On the first day of my first college physics class, the instructor stood before us and said something to the effect that “physics was just a fairy tale, a story that scientists had put together to explain the things which they observe in our natural world. The important part”, he said, “is that it works.” His point has some great wisdom. You see, God did not come down to some uber-convention of scientists and say; “this is truth.” Scientists observe and carefully record what is going on in our world and then they come up with a hypothesis, a story which might explain it. When further testing and observation shows that the fairy tale continues to work and is helpful in explaining yet other things, it becomes part of the larger story. It becomes hallowed as science. It becomes science initially not because it is truth but rather because it works.
Nine years ago, in 2006, following the hottest year in history, Al Gore and Paramount Pictures came out with the movie; “An Inconvenient Truth” and brought the issue of Global Warming to the people and the political arena. Since then, the issue has been largely politicized. Unfortunately, now what you believe about Global Warming, aka Climate Change, is probably dependent on which TV news channel you watch or which political party you belong to. It shouldn’t.
The scientifically generated “story” of Global Warming goes like this: Once upon a time there was a scientist who decided to start recording the levels of carbon dioxide, CO2, in our atmosphere. (Al Gore was a student of his. Go figure.) Weather balloons were sent up and data was carefully recorded. Others became involved and started to take core samples of ice which allowed them to gather data about levels of CO2 in past years and even centuries. It was observed that the levels of CO2 were going up and have recently seen a sharp increase. Today the levels of CO2 are roughly double what they have been in the fairly recent past. They wondered why there was such a sharp increase and the story of “Carbon Emissions” was tested. It seems to work. Then they compared the rise and fall of CO2 with temperature data and noticed a distinct correlation. They wondered why and the story of “Green House” gas was written. It also seems to work.
The wonderful part of the PDO story is that the earth seems to have some built in systems that help regulate our environment. The increase in temperature created storms in the Pacific Ocean which brought cooler water from deep within the ocean to cool the surface. How neat is that? It is my favorite story because it indicates that the Earth’s architect was very good. The story of PDO however, is one of a temporary respite. The CO2 is still there. At some point, PDO will no longer give us the help nor the time which we need.
The ending to the story of global warming hasn’t been written yet so we don’t know if we get to live happily ever after. Undoubtedly there are still many observations and chapters to the story to be observed and written.
The part about the story of Global Warming that makes it political is that it is tasking us to act. Global warming has potential consequences; consequences that may have a dire impact on our lives. It is the “tasking” part of this story, the requirement that we actually have to do something about it that makes it so political.
Ideas on how climate changes will affect civilization range from cataclysmic weather events and a significant drop in the ability of the Earth to support human life to an Oregon Institute of Science and Health report detailing “an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals.”
Indeed, some global warming warnings are predicting large increases in rising ocean levels, severe droughts, extreme weather and other similar natural disasters. These stories are still being written and provide the opportunity for political accusations and posturing.
Being tasked to do something, the politicians and the political pundits are not waiting for the scientists to complete the story but are busy spinning their own fairy tales. For example:
Rush Limbaugh: “(Global Warming is a) …hoax in an all-out assault on Capitalism.
Sean Hannity: “I Don’t Care What Your Liberal Friends Say … I Think Global Warming Is a Hoax.”
I personally heard Glenn Beck just two days ago basically say; “It (global warming) is where the communists have gone. They are using the guise of global warming to keep the people poor and subservient.”
On the other hand, Joe Biden says: “Those who don’t believe in global warming also don’t believe in gravity.”
Al Gore said: “Polar Bears are drowning because of global warming.”
President Obama recently said; “Those who deny global warming are putting at risk the United States and the military sworn to defend it, he told cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Failure to act would be “dereliction of duty.”
What do these and various other false opinions have to do with the story science is piecing together about climate change in our time. Absolutely nothing. It is all politics and mostly bunk. It is just an effort to censor those who disagree with them. Unfortunately, censorship in building a scientific story can have dire consequences of its own.
In a modern case of first amendment sacrilege, scientists who stepped up to begin the global warming story were politically bullied. First to jump in and attempt to control, or censor the narrative, were the conservatives. Conservatives, because they are conservative, like things to stay the same. They don’t like being tasked to change things. At the current time however, it is the left, the neo-liberals, the guardians of tolerance who are abusing the right of free speech and are shutting down dissenting discussions. Scientists who raise questions about the accuracy of parts of the story are viciously hounded and careers are ruined in a way that the left seems to have perfected. More than anything else, this censorship is threatening our ability to correctly identify and thus find viable solutions to global warming. How can we get the story right if scientists can’t have a dissenting conversation? It is absolutely absurd. Scientists need to have the freedom to make the story better.
Among other questionable things, Al Gore said in “An Inconvenient Truth” was the statement: “within the decade there will be no more snow on Kilimanjaro.” Kilimanjaro today, ten years later, still has a lovely little toupee of snow on its top. Obviously, the movie had some hype and several errors. If nothing else however, the movie did bring the issue to our attention.
When I was born the world population was 2,665,865,392 and families had only one car, no TV and no video games. Toasters were a really neat appliance. Other than testing the occasional atom bomb, I don’t think we effected the earth all that much. As I write this the world population clock is clicking away around 7,323,000,000. That is almost three times as many people in just my life time. World population is continuing to sky rocket. We drive over 1,000,000,000 automobiles, generate large quantities of energy with carbon based fuels and consume large quantities of goods. It seems viable to imagine the earth starting to be taxed by our demands. Indeed, that is exactly what the story of global warming is saying.
The story of global warming, like most science, is a living thing. We have but a rudimentary understanding of our environment. The progress and knowledge that we have gained in last decades is wonderful, yet science continues to learn and to improve. With respect to global warming, there would appear to be variables that we have yet to identify and still others that we are trying to understand. But while the end of the story is yet to be written, the underlying scientific data and the stories of greenhouse gas and carbon emissions seem to be viable and working.
The earth is currently providing a little time for us. It won’t last forever. Global warming, aka climate change, is real and man does seem to be effecting it, if not completely responsible, at least in part. Accordingly, we are being tasked and we need to make some changes to prevent its continuance. My personal opinion, I think we have the time if we pursue the environmental journey that our nation and the world have begun.
When considering a political stance, I like Joe Manchin, the Governor of West Virginia a coal state. Is West Virginia going to quit digging coal? Of course not. They will however continue to help find solutions to using coal more responsibly using scrubbers, etc. to lessen the carbon emissions. West Virginia is also assisting in the development of alternative sources for energy. Joe’s official political stance on energy is “all of the above.” It makes sense to me. Let’s use our current resources wisely while at the same time move toward developing better energy usages and alternative methods of production. There is no need to rush into full on panic mode but we do need to steadily move forward in reducing our carbon based life styles.
I would say that God, the architect of thisgreat boarding school called Earth, set us up as stewards and provided adequate resources for our needs “and to spare.” But he does expect us to be wise in our stewardship. Paying attention to the stress that we are placing on the Earth’s ability to continue to provide us a home would seem to show a great deal of wisdom.