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Is global warming so bad?

Trying to distract myself from the polar vortex and wondering what a bipolar vortex must be like, I found myself listening to what Newt Gingrich has to say about climate change.  He suggests that fretting about global warming is a form of hubris and insists that “life was fine” in those hazy, lazy days of the Jurassic age.  It must be cerebral frostbite, but I find the opinion appealing.

About the Author

Michael O. Garvey works in public relations at the University of Notre Dame.



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Your reaction is natural but is a major problem in raising awareness of the seriousness of the problem: humans naturally think that warmer is better, so it is very difficult to get people worried about global warming.

Is global warming so bad? Instead of Gingrich, let's turn to the last report of the world's climate scientists,

Warming is occuring, mostly because of human influence, it is irreversible, and temperatures by 2100 may rise by 4 Celsius degrees. Sea level will rise. With unabated emissions, by 2100 it will have risen by 1 to over 3 meters. The Artic ocean will be ice-free in the summer. If temperatures rise by more than 2 Celsius degrees, it will cause the melting of Greenland, eventually raising sea level by 7 meters. Regional climates will change, dry areas becoming drier, wet areas wetter. The Gulf Stream will weaken. The oceans will acidify.

What does that mean in practice? I think that it means that as some regions that are currently populated will no longer be able to support their population, we will see more and more "climate refugees", and there will be large movements of populations.

The idea of a 4 degree temperature rise is doubtless appealing to those people who spend their winters shoveling snow, but, of course, that's not how it works. Atmospheric air flow drives climate; with warming, the motion of air molecules increase, with the expectation that there will be more net air flow and, therefore, more extremes in air flow.

On NPR this morning, a climatologist explained the current polar vortex and how it is plausible that average warming could cause more such extreme dislocations of arctic air.  So there are more extreme disruptions of regional climate, in general. It's not a benign and benevolent slight increase in temperature everywhere.  And, of course, the air temperature is not the only consideration to people who live near sea level.

An overlooked consideration is that we humans are now breathing in the highest CO2 levels since the emergence of homo sapiens as the modern human species.  In short, we didn't evolve at the current CO2 levels. Our body's pH buffer system is based on CO2; increasing CO2 requires our bodies to compensate metabolically. We don't know what effect this long term exposure to higher CO2 levels will have on our own species and on other species.  In some ways, it's the greatest human guinea-pig experiment in history. I personally think it's anything but conservative to allow this experiment to intensify.

- Larry Weisenthal/Huntington Beach CA

Surely we can make out the sound of tongue in cheek?

Probably the first person to try to quantitatively relate atmospheric CO2 content to temperature near the Earth's surface was the eminent Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius, in the late 19th C.  He was entirely clear that fossil-fuel (in his day mostly coal) burning was adding CO2 to the atmosphere.  He was all for it, anticipating that it would improve the length of the growng season in Scandinavia.  Arrhenius got the thermodynamics rigt, to a strong first approximation, but he did not understand the global circulation system and so did not see the full implications.

Anyone wo doubts global warming needs to take a field trip: Lac de Gras, in the baren lands about 250 km NE of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories will do.  I have worked there since 1995, and the loss of permafrost and the decline in the availability of the ice roads is astonishing.   We can speak with  some of the "locals" about what this means. 

Mark L.



I knew there was a reason I never, ever watch cable TV news.  Just reading that transcript made me dumber.


Can anyone explain why some people will act on the advice of their doctors (who are biological scientists) but refuse to take the earth scientists seriously, even when biological scientists vouch for the competence of the earth scientists?  I mean, if a heart doctorr tells you you need a transplant desperately, you agree to look for a heart.  But if the chemists and meteorologists and physicists tell us that the sealevel is rising precipitously, many people just stick their heads in the snd.

We don't need to know more than *grammar school* science to know that water unfreezes at just over 32 degrees F, and most of us should be smart enough to understand that  if Greenland and other arctic areas unfreeze the sealevel will wipe out vast coastal areas, e.g., Florida, much of Massachusetts, and most of Manhattan, not to mention Bangladesh, etc.,etc., ....  Yet many "smart Americancs" who claim to love their children and grandchildren ignore what the Earth scientists are telling them.  I say it's a sin.

