To believe, or not believe,
Editor’s note: I began this post quite some time ago, and I have just gotten around to finishing it now. It is one of a series of posts that I plan to do on environmental issues in the near future. Sorry, no pretty photos in this one.
To believe, or not believe….
Shouldn’t even be the question. What I am talking about here is the theory of Global Warming, or specifically, anthropogenic global warming (AGW), that is, the theory that man’s burning of fossil fuels leads to increased emission of CO2 into the atmosphere and is causing the Earth’s climate to warm at such a rate that it threatens our survival.
This is in response to a long essay that was included in the Autumn 2011 newsletter from the Pigeon River Country Association, of which I am a member, written by R. W. Kropf, who is the editor of the newsletter. Once the newsletter is posted online, I will add a link to it so that you may read if you wish. Basically, Mr. Kropf makes the case that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is occurring, and what we should do to try to reverse it.
I for one am not convinced, but does that matter? Not really, and I’ll get to why later on, as well as why pushing a theory that I believe will prove to be incorrect may well do more harm than good as far as goals that I believe that Mr. Kropf and I share.
First, a little about science and myself. I am not a scientist in the strict sense of the word, although I had planned on becoming one and that was my goal in my short foray in the academic world. My problem was that I was interested in all the “ologies”, from archeology to zoology and everything in between. One thing I learned is that scientists continually claim that they have moved past their personal biases and are basing their scientific opinions on pure science. Truth is, that has never been the case and probably never will be. Science has always been driven by religious, political, and economics as much as scientific facts, and I see no change in that to this day.
One only has to go back to the early debate over what is now called the Big Bang Theory of the origins of our universe. When Georges Lemaître first proposed what would become the Big Bang theory, Fred Hoyle and other scientists argued against it, and later admitted that much of their opposition to the theory was due to their belief that if science accepted that there was a beginning to the universe, it would lend credence to the religious notion of God having created the universe. That was in the 1940’s, and anti-religious bigotry played a part in shaping scientific views then.
But scientists were correct when they argued for a ban on DDT, weren’t they? Yes they were. And scientists were correct when they argued for a ban on CFC’s to save us from the “hole in the ozone” weren’t they? The jury is still out on that one.
Despite the Montreal Protocol as amended several times, the largest holes in the ozone over Antarctica have been during the winters of 2006 and 2010. There is still much research being done on the causes of the hole in the ozone, and several theories advanced as to what is causing it, but for the most part, those theories aren’t gaining any traction. For one thing the scientists who pushed CFC’s as the cause don’t want to admit that they may have made a mistake that cost consumers across the planet trillions of dollars.
That’s one of the reason the original Montreal Protocol has been quietly amended several times, to include variations of halogenated hydrocarbons not banned in the original document, scientists keep adding to the list of banned chemical compounds, hoping that eventually they get it correct.
I am not saying that banning CFC’s was wrong, the point I am trying to make is that when science moves before they have all the facts, mistakes are made.
So now we come to global warming, which may go down in history as one of the biggest scientific mistakes of all time, and Mr. Kropf’s essay. He begins by noting several species, including opossum, which were largely a southern species at the time when the first European settlers arrived in North America, have been expanding their range northward. The northward migration of many animals, including opossum and the northern cardinal were well documented, long before the first coal-fired power plant began belching smoke into the atmosphere, before man harnessed electricity, and long before the first automobile ever sputtered into life.
There are a number of reasons some species have been expanding their range to the north, one is that the “Little Ice Age” was ending, another is the wholesale changes in habitat that Europeans wrought on the land by clearing the forests, plowing the land, and planting agricultural plants where vast tracts of forest once stood.
The Little Ice Age was a period of cooling that occurred after the Medieval Warm Period. NASA defines the Little Ice Age as a cold period between 1550 AD and 1850 AD and notes three particularly cold intervals: one beginning about 1650, another about 1770, and the last in 1850, each separated by intervals of slight warming. It should come as no surprise that some species of animals were pushed south during the Little Ice Age, and that when it ended, those species would begin to expand their range northward again.
It should also come as no surprise that when there are the widespread changes in habitat as there have been that the species living in those areas that went from dense old growth forests to open farm land would change.
To leave both the end of the Little Ice Age and the changes in habitat out of the equation as to why species are moving north is simply bad science, something that has plagued those supporting the AGW theory from day one.
