Saturday, 26 April 2008

"A Slightly Less Inconvenient Truth."

Global warming sceptics are often lumped into lists with Young Earth creationists, Scientologists, and New Age medicinal practitioners: people who can’t accept the evidence that is right before their eyes. The problem with this categorisation is that there is little to no scientific evidence in favour of global warming and so global warming sceptics are starkly different to the other groups. Global warming sceptics actually do listen to the evidence even though that may fly in the face of collective opinion.

It was Karl Popper who stated that science should be made up of bold and novel conjectures which are subsequently refuted. The point was that science ought to be falsifiable, testable, and capable of being proven wrong. Newton’s mechanics were the dominant laws of physics because they accorded with the evidence, right up to the point that their predictions were proven wrong and it was usurped by Einstein’s relativity theory. Newtonian laws were capable of being proven wrong; they were good science.

The problem with global warming as a scientific thesis is that all freak weather events act in its favour. This essentially means that it cannot be proven wrong; the theory is too malleable to be classed as scientific. If it’s too hot, that’s global warming. If it’s too cold, that’s global warming. From the flash floods in England to Hurricane Katrina to freak snowfall, every weather event that appears unpredictable is cited as evidence for the warming of the atmosphere’s temperature. That’s not science because science makes predictions. What is more, all this is correlated fallaciously with humanity’s output of CO².

There is no scientific evidence that an increase in carbon dioxide output leads to an increase in the Earth’s temperature. No evidence of any correlation. Certainly no evidence that the climate will shift as radically as 0.5 of a degree Celsius. In fact available data points to the opposite conclusion. During the period of 1940 – 1970 when industrialisation and hence production of CO² was high following the Second World War, the mean atmospheric temperature of the Earth actually dropped precipitously throughout the thirty year period - see graph above. Only since 1970 onwards has temperature shown an increasing trend and this is nothing new. Earth is a complex