In my old religion classes the nuns and priests used to talk about "vincible ignorance".  That meant not finding out what a prudent person *ought* to know and being responsible for the consequent dangerous ignorance.  The priests should preach about this more often.

Jim P, --

What do you know that the scientists don't know?

Ann -- There are three reasons a lot of Americans don't take seriously the scientific evidence of global warming.  First, the level of basic scientific illiteracy among the public is really appalling.  There's a lot of blame to go around for this -- scientists, the media, the public itself -- but the fact remains.  Second, it's no secret that many of these Americans have fundamentally religious objections to modern science -- evolution = global warming = Satan.  Third, Americans sense (rightly) that if the evidence for global warming is sound, there's a great deal about their lives that will have to change.  I suspect that third reason is the most significant.

The "easiest" way to produce less CO2 is to consume less energy. But changing our lifestyle is extremely difficult as a society.

- Say that we realize that we should and could comfortably live in houses that are only half as large as current houses. But the houses are already there. They're already built. How do we change that?

- Say that we decide to drive less. But housing is already scattered across spread-out surburbia, so how do we design public transportation alternatives?

- Say that we realize that flying is highly damaging and decide to fly less or not at all. But family and friends are spread over far apart states or different countries. Do we resign ourselves to not seeing our kin any more? 

The more we develop ways of life that are naturally conducive to using lots of energy, the more painful the adjustment will be.

Ann - I think you misunderstood my comment (which wasn't my deepest, in any case :-)).  I was commenting on the general level of discourse in cable news roundtable segments, typified by Newt Gingrich's comments.  

Since you've sorta asked for my views on global warming, though, l'll mention this: I do trust scientists, but look at politicians (both Newt Gingrich and Al Gore) with a jaundiced eye.  I'm not sure that I'm skeptical about the dangers of global warming, but I can't point to any concrete terrible things that have happened so far because of it.  That some really dire predictions haven't panned out so far, and that there have been a couple of cases in which scientists have spectacularly discredited themselves, isn't helpful.  Mostly, I'm pessimistic.  I don't think there is anything that can be done about it.  I think we need to cling to the adaptability of the human race and God's creation as our best hope.


Michael Garvey, perhaps you are suffering from cereberal frostbite. What will you do when Lake Michigan overflows its banks and innundates the Golden Dome? To say nothing of South Bend.

Peggy, As long as the lake water is warm, I won't mind.


Jim, I believe that scientists attribute storms like hurricane Sandy to global warming. More specifically, they attribute the strengthening of such storms to the steeper temperature differentials that warming leads to. (This is my layman's understanding.) That being said, the billions of dollars of damage that Sandy caused, and the lives and resources that were lost as a result of such storms, are certainly concrete.

I'm more optimistic about the possiblity for tanglible action, except for within the political arena. We could massively re-forest sections of the world, which would drastically (and naturally!) cut CO2. We could put more resources into trying to develop non-fossil based fuels. We could massively build up public transportation infrastructure to cut the numbers of cars on the road.

To Jim Pauwels, unfortunately, adaptation by human beings to climate change will probably take the form of massive starvation, displaced populations and the attendant wars and genocides. I prefer the adaptation that requires positive action in the form of education, lifestyle change, and development and application of technology. This is not a game. This will require commitment to the moral equivalent of a world war, nothing less.

That some really dire predictions haven't panned out so far, and that there have been a couple of cases in which scientists have spectacularly discredited themselves, isn't helpful.  Mostly, I'm pessimistic.  I don't think there is anything that can be done about it

I think that Ann's analogy to a disease progressing with few visible symptoms, like, say, cancer, is apt. Your reaction, Jim, shows that climate scientists have not been able to make their case and do not have the credibility of medical doctors. This lack of credibility has become a major issue discussed among scientists. 

