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Global Warming

It has been an unusually cold March. This weekend we got hit by the winter storm that has gone through the east coast. Snow in March is unusual. My mother used to tell me about the time it snowed on my birthday (which is March 9th). She had to tell me about it because I was too young to form any memory of it (point of reference: I am 50 years old).

I understand one spell of unseasonably cold weather doesn't disprove global warming. But this is beyond merely unseasonable. We have had two mornings in a row of temperatures in the low 20's. And it's part of a larger trend. I remember posting last year about wearing long sleeves in April.

The winter storm had one very amusing consequence. A demonstration against global warming in Washington DC had to be held in the middle of a winter storm. This shows that not only does God have a sense of humor, but it's an awful lot like PJ O'Rourkes.

I understand I could still be accused of cherry picking. Maybe I am. Given the massive amounts of weather data that can be gathered on any given day, there is probably some evidence that goes against my point that I have not noticed. But if I can admit that I might be wrong because of evidence I might not have seen, you'd think the global warming adherents could admit the possibility of being wrong in the face of evidence to the contrary that is right under their noses.

Some scientists are. Sort of. An article on the discovery website concedes that "global warming has hit  a speed bump." But it's amusing to see meteorologist Kyle Swanson struggle to hold onto global warming. He says while most cooling trends have "firm causes"  the current cooling "doesn't have one".  Some have suggested lower solar activity as a cause, but this of course doesn't fit with the anthropogeniic theory of climate change.

He also says that even though the current trend might continue for thirty years, it's "just a hiccup", and that "when the climate kicks back out of this state, we'll have explosive warming...Thirty years of greenhouse gas radiative forcing will still be there and then bang, the warming will return and be very aggressive."  I agree with him that eventually we will return to a warming trend. We always do. It's an easy prediction to make, and when it comes true it won't prove his causal hypothesis right.


I was reading about global carbon outputs in Bill Bryson's very unscientific but interesting book 'A Brief History of Nearly Everything' and started looking it up. It's true that natural carbon emissions are worse than our carbon emissions. If nothing was around to process the carbon, then we would absolutely be in a burnt wasteland that would look refreshing only compared to Venus's 485 celsius surface.

But apparently we have a wonderful host of creatures in the oceans that fixate carbon as their shells as it falls in the rain, which then fall to the ocean bottom when they die, which then is compressed into sedimentary limestone to eventually be pushed under continents and burnt in volcanos and re-released in the atmosphere, which he refered to as the 'Long Term Carbon Cycle'.

I think his concern is that even a little too much carbon into the cycle could result in a die-off of carbon-utilizing creatures that can't survive in the warming, that would overwhelm the process, running to mass extinctions -- while the hardier species would survive. This has happened a few times before even, and in the book he claims the last time it took 6000 years for the environment to bootstrap itself back into balance.

Apparently the sun gets hotter on its own as the solar cycle continues, with eventually the temperature of earth being above boiling anyway in 500 million to a billion years. The sun was apparently dimmer in the past, too, with under half of the energy that gets to us now back across billions of years of geological time. I didn't know about this, but I've heard it in Prof. James Kahler's lectures on Audible.com, Dr. Pamela Gay's Astronomy Cast podcasts, and read it in Bryson's book over the last few months -- yet to really substantiate it with why we think that though I would like to, but apparently it is something that is believed.

That is interesting -- I wonder what a carbon cycle collapse would look like with the extra energy input. I wonder at what level of increase you would need to irreparably damage life on Earth. I wonder if our carbon ontop of the natural carbon would be the definitive factor -- it could very well be triggered completely naturally like it has been before. I could understand being a little scared.

Anyway, like you say, the case for global warming seems tenuous at best. While it can definitely be said pumping tons of extra carbon into the atmosphere isn't a *great* idea, it's always ill-advised to waste economic resources on something that won't actually benefit in an equivalent manner.

On the other hand, as Bryson brings up in that book, the addition of vast amounts of never-fixating or leaving lead into the atmosphere is an entirely human disaster. It seems we could have made earth largely uninhabitable if we kept on that blunder. So I can understand being a little worried about this kind of thing -- I just don't approve of people taking advantage of that worry just to sell crackpot theories and techniques that don't work.
Wow. You actually seem to have *thought* about global warming.

As far as "vast amounts of ...lead" in the atmosphere, that's a different issue. It's easier to see lead as a pollutant than carbon dioxide, which is what comes out of our mouths when we exhale. I wouldn't be so concerned with legislation to keep that out of the atmosphere.
Yes, there are real pollution and environmental problems...which sometimes makes me wonder why they're so concerned about freakin' CO2.

Still, I never liked the use of the word "we" when talking about environmental problems. I don't like it when people say anything like "we did (insert horrible thing here)". It smacks of collectivism, but maybe it's just me...or not. David Henderson wrote a good article about the use of this word, and says it always surprises him to hear an anti-war activist claim that "we" bombed Vietnam.

In fact, I think this kind of use is related to nationalism, and the royal "we".

Edited at 2009-03-05 09:05 pm (UTC)
I think it helps feel a slight sense of responsibility as humans for it. Despite me not personally enriching gasoline with lead, I still feel like if I had discovered it, I probably would have tried to sell it. I think it's a very human flaw that when he finally discovered that it was bad for the environment -- well, more bad for our brains, being a neurotoxin that has no means of being processed and just increases in the body steadily --, wanting to avoid the consequences and keep telling yourself it will all be okay.

So I view it as like a human race 'we'. Like if aliens came to the planet, viewed the lead concentration in the atmosphere then took a core sample, they would go, 'Wow, these people really changed their atmosphere with the addition of lead starting in 1923.'

If it had been, say, plutonium instead of lead, we wouldn't even be around today... or at least have greatly reduced lifespans and healthspans. Human innovation drives success and progress, but just because a solution works doesn't mean that it's not a horrible mistake. I think the 'we' helps remind us of our blanket kind of responsibilities to at least take some precaution not to screw everyone over. Life is extremely resilient, but that doesn't mean we can't screw it up in some way.
I think the 'we' helps remind us of our blanket kind of responsibilities to at least take some precaution not to screw everyone over.

I wonder if, for instance, in that case, it would be appropriate for Republicans complaining about Obama's policies to say something like "We elected Obama". You know, like an American kind of "we"?

Sorry. I guess I'm sensitive to this issue.
It is funny. :) Yes, I know this is no proof against global warming either. But it's always funny to see "Stop Global Warming" signs waving in the snow. :D
I have this theory that Al Gore gave up on running for President because his campaign would have been too dependent on the weather.