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Northern Neil

Global Warming

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Suppose the U.S. federal government eliminated oil subsidies, what effect do you guys think this would have?

 

What "subsidies" are you talking about? Tax breaks for R&D and equipment modernization? That's pretty standard across businesses, and I don't think it's properly considered a subsidy in the same way that direct payments are.

 

One of two direct payments the oil companies get from Uncle Sam is in the form of the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program, which is administered as block grants to states. Of these funds, state agencies paid a total of $255 million for oil-based energy needs. This is a small boon to the poor (who would have otherwise purchased about 90% of the energy that they currently purchase), but it has virtually no effect on the bottom line of oil producers.

 

The second direct payment comes in the form of a subsidy for electricity production (about $5 billion) by the Tennessee Valley Authority and other rural electrification programs started by FDR. These payments are not directed at the oil industry, but to the degree that the TVA-type corporations rely on oil, the oil industry benefits somewhat.

 

So, what would be the effect of eliminating oil subsidies? Low-income workers (and non-workers) might reduce their energy consumption by 10% and TVA would go broke until it was privatized (almost as if--gasp!--it were the 21st century). Sounds good to me.

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Right. Why trust thousands of disparate scientists (they are clearly out to take over the world) looking for some grant money to discover new stuffs and become respected when you can trust good old well-oiled (pun intended) lobbying machine of energy industry who look for nothing more than profit of billions of dollars?

 

Not so long time ago it was the contention of energy industry that there was no such thing as global warming - that it was merely cyclical process. Now that it has become hard to deny the very visible effects of global warming, they found a new contention - that there is nothing we can do about it.

If those who believe so truly believe that the earth is doomed, that there is nothing that humans can do about it, quite a lot of people are really nonchalant about the coming end of the world. If there is something that can be done to delay the process, one would say it's a small price to to carry your own grocery bags and drive Prius instead of Hummer.

After all, remember ozone? Actions were taken, and problems are largely solved.

Also the comparison to millenium bug is completely off. I am not an expert, but even I could tell that there was never large consensus from computer experts. Some expressed concerns about such possibility, which media drummed it up.

 

In any case, I am no expert in climate change unlike some here (who by the way can earn some big prize announced by energy industry), but I'll trust the majority of climate experts (who say that global warming is serious crisis and has accelerated since Industiral Revolution) more than some few propped up by energy industry

Edited by theilian

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Wow, scientists need to discover this thread and stop worrying about global warming. B)

 

Yes, why worry about something that it's out of your power to change :unsure:

Early humans with stone age tehnology were succesfull in making extinct dozens (if not hundreds) of species of large animals.The begining of agriculture and animal herding changed the landescape in most areas of the Earth. Pollution from Roman mining in Spain left marks on Groenland's ice shelf. Most Europe was a forest 3.000 years ago.

 

I believe theilian was being ironic here. But Kosmo, your points quoted above are mutually contradictory. If Romans in Spain could alter ecologies in Greenland, then surely it is well within our own power to curb the damage our own activities are causing. And as you point out, humans in ancient times were capable of making hundreds of species extinct, so why is it such a strange concept that modern human activity can alter climate? I believe I can rest my case.

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My view is, if even 1% of the studies show that human activity is to blame, then it is imperative that we curb our habits. To not do so, even with just a 1% probability of success, is negligence to the ultimate degree.

Something really bothers me about this kind of alarmism. Rhetorically speaking, you are implying that a 99% concensus of scientific studies indicating that human activity is not to blame would be insignificant compared to the 1% indicating the opposite, and that it would be ultimately negligent not to alter our lives even if the probability of success is 1%. Why? Help me understand this.

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My view is, if even 1% of the studies show that human activity is to blame, then it is imperative that we curb our habits. To not do so, even with just a 1% probability of success, is negligence to the ultimate degree.

Something really bothers me about this kind of alarmism. Rhetorically speaking, you are implying that a 99% concensus of scientific studies indicating that human activity is not to blame would be insignificant compared to the 1% indicating the opposite, and that it would be ultimately negligent not to alter our lives even if the probability of success is 1%. Why? Help me understand this.

 

If you had a 1% chance of getting killed, right here and now, if you walked down a hypothetical street, but got $1million if you got to the end, would you take the chance? No? Why not? You would be disregarding a 99% concensus that you would survive, and be rich!

 

However, there is not a 99% concensus against human activity=global warming - there is a 75% 'concensus' for. I am not alarmist - just applying everyday logic to my long term lifestyle. And to be honest, the life changes are actually very slight. The assumption here is that people are being alarmist and radically altering their lives. No, I am slightly concerned, when I bother to think about it, and I am being more sparing, less wasteful, and to be frank, making a fat pile of cash into the bargain. And all for the sake of cycling a bit, using energy efficient lightbulbs, using biodiesel and switching off my telly at night. Not a difficult lifechange, or an alarmist perspective, in my view.