A "solution" to global warming: :

At public hearings on the environmental impacts of proposed oil pipelines, Canadians are no longer allowed to discuss climate change: any testimonials concerning how the oil was produced (“upstream effects”) and what will happen when it is burned (“downstream effects”) are considered inadmissible. This new policy was part of a 2012 omnibus bill by the federal government.

An interesting comment on

Socio-economic and climate change impacts on agriculture: an integrated assessment, 1990–2080 Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. 2005

"The results from the study suggest that critical impact asymmetries due to both climate and socio-economic structures may deepen current production and consumption gaps between developed and developing world; it is suggested that adaptation of agricultural techniques will be central to limit potential damages under climate change."

So the models suggest big changes are needed in agriculture, because otherwise the rich and fat will be doing all right, and the rest of the world will be feeling the damage. (...)

"How would you feel if the world was falling apart around you
Pieces of the sky were falling in your neighbors yard
But not on you
Wouldn’t you feel just a little bit funny
Think maybe there’s something you oughta do"

from “Before Believing” (Danny Flowers)


Thomas - I've also heard (vaguely) that explanation of Hurricane Sandy.  It could be right.  On the other hand, hurricanes have always been a risk for people living in coastal areas.  Without wishing to side with the skeptics, I just want to note that it's not difficult for them to explain away that particular example.  It's ambiguous, and most of the world wasn't affected by that hurricane.  As a galvanizing event to shake people out of their torpor, I'm not sure it succeeds.

Stanley P Kopacz - mass starvation, world wars, genocide and displaced populations are exactly the sort of dire predictions that haven't come to pass so far.  There have been no world wars during my lifetime.  Mass starvation is becoming less rather than more frequent.  The examples of genocide that I can think of during my lifetime aren't commonly attributed to global warming.  

Some of the positive things you mention, such as education and the development of adaptive technology, are what I had in mind in saying that we need to cling to the adaptability of the human race.  We could add to the list: diplomacy and technology in the event of a world war; agricultural technology and genetics to help compensate for the loss of arable land; and so on.  I think those sorts of things are possible and are our best hope.  If that passes for optimism, then I'm an optimist, too.  Lifestyle changes and reforestation (mentioned by Thomas Jacobs)  - those sorts of thinigs, I'm pretty pessimistic about, as I just don't see the will for them on a large scale.  I'm also pessimistic about persuading developing nations to curtail their economic development in order to slow global warming.  I've also recently read something to the effect that once the chemicals in the air that cause global warming are present, they become cumulative; they don't naturally disappear over time, and so we're already beyond the point of safety.  That's a big cause of my pessimism.


The bottom line is hard science. In spite of absorption of CO2 by the oceans and living systems, the CO2 in the atmosphere has been steadily rising. The rest is Planck's radiation law. Eventually, the surface temperature will rise until the earth's surface radiates energy at the same rate as it absorbs. The pathway to that new equilibrium is what is difficult to predict. How much of the heat will the oceans absorb? What will happen to cloud formation? We are moving an important parameter of the system which supported the emergence of civilization outside the range of that time. Another thing to consider. 4°C (7°F) may not seem like much, but it's 4% of the difference between freezing at 0°C and boiling at 100°C. And our comfort level is much narrower.

Jim, mass starvation has been avoided due to the green revolution which is fossil fuel based. Also, the earth has not yet gotten to equilibrium. This technology will go away. Notice the price of breakfast cereal lately? Cereal boxes are starting to look like CD cases. Food prices were also one of the causes of the Arab uprisings. Technology will not fix the coming problem without lifestyle changes. I drive a Prius. But it would be better if the metals in my car were used to build a wind generator and I could walk or bike to the supermarket. I share your pessimism about lifestyle change but this is what is most necessary. I can and am working on changing my personal situation to be more in line with my goals. But it is only national consciousess, consensus and communal action that will avert catastrophe.

mass starvation, world wars, genocide and displaced populations are exactly the sort of dire predictions that haven't come to pass so far.

