The relative absolutism of Bush's Global Warming

I question the timing!

Of what?

Of Global Warming, for starters. The main reason I'm a skeptic is because I was in college at UC Berkeley in 1972 -- back when they still had global cooling. Professor Clemens of the UC Berkeley Department of Paleontology had it all laid out in graphs and charts, and he maintained that not only were we still in the Ice Age (which consisted of lots of up and down periods of glaciation), but that we were headed into another cooling blip -- meaning the glaciers would return. Back in those days, only geologists and paleontologists really cared, because it wouldn't have occurred to anyone that we humans had control over the climate.

Average temperatures go up and they go down, like stock prices. Periods of glaciation -- traditionally referred to by the European names of Gunz, Mindel, Riss, Wurm -- came and went along with the sheets of glacial ice they brought.

Anyone can draw a graph of what has gone on during any period of time, but over what period? Do we chart the Dow average for an hour, a day, a week, a year, or over the life of the stock market? Is it going up, or is it going down?

And the stock market is easy -- because we know exactly when it started, and there are detailed records. Climate has existed on this planet for billions of years, so to declare that the planet is "warming" is misleading without some reference point.

What I want to know is, Global Warming in relation to what? The reference point seems to be the beginning of the "Industrial Era" -- a period I tend to associate with Charles Dickens and Victorian soot. Considering geologic time, what makes that tiny little blip in human history so damned special? Man has been around for thousands of years before Dickens, and hundreds of thousands of years before that in uncivilized form, and so what? Man is so insignificant in terms of geologic time as to be of no consequence at all. Global Warming is based on an unproven assumption that recent human measurements which mean nothing in the context of geologic time are meaningful when seen in the context of couple of centuries. The only reason centuries seem important is because of the human lifespan. We live less than a century, so the century is seen as a measuring stick. If we lived for 500 years, I suspect a fifty year trend wouldn't be seen the same way.

Equally unproven is the assumption that humans are responsible for a geologically infinitesimal trend. I think that picking the Industrial Era is a classic case of post hoc ergo propter hoc thinking, and I have long suspected that carbon dioxide was selected as the cause with the specific goal in mind of asserting an anthropogenic cause. Because there's no quantitative proof of precisely how much CO2 it would take to actually warm the planet by increasing the Greenhouse effect, the proof takes the form of simply coupling higher C02 levels with a slight rise in temperature, and asserting that because man caused the former, he therefore caused the latter.

The chart I'd really like to see is the development of Global Warming hysteria in relation to the development of anti-Bush hysteria. I suspect there's a direct relationship.

I'm not alone in questioning the timing. Via Pajamas Media, Pieter Dorsman wonders "how global warming made it to the center of the political agenda and why it has become such an incredible success story, despite the real questions being raised about the science underpinning it all." And like me, he suspects that climate hysteria may be linked more to politics -- in particular the 2000 election results -- than to climate.

And while many on the right still rejoice over Al Gore's defeat in 2000, one has to wonder where climate change would be on the agenda today had the former veep captured the White House that year.
Gore? But whatever happened to Gunz, Mindel, Riss, Wurm? Is it "relativism" to wonder about whether what we call the "Ice Age" might not be something we're still in, but that which we haven't been on the planet long enough to see?

At the risk of sounding like a hopless relativist, I have to wonder why relativism has all of a sudden become such a profound evil.

I can remember when lots of things were relative, and relativism was a useful tool in science. We're all familiar with absolutism (normally associated with politics or religious fundamentalism), but I can't remember ever seeing as much absolutist thinking in science as I am now seeing in the case of global warming and greenhouse gases.

Or has scientific relativism become relative to the absolutism of the day?

I propose we call the past seven years the Bush Warming Period.

UPDATE (02/13/07): Tim Blair has documented a new scientific truth -- to wit, "the terrible connection between Al Gore and global coldening"

Days after Al Gore went to New York City last month to deliver a speech blasting the Bush administration's environmental policy and touting the dangers of global warming, the National Weather Service reported record low temperatures across the region.
(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

As a matter of fact, it's snowing in Philadelphia right now.


posted by Eric on 02.12.07 at 12:38 PM


IIRC in the earliest years of the Anthropogenic Global Warming movement the culprit was carbon *monoxidie*, but cars today emit truely trivial amounts of CO compared to the mid-to-late 80s (the switch to EFI is the biggest reason). They still emit C02, which is much less damaging enviromentally.

Billy Oblivion   ·  February 13, 2007 1:51 AM

What really gets me is that current change of carbon dioxide from 320ppm to 380ppm over a few decades and a bit more if you take it to the beginning of the 'industrial era' is also coincident with a longer term increase in volcanic activity starting around 1100 AD and continuing through to the 19th century, and that changed climactic conditions greatly and put the planet into a 'little iceage' where ice skating in the Dutch canals was a common thing to do and the Scandanavian countries and British Isles were no longer able to make wine. Luckily beer, ale and distilled spirits could be made and the folks became much harder drinkers which go transplanted to America!

But that same ppm concentration is actually quite low, given Earth's history where it has been as high as 7,000ppm at the start of the Carboniferous where plant life flourished and oxygen concentrations also increased rapidly. So rapidly that exoskeletal based fauna could grow to huge size. As carbon dioxide and oxygen competed, and more life appeared, they shifted in atmosphere proportion to nitrogen to get something a bit less combustible and a bit less hospitable to exoskeletal life. Now shift around the tectonic plates, throw in vulcanic activity, a slowly lengthening diurnal cycle due to friction in the Earth/Moon system slowly moving the Moon outwards as the Earth loses angular momentum to it, vary the sun by a few percentage points up and down over time, and you come up with this lovely, nasty planet called Earth. Early Earth history was spent between snowball times and times of oceans and broad expanses of rock, all based on volcanic activity. Only once oxygen became available did things start to change.

I blame the eukaryotes. It has been downhill ever since then.

ajacksonian   ·  February 13, 2007 8:16 AM

If men are so small and recent that there's no way we could ever effect the big old Earth, can you provide an alternative explanation for why greenhouse gases are currently at their highest concentrations in 650,000 years?

As for "global cooling," the scientific community was never concerned about it, certainly not to the degree of parallelism with modern global warming that would make the suggestion relevant in context. There was no flip-flop.

And the so-called "Little Ice Age" did not get in the way of British wine production, which in any event is not a proxy for global climate conditions. See:

Note that instead of "Little Ice Age," I think a more fair and accurate term would be the Cold White Men Event. See, there's no evidence it was a global phenomenon; it may very well have just been an anomaly that happened to hit North America and Europe, where most of the scientists of the day already lived, thus giving it an undeserved bias in the literature they left over.

The evidence for global warming was plenty strong 15 years ago; if there is a more vocal and confrontational air being used now that the umptillionth professional study has confirmed the existence of the problem yet again, it is likely due to the sense of bitter frustration in the face of the unmoveably intellectually dishonest "skeptics."

You really ought to look seriously into the possibility that scientists know more about science than non-scientists do, and that the ever-increasing amount of evidence and acceptance behind global warming doesn't mean that there is an ever-larger conspiracy behind it but, rather, that it really exists. Because if global warming really is a conspiracy of lies, then it's a super-gigantic one that has ensnared millions of people while at the same time having so many elementary errors that even the untrained (very untrained...) layman can spot them out. Just like the conspiracies behind evolution's faked evidence and Dick Cheney's secret detonator that brought down the twin towers. The more reality and facts align with one story, the more smart, exclusive, and enlightened the meaningless handful of "skeptics" can believe themselves to be.

TTT   ·  February 13, 2007 2:38 PM

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