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Thoughts On Global Warming and Human Responsibility

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented its preliminary report today and concluded that global warming is "very likely" (meaning 90% sure) caused by human activity.

Here are my thoughts as a lay observer:

1. Global warming is real.

2. No one really knows whether this is a long-term trend (leading to glacial melt and loss of all ice caps — which would be catastrophic) or a short-term trend that may slow or reverse itself as a minor variation in global climate stability.

3. It is preposterous to say that the earth has a stable climate; research shows that the earth has always fluctuated in surface temperature, weather patterns, etc., sometimes with great variations lasting for many centuries (ice ages, etc.) or smaller variations lasting for shorter periods of time.

4. Until recent history (the past 200 years – from the beginning of the industrial revolution) the impact on human activity on climate change would have been zero. Yet climate change occurred even without human interference.

5. Are there other natural circumstances besides human activity that could explain the current warming trend? Yes. Sun activity, tectonic plate movement, volcanic activity, shifting of the earth's magnetic poles, etc.

6. Do I believe that human activity is responsible for 90% of the worlds temperature increase? No. But I am 100% sure that it is a contributing factor — perhaps even a significant factor. But nowhere near the 90% factor cited in the report.

7. Do I believe that we should attempt to reduce the pollution and atmospheric emissions that contribute to this warming trend? Yes. But not precipitously. As with pollution in the Los Angeles basin, some things take time. Our nation's release of "global warming-related" pollutants has declined as a percentage of our total national energy and industrial production. Auto emissions have also declined per automobile. This is good, but does not remove the problem. It only keeps it from being worse than it already is.

8. Rapidly developing nations such as Russia, China, and India account for the largest increase in global-warming emissions. These countries, and others like them, have not yet introduced the high technology and expensive additions to the production output that would in any way reduce the "bad" emissions to anything remotely comparable to that of the United States.

9. As one writer to the BBC put it, "Who is going to tell a billion people that they can't have air conditioning or an automobile?"

10. Should we, either as Christians or simply as concerned and responsible citizens of the world, do anything in response to this? Yes, of course. The simple acts of recycling, purchasing more fuel-efficient cars, using our air conditioners less frequently and at lower settings, eating foods that require less processing and transportation and the like will collectively help in this problem.

11. As Christians, we should be concerned about our stewardship responsibilities in a world of God's own making. After all, we believe that "the earth is the Lord's and all that is therein." In judgment we believe that we will be held accountable for our behavior in this matter as well as in other moral and ethical areas of our lives.

12. Is there any scientific model, either supporting the Intergovernmental report or contradicting it, that offers any hope or practical solution to this matter of global warming? None that I have seen. Whether this warming trend is caused by human or natural causes there is little evidence that very much can be done about it in a comprehensive way. The world, the number of human beings and the growth of industrial consumption is simply too vast to bring under any sort of practical control.

13. What then, will happen? Who knows. Ocean levels may continue to rise, flooding low-lying coastal areas, islets and atolls. Entire nations may disappear (Micronesia and Kiribas come to mind). The reduction of global ice caps and the glacial ice of Greenland could produce accelerated warming or actually slow it down according to the various models I have seen. Areas currently arable may become deserts and desert areas may become arable. Major cities in certain climes may become too expensive to maintain large populations. Populations may actually shift globally to accommodate the climate changes. Shipping routes may even change if trans-polar shipping become feasible. Some national economies may suffer terribly. Others may actually benefit. The balance of world resources may also shift, affecting national alliances and balances of trade and economic markets. Political power will also shift along with the climate.

14. Is all this going to happen in our lifetimes? Some of it, yes. But, if the warming continues at the present pace it will be our children's children's children who will probably have to face the reality of major change in lifestyles and geo-political-economic transitions.

15. Is what you are saying true? Or have you just made it all up? Not being an expert I am simply expressing my current understanding of the situation based on what I have read. What this means, of course, is that I have mostly made it all up. On the other hand, for all their intellectual fire-power, so has the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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About Bird of Paradise

  • There is a 90 percent certainty the cause is fossil fuel emisions. The scientists have finished their job. Only a fool waits for 100 per cent certainty of an impending and irreversible disaster. :::[Global Warming Watch]

  • Bliffle

    BOP erects enough prejudices and falsehoods to supply targets for an army of sharpshooters. The question is: with so many easy targets is it even worth starting shooting at this predictable knee-jerk defense of the status quo?

