Monthly Archives: April 2012

Some Thoughts on Global Warming Denialism on Both Sides

Global warming denialism might come in a number of forms:
1) Denial that the Earth is warming at all;
2) Denial that Earth is warming outside of ‘normal’ variation caused by ‘normal’ solar energy output changes and/or position of the solar system in the galaxy;
3) Agreement that the Earth appears to be warming, but denial that there is any persuasive evidence that the cause is manmade (ie – it is not ‘anthropogenic’); this requires the assumption that vast numbers of climate scientists are either mistaken, or are taking part in a conspiracy of one kind or another, or both: either a political conspiracy with an political-economic agenda, or a conspiracy to ensure employment and funding for climate scientists, and both;
[3 & 2 essentially amount to the same thing – depending on timescale definitions of ‘normal’]
4) Agreement that there probably is ‘some’ anthropogenic global warming, but that the dangers have been grossly exaggerated with respect to the size of the eventual global temperature increase and its effect on human society.
5) Agreement that there may be some anthropogenic global warming (AGW), but that there is, as yet, insufficient evidence to decide definitively, and, even if AGW is occurring, how dangerous this is likely to be.

I do not propose to go into the science at all. Just like the majority of people on all sides of the debate, I’m not equipped to do so. There is a very interesting and informative blog, which goes into the science a bit and which appears to take the point (5) stance here. It’s in two excellent parts.

My own view is that funding and peer pressure may indeed play some part in the research undertaken and the views publicly expressed by climate scientists, some of whom have become somewhat emotional. However, I believe that science is a self-correcting exercise and also I generally prefer cockup theories to conspiracy theories, except where the conspiracy in question is one by what outgoing President Eisenhower warned against: the Military-Industrial-Complex (which we should, perhaps, now call the Industrial-Energy-Financial-Complex…) – who are always so happy to accuse others of conspiracy, because they think that’s how everyone behaves.

Therefore, I am convinced that there is global warming and that it is at least largely anthropogenic. Further, I am quite sure this will be a direct cause of major calamities, societal disruptions, wars and large numbers of deaths on a global scale unless we do something quite fast.

I am also convinced that it is politically impossible to do something fast where it counts most: in the major developed countries and Brazil, China and India.

I am also extremely bothered by the fact that among many who otherwise share my beliefs about AGW, there is too often only one solution proposed: cut our emissions of greenhouse gases. Not that I don’t think we should. We really, really should. But, as I said, I think that is impossible: it won’t happen in time.

The neglected solution (ideally as-well-as) is to develop technologies for controlling our climate by other means. But, unfortunately, this is widely considered, by those who are otherwise on the side of the angels, to be a heretical proposal. Of course there is a risk of unintended consequences. But that should not be an excuse for near-theological objection to mitigation policies, which need to be developed and trialed. From time to time I read in the press that this or that mitigation technology is being considered, trialed, experimented with. But then I hear very little about it, aside from the loud commentary concerning it not getting to the root cause of our problem: mitigation seems to be politically and theologically incorrect.

I don’t think there is too much time left, really. All the knowledgeable estimates for the advent of practical fusion power place it between 20-40 years into the future. Germany has recently cancelled all its fission-power deployment. I think we should be doing all we politically and practically can to mitigate the problem of anthropogenic global warming.

We could start by admitting that we will not be able to solve it ‘properly’ in good time.