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Right. Why trust thousands of disparate scientists ...?

I don't think that thousands of climatologists even exist! Most of the people who sign statements on behalf of scientists are people whose expertise is not germane (e.g., the Union of Concerned Scientists mostly comprises lawyers, medical doctors, and other professionals, but not scientists). This was the case with the latest 'consensus' document on the CO2 theory of global warming, which was signed mostly by non-climatologists.

 

Among climatologists, discussions on climate change have changed in several ways over time--all the product of healthy debate and skepticism. One change, stressed by theilian, has been greater certainty that the surface temperature of the Earth has really grown warmer since the 1960s. This was once a debatable issue because ground temperatures were most often taken in locations that had been urbanized, and it was unknown whether the apparent warming was due to a simpler phenomenon known as the "urban heat island effect." The other change in the debate, not mentioned by theilian, is much more moderation in the estimates of how much CO2 matters. As greenhouses gases go, CO2 has much, much less power to trap heat than, say, water vapor. Consequently, very large increases in CO2 would be necessary to heat the whole planet even a few degrees, which is why many climatologists (e.g., the MIT scientist Richard Lindzen) doubt that the recent warming has been caused by human activity and why supporters of the CO2-theory must assume (unproven) feedback mechanisms to get from the observed changes in CO2 to the observed changes in temperature.

 

Finally, the costs of reducing CO2 emissions "just in case" have to be weighed against the benefits to which those costs might otherwise be applied. If the costs of reducing CO2 emissions are as high as supporters of Kyoto suggest, it's probably not worth it--for the same amount of money, all kinds of much more terrible ills--hunger, malaria, AIDS, ignorance of Roman history--could be addressed. Environmentalists like Bjorn Lomborg have argued as much (here e.g.), quite cogently too.

 

In any case, the notion that the only skeptics of the CO2 theory of global warming are to be found at Exxon is a complete fabrication. The inconvenient truth is that skeptics are to be found among climatologists and environmentalists as well.

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My view is, if even 1% of the studies show that human activity is to blame, then it is imperative that we curb our habits. To not do so, even with just a 1% probability of success, is negligence to the ultimate degree.

Something really bothers me about this kind of alarmism. Rhetorically speaking, you are implying that a 99% concensus of scientific studies indicating that human activity is not to blame would be insignificant compared to the 1% indicating the opposite, and that it would be ultimately negligent not to alter our lives even if the probability of success is 1%. Why? Help me understand this.

 

If you had a 1% chance of getting killed, right here and now, if you walked down a hypothetical street, but got $1million if you got to the end, would you take the chance? No? Why not? You would be disregarding a 99% concensus that you would survive, and be rich!

I don't see the correlation. This is how I correlate your original statement (keep in mind the rhetoric nature):

You're about to walk down the street and you ask 100 people what they think about you walking down the street. One person says its probable that you'll die. The ninety nine others say something else. The one person says that if you agree to cut your hand off there's a 1% chance that you won't get killed. Is it ultimately negligent to not cut off your hand? Let me explain...

 

However, there is not a 99% concensus against human activity=global warming - there is a 75% 'concensus' for. I am not alarmist - just applying everyday logic to my long term lifestyle. And to be honest, the life changes are actually very slight. The assumption here is that people are being alarmist and radically altering their lives.

The actual concensus is irrelevant to your own rhetorical scenario. I think you are including your already established belief in the opinion expressed in the original statement. What I'm saying is that if you didn't already have a 75% concensus, how can you say that we should act the same in a completely different situation? The urgency you attach is not grounded in your given scenario. I know it seems trivial, but it interests me that you say that even if there was only a very small amount of evidence it would be 'ultimately negligent' not to make huge sacrifices. I really believe its based in the fear that comes with the package. And really, the lifestyle changes are not slight. Slight changes will only produce slight results. There are no current alternatives that will support our industrialized world as it is right now. In order to curb and reverse our contribution of CO2 into the atmosphere, it will incur tremendous costs and sacrifices that you and I will pay for. This is why I used the analogy of cutting off one's hand.

 

No, I am slightly concerned, when I bother to think about it, and I am being more sparing, less wasteful, and to be frank, making a fat pile of cash into the bargain. And all for the sake of cycling a bit, using energy efficient lightbulbs, using biodiesel and switching off my telly at night. Not a difficult lifechange, or an alarmist perspective, in my view.

