Thursday, December 10, 2009

What Anthropomorphicgenic Global Warming (AGW) Skeptics Really Think

Over at the Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan posed a question for AGW skeptics.

Later, Sullivan posted the reply of one of his AGW skeptics readers to the question.

I think Sullivan's reader's reply is characteristic of the thinking of AGW skeptics and quite revealing, actually.

What it seems to me that Sullivan's reader is really saying is not that he or she questions whether global warming is man-made, but simply that it doesn’t matter one way or another. I find it a bit odd that this person would recognize that global warming is occurring, accept it as part of the evolutionary process, and then pretend that humans have no discernible part in this phenomenon by our actions. What? Are we not participants in this evolutionary process? Furthermore, are we incapable of knowing or figuring out what causes climate change? Most importantly, are we not, as rational, intelligent beings, in the exclusive position to be able to respond to this process, either to speed it up or slow it down, based on what we do know?

Of course, advancing a policy position with regard to the environment requires making a conscious decision as to whether this global warming phenomenon, which Sullivan's reader acknowledges to be happening, is something that is a net plus for our world, a net minus for it, or simply unimportant enough to even worry about. What is Sullivan's reader’s policy position? Well, I think it’s instructive that there is none, since he or she essentially believes that it’s pointless to fight against evolution.

It strikes me as somewhat of an apocalyptic approach that basically discounts the human capacity either to damage our environment on the one hand, or to mold and shape our physical environment for the better on the other. And that just strikes me as absurd. For this reason, I think AGW skeptics are lazy cynics. They are cynics about the human capacity to impact such daunting things as global climate change; and they are lazy because they don’t even want to try.


Eric said...

Even amongst conservatives who think warming is anthropogenic(an admittedly small group), I think a lot of people are hard pressed to worry too much about what we are going to do about greenhouse gasses when it is becoming increasingly apparent that solar activity and geothermal activity can quickly wipe out any gains or losses we might create.

For me, the research I've read that tracks global temperatures in concert with solar activity (and which corresponds with temperature fluctuations on other planets in the solar system over the same time period) is much more convincing, (intuitively, objectively, and in the apparent integrity of the data) than the ones I've seen that correlate C02 with temperature changes.

You ask if conservatives believe we are capable of identifying and responding to the phenomenon, and I think the answer is: If the solution requires us to control the temperature of the sun and regulate volcanic activity... nope, we can't do it (or at least, the terraforming science required to do it would be so severe and risky as to draw reasonable and severe criticism from conservatives and liberals alike).

To me it makes much more sense for individual nations, communities, and people to focus on ways to mitigate the effects of warming (and cooling, which is always a possibility), should they actually play out. Outside of sci-fi movie disaster scenarios (which I believe even you have admitted are just trumped up fear mongering), I believe the cost of international global warming "fixes", even assuming they could be carried out succesfully, would create more death and devesatation than the global warming itself. The estimates I've seen say global warming may kill hundreds of thousands per year over the next century. I don't believe that, but even if it is true, poverty kills MILLIONS each year right now, and artificially inflating energy prices will only serve to worsen the situation, and decrease the opportunity for financial advancement, for the world's most impoverished people.

Pistolette said...

Well, if you don't believe man is causing global warming then what exactly is there to do? The planet has warmed and cooled its entire 4+ billion years, and humans are nothing but a tick on its ass. It's common geologic knowledge that this planet will go through another ice age at *some* point regardless of our behavior. So if we're gonna freeze anyway, why are we stressing about a few degrees (whether we caused it or not). I think most reasonable people agree we should take care of our environment. And so as long as we work towards cleaner energy, clean up our waste, and live minimally/moderately I don't see how spending trillions to make the planet a few degrees cooler is really necessary or practical.

Eric said...

Also, it's worth noting that people are still free to do what they have always done when climate change made their region uninhabitalbe: move.

Odds are pretty good that some of the large cities in the American West will face this dilemna in our lifetimes, global warming or not, as prolonged droughts (which have always happened periodically) dry up their water supplies. Likewise, rising oceans may force some people to scoot inland a bit.

Huck said...

Very sensible comment, Eric. I'm open to the arguments that question the benefits of massive international global warming "fixes" relative to their costs. But what I do believe is that changes in micro-level behavior conditioned by international consensus on the problem are things that should be encouraged. Recycling and reducing one's carbon footprint can only do positive things for environmental preservation overall and for anthropogenic impacts on the environment (by the way, your comment pointed out to me indirectly that I got the term wrong in my post title, which I have since corrected. Thanks.), so anything that can be done to encourage such micro-level behavioral transformations I think is worth the effort.

As for poverty killing millions more, I agree 100% -- but it does stand to reason that a market for environmental preservation does exists and could be a job creator (and thus a poverty reduction strategy, too). So, maybe we can save some hundreds of thousands from dying from impacts of global warming, and also save a significant number from death due to poverty in the process.