March 11, 2007

The Great Debate

Before you watch, you have to read this first.

I've decided not to make any claims about this being right or wrong, rather I'm hoping this will generate some discussion on the issue. As you know, I never think that an issue is simple, but rather has many complex facets to flush out and discuss. Good science means that we will have to debate about stuff, and also means that our results will never be DEFINITE, only (ultimately) a best guess. It means we are never FINISHED; it means we continually refine our theories in light of new research.

Many of you have probably seen Al Gore's take on this issue, but my friend
Rob sent me this and I found it ... well, compelling, I guess. The science behind it fits a lot of what I learned in school, but then again, the other side to the argument makes sense too. Just watch it with an open mind, is all I ask, then tell me your thoughts - positive AND negative, but try to keep some of both - in the comments section. I will warn you it's about an hour long, so make sure you've got some time on your hands before you watch it. It's worth the time.

And, to give you both sides, a rebuttal against this particular argument.


Rob said...

FYI - put up on my blog a link to a thematic rebuttal to An Inconvenient Truth

Chris said...

The rebuttal to which Rob referrs can be found here.

Rob said...

Thanks - not sure how to put a link in the comments.

In any case - I think what I dislike so much is the anti-science of the proponents. Not so much they don't have facts they have on their side. It's that a denier is labeled as such. Denier implies heresy of some sort. Instead of simply being labeled as "scientists" who are saying "wait I have other data - what do you make of it."

It might be the mere politicization (the Thatcher angle I had never heard of) but I think some people forget the simple human interest. My job = global warming. I think people forget that. As a graduate student knowing how much I have to beg/plead/sell organs for money I realize how important it is to make your proposals sound "sexy". I seriously think The Structure of Scientific Revolutions should be required reading.

So in general I really hate the lockstep mindset that is shutting out people who dissent. I know people who are proponents will argue that it's as if they were denying gravity. But the fact there is so much out there illustrates its the exact opposite . Heck, the fact we're talking about it illustrates how bad it is.

What exactly do we have to add to this discussion? Yet we feel compelled to comment.

For all the grief that Crichton got for "State of Fear" I think his appendix had a great recommendation. Double-blind funding. No need to suck up to those with money and no ability of those providing funds to skew the data.

Chris said...

It's a pity they didn't listen to Crichton. I found his speeches, and they're well written. There's one in particular that addresses this issue: here.

Also, an excellent quote: “The one function TV news performs very well is that when there is no news we give it to you with the same emphasis as if there were.” [David Brinkley]

Rob said...

I love that speech. I really love how he nails what fundamentally underlies this issue (and pretty much most of his books)


Human Hubris.

The belief we can do anything or do anything.

All throughout Jurassic Park he has his character Ian Malcom going "are you mad, we can't destroy the planet!" - indicating how infinitesimal we humans are in the larger picture. Or how we think we understand so many great things.

Rob said...

What am I thinking?!?!

I have our solution. We let Jack Bauer deal with Global Warming.

Jack packs heat and is super cool - so whatever the problem he'll make sure it gets in balance!

A. Annie said...

One laugh out loud moment in the video was the "Global Warming is big business" comment. Compared to what -- oil companies with record profits last year?? Where are those oil profits going? Give me a break!

Why such resistance to even the overly modest suggestions for change?
What is the downside of adopting even modest conservation measures? Energy independence is also a form of homeland security. Not only do we save money, we give less money to those who would want to hurt us. Where did Bin Laden get his millions? --from the construction boom fueled by oil money - from us. Why wouldn't we want to convert our economy to clean energy? We could be the world leaders in technology to facilitate this conversion. This could be a win-win situation.

OK one side: oil dependence, probable global warming, other pollution from cars, coal. Money continuing to pour into the middle east with much of it going to people who hate us.

cleaner air, possible decrease in the rate of global warming, economic boom from developing clean technologies, energy independence. Reduction in money going to people who hate us.

Chris said...

Interestingly enough, the same sort of doomsday prophesies (the end of our planet as we know it, a la Al Gore) came from politicians in the last big crisis a couple decades ago when the earth was supposedly heading towards the next ice age.