Africa is the continent most vulnerable to climate change, and the nezs don't cover Africa all that much. Don't you have the impression that there is increasing social unrest in Africa, though? Haven't you heard, vaguely, about some recent droughts there? Wikipedia: "Weather conditions over the Pacific, including an unusually strong La Niña, interrupted seasonal rains in East Africa for two consecutive seasons, precipitating in 2011 the worst drought in the region seen in 60 years. (...) In 2012, American researchers uncovered a link between the region's low rainfall and changes in the sea surface temperature of the tropical Pacific Ocean, which they suggested was largely responsible for the disruption of the long rains." According to the United Nations report , "One of the worst humanitarian crises in decades continues to unfold in Somalia and the region. Fighting in the southern and central parts of the country, coupled with widespread famine and drought, has forced a quarter of a million Somalis to flee their country during the first nine months of 2011. UNHCR has registered more than 917,000 Somali refugees in the region, and more than one-third of the entire refugee population in sub-Saharian Africa is of Somali origin." 

Claire - no, I'm sorry to say, I had not heard of any of those items before.  I don't think I'm the least uninformed person around, but those things had not pierced the wall of stuff in my life that prevents news of other stuff from leaking through.

Jim - I guess it's from the French news, mostly, that I hear about Africa. It's true that in the US mainstream news that kind of things rarely makes it through.

As a further illustration of my general pessmism ont his topic: I don't think people in the US will be roused to make major changes until something really hits home.  If LA or Boston (or Chicago) become uninhabitable because of rising sea levels, that's the sort of thing that could wake people up.  I have to say that I'm somewhat pessimistic that even that would do the trick.  A lot of people don't care very much what happens to others, especially when they're far away.  And almost nobody wants to make changes that will diminish their living standards.  It's a tough sell.  Here in Illinois, we can barely muster the will to do anything about government debt.  I find it difficult to believe that we could find it within ourselves to make substantial changes, particularly changes that would diminish our own well-being or comfort, for the sake of the environment.

I'm sorry for being such a downer on this topic.


But it would be better if the metals in my car were used to build a wind generator and I could walk or bike to the supermarket.

Stanley - right.  I do ride a bicycle, including for my commute to work, when weather permits (I'm in a suburb of Chicago and do not ride in the cold and snow).  Bikes aren't really that great for grocery shopping, as even a gallon of milk is somewhat awkward to carry back, but for picking up just a few lightweight items it works well, and I run as many errands on the bicycle as I'm able.  

As a practical matter, the town where I live could be more encouraging of cycling by making its roads and intersections safer and more friendly for cyclists - even something as simple as a crosswalk with cross/don't cross light systems at busy intersections would be helpful (for pedestrians, too).   And merchants could put bike racks on their store and strip mall properties. I suggest these as simple and inexpensive things that can be done to encourage lifestyle changes.

Over time, this sort of change in habit does make some sort of marginal difference - at least I hope it does.  It also has health benefits, and financial benefits, as the mileage on the car accumulates more slowly and I'm buying gasoline less often.


Jim, I agree, it's difficult to believe that the entire society could willingly do a turnaround on lifestyle, but we can easily do better than we are doing now. 

I struggle with is travel. For my work, it is expected that I travel a lot, mostly by flying. I try to avoid flying, but give in when "important enough" travels happen. What's "important enough"? If I knew that one transatlantic trip on my part statistically implied one more future death of a child by starvation in the horn of Africa, then no work meeting would be important enough to make up for that (even if the child does not exist yet? Do future generations have rights?). But instead, the information is only in the aggregate, and we are very, very far from being able to quantify impact in such a precise way.So I fly anyway, and hope that my great grand-children won't listen with horrified fascination to stories of the trips their greatgrandmother took around the globe, and of how her generation damaged the earth irreversibly. If they do, I will say "But I did not know... I could not know!", and they will find my response pretty lame.