  • And your PhD. in climatology was received from……??

    No? Ok then – your training in meteorology?? Planetary atmospherics?? Anything??

  • lala

    polar bears are becoming exstinct because we polute the air with the smoke from factories and cars. this is causing the ice to start melting and icecaps are breaking off the land and drifting to warm waters making an overflow of water. this will cause city and even state flooding causing people to evacuate and head toward inner states with no surrounding water

  • Almost 1000 years ago, Roman were in Londinium, they kept records of daily weather, among other things.

    You can find them, and compare them to the last 200 years of weather in southern England (home of the industrial revolution…and coal fires).

    Or you can read the reports all over the net.

    Wishful thinking and bullshit platitudes never stop an oncoming trainwreck.

  • Ok you guys. You are as predictable as winter woodsmoke along the Wastach Front. And you call ME a “kneejerk!” What, exactly, is causing you to bounce around in your padded-wall rooms today?

    Let’s see: Is it because I agree that there is global warming; Is it because I agree that fossil fuel emissions (and many other atmospheric pollutants) are a significant factor in this warming (although not 90% sure that they are the only or most significant cause)? Is it because I admit that I am worried. Is it because I support virtually every form of energy conservation possible. Is it because I predict the rise in ocean levels. Is it because I predict a slow but unstoppable climate shift over the next 120 years (at 40 years per generation).

    It seems to me that I am in agreement with everything that you might want from any lay (non-scientist) observer except that I am not convinced of that 90% figure (which even the Panel did not support a year ago).

    Perhaps you are dismayed and outraged that I asserted that they “made it all up.” This comment was not intended to disparage the research that lead to the Panel’s conclusions. It was simply a reminder that, although the report represents the collective conclusions of the Panel . . . their conclusion is, nonetheless, an educated “opinion.” It is a compelling opinion but not one that is above criticism or dissent. Especially from among their peers.

    Perhaps I could have found a less snarky way of putting this, but it is hard to accept 90% assurance of the cause of global warming when some of these same folks can’t tell me what next year’s weather will be like! Even Old Farmer’s Almanac gets it right as often as they do!

    When the track record of observable short-term weather/climate predictions is so spotty it is difficult to give full-faith to vast long-term speculations such as this report . . . even when they make it sound so credible. This does not, however, mean that I do not take the panel’s conclusions seriously.

    By the way, if this is how you guys treat those who are inclined to agree with you then I would hate to see how you treat someone who actually disagrees with you!

    Each one of you went out of your way to insult me, personally, with sarcastic and totally unsupported or irrelevent rants. But for what? Until you give me some solid reason for your contempt I will be forced to hold to my “padded wall” image.

  • D’oh, Yes, I am aware of historical records such as you describe. When I lived in Scotland I was suprised to discover that they used to grow cotton up there…during the same century that the Thames River used to freeze solid most every winter! Facts are so amusing some times!

    By the way, your comment only makes sense if I denied the tendency towards global warming. Since I actually affirmed the “fact” of global warming your comment seems a little like preaching to the choir.

  • Bliffle

    I don’t need no stinkin’ degrees! I don’t need no facts! I’m a psychic and I’m going into a trance right now. I’m looking into the future and i see smoke….wait… maybe it’s a big glacier. Anyway, it’s the truth. I have an inalienable right to not believe any science that conflicts with my beliefs.

  • duane

    Wow, deja vu.

  • Thank you, Bliffle, for reinforcing my concern for your need for padded walls.

    By the way. I have known many PhDs. Some are fine folks. Some are jerks. Some are world experts in their field of study. Others are idiots. Even many of those who are experts in their field of study are complete idiots in everything else. I spent 10 years in college and graduate schools years ago. I am now working on a doctorate. My wife is an Assistant Professor at a university. I know the academy and I know how only the elitist prigs use their degree as a weapon against those who do not have one as “good” as theirs (or one that is not from a school as “good” as theirs). Hogwash.

    Facts are facts. Evidence is evidence. Both must be weighed and considered in light of various possible explainations. Enlightened people and unenlightened people, with or without PhDs will arrive at different conclusions. Usually, over time, the evidence and facts add up to where one conclusion ascends and the others decline. Even though Einstein was proved to be more or less correct in his attempt at a unified theory of relativity it took the constant prodding and research of the skeptics to eventually produce the results that both vindicated and refined his work.

