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Global Warming Revisited

The following was a “letter to the editor” submitted to a progressive magazine in response to articles on global warming:

“American Psychosis” you point to the many people who acknowledge
global warming, but do not change much, if anything about their
destructive lifestyles, and in “Hot Air” talk about the point of view
of skeptics and deniers.

I run a certified green hauling
business. I modified my delivery truck to get 30mpg (from 15mpg) and
run it on 100% biodiesel made from recycled veggie oil. I also work
part time supporting people who bicycle to work (at a business which
runs at a loss because our main service is free). I live in a 250square
foot home and use less than $5 worth of electricity most months.

also have some background in science, including degrees in earth
science and biology, and generally track down sources for claims I read.

read arguments on both sides, I am not convinced that humans are
significantly contributing to climate change. While I admit I haven’t
kept up with the latest research, I have yet to see several points

  1. The climate naturally goes through cycles of
    extremes. The current climate reflects roughly where it is expected to
    be. Our methods of determining past temperatures are not precise enough
    to tell us the rate of change over small periods of time in the past,
    and so it is difficult to determine if what we see today is abnormal.
  2. Geologic data suggests that in past periods of climate change,
    temperature has always changed first, with CO2 levels changing as a
    result of temperature change, not the other way around. This does not
    necessarily indicate it is what is happening this time, but it could
    account for what we are seeing.
  3. Climate predictions are only as
    good as the models they are built on, which in turn are only as good as
    the computers that run them. We simply do not have computers powerful
    enough to accurately model something as complex as the earth’s climate.
    Last I heard, in order to reduce complexity to a manageable level, most
    models omit details such as water vapor (arguably the single most
    important variable) all together.
  4. Human caused climate change is
    frequently referred to (particularly in liberal media sources) as
    having “scientific consensus”. According to Pew Research center
    86% of scientists concur. While 86% is clearly an overwhelming majority
    in a democracy, in science 14% is too large a minority to simply ignore.

But here’s the thing:

It doesn’t make one bit of difference if humans are contributing to global warming or not.

Whether we are causing it or not, its happening (that doesn’t take predictions, just measurements – its happening)

Therefor we should prepare for it.

more important: independent of global warming, our lifestyles are
harming the ecology of our planet. Even if an individual feels no moral
reason to care about life other than humanity, it is undeniable that we
are totally dependent on the environment for our own survival.

of climate change, our driving and electricity generation cause air
pollution, which in turn causes cancer, asthma, acid rain and many
other air quality issues. Drilling for oil and mining for coal (or
uranium) causes massive destruction – when things are running as they
should – never mind the occasional catastrophic accident. 

manufacture itself takes an enormous amount of raw material (as well as
energy) all of which must be mined/refined/transported and which
carries an ecological price tag. Auto accidents are the number one
killer of all Americans below 40 and remains one of the top causes of
death and injury at all ages. 

Their is evidence that the lack of
exercise associated with driving is the number one factor in the
obesity epidemic. The fact that we consume far more energy than we can
produce domestically puts us at risk, both politically, economically,
and militarily.

All of these problems would remain if we
switched to electric (or fuel cell) cars. Most would remain even if we
discovered cold-fusion or some other unlimited supply of cheap energy. 

And of-course all would also remain if humanity decided to combat global warming with a grand geo-engineering project.

exclusive focus on “human-caused climate change” makes it easy for
people to write off environmentalism, because the science is not, in
fact, conclusive (as of yet). It also encourages the idea of using
technology to “solve” the issue, with potentially unintended
consequences. And it completely ignores all of the other real, urgent,
indisputable problems that our lifestyle has created.

Whether it turns out humans are accelerating climate change or not, our course of action needs to be the same:

One way or another, the earth will eventually get warmer, and people need to be ready to adapt.

way or another, the American lifestyle is destructive and
unsustainable, and we need desperately to downsize our extravagances:
give up the car, stop flying, eat vegetarian / organic / local, cut
electricity use, buy less stuff, shop locally (when buying is
necessary), waste less water, and live in locales that are naturally
hospitable to humans (i.e. not the desert)

We can either focus
on gradually changing those things now, voluntarily, or we can ignore
them and have them changed for us in the future, in which case the
change will be very unpleasant, and likely include violence.

Addressing climate change does little to address any of those issues, and where it does it is only incidental.

I understand the good intention behind keeping environmental issues on
the forefront of everyone’s minds, I believe that the single-minded
focus on global warming is actually counter-productive – even if it
does turn out to be true.