Comments and observations on social and political trends and events.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Matt Ridley: Global Warming Versus Global Greening

Matt Ridley, a well-known science journalist and author, gave a speech recently on his views about the global warming (or should I use the term “climate change”?). It’s a long essay containing many references and charts. Ridley claims there is another possibility between the two well-known sides on this issue.

What keeps science honest, what stops it from succumbing entirely to confirmation bias, is that it is decentralized, allowing one lab to challenge another.

That’s how truth is arrived at in science, not by scientists challenging their own theories (that’s a myth), but by scientists disputing each other’s theories.

These days there is a legion of well paid climate spin doctors. Their job is to keep the debate binary: either you believe climate change is real and dangerous or you’re a denier who thinks it’s a hoax.

But there’s a third possibility they refuse to acknowledge: that it’s real but not dangerous. That’s what I mean by lukewarming, and I think it is by far the most likely prognosis.

I am not claiming that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas; it is.

I am not saying that its concentration in the atmosphere is not increasing; it is.

I am not saying the main cause of that increase is not the burning of fossil fuels; it is.

I am not saying the climate does not change; it does.

I am not saying that the atmosphere is not warmer today than it was 50 or 100 years ago; it is.

And I am not saying that carbon dioxide emissions are not likely to have caused some (probably more than half) of the warming since 1950.

I agree with the consensus on all these points.

I am not in any sense a “denier”, that unpleasant, modern term of abuse for blasphemers against the climate dogma, though the Guardian and New Scientist never let the facts get in the way of their prejudices on such matters. I am a lukewarmer.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing. I lean towards Ridley’s lukewarm stance. I think we humans have some impact on climate but from what I’ve read we’re still recovering from the last glacial period (and don’t know when we could re-enter it) and there are a number of natural cycles that intersect to cause periods of warming and cooling.
I recently took an Alaskan cruise where we visited several glaciers and toured areas where the guides noted that that the glaciers from the last Ice Age had ground down the formerly sharp mountainous features into smooth valleys. (One guide even noted that one of the glaciers actually is advancing.) I also know that in the previous Ice Age the Boston area (where I live) was buried under a thick layer of ice. This layer retreated long before the Industrial Age when humans started to generate large amounts of carbon dioxide. This pre-human glacial retreat never comes up when I discuss global warming with people who point to the currently retreating glaciers as their evidence for our impact.

So I guess that makes me a lukewarm Lukewarmer!

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