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Human climate disruption [Jun. 18th, 2006|09:27 pm]
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Update post coming soon, but first:

I read this annoying editorial in the newspaper this morning about global warming (which I'm going to refer to as "human climate disruption" instead, because calling it "global warming" misleads the discussion). Actually, I only read about half of it, because as I said, it was annoying.

I was pondering a counter-letter to the editor, but then I realized that it was unlikely to do any good if I didn't address the issues in contention. If you're going to try and change somebody's mind with new information, you have to figure out what information would actually matter, or all you're going to do is add heat to the disagreement.

And so, a quiz:

So, whaddaya think about anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change?

A) It's totally happening
B) A lot of people say it's true, but I'm not convinced
C) I hear arguments for and against, and I'm not sure what to think
D) I think it's some kind of hoax
E) Other

If you answered anything other than A, I'd like to try and change your mind, so leave a comment explaning why (generally speaking) you don't find the idea persuasive.

I was thinking that I'd write a short explanation of the physics involved, because it's actually pretty straightforward. But I want to know whether that's actually where the disagreement arises...

[User Picture]From: finagler
2006-06-19 08:01 pm (UTC)
I have a deal with my step-dad (an avid "we just don't know but I'm skeptical" proponent, who I've learned hates being called a flat-Earther...): show me just one actual expert in climatology who doesn't believe that the Earth's climate is (a) getting warmer on average and (b) that this is due to human-caused CO2 emissions, and then I'll bother listening to you. No, not a statistician who wrote a non-peer-reviewed book. No, not a science fiction writer either. He still hasn't come up with one.

For my part, I point to the UN's executive summaries of the world's climate-study peer reviewed journals, plus the fact that even the frikkin' Bush administration believes it now.
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2006-06-20 08:13 pm (UTC)
So, I have no problem in general with this sort of appeal to authority as a way of getting out of discussions like this one.

And there's no reason you should listen to me when I'm not actually saying much of anything... I mean, certainly I'm not trying to convince you, or anyone, to doubt anything in particular... hell, even my own skepticism is rather vague and indefensible.

That said, I have a cognitive obstacle here you probably don't, which is that I know an astrophysicist who had to change careers because of the drought of grant money for studying heliogenic atmospheric effects... which makes me wary of the "if there were a legitimate argument here, scientists would be demonstrating it" school of argument.

Of course, the plural of anecdote is not data, and I don't claim that my wariness is legitimate grounds for skepticism here... I merely assert that it does contribute to mine, legitimately or otherwise.

Which, I hasten to add, does not obligate you or anyone to go out of your way to convince me of anything.
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[User Picture]From: finagler
2006-06-21 01:07 am (UTC)
It was probably unclear given the thread-nesting, but I was actually only commenting on your very first sentence: the thing I've found most difficult and frustrating on this issue (and many others) is the lack of anything like a reliably impartial source.

My point is that, while I think most people in this country would agree with your sentiment, the reality is that though there is broad consensus among all the world's scientists about the fact that global warming exists and is at least in part caused by humans. (That wasn't the case even a decade ago, but the experimental data and computer models have both progressed in the past few years.) That consensus is backed by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the National Acadamy of Sciences, and the Bush administration own Science advisers. And on the other side you have... who? Michael Crichton?

In the face of such overwhelming consensus you'd think that the idea that global warming doesn't exist would be treated like stories of alien abduction. But it's not. While one difference is that there used to be more uncertainty about global warming some 10-15 years ago, I think the main difference is this: alien abductees can't spend millions on PR firms to sow uncertainty and doubt.
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