One thing that makes the automobile such a great offender is the inefficiency of the internal combustion engine. I did the math on my Prius, drag coefficient, areal cross section, energy density of gasoline, mpg. Best I came up with was 27% efficiency. For most of the auto age, the efficiency was around 10%. All that oil, thrown away. All that carbon footprint, wasted. People are driving more efficient vehicles but it's too little, too late. Energy that could have been used to establish sustainable infrastructure was used to push air out of the way of SUV's. President Carter was building awareness and had a realistic view of the problem. The next guy rolled the country to sleep.

@ Gene

Yes, I find it appalling that people look out their windows, see blizzard conditions, and take this as proof that there's no global warming.  I guess they all played hooky from school on the day that the geography teacher mentioned the existence of a SOUTHERN hemisphere.

Climate change deniers are like Scarlett O'Hara ("I'll think about it tomorrow").  Unwilling to confront the likelihood that they'll have to give up their SUVs and lower their standard of living, they listen to Fox and talk radio, which assure them that if they ignore or downplay the issue, it will go away.  They appear to have learned nothing from the experience of Europeans in the 1930's who kept telling each other that Hitler can't possibly mean all those things he says about Jews, he's just playing to his base, we can wait him out.

If people don't take the scientific evidence seriously it is primarily  because people feel that they are being manipulated;a sense that global warmers are dictating what the facts are and any skepticism is demonized;you're anti science ,you're stupid or ignorant, you're a religious fanatic of the worst sort,etc. This smacks of's  like  being dismised as a bigot if you belive in voter i.d. or being called anti woman if you oppose legalized abortion,for example.Climate  encomasses alot of science;over time and place[the whole earth];it's not a simple cut and dry phenomena[what's the gage, what's the time span,where do you draw the plumb line?] for scientists to study.Although proponents talk as if it were and as if scientists  rarely erred.Global warmers are  stridently pushing a sky- is- falling- fear mongering[protesting too much?]which in an ever changing earth that is billions of years old is virtually meaningless. Some skeptics see an agenda  of wishing to demonize corporatons [energy producers who are  super profitable] ,and this is perceived as an anti corporate capitalism agenda.Or as a cottage industry itself; a way to get govn't, grants or publicity or renown.Or a religion;a community of true believers united by a noble cause;possession of the Truth,come  to save mankind.

Rose-Ellen: I am a scientist.

It's odd to see you be so dismissive of scientists, when they have been instrumental in so much that you use every day, starting from the computer on which you typed your comment and the internet which is used to share the information; some of the electricity you use was generated by nuclear power plants designed thanks to science; even for the "softest" of sciences, the science of the living, the medicine you take when you're sick was designed thanks to science.

Read the summary report I linked to in the first comment to see what climate scientists say about climate. The report is a collaborative effort of the world's leading climatologists. It is short, it sticks to the things on which they have expertise. It is not a manipulation.


I don't want to start an argument BUT saying i'm dismissing scientists by stating they make errors, AND telling me all the good things science has brought us,like i don't know that if it were not for scientists[our natural curiosity about the world   and desire to better our lives] we'd still be in the stone age is part of the propaganda manipulation i'm talking about.

at the American Institute of Physics website is my favorite link giving the background of 180 years of established science on the subject.  No one was trying to manipulate the economy or scare anyone.  They were just trying to figure out why ice ages began and ended.  In the process, they stumbled upon the problem of human-induced greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere.  I have a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in optical engineering but am not a climate scientist.  To me, as an engineer used to recognizing risk and taking steps to mitigate it, even without exact knowledge, I estimate the risk as  severe.  The last thirty years have been very frustrating for me, as I saw the proliferation of SUV's and McMansions, totally opposite to risk mitigation.

Rose-Ellen: read the report. They do not say that the sky is falling. They do not demonize corporations. They are not anti corporate capitalism - in fact they do not talk about corporations at all. The report is not for a government grant. They do not write like believers of a religion. They do not claim to be saving mankind. They know climate is not a cut-and-dry phenomenon, and they take care to assess a likelihood to the events they study.  They are measured and prudent, and they stick to the things on which they have expertise. I urge you to read their summary.