    I believe that we are still in the “middle” stage of refining and testing climate models based on the often conflicting and almost incomprehensible amounts of dats that have been acquired during the past 25 years.

    In my opinion this Panel’s conclusions are still preliminary and still subject to scientific review and debate. You, however, seem to believe that the Panel’s conclusions are so self-evident that they defy criticism.

    Now, tell me, Bliffle . . . whose opinion is more intolerant, closed-minded and dogmatic . . . yours or mine?

  • jaz

    So, Bird… did you claim your money yet?

    “Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world’s largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

    Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).”

  • What’s with you guys, can’t you read? How have I undercut the report? By not treating it as the last word on the subject? Do all of you agree with every fact, piece of evidence and every conclusions cited by this report? I haven’t even read it! Have any of you? What makes you so sure of what is in this preliminary report?

    Look, we all agree that the world climate is in transition, with a clear tendency towards global warming. Is this an issue? Yes. Is it important? Yes. Is it reversible? No. Can it be slowed? Perhaps. Is 90% of the warming caused by fossil fuel emissions and other human activity? The Panel says, “Yes” and I express my doubts that the human element is that high a factor. I haven’t even expressed an opinion as to whether the human factor is 10% or 85%. Jeesh . . .

    On the other hand, if the oil industry is foolish enough to give me $10,000 for my post on BlogCritics then, what the heck, bring it on!

  • Driveby

    Who gives a rats fart about polar bears. This is just evolution in progress. As our climate changes others species will adap.

  • The problem, BoP, is that your carefully worded “affirmation” on global warming begins (after you claim you believe in it) with points 2 through 5 which offer the same standard “reasoning” trotted out by the global warming deniers on a regular basis.

    This kind of detracts from your argument…

    Just out of curiosity, what is your doctorate in?

  • BKMantra

    There are qualified and unencumbered Scientists that also say that the Sun is in an active period with sunspots as an indicator. If the Sun radiates more energy then the effect is global warming. The greenhouse emissions don’t help either and we will exhaust the fossil fuels in this century. Living at 37 degrees North I must say that global warming isn’t that bad. The weather is mild and pleasant. The Polar Bears are unfortunate victims of the retreat of their ice shelf that they hunt seals on. The drilling for oil probably has an effect in the Alaska refuge on the species there too. If we change our habits (we will be forced to anyway as the oil diminishes)then will that have an immediate effect on the warming trend? Will the coastal areas be safe from flooding? I have my doubts. Some respected scientists say that after an increase in the Sun’s activity there is a crash and cooling trend that could result. For sure the Ross ice shelf in Antarctica is melting away while floating in the ocean. The Greenland glaciers are flowing back to the sea. Maybe they will find the Ark on Mt.Arahat with all of this melting. I agree with Bird on this 90% figure. What are all the protests going to change about the Sun’s habits? We should be ready for anything, hot or cold.

  • kob

    Many people with a serious illness have trouble accepting it; they’ll deny it and ignore it for as long as possible. I think global warming produces a somewhat similar reaction; there’s denial and a problem accepting the science of it.

    The continued doubt about the science of global warming does not surprise. In 1964 the Surgeon General released a study that established the link between smoking and cancer. But that did not stop people from smoking.

    There was a lot of doubt cast on the 1964 study in the late 1960s and 1970s, especially. There were numerous efforts to counter the government’s findings and some were subtle, such as claiming that stopping smoking may increase weight and, as a result, heart problems.

    These doubt-casting stories about the harm of smoking were liferafts for people who didn’t want to come to terms with the overwhelming science about the hazards of smoking. I think something similar will be true for global warming as well and it may be years before many people can accept what is really happening to our planet. But that acceptance is necessary for real action, otherwise the response may be little more than a series of false half-steps similar to those taken by so many smokers who couldn’t or didn’t want to give up their habit.

  • Bliffle

    “It is preposterous to say that the earth has a stable climate;”

    Actually, compared to the planets we actually know about, earth has a very stable climate. Without our remarkably stable climate there would be no life of any kind here. We can exist in only a very narrow range of climatic conditions.

  • Deano, My doctoral studies are in Ministry . . . I am a minister, by the way! And, just because global warming deniers cite the same points that I do does not invalidate the points . . . only the conclusion!

