The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Reaction to The Warmest May

My last post ("Warmest May in 131 years") got some reaction on its cross-posting to Facebook:

YK: 131 years is a drop in the ocean in geological time. Why is this drop so significant? Never seen any satisfactory answers to that question except maybe some looks of intimidation about how 'obvious' the answer was. Poor communication or maybe nothing compelling to communicate?

The Daily Parker: The sharp rise in global temperatures over the past 150 years is unprecedented in the planet's history. Yes, the earth has been warmer, and it's been colder—but (a) the evidence is clear that a 2-5°C rise in this short amount of time has never happened before barring asteroid impact or supervolcano eruptions; and (b) there is a statistically significant correlation between human-caused gas emissions and the temperature rise.

YK: What science can go back 4 billion years and offer that level of precision over a 150 year period of time? Sorry, I don't buy it. Show me the evidence.

TDP: That's just it: looking at 150 years over even a few million, the spike would be vertical. There have been large rises in temperature, but over millennia. We've got ice cores going back half a million years, and geological evidence for a few hundred million before that. I think we can exclude from the argument the time when the planet was a molten rock without an atmosphere through the time it had an oxygen-nitrogen atmosphere capable of supporting air-breathing life. So, for the last 500 million years, there have been swings up to 9°C, but never so fast, and never (with the exception of the K-T extinction) so devastating to life. What level of evidence do you require to recognize human-caused climate change, short of palm trees in Saskatchewan?

YK: I don't claim to be an expert in climate change, because I don't believe you can gain that 'knowledge' by reading or hearing people talk about it informally. Here is an example of something I looked for and read to learn more about it. Let me know if you can point me to something as equally well researched that can refute or at least cause me to question the observations and/or conclusions in this.

TDP: OK: UNFCCC, NASA, USGS, National Academies...again, what's the threshhold for you? What level of evidence will be sufficient to convince you?

YK: Read my article. You throw your stuff my way and don't bother to reciprocate the effort. Scientists who don't agree at least look at each other's evidence, and not just promote their own. (I write [that] with confidence because I know you couldn't have read the link I posted in 8 minutes.)

TDP: In fairness, you're right I haven't read it, but I'm downloading it now. While we're digesting each others' documents, consider this: If we shift resources to combatting climate change, for example by moving away from petroleum, reducing energy consumption overall, limiting meat production, etc., we could take a 1-2% GDP hit over the next century. Maybe 3% of GDP. If the consensus is wrong, and we've spent that 3% of GDP, we'll still have better resource use, healthier people, and fewer farting cows—all of which may very well boost GDP.

But if the consensus is right, and we do nothing, then we'll lose Miami, Bangladesh, and (truly a catastrophe) Jones Beach, Long Island.

What do you think about doing a thorough, evidence-driven risk analysis and then acting on it?

YK: If it can be proven or shown as a viable theory that we're f'ing up our planet and that we could do something to improve the situation, of course I'd be all for it. I just don't believe in any 'noble lie' scenario a la Plato. Show me the evidence or a reasoned theory and I'll come to my own conclusion on the matter. But I am against 'forcing' people to act against their will 'for their own good.' I am not a statist or a totalitarian or a believer in tyranny. If the best our 'leaders' can do is point guns at the populace to 'make them do the right thing' then I'm afraid we need to re-evaluate our status as citizens in this country.

My real reaction to the warmest May is: "Man, this May was so much more pleasant than last year in Chicago. Last year's late spring/all summer was the most disappointing in my 10 year experience living here."

The debate continues.

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