Global Warming: Center Stage

A few days ago, I posted the following as a status update on Facebook:

“Stallion Cornell thinks Cap and Trade is a nifty opportunity to kick a moribund economy in the gut in order to have a negligible impact on the warming of a globe that’s been cooling for the past decade.”

As of this writing, there are 99 responses, and I have no doubt we’ll be breaking triple digits soon.

What’s interesting to me is that the vast majority of the responses focus on the third part of status – the one that questions the reality of global warming in the first place. In hindsight, that part was a mistake, because even if the globe is superheating and it’s all my fault, Cap and Trade won’t fix it. It won’t even put a tiny dent in it. It’ll cost two trillion dollars over the next ten years and accomplish nothing – best-case estimates concede it will slow warming by less than a tenth of a degree over fifty years. Nobody’s offered any rebuttal to that part, because there is no rebuttal. Cap and Trade will throw boatloads of money into a huge, fiery pit in order to make greenies feel good about themselves. Maybe yoga would be a better answer. It would certainly accomplish just as much.

But okay, let’s get back into the underlying assumptions about global warming, because that’s where the interest is. Daniel, who’s been the most articulate, passionate advocate for man-made global warming in the Facebook thread – and, I might add, the least ad hominem arguer – has posted the following cartoon on his Facebook page:

Consciously or not, he references this cartoon as he responds to one of my old posts on global warming, found here. Here’s what he said:

First stage: global warming isn’t happening. Second stage: global warming is happening, but humans aren’t causing it. Third stage: even if global warming is happening, and we’re causing it, there’s nothing we can do about it.

I refuse to accept this premise that these “stages” somehow reflect an appropriate way to think about global warming, or that one of these stages follows another.

That is to say, I can be skeptical of all these things at the same time!
1) I don’t doubt a warming trend over the past century, but I doubt that it’s inexorable and that it will never reverse itself without human intervention.
2) I also doubt that humans are capable of significantly altering global temperature one way or the other.
3) I don’t think “warm weather is a small price to pay.” I think, rather, that warmer temperatures are more hospitable to human life than colder temperatures. I would rather have lived during the Medieval Warming Period, when temperatures were several degrees higher than they are today, than during the Little Ice Age, when temperatures were much colder. Both of these phenomena, incidentally, were not caused by humans, and humanity adapted to both periods; it will also adapt to whatever the future holds.
Daniel continues:

We could argue whether it would be possible to cap emissions in already-industrialized nations, develop cleaner energy sources, and then export them to the developing world (which emits carbon in the meantime), and whether this would be possible without overly hurting the economy of the industrialized nations. But I get the sense from other conversations that you aren’t past the first stage anyway.

No, I’m not. And you know why? Because I would argue that we should industrialize as many nations as possible as quickly as possible, carbon emissions be damned. I’d go into these struggling, backwater, corrupt little countries and encourage them to mine and drill and burn huge, belching smokestacks filled with fossil fuels to bring them up to pace with where America is today. To me, anything else smacks of “We’ve got ours; screw everyone else.”
The question is one of priorities.
Environmental zealots, like all zealots, see their issue as of paramount importance, and see no other competing values. So if it costs two thousand dollars a year or every man woman and child in America to lower the globe’s temperature by a negligible amount, then dammit! It must be done! Lower standards of living, lower life expectancies, and more disease and famine in the developing world? Those are a small price to pay to set the global thermostat to exactly where it is today, which is somehow the optimum global temperature for reasons I can’t fathom.
I see the lower standard of living and am appalled, regardless of the high-minded intentions of those who unwittingly contribute to them with their environmental zealotry.

So what’s the point? If you want to have a discussion on whether global warming is really happening, or whether humans are causing it, I’d be happy to point you to some good sources of information.

The problem is that the science is almost always accompanied by an agenda – on both sides. Nobody ever questions the central premises. Isn’t a belching smokestack in Africa that provides fuel, jobs, and opportunity to hundreds of people a better thing than starvation accompanied by a low carbon footprint?