More on climate change

Interesting article by Republican meteorologist Paul Douglas on climate change.

Goes nicely with my column this week.

I responded after the column to a comment from a reader who brought some typical denialist arguments to the conversation. I’ll reprent his/her comments and my response below.

From “below average”:

Brett,
Being of a logical mindset, to look at 100 plus years of weather recordkeeping and try to establish a “trend” when there has been weather on this planet for over a couple billion years is not scientific at all. That’s called statistically insignificant. This area and half of our continent was covered by 2 mile thick glaciers 10,000 years ago. That is a minute in geologic time frames. Now what had to happen for these 2 mile thick glaciers to disappear? I won’t make you wait for the answer: Global Warming. Last I checked there was no industrial revolution, auto emissions or other human activity 10,000 years ago. So how did the globe “heat up” without all of this human activity? Mother nature decided to heat up and there was nothing humans could do about it and there was nothing we did to encourage it. Now we certainly can lower human impact on the environment but to think we can stop mother nature from doing what she does is a little arragant and foolhardy. Over the course of a billion years I am guessing there have been multiple ice ages, multiple times both polar caps have melted away, and multiple times the magnetic poles have shifted. Its just that we’re around to witness and expeirence these events with our consciousness. And it disrupts our little lives and we don’t like it. Except for the March 70 degree weather in Minnesota.

My response:

If you get most of your scientific information from the right-wing media, then we have nothing to talk about, but I’ll respond for the benefit of those who have to listen to the same old denialist arguments time and again and don’t know how to respond.

Obviously there are natural warming and cooling cycles over billions of years. That has nothing to do with the question at hand: whether human activity over the last 200 years is having and will have a dramatic effect on the climate. The consensus is that it is and it will. “Statistical insignificance” is a red herring that has nothing to do with that question.

The fatal flaw in your reasoning is this: You apparently trust science to tell you about ice ages, the age of the earth, etc., but you don’t trust the same scientific method and same scientists regarding the effect of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That’s fairly typical. People use science to confirm their assumptions but reject it when it challenges them.

My guess is that you’re listening to dubious sources who claim there’s no scientific consensus on the issue. If you read Nature, Science, Scientific American, National Geographic, or the more technical journals, you know the consensus is there — though there are disagreements and uncertainty about the details.

As for arrogance — that’s not a scientific issue. It may seem arrogant to think humans can affect the atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean they can’t. It’s a scientific fact that we could destroy much of life on earth on purpose. Why is it so inconceivable that we could do it by accident?

Eventually the earth will prove one of us right and one of us wrong. I hope it proves me wrong — but I wouldn’t bet on it. I’d bet on science.


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