Warren Meyers is posting on his website, Coyoteblog.com an essay on Global Warming (aka global climate change). Meyers is quite good as an explainer of issues because he can do it without making them too complex for most people to understand. The following, is the first of perhaps 6 parts. I plan on rebloging them all.
I suppose the first question I need to answer is: why should you bother reading this? We are told the the science is “settled” and that there is a 97% consensus among scientists on …. something. Aren’t you the reader just giving excess credence to someone who is “anti-science” just by reading this?
Well, this notion that the “debate is over” is one of those statements that is both true and not true. There is something approaching scientific consensus for certain parts of anthropogenic global warming theory — for example, the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that concentrations of it in the atmosphere have a warming effect on the Earth is pretty much undisputed in all but the furthest reaches of the scientific community.
But it turns out that other propositions that are important to the debate on man-made global warming are far less understood scientifically, and the near certainty on a few issues (like the existence of the greenhouse gas effect) is often used to mask real questions about these other propositions. So before we go any further , it is critical for us to get very clear what exact proposition we are discussing.
At this point I have to tell a story from over thirty years ago when I saw Any Rand speak at Northeastern University (it’s hard to imagine any university today actually allowing Rand on campus, but that is another story). In the Q&A period at the end, a woman asked Rand, “Why don’t you believe in housewives?” and Rand answered, in a very snarky fashion, “I did not know housewives were a matter of belief.” What the woman likely meant to ask was “Why don’t you believe that being a housewife is a valid occupation for a woman?” But Rand was a bear for precision in language and was not going to agree or disagree with a poorly worded proposition.
I am always reminded of this story when someone calls me a climate denier. I want to respond, in Rand’s Russian accent, “I did not know that climate was a matter of belief?”
But rather than being snarky here, let’s try to reword the “climate denier” label and see if we can get to a proposition with which I can agree or disagree.
Am I, perhaps, a “climate change denier?” Well, no. I don’t know anyone who is. The world has had warm periods and ice ages. The climate changes.
OK, am I a “man-made climate change denier?” No again. I know very few people, except perhaps for a few skeptics of the talkshow host variety, that totally deny any impact of man’s actions on climate. Every prominent skeptic I can think of acknowledges multiple vectors of impact by man on climate, from greenhouse gas emissions to land use.