All right Clair.I'll read it.As a penance[just kidding].Don't mean to be glib but I was responding to the post demonizing ,in effect, skeptics.

Correction: I re-read the summary, and the 1-to-more-than-3-meters sea level rise is for the year 2300, not for 2100. 

Gene McCarraher --

Yes, many people find their religious beliefs threatened by science, and it's not just the theory of evolution.  The scientific establishment has for a hundred years or more generally subscribed to what the philosophers call "scientism", the  position that all there is is matter, hence no spirit, no God.  This is a philosophically wholly uncritical position, and it is finally being contested by some of the biggest philosophers, the biggest being Nagel.  God bless the atheist Nagel.  He has had the guts to explicitly take on the science establishment, while at the same time admitting that science has been extraordinarily competent in discovering *scientific* truths.  Now if only the fundamentalists would also give the scientists their due.

Yes, there is even some argument in the scientific community about the causes of global warming.  But *almost all* of the big ones agree that there is a humongous problem as yet unsolved.  

Hey, the scientists themselves have children and grand-children -- do the fundies think the scientists are making all this up to scare their kids for no good reason?  And the children these days *are* scared, and rightly so.  

I simply cannot understand the people who claim to love their children yet ignore the science.  Don't they realize that their children are going to despise, even hate them, if these problems are allowed to ruin the planet?



" I'm not sure that I'm skeptical about the dangers of global warming, but I can't point to any concrete terrible things that have happened so far because of it."

Jim P. --

How about Katrina and Sandy????  How about the glaciers falling into the sea in both the North Atlantic and Northen Pacific?  What would impress you if those don't?

You say, "Ithink we need to cling to the adaptability of the human race and God's creation as our best hope."  And what would you do to adapt?  Be specific now.


Claire --

Yes, all those factors contribute to the problems.  But alternative energies of various sorts could solve them.  Yes, more research and development is needed, especially for tidal energay.  But it IS doable.  It will just cost money, and that implies a lower standard of living until we have the answers.  But consider the alternative -- the death of the planet as we know it.  

None of this is likely to make much difference in my life -- I'm 83 and my life is almost over.  But there are some young people whom I love.  I just can't see 1) refusing to admit the problems and 2) refusing to taking the steps necessary solve the problems, no matter what the cost to me now.  God is going to ask me, "What did you do to help the little ones?"

Claire --

Does that Canadian law REALLY mean that people can't ask questions at public hearings?  Dear God, my highly curious Canadian ancestors must be spinning in their graves.

I struggle with is travel. For my work, it is expected that I travel a lot, mostly by flying.

Claire, fwiw, I'm in a position now that in former times would have been a high-travel position, but it's literally been years since I've traveled on business - in fact, your comment has me wondering whether my American Express corporate card has expired.  We use remote-meeting software instead.  All I need to do my job is a notebook computer, a telephone (which actually is also optional) and a way to connect to the Internet.  Most days, I work from home - another transformative habit which, if it could be more widely mobilized, might have a substantial affect on fossil fuel consumption.  (I've read that the biggest impediment to more widespread 'telecommuting' is trust: front-line supervisors don't trust that the workers won't goof off if an eye can't physically be kept on them).

I don't know whether the reasons you travel (e.g. academic conferences?) are amenable to this model or not.


Those who don't believe in global warming may want to move to drought parched California and then try to maintain that belief.


"(She) was referring to the first regular snow survey of the winter season, conducted by DWR on Jan. 3 at locations throughout the Sierra Nevada. It found the snowpack at 19 percent of average on that date. In the five days since, the snowpack has shrunk to 17 percent.

This comes after two dry years, which left many reservoirs in the state depleted. Folsom Reservoir in the Sacramento area was at 18 percent of capacity on Tuesday. Water agencies that depend on the reservoir have begun enacting water conservation orders. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has cut flows into the American River to levels not seen in 20 years.