I agree. I drive an old Civic that regularly gets about 40 mpg and efficiency is a top consideration when I buy anything. I'm actually in the process of rebuilding another car to get even better mileage. What struck me as alarmist was the original rhetorical statement and the implications of the required sacrifice. The frightening image of run-away global warming and its horrible catastrophes is anything but certain, despite what a huge political organization like the UN says. Climate change can't be tested scientifically. It's all based on limited theoretic simulations of a system that we don't know everything about. Being a programmer, this is the aspect I'm most interested in - the actual physics and the calculations used. I find it unconvincing, and I find the urgency to to impose regulation disturbing. There's nothing wrong with a more efficient lifestyle, but there are serious implications for the involvement of government. I wish we'd wait until we actually had some certainty instead of relying on a certainty manufactured with concensus and fear instead of empirical evidence.

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There's nothing wrong with a more efficient lifestyle, but there are serious implications for the involvement of government. I wish we'd wait until we actually had some certainty instead of relying on a certainty manufactured with concensus and fear instead of empirical evidence.

 

This also is my point.

I try to recycle, don't leave the lights or water running and I don't have cars that use much oil. But I dislike to be chated and manipulated by people who try to scare me so I can play as they sing. If this makes an Exxon mercenary I have no problem with it. Marxists did and do call people who oppose them fascists. I'm a fascist mercenary fighting for Exxon to bring doom to human kind by asking for evidence.

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Wow, scientists need to discover this thread and stop worrying about global warming. :rolleyes:

 

Yes, why worry about something that it's out of your power to change :unsure:

Early humans with stone age tehnology were succesfull in making extinct dozens (if not hundreds) of species of large animals.The begining of agriculture and animal herding changed the landescape in most areas of the Earth. Pollution from Roman mining in Spain left marks on Groenland's ice shelf. Most Europe was a forest 3.000 years ago.

 

I believe theilian was being ironic here. But Kosmo, your points quoted above are mutually contradictory. If Romans in Spain could alter ecologies in Greenland, then surely it is well within our own power to curb the damage our own activities are causing. And as you point out, humans in ancient times were capable of making hundreds of species extinct, so why is it such a strange concept that modern human activity can alter climate? I believe I can rest my case.

 

Lets bring this into perspective. Human beings live for three score years and ten on average, although modern medecine allows survival into an older age these days (provided you live in the right area or pay enough money). Our experience of the world is affected by our short life span, and only the advent of modern media have our attentions been brought to bear on these global issues instead of purely our own national or local interests. Whereas a disaster could have once occured and received a sentence in the morning paper, now we get news reports on tv on the hour every hour with interviews of locals and experts concerned. Our conciousness of the modern world is far and away greater than in previous generations, never mind our distant ancestors who probably never their village throughout their entire lives. Therefore, these changes to us seem new, frightening, and something happening that must be caused by something.

 

It's far easier to destroy than create. Many species rely on enviroments that are small in size and vulnerable to change. Nothing new there, nature does that on a regular basis. Specialisation by adaption produces species that can survive in some of the most bizarre circumstances, but that specialisation is also a vulnerability. In any case, there are many species of flora and fauna that exist and flourish because of human activity. Can human beings really get their act together and save the world? No. Because....

 

1 - The world is not under threat - its changing. Trouble is, we've become specialised with our modern infrastructure and are therefore vulnerable to change.

 

2 - Humans like to argue. One tribe generally doesn't like being told what to do in their own back yard by another.

 

3 - Humans like to exploit - its a survival characteristic that ensures we make full use of natural resources to live another day. Its also profitable.

 

Politically there are too many people with vested interests in promoting this idea of global warming and what we can to to prevent it. Of course thats nonsense. Global warming was going to happen anyway, its part of a natural change. We cannot prevent orbital wobbling. We cannot prevent changes in sun activity. We cannot prevent plate tectonics. We cannot prevent volcanic activity. We cannot prevent the worlds oceans interacting with sunlight. We cannot prevent cosmic rays from creating conditions suitable for cloud formation.

 

But everyone says CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Yes, it is. It does have those properties. Yet studies have shown the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere on earth do not directly conform to temperature patterns. They never have, and earth is actually colder now than its historical average. We are still emerging from the ice ages. Some people believe this modern day is in fact an inter-glacial period, that another ice age is waiting in the wings. I agree with this. The fact that temperatures are rising now simply mean the climate is reverting to normal. Britain had periods like this. Between ice growths we know that this country had a climate similar to modern africa, and indeed shared many of its flora and fauna. Within a few thousand years, it was also a place of ice sheets up to a mile and half thick, with polar bears, mammoths, moose, woolly rhino's - all the flora aand fauna associated with the arctic.

