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Tuesday, April 10, 2007
A reader recently posted the following comment regarding my views on global warming (GW).
As the article on global cooling reminds us, scientists are fallible human beings, but so are Dr. James Dobson and Chuck Colson. As earlier comments have correctly stated, scientists have "more scientific evidence and more sophisticated instruments to gather that evidence than there was years ago," and the cooling article does not "prove global warming wrong."

I am a follower of Christ, a physicist, and a friend of Darius' brother Jonathan. I am not a socialist; I do not advocate communism; I am not attempting to "destroy the world's economy," and I certainly do not consider Al Gore a "great prophet." Having said that, I wish to pose a few questions.

What evidence would be necessary to convince you that rather than being an imaginary product of "junk" science and a "current fad," global climate change is real and being caused by human activity?

Your previous posts have revealed that your real disdain is not primarily based on the science, which leads to my next question. What would be necessary to convince you that climatologists and atmospheric scientists are sincere in their conclusions about global climate change, as summarized in the IPCC reports, rather than being a group of Gaia worshiping, hysterical, "who's who of moral idiots" who are "false Christs and false prophets" deceiving Christians "by a worldly philosophy" in order to destroy the "wicked capitalist Anglo-American man."

What solutions does Al Gore advocate that would "kill millions of people?" As far as I know, most practical actions to curtail global climate change are actions you could take for a variety of other reasons, such as reducing your energy bill, increasing US energy security, and reducing the presence of smog in America's major cities.

Finally, why do you accept science's projections of future populations in Russia and Saudi Arabia but not the IPCC projects of future global average temperature?
First of all, before reading the rest of this post, review my previous posts about GW. I feel it's probably necessary that I expound on some of the details for my previously stated beliefs and explain that they are not based solely on my worldview or my opinions of the global warm-mongers, but that I do actually have solid scientific backing (or at least can show how weak the GW proponents' evidence is). I am not a scientist, nor would I ever claim to be, having studied limited amounts of most scientific subjects while majoring in mechanical engineering. However, I have read up some on the subject of GW and found some real experts in the field who have more fully explained the faults in the GW hysteria. For the basics, read the past Mark Steyn columns which have been linked to in some of my GW posts. However, since Mark Steyn is not a scientist, I feel it is necessary to reference some atmospheric scientists and climatologists.

The first is Dr. Richard Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and Professor of Meteorology at MIT. He's spoken and written extensively on the issue. It is his belief (along with many other scientists in the field) that while global temps have gone up about .5 deg. Celsius in the last 100 years, there is no clear evidence that carbon dioxide is the cause. Dr. Lindzen wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal last summer which summarized his feelings on the matter quite well.

A general characteristic of Mr. Gore's approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse. Regardless, these items are clearly not issues over which debate is ended--at least not in terms of the actual science.

A clearer claim as to what debate has ended is provided by the environmental journalist Gregg Easterbrook. He concludes that the scientific community now agrees that significant warming is occurring, and that there is clear evidence of human influences on the climate system. This is still a most peculiar claim. At some level, it has never been widely contested. Most of the climate community has agreed since 1988 that global mean temperatures have increased on the order of one degree Fahrenheit over the past century, having risen significantly from about 1919 to 1940, decreased between 1940 and the early '70s, increased again until the '90s, and remaining essentially flat since 1998.

There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million by volume in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today. Finally, there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas--albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system. Although no cause for alarm rests on this issue, there has been an intense effort to claim that the theoretically expected contribution from additional carbon dioxide has actually been detected.
Secondly, I refer you to Dr. William Gray, Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University and the PREMIER hurricane forecaster in the world. He believes that the earth will actually start COOLING in the next 5-10 years as it gets to the end of this current warming cycle. Here is an article about Dr. Gray and his GW skepticism. It's a bit lengthy, so be prepared. I will make another post soon directly addressing the comments above.


Chris said...

Sorry, here's a second try in getting rid of those awkward line breaks. Feel free to delete the previous comment.