California has been affected by a persistent high-pressure ridge looming over the Pacific Ocean that has blocked storms from entering the state. Long-range forecasts suggest the dry trend will continue for the balance of January. This means two months that are normally among the wettest for the state will have produced next to nothing in terms of precipitation."  (


Even these guys might be becoming believers:

Hi, Ann - in some subsequent comments, which you may have read by now, I did expand a bit on one or two of these points.  At any rate, I'm not interested in being pegged as the village denialist :-)

Ann: I'm not sure what that Candian law means...

Stanley, that essay is great! I think I've seen it before - it's a little long but very well written!

Jim: For example, I spent last week in a greek Starbucks kicking ideas around with three colleagues from three other countries. I don't know why, but the ideas that sometimes appear when we've spent a few hours brainstorming don't happen on Skype. 

I just finished an interesting book, which is related to some of these issues; "Forty Chances - Finding Hope in a Hungry World" by Howard G. Buffett.  ( I would link to it, but for some reason the "control C" copy function isn't working on this site).  A lot has been written about climate change, but even optimists admit that turning it around is going to be difficult and expensive, and we may not see a noticeable improvement for centuries even if we do everything we are able.  "Forty Chances"  suggests that we are neglecting a crisis which is literally under our feet, which can be improved in a generation.  That would be the destruction and erosion of our topsoil.  Green agriculture practices have more to do with feeding ourselves and fighting starvation in the developing world than possibly anything else. It is worth reading about. 


Jim P. ==

I"m glad you're not inclined to be a denialist.  But I think you need to be more alert to what is happening in other places.  For instance, about displacement of people that you wondered about:  before Katrina there were 445,000 people in New Orleans, but three years later, in 2008, there were only 311,000.  70,000 jobs were lost, and they will not be made up easily, at least not for a long time.  And there will be more hurricanes. 

It seems to me that the issue around climate, has to do with the causes and reasons for the global warming. We should consume less and take care of our environment. But that is an intuition as far back as Genesis. We are ecologically connected to our planet, mother earth and we should care for her.

BUT....and this is a big BUT, as an Appalachian woman writer I once heard said, nature is a mother but she's a mean mother. And that is true. We simply cannot fight back the forces of nature. Still, we have to become aware of our overconsumption and I have no clue how to get people to see that. If awareness of the contribution (note I said contribution not sole cause) that we make to climate helps in that, good.

 I read an interesting article that talked about the strengthening of the US economy. Yet part of it is due to fracking!!! So we are literally prepared to poison our air and water for natural gas!I

I live by one of the great lakes and fear for the safety of that lake as this practice gains greater acceptance!

Michigan recently joined other Great Lakes states in passing the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement limiting large water withdrawals. Despite the fact that each fracking well can use up to five million gallons of locally-sourced water, the practice is exempt from regulation under the legislation implementing the Compact.

I'm not a denialist either.   There is no way I would deny that "global warming", "climate change" or whatever the next iteration may be, is not a quasi-religion that has been trumped up mostly by people who need something to believe in.  

Who was it who said that someone who does not believe in God is liable to believe in anything?

Mark, this discussion was sensible and now you are muddying the waters with irrelevancy.  To me, saying "the climate is going into dangerous territory due to increased CO2" is like saying "your car is going to need new brakes".  It is a diagnosis and prognosis of a physical system based on scientific knowledge.  To say it is motivated by substitution for belief is an insult to anybody trying to understand the science. As far as I'm concerned, I'd like to tool around in a crew cab F-250 and could afford it.  But knowing what I know, and caring about what God creates, that would be irresponsible.  One more thing.  If there IS a substitute for belief in this society, it is money, stuff and entertainment.  It may have been in the pages of this very magazine in the 80's that I read that the pursuit of money might end up filling the hole left by God.


When you found out about the emails exposing the bias in the "science" of "climate change,"   what impact did it have on your beliefs?

The so-called climategate affair has been run past academic panels. The accusations have been found to be without content. At any rate, it is amusing that you think I can be swayed by such irrelevant shenanigans. The science is well grounded. If you want to change my mind, you'll need to present some sound scientific reasoning based on physical laws. I worked in a physics-based branch of engineering and the physics seems incontrovertible. Also, the science is interesting. Emails are boring.