See, I don't think that the two sides are mutually exclusive. I don't think that we have to believe that Global Warming is a manmade event to prosper in the ways you describe (cleaner air, economic boom, energy independence, etc). I think we SHOULD do those things ANYWAY, but not because of global warming. I think we should do them because God says we should take care of our planet; REGARDLESS of whether or not the world is heating or cooling. The church has, sadly, been too focused on one issue or another, instead of being big-picture focused. It's easy to do - the global warming camp does it as well. We get one idea stuck in our head as "THE ISSUE" of our time, and neglect other areas. For the evangelicals in America, the latest two issues seem to be gay marriage and abortion. I'm not saying those are issues we should ignore (maybe the gay marriage one, I dunno), but there ARE other things to worry about. Poverty, for example. There's a lot more people suffering from poverty around the world than people trying to marry their same gender. Injustice, for another example - the Karen people from Burma are systematically slaughtered by the Myanmar government because they're Karen (as one example). The environment fits into the category of things we've ignored in favor of the "hot topic" of the moment, when we as a church should be focusing on ALL the issues, progressively trying to better the world.

Chris said...

Found another interesting article in the news today: Scientists Have Inconvenient Truth for Al Gore.

Chris said...

Interesting, found almost the same article in the New York Times.

Rob said...

Yeah the media's been hitting the democrats pretty hard.

That NYT story. The LA Times ripped on "General Pelosi" and the Washington Post said that the Democratic plan for "victory" was "victory" in the sense that they could get votes (rather than winning in Iraq).

Kinda makes you wonder what happened.

A. Annie said...

Global cooling theories in the 70's have not been borne out by the temperature data. Global warming data has been measured many ways over and over again and the trend is clearly there. So you are questioning whether this is anthropogenic or not and whether it should be a justification for public policy changes? The IPCC scientists (whose conclusions, if anything, are overly conservative) largely concurr that anthropogenic contributions to greenhouse gases are a major factor. Whether we change our habits or not, we are in the middle of a huge experiment. Is it prudent to dump so much CO2 and other pollutants into our atmosphere? That is the crux of the matter. When experimenting with the atmosphere, I believe we should err on the side of caution and try to reduce emissions especially when the downside of action is negligible and the downside of inaction is potentially huge. The last time CO2 levels were so high, humans were small populations of hunter-gatherers who could easily move to different habitats. This time we have hundreds of millions of people in coastal areas. Care about poverty? Check out a map of Bangladesh. As you say, the issues are not exclusive.

Rob said...

Well Global Cooling wasn't borne out by the evidence but that didn't stop proponents from trying to succeed in the same way as Global Warming advocates. Makes you immediately pause and go - well how will we not know in 10-20 years (same way with Global Cooling) that there is an issue.

Especially since, as many documentaries, articles, news reports have show, those who dissent form the orthodoxy of Global Warming are shunned as apostates.

Again the issue of "we should reduce emissions" - ok but at what level? what cost? There are no solutions in the world - merely trade-offs.

You mention poverty - well one of the clearest ways to boost that is to allow industrialization and give the third world a fighting chance against larger economies. Sadly, this global warming debate is helping stunt growth in the developing world.

Same issue as people who are against genetic foods holding up countries in desperate need (ex: Africa) of better crop yields.

A. Annie said...

The assumption that reducing emissions has an unacceptable cost is narrow. Even modest reductions and a mindset that says we don't have to drive everywhere would go a long way. I have made intentional choices about the places I live and work with no detriment to my standard of living. Everything I need is a walk/bicycle/bus ride away. In fact, my standard of living is higher because I have made these decisions. I'm healthier. Where is the downside of encouraging others to make modest sustainable choices and discouraging the unsustainable unhealthy choices that foul the planet?

As for GMO's: I'm not against genetically modified crops on the whole. There is a continuum of good to bad. Good example: higher nutrient content (golden rice - the poster child for GMO - was going to cure blindness in all of asia - yet you cannot buy it anywhere. Why? that's another story). Example of Bad GMO: roundup ready crops - These let us dump even more pesticides on to the land and speed up pesticide resistance in wild relatives. Now instead of spraying once or twice, they are spraying 5 or more times per season. There are a whole host of unintended consequences with some of these things.