a very bad thing.

Just remember, the question on the table isn't “Is the Earth getting warmer?”. I think just about everybody can read the temperature charts and see that, yup, temperatures are increasing over the last couple of hundred years. Where the issue lies, for me, is that people tend to assume that that temperature increase is unnatural/unexpected, caused by man, and “bad”. The thing is, the average temperature of the Earth is always changing in one direction or the other. I was a teenager in the '70's when the hot button topic was “Global Cooling”, and it generated just as much emotion as the “Global Warming” topic does today.

Also, in the big scheme of things, today's temperatures are actually COOLER than the Earth's average temperatures. For example, take a look at this chart (note that today is on the left side of the graph!):

Image Courtesy of Global Warming Art

Remember, today is on the LEFT side of the above graph. So, if this graph is even marginally accurate today's global temperatures are well below the averages over the last few million years. Do I (or anybody) know that this graph is 100% accurate? Of course not. However, it's just as accurate as any other model being put together today by anyone touting either viewpoint in the global warming argument, meaning that it is simply a model and an estimate based on certain assumptions and by no means represents absolute scientific certainty.

And that's my issue with the entire topic of Global Warming. People are speaking about it in absolute terms when there is absolutely nothing absolute about it. One of the most dogmatic of zealots in this area has been former US Vice President Al Gore, with his film An Inconvenient Truth. Now, I have nothing against Mr. Gore in particular, but somehow he has attained for some the status of Truth-Speaker in the debate over Global Warming, and he's certainly making a lot of hay with the topic.

However, my problem is that people don't seem to stop and think that perhaps Mr. Gore has an angle in this. He made a movie that made money that won an Oscar which put him back on the public stage, this time as a concerned Environmentalist Emeritus and not a boring, wooden, ineffective former Vice President. But before you go polishing his halo, take a look at this:

Image Courtesy of The Tennessean

If you click the image above it will take you to a story about how Al Gore is profiting from the above zinc mine, which as you can see is stripping away the natural beauty of the area and pumping pollutants into the nearby water sources. Well, that's just the kind of heartwarming activity you'd expect from somebody who's trying to resurrect his political career on the platform of environmentalism, isn't it? Nope, in my opinion it's the activity of somebody who's working an angle, just like just about everybody in this debate. Talk about an inconvenient truth.

Again, this isn't a smear against Al Gore, it's actually a smear against us, the American political consumers. How and why was Al Gore allowed to become a sainted pontificator of truth while those who question him are evil world destroyers? Well, I question him, and I *LOVE* the planet, and I'm not a registered member of ANY political party, and I don't care if he comes back into politics. However, what I do care about is that he's working his way back onto the public stage by waving the flag of environmentalism, meanwhile he flies around in private jets and drives around in armored SUVs and limos, and pimps out his family's beautiful acreage to be stripped by polluting miners, and the American public just eats it up with a spoon.

And there's the rub. In today's America you can't dispute the “facts” about global warming without being seen as a trogolodydic, seal-clubbing, oil-spilling, future-mortgaging, Earth-raping, neo-conservative, money-grubbing, evil-doer. Well, I'm none of those things, and I strongly dispute the so-called “facts” about global warming as they are being presented today. I think we all need to calm down and actually look at the facts, which are inconclusive. And I think that's the core of the issue – people in America today are tired of issues that are grey – they want issues that are black and white, and if they can't get them then they take the grey issues and make them black and white so that they can have something to fight about.

Instead, what would make more sense is for us all to accept the that Global Warming is a head-scratcher, and that we don't know what man is doing to cause it (if anything), and that we don't know how to stop it (or even if we should), and take the debate out of the political arena and put it back into the scientific arena where it belongs – free of political sabre-rattling.

Also, do we really want to freeze the developing world in its current state and not allow it to industrialize? Do we really want to freeze Africa with its current socio-economic realities in place, and prevent them from bettering their lives until we in the “civilized world” can figure out if they should be allowed to do so, and if so, how they should do it so they don't produce too much carbon?

Not in my opinion. In my opinion we all need to take a deep breath and dispassionately review the facts. I also firmly believe that we need to continue to figure out how to reduce man's negative impact on the environment as we certainly don't have the right to simply destroy the Earth in the name of progress. However, jumping on a loud bandwagon just because the snake oil sounds like a magic bullet is *not* the way to address the issue.

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