 

The fact remains that the levels of greenhouse gases we produce are far outweighed by those produced naturally. Perhaps our contribution isn't helping, but I really don't believe we can change the situation much. In fact, most of the issues surrounding enviromental lifestyles are to do with waste products and cost efficiency of dealing with them. Modern human society is a victim of its own success, just the same as any species that becomes too successful for its enviroment, and there are people out there who want to exploit the increasing panic. Money makes the world go round does it not? If you want a research grant these days, you increase your chances from zero to possible simply by stating its to research the effect on global warming. Its an enoermous bandwagon, stirred up by incorrect scientific theories that have been adopted by parts of our society that want us to live differently.

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I find it interesting that Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of The Skeptics Society and publisher and editor-in-chief of Skeptic magazine, has done a 180 degree flip on the issue of global warming.

 

Formerly a staunch environmental skeptic, last summer Dr. Shermer wrote an article for Scientific American magazine, titled The Flipping Point, stating what has led him to change his position on global warming and now acknowledge that we do have a problem and that "It is time to flip from skepticism to activism."

 

Dr. Shermer cites the following books that eventually brought him to "the flipping point":

 

"Archaeologist Brian Fagan's The Long Summer (Basic, 2004) explicates how civilization is the gift of a temporary period of mild climate.

 

"Geographer Jared Diamond's Collapse (Penguin Group, 2005) demonstrates how natural and human-caused environmental catastrophes led to the collapse of civilizations.

 

"Journalist Elizabeth Kolbert's Field Notes from a Catastrophe (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006) is a page-turning account of her journeys around the world with environmental scientists who are documenting species extinction and climate change unmistakably linked to human action.

 

"Biologist Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006) reveals how he went from being a skeptical environmentalist to a believing activist as incontrovertible data linking the increase of carbon dioxide to global warming accumulated in the past decade."

 

I haven't read any of the above books, myself. Am curious as to whether anyone here has done so, and what were your thoughts on these?

 

-- Nephele

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Formerly a staunch environmental skeptic, last summer Dr. Shermer wrote an article for Scientific American magazine, titled The Flipping Point, stating what has led him to change his position on global warming and now acknowledge that we do have a problem and that "It is time to flip from skepticism to activism."

 

Thanks for the link to the Scientific American article, Nephele. I should point out, however, that Shermer's flip was launched by rather equivocal evidence.

 

Let's assume that Shermer is right that the correlation between CO2 and temperature has been newly demonstrated. What does this imply? One of three possibilities about cause/effect--(1) increasing CO2 increases temperature, (2) increasing temperature increases CO2, and (3) increasing a third variable increases both CO2 and temperature.

 

Of these three possibilities, ONLY #1 justifies intervening on CO2 to manipulate temperature. If #1 is incorrect, we could bring all industrial civilization to a halt and live like the Arverni, and it wouldn't make a whit of difference.

 

In my view, however, the most likely of these possibilities is #2. The fact is that oceans are a huge repository of CO2, and as temperatures increase, they release CO2 into the atmosphere. This much is assumed even by proponents of #1.

 

What about the reverse causal direction implied by #1? Well, increases in CO2 in controlled situations also can increase temperatures, but in generalizing this finding to the Earth, this effect should occur at the stratospheric level rather than the surface level (much like the windowed roof in a greenhouse should be warmer than the floor of the greenhouse). Yet this observation does not obtain.

 

Is there another mechanism that might explain warming and thus increases in CO2--some say, Yes--the sun. Specifically, cyclical activity in solar flares is a periodic phenomenon with variable frequency over time. As the frequency of these cycles increase, the effect should be increasing temperature. Indirect evidence for these cycles can be found in the growth of plants, of which we have a record going back many years in some cases. This historical evidence suggests that changes in solar activity are reflected in contemporaneous changes in temperature and in later changes in CO2. Thus, the solar theory of climate change receives not only direct empirical support, it also correctly predicts the time course of correlations between CO2 and temperature, which the CO2 theory of climate change fails to do.

 

As far as I can tell, it's too bad Shermer didn't apply one of most important principles of healthy skepticism: correlation does not imply causation.

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Thanks, MPC, for that overview of CO2 and its relationship to temperature increases.

 

Michael Shermer's article for Scientific American, while admittedly a call for environmental activism, was really more of an explanation as to why this former environmental skeptic -- in fact, this outspoken proponent of rational thought -- had come to change his mind on the subject.

 

And so I'm particularly interested in reading (and I know now that I shall) how the authors cited by Michael Shermer might have addressed the argument and their critics, and how they may have answered for themselves as to whether or not they are confusing correlation and causation.

 

-- Nephele

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