I'm not an expert on Lindzen but it's very important to note that he does agree that the increased carbon dioxide levels is a cause of the warming, but he differs with just about everyone there is to differ with besides the Wall Street Journal in asserting that we are not the cuase of the increased CO2 levels.

Here's his thoughts verbatim from that article you provided the link to:
"There is also little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million by volume in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today. Finally, there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas--albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system."

As a Christian, I think it's important to connect the debate to God's command to subdue the earth and have dominion over it- an idea that was apparently central to the birth of science in a Christianized Europe. That quote of Lindzen is an admission from global warming's harshest critic that climate change really is happening. And even if there is substantive debate over the projected temperature increase; as Christians our response ought to be dictated by the book of Genesis:

"God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." Genesis 1:28

In the context of the other creation myths of the day which placed human beings at the periphery of a universe dominated by the disputes between gods this passage God says loud and clear: You are in charge here. Of course, we know in chapter 2 that even in our unfallen state that didn't imply that God wasn't needed or wasn't around while Adam went about his buisness. The point is that we are in some way, if not entirely, responsible for creation, irregardless of the fall. Additionally, God would not have given us this responsibility if he thought we were without the mental capacity and moral responsibility to carry it out. (And it is a widely affirmed Christian tradition that Adam did have tremendous brainpower.)

The alternative view that many an atheist or naturalist has employed in addressing the climate change issue is this: our only recourse is to realize that we are but an animal among animals. We live at the mercy of our environment and if we don't intentionally reach an equilibrium population nature will do it for us. Although there need be an honest discussion of the current ignorance in our understanding of climate change (hopefully Luke will take that up next), I fear that Christians like Dobson and Colson in maintaining that population control and big government are un-Christian policies have themselves fallen into an un-Christian attitude that the human mind is impotent to understand the world around it. This is no improvement on the
naturalistic view and carries no more sense of obligation. And to the common criticism of naturalism which asks: why should we be so concerned about climate change when many species have gone extinct in the past, we have no better response.

We are not animals. We have a moral capacity, and we have an incredible mental capacity for understanding our environment. (For example the CFC-induced hole in the ozone layer was predicted more than ten years before it was fully discovered and documented.) In short, we know better.

Chris said...

Let me add to that last line:
Climate change is happening and, to what extent we know what's going on, we had better do something about it.

Darius and Elisabeth said...

I think I need to sum up my Global Warming Beliefs (which I believe are supported by the evidence and articles I've posted on this blog).

1. Global warming (as a whole) is happening, though many areas of the world have actually cooled in recent years.

2. Climage change has always been the case throughout history. The earth's climate is never static. This is evidenced by the fact that we are actually living in a cooler time period than 1000 years ago.

3. Carbon Dioxide levels have risen in the last 50 years.

4. It is uncertain how CO2 levels affect global temps, since as Lindzen pointed out, the increase in temp should actually be higher if CO2 levels are completely to blame.

5. There is no consensus regarding humanity's involvement in the increased CO2 levels.

6. Even if humans are to blame for the entire rise in global temps (.7 degrees in 100 years), not even the significant steps called out in the Kyoto Protocol will make a difference (.07 degrees in 40 years), much less people changing our light bulbs or buying hybrids.

I don't mind trying something in the off chance that it might work; as long as it doesn't hurt others in the process. But what the global warm-mongers are insisting is that we have to completely wipe out the developed world's economies to make even a smidgeon of a difference. Meanwhile, all the poor countries that rely on the rich ones will have to just go without. Besides that, Mr. Gore wants to have his cake and eat it too. He purchases "carbon credits" from his own company so he can continue using more power than a small third world country while insisting that the rest of America goes back to using ox carts and washing our clothes down at the river. It's insane!!

What Colson and Dobson seem to understand is that it is the height of man's arrogance to say that we can't predict next Tuesday's weather but we can tell ya how warm the earth will be in 2239 and that it's morally repugnant to say that destroying our economy will do anything but further impoverish the third world.

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The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
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Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
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Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
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