Mark: here's a response. 

- mots important: the science behind climate change is solid.

- less important: the emails were cherry-picked for the purpose of manipulation.

Tue, 22 Nov 2011

While we have had only a limited opportunity to look at this latest post of 5,000 emails, we have no evidence of a recent breach of our systems.

If genuine, (the sheer volume of material makes it impossible to confirm at present that they are all genuine) these emails have the appearance of having been held back after the theft of data and emails in 2009 to be released at a time designed to cause maximum disruption to the imminent international climate talks.

This appears to be a carefully-timed attempt to reignite controversy over the science behind climate change when that science has been vindicated by three separate independent inquiries and number of studies – including, most recently, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group. 

As in 2009, extracts from emails have been taken completely out of context. Following the previous release of emails scientists highlighted by the controversy have been vindicated by independent review, and claims that their science cannot or should not be trusted are entirely unsupported. They, the University and the wider research community have stood by the science throughout, and continue to do so.

See this link for responses from Prof Phil Jones regarding a selection of the stolen emails.


When I read the predictions about 'settled climate science' all I can hear is Malthus or for that matter Paul Ehrlich or global cooling in the 1970s. I find it amazing that scientists have come to the complete understanding of God's knowledge and truth about climate with nothing remaining to be discovered by man.  What about the fact that plants breathe in CO2?  Oh, but there is zero chance that 'global climate change' might be beneficial to man and the earth.  Humans hate change, that doesn't make it 'bad' or even mean that the net result is negative. 


Bruce, no one is claiming a "complete" understanding with "nothing remaining to be discovered". Every statement they make has an attached probability. When they say that something is "likely", "very likely" or "extremely likely", it has a precise meaning: at least 66%, 90%, and 95% probability, respectively. If you compare the IPCC report from 2007 with the most recent one, for some events the only difference is that something that was considered "likely" in 2007 is now termed "very likely" - a lot of research happens to get to insert that single additional word, "very". 

Scientists are aware of the possible mitigating effects of plants. It would be naive on their part to ignore it. Do you think that they're stupid? Do you think they willfully discount factors that might be important? In the apostolic exhortation of pope Francis, he insists that ideas (models, theories) are dynamically worked out, continually refined in contact with reality. Climate scientists are doing precisely that. 

Realities are more important than ideas

231. There also exists a constant tension between ideas and realities. Realities simply are, whereas ideas are worked out. There has to be continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities. [...]  

232 [...] What calls us to action are realities illuminated by reason. Formal nominalism has to give way to harmonious objectivity. Otherwise, the truth is manipulated

Of course some changes are beneficial for some regions in some ways. For example, the UK is producing more and more wine, and I am told that its wine is becoming of better quality...


The earth has, in the past, suffered extremes of climate, from becoming a snowball twice to an overheated state that led to the Permian extinction of 95% of species. These are examples of how the system be thrown out of balance. Especially relevant is the first event when a new life form, the cyanobacteria, invented photosynthesis. The oxygen produced oxidized the methane into water and carbon dioxide. The weaker greenhouse effect cooled the earth which formed ice pole to pole 2.6B years ago. It is surmised that it was volcanic CO2 that eventually melted the earth. Now we have an extremely novel life form, us, who can hack the universe. This is causing a buildup in CO2. We need to do what we do better, and move from short term thinking to thousand year thinking.
Fuzzy, wishful thinking will not help, just as it doesn't prevent space shuttle disasters. Plants and the oceans have been absorbing lots of CO2 and the levels continue to rise. What happens if these processes saturate and slow down their absorption?

Bruce --

Why do you believe your doctors (whom I assume are not Nobel prize winners) when they diagnose what is wrong with you, but you don't believe the world-class physicists, chemists, climatologists, etc., who agree that climate change is real and threatens the human species?  Do you think that medical science is surer than the basic sciences which form the basis of earth science?  If you do, pray tell us why that is your belief.

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