A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

01 March 2010

Okay, We're Back

This seems like as good a time as any revisit Mr. Bunk Strutts' comments from back about the last ice age. Sure, we both have better things to do, but ...

Well actually at this precise moment, I don't. And as I'm leaving town for a while, I figured I should get a post up. Plus I'd been looking into this for a while.

Because recently the Daily Mail made a total ₤µ©λup of an interview with a climate scientist from the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit, renown in song and story for the "Climategate" emails, which proved only that science isn't for sissies.

The Mail piece has been thoroughly dealt with, though in by no means as loud or obnoxious a fashion as it ought to have been, by better writers than my noble self.

But I wanted to return to Bunk's comment, because a challenge to one's ideas that one cannot immediately answer should be researched. I'm sorry it's taken so long. And it'll take longer.

Before proceeding, let me say that I want to try and keep this discussion as civil as possible. I don't intend to insult Mr. Strutts for holding a view he considers reasonable.

Our mutual acquiantance Raincoaster says that were we to meet, we'd probably argue late into the night over pitchers of beer. We might even agree on what brand of beer to order.

So let's get to part one.

Bunk visited my post about the tepid Copenhagen Conference on climate change and left a long comment.

It raised a number of points, some of which were correct in their facts but incorrect on the interpretation. And what is the internet after all but an extension of the great search for meaning, eh?

For clarity, I'm enclosing Bunk's statements in blockquotes and italic font.

I'm sure I won't change Bunk's mind on this. In order to do that he and I would first have to agree on a credible set of sources, and I doubt we can agree on that point.

But I feel that I should know why I believe what I believe, and at least have a nodding acquaintance with what the science says. Which is why this is such a long post.

Bunk opens up thusly:
The premise of manmade global warming (AGW) is a false alarmist myth designed to create public hysteria for the purposes of taxation, both locally and globally.

Then who's behind this myth? That taxation theory's certainly not supported in my country, where the science minister thinks belief in evolution is a religious position and the PM called AGW a "socialist plot."

On the other hand, a number of authorities one could hardly describe as left-wing loonies are taking the position that AGW is real.

But more importantly, the position has nothing to do with taxation. If alternatives to carbon taxation were found (such as Kyoto's carbon credit system) the position would not change: "It ain't happening, and wouldn't matter if it were."

For example, carbon pricing is a free-market solution that's rejected by the same people who claim the free market has all the answers.

The premise that a [1-to-2]*-degree Celsius increase in average global temperatures over a century is a catastrophic danger is false.

[*Edited from "1/2" to clarify what I think Bunk means. Any error is the fault of my interpretation.]

In fact the main thrust of anti-warming efforts is to hold warming down to something around two degrees in order to forestall worse warming and worse cocomittant effects. But don't take my word for it: Read the Times.

We're also not talking about a century. We're already past the first degree. The question is whether we can keep it to two, probably within the next fifty years.

The premise that a relatively small percentage of sentient animals (humans) can significantly affect long-term global temperature variations is absurd.
Did we cause acid rain? L.A.'s horrible smog? Fewer than 500 million humans created those effects. In the case of L.A. they're still trying to fix them. A cross-border agreement helped stop acid rain.

Why is it so inconceivable that we could effect change on a global level? After all, we really aren't a "relatively small percentage of sentient animals." There are eight billion-plus of us, all of us burning fuels at increasing rates to make our economies do what they do.

The premise that human-generated CO2 is the culprit ignores the fact that water vapor is the major uncontrollable greenhouse gas by a factor of tens of thousands.
Right, except possibly for the "uncontrollable bit." As CO2 warms the atmosphere, more water evaporates, and more water vapour increases the warming effect. So adding more CO2 increases the rate at which the world is warming. But we could slow the rate at which CO2 is being added to the atmosphere by reducing the other crap, along with the CO2, we put into it.

The fact [is] that global temperatures are always in flux due to thousands of variables, as they have been since the creation of this planet.
So natural factors like sunlight, cloud cover, and vegetable rot can apparently change the climate, but not gigatons of carbon emissions?

There is no possible way to determine what the ideal global temperature should be, as that is merely a philosophical argument, i.e., do you favor plants or animals? Reptiles or mammals? Algae or bacteria?
My philosophical position is that judging by the lessons of history, we're better off trying to not screw things up any further.

We have some idea of the potential effects of a warmer climate, and aside from less snowblowing (which would be offset by an increase in lawn mowing), they don't sound good.

But most life on this ball of mud is interconnected anyway, and we mess with other species at our peril.

So the ideal global temperature, to me, would be something in the range of the past couple of thousand years, during which humankind has lived and thrived.

This concludes part one. It'll be at least a week before I can post a second part. Thanks for reading, if you got this far.

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