Remember those first computer models used to “prove” global warming was taking place? They were the laughing-stock of the overall scientific community. The scientists who wrote those models went back to their offices, not to write the best computer models to model the climate, but to produce models that would be acceptable to the rest of the scientific world and still “prove” global warming was taking place. Having a predetermined outcome is simply bad science.
Remember when it was announced that the Arctic ice cap was going to melt and the rise in sea levels because of it was going to flood most of the major coastal cities around the world? More bad science, because if the Arctic ice cap melts, sea levels will actually drop due to the fact that ice displaces a larger volume than does liquid water.
The story has changed now, the new story is that when the glaciers melt, sea levels will rise, and cause the flooding. That’s still somewhat bad science, for they are estimating the total amount of water that is held in the glaciers, and adding that to the current sea levels. Not all the water that melts from the glaciers is going to end up in the oceans. A good deal of it will be held in the plant life that takes root as the glaciers retreat. Some of the water will be held in lakes that form in the depressions left behind from the glaciers. Some of that water will filter down through the earth to underground aquifers. In the end, very little of the water from melting glaciers will end up in the oceans.
Relying on bad science to try to prove a theory leaves those trying to prove the theory grasping at straws. For example, headlines across the world trumpeted that long time skeptic of the global warming theory, Richard Muller, had compleated a study showing global warming was indeed taking place. The supporters of the AGW theory are trying to use this as proof of the theory, when all the study shows is that average temperatures around the world have increased since the 1950’s. The study does not address the causes of the warming, it only helps to verify that warming has been taking place for some reason.
The warming seen since the 1950’s is just as easy to attribute to the increase in solar activity that has coincided with the warming. There is far more correlation between solar activity and temperatures than there is between greenhouse gases and temperature.
Supporters of the AGW theory are also pointing to Muller’s study as validating the data used in the infamous Climategate scandal. It may validate the data, but it doesn’t validate manipulating the data to arrive at a predetermined outcome, which is what Climategate is really all about. That’s really bad science.
All the bad science used to try to convince the public that the AGW theory is correct makes it easy to poke holes in the theory. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the debate over the AGW theory and lose sight of what’s really important, and that is doing the right thing for the environment.
Who cares about the amount of CO2 coming out of the smokestack of a coal-fired power plant when that same smokestack is spewing tons of arsenic, mercury, and other toxic substances into our atmosphere?
Let’s face it, nothing that comes out of the smokestack of a power plant, whether coal-fired, or natural gas-fired, is good for us to breathe, or good for the environment. Nothing that comes out of the exhaust of an internal combustion engine is good for us to breathe, or good for the environment. Mining coal isn’t environmentally friendly, neither is drilling for oil or natural gas.
That’s why I said that Mr. Kropf and I share the same goals, we both want clean air to breathe, clear, free-flowing rivers, clean water to drink, our forests protected, and so many other things, yet we get caught up in the debate over AGW.
The biggest problem that I have had with the global warming theory is that to many of the public, it is another example of radical environmentalists sounding like Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling. Recent public opinion polls show that the majority of the public doesn’t believe that man is responsible for the warming that has taken place, if they believe that there has been any warming at all.
So while we could be taking steps that would actually benefit our environment, based on proven science, we waste time, effort, and resources debating whether or not climate change is the result of man’s burning of fossil fuels. Unfortunately, I believe that the leaders of “Big Environment” have many agendas other than doing what’s best for the environment, something I will explain in future posts.
What I would like to see happen is that the debate over climate change be sent back to the scientists to debate for the time being, and the rest of us focus on what we can all agree on, and here’s a few points I think that almost every one can agree on.
- Drilling for oil or natural gas does harm to the environment
- There is no such thing as “clean coal”, nor any way to extract coal from the ground that doesn’t do some of the most severe damage to the environment of all the things man does.
- We need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, not only to preserve the environment, but because they are finite resources that will not last forever.
- We need to take actions to reduce our reliance of fossil fuels that are not only as environmentally friendly as possible, but also taking into account the effects those actions will have on the common man, and especially the poor.
- We need to set political agendas aside, and take some common sense actions that do actually preserve our environment.
- We need to develop a new idea, “environmental efficiency”, and by that, I mean taking into account the entire environmental impact a process has, and whether it is a good trade off when compared to what that process is intended to replace.
So that’s it for this one, I hope to follow it up shortly, along with getting back to some photos, good or otherwise. Thanks for stopping by!