    Bliffle, Now we’re into semantics . . . what does the word “stable” mean! I agree what every word you say concerning the narrow range of climate change that uniquely makes our planet able to sustain life.

    On the other hand, world climate is not and never has been in stasis. It has always been in flux. The rise of science and technology occurred during one of the more exceptionally stable periods of observable climate phenomena.

    Change and fluctuation is the norm (see tree ring evidence for this) and long-term trends towards colder or warmer global temperatures have always taken place as a natural occurrance.

    When the bounds of climate change (either temperature, atmospheric or both) reach beyond the “extreme” then the world experiences mass extinctions of certain species and the ascendency of new ones.

    By the way, I have yet to see anyone in this comment thread refute any observable fact that I have asserted.

  • Ir

    This discussion has been very interesting. I continue to be amazed at zealots that cannot abide anyone arriving at a different conclusion from the same data. As a layman with no PHD, only a BA and quite a few years of observation I want to know why it gets so cold at night if humans are causing 90 percent of the warming.

  • D’oh

    Anyone see the movie “Erik the Viking”?

    So much of this shit reminds me of Terry Jones’ character singing while High Vrasil sinks, saying “it’s not happening” until the water flows over his head.

    Then there’s Nero and his fiddle.

    Isn’t it worth examining if Man’s behavior has an effect on all this, and to see if what we do in the days to come can’t change things for the better, or even make them less worse than what could happen?

    Yet time and again, the same people who advocate spending their grandchildren’s money so they can deficit spend on wars and aggregating cash towards the top percentiles advocate we do nothing but bicker about objective data.

    How about agreeing to solve the problem? How about agreeing that while people might not agree on the source cause, that there IS a problem, and working together to solve it?

    how’s THAT for “theology” (i know , not quite a proper usage of the word, but it makes my point)

  • Nancy

    Because, D’oh, bickering is a way to put off doing anything about it, and as all lawyers know, if you can delay long enough, eventually you can get what you aimed for. In this case, BushCo’s bickering will ensure the multinationals don’t have to DO something to curb their pollution, or produce better products to curb pollution – at least not in the foreseeable future. I’m sure you’re aware of the practice of the auto industry in buying up any new patents for vehicles that would impact their current models by requiring them to improve them? Ditto high-mileage/alternative fuel? The ones the public are aware of are the few that managed to ‘escape’ as it were. If they wanted to, the automakers could come up tomorrow with a viable model that could get 300+ miles per gallon. There’s another one for high-solar areas, that runs on a small solar battery; the screen is about the size of a desk pad. No, it won’t go 180 mph, but it will go up to 50 or so, & it doesn’t require additional fuel. But they won’t make it. Why, I dont’ know, but I guess I could speculate that those same people who have stakes in the auto biz also have big stakes in the fuel/oil biz, what?

  • D’oh

    Nancy – Check comment #81 in thisthread for one answer to the problem.

    Anybody got a few million to invest? We could get bio-diesel hybrids on the road in a year or two.

  • I think global warming is a big problem and we should do something about ittttttttttttttttttt

  • Marissa

    GET OVER YOUSELVES!!!! Global Warming is real and thee people of the U.S. need to get their heads out of their butts and do something about it!!! I don’t know about you,but I don’t want the future people of this world to be punished for something that we could have done something about. So…. my point is…… STOP BEING IDIOTIC AND DO SOMETHING TO STOP GLOBAL WARMING!!!

  • Black

    There is no such thing as Global Warming! If there was I’m sure it would be happening, but its not. If your a minister bird then you’d know that God promised to never flood the earth again. If Global Warming was happening the world would be flooding, and God would be breaking his promise to us. In other words you guys are calling God a liar.

  • I don’t really know why I’m bothering, but Black can rest assured that God isn’t telling porkies. There simply isn’t enough water on the planet, in any form, to cover all the land.

    Even if the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and all the world’s ice caps, ice fields, glaciers and sea ice were to melt (which won’t happen), the map of the world would still look fairly familiar.

    However, since a vast number of us live on or within a few miles of a coast, this is hardly comforting.

  • Rup

    yup global warming is once of th biggest problm n we knw all knw tht …but no one is ready to proctect it frm..

  • Black

    global warming shi simi?