Saturday, July 19, 2014

Anthropogenic climate change and skepticism

Good day fellow humans,

Sorry I haven't posted anything lately.  About six weeks ago I started a post about "a few things", namely a Pew Research poll showing how atheists are less trusted than any other group in the survey (even below child molesters, if I recall).  OK, it was actually a story about the poll and not the poll itself, if truth be told.  I had some other things to cover too, but I just couldn't get behind it enough to spend the time addressing the topics, so I kind of put it on hold and never went back to it.  However, I do have something I want to talk about and it's a topic I've been flip-flopping on a bit over the past couple of years for good reasons.

So, there has been a lot of content I've seen lately (on YouTube and the internet) about climate change (a.k.a. global warming) and the level of skepticism that is has received from a few outspoken critics and their supporters.  This has brought me to further consider what I think about the models of climate change and how or if they actually show good data on humans impact on the climate overall.

My position has been for many years that climate change is happening.  However, I haven't been completely sold on the human component of the changes that have been occurring.  I think that the climate change deniers have made some valid points to explain that any changes that might be occurring are mostly due to other factors outside of human involvement, even though most climate researchers dismiss their arguments (often out of hand).

Be that as it may, I think that my position has changed due to my pragmatism.  While I will not dismiss assertions out of hand, I cannot deny the science behind some of the climate change deniers claims (changes in solar activity, seismic/volcanic activities, or just the plain old notion that the last couple of centuries have had relatively mild climate worldwide).  Not to mention the vast number of climate models (while often given as extremes of what we might experience) that have failed to accurately model change from 20 years ago.   I would add that our primary claim for the historic level of atmospheric CO2 levels come from Antarctic ice cores, those years where CO2 levels were higher than the current levels (like now) there would likely exist similar loss of ice (like we are experiencing now) and would not, therefor, have a layer of ice to measure for that year.

Now, I know that sounds contradictory to the position I am now taking, but here is where the pragmatism takes over.  It doesn't matter.  I needed to come up with (for my own use) an analogy about how or why this might be important to the humans living on the planet now.  Sure, we can mitigate most of the human impact of the effects of climate change, build sea walls to keep out rising coastal waters, move farms to more manageable areas and/or improve irrigation techniques.  But that wouldn't really solve the problem, per se.  See, the earth is a closed system to some extent.  Well, it's closed in the sense that to an extent doesn't have high levels of energy or material cast off into space at such a pace that it threatens to kill us all off in a short period of time.  It also has it's own biodiversity which supports life as it exists now.  So taking these two factors into account I tried to create a workable scenario that would analogize the situation with some degree of accuracy, even if it's not a perfect model.

Imagine that you (the reader) lives in a greenhouse.  Now, no pun or correlation intended to global warming and greenhouse gases, as you may see.  In the greenhouse there is enough food to support you and your food sources (think more small Bioshpere2 than the plastic shed in your grandma's back yard).  Let's place the building in a location such as the desert south-west in the US, since the location has fairly consistent sun exposure all year round and the outside conditions will do little to assist in supporting life outside the greenhouse, not to mention that there is a significant difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures.  Now, let's make the time of year sometime in early to mid spring, maybe some time in April.  At night, it can still get pretty chilly, so to support our comfort and the growth of the plant life and animals (if there are any) there is also installed a heating unit in the building.

Right now, everything is OK.  Sure, some days are hotter than others but overall it's fairly comfortable for you in the greenhouse.  But you've noticed on those warmer days that the heating unit in the place won't shut off automatically so you have to manually turn it off and on again.  It's annoying but it's not so bad that most days you just can't be bothered because the controls are hard to reach and use.

Summer is coming however, and you know that with daytime temps reaching into the hundreds.  When that happens, there will be more than enough trouble managing the temperatures in the place without that heater running all the time. 

The heater represents the part that we can control with climate change.  We have the ability to do something about that.  It's the part of the environment that we can turn off or adjust so that the place doesn't get too hot, burn out all of our plants and kill us (or any animals living there) off or at least make life far harder than it already is.  It's going to be real pain to fix it, but it is the part that is under our control.

Thus it is like the anthropogenic climate model.  We have the ability to manage our impact on the environment.  EVEN if it's just to make it easier on us and even if it's only in the margins.  I don't know if volcanoes release more CO2 than all humans do in a year, but we can't control that part of it. As the likely most intelligent species on the planet we can have the most impact.  We can control what we do and what impact we have on our environment, and if we want to succeed as a species then we need to do what we can to have the impact that WE want on the world (even if it's to have as little impact as possible).

For a good site on the skepticism of the skepticism of climate change, see below.  The link takes you to one of my sources on Antarctic ice melt.