Monday, November 30, 2009

Do You Believe in Global Warming?

The argument is starting to remind me of a time we all go through, as kids start to ask questions about Santa Claus. Do you believe? How could you possibly believe THAT?

The Santa argument was probably never as polarized and many times, hateful, as the global warming debate, even though children always behave as, well, children. But the way people react to differing beliefs tends to be much the same.

There are only two camps that so staunchly believe in their ideology that they will only consider evidence that supports their favored hypothesis. How could there be more? On top of that, only my side is right. Only my side has supporting scientific documentation to support our claims. On one side, you have your Al Gore-types and his followers who have all agreed that "the debate is over." On the other, Rush Limbaugh and many conservatives have decided that there is no such thing as global warming and never was.

How can two polar opposite views have so much "scientific evidence?"

The only scientifically viable answer is that neither of them are completely accurate. Those of you who are familiar with the scientific method know that it only takes one piece of contradictory evidence to debunk a theory. There are no exceptions. There are no circumstances, scientifically speaking, that allow contradictory evidence to a hypothesis to be ignored in order to keep hope alive. It's just an inconvenient truth.

Yet, the debate rages on. Why? Because people use the argument for purely political purposes. There has been no raging public debate about the nature of black holes. It is possible that the earth will be destroyed completely by one of them someday. Why no debate about how to combat the black hole problem? The answer seems fairly simple:

  1. The threat is too distant for people on this little blue rock to sufficiently fear, and
  2. There is no cuddly face (polar bears, penguins, etc) to attach to the issue to help sell the masses on the idea.

Thus, it is not an effective tool one can use to garner influence. There is a great deal of power to be had and money to be made on both sides of the climate change debate. It is doubtful we will see the end of it any time soon. Even with the release of emails documenting a group of scientists fudging the numbers, and revelations of unreliable computer models, one side seems to want to take the belief to the grave. There is no way that contradictory evidence could ever be as valid as supporting evidence. In fact, it's probably fake! True believers and scientists who are desperate for research grants unite!

Meanwhile, the other side will just as obstinately insist that humans have no effect whatsoever on the environment. They point to the lack of warming over the past decade, and how disingenuous the claims because of the semantic shift from "Global Warming" to "Climate Change." Climates have changed constantly over the course of this planet's evolution (Some may not use the word "evolution," as they feel it is an affront to God. For the sake of this conversation, we will assume that we are talking about the majority of people on this side of the debate that do not believe that the Earth was created 6,000 years ago). The fact that climates have continued to change must mean that humans cannot have an affect on that or future changes! There is no way that contradictory evidence could ever be as valid as supporting evidence. In fact, it's probably fake!

Wait. Isn't that the justification the other camp just used for their beliefs?

Chances that there is no effect are very slim. Every action has a reaction. Our emissions must have some bearing on the future of the planet.

One thing that we can be more certain about: Both sides will continue to hide their true intentions. Would Al Gore still eat meat, use a private jet and live in a house that uses 20 times the amount of energy as the average house does in a year if he were a true believer? Would Sean Hannity bother to drive a Hybrid Escalade if he were a true doubter?

The reality tends to be somewhere in the middle. We have all heard the old adage: "There are three sides to every story. Your side. My side. And the truth." Chances are good that there is plenty of dishonesty to go around.

Should we all conserve and keep our environment as clean as we can? Of course! Very few of us enjoy living in a filthy habitat, and I believe that most people understand that in the long run, what is good for the environment is good for us. Should the government regulate business and tax citizens to the point where they squash productivity? I have my doubts.

Something tells me that 50 years from now, children will still be calling each other names, we will all still be here waiting to see which side can blow harder, you'll still probably be better off eating a salad in a Hummer than a cheeseburger in a Prius, and Florida will still be where America goes to die. We will have developed cleaner technologies to produce more sustainable energy, the most effective being the ones that were allowed to develop rather that the ones that were forced into development.

Welcome to the new religion. Spread the gospel and destroy the opposition. I, on the other hand, will take my science without God or politics.

That being said, I have no real or non-conflicting scientific data to back my assertions.

I should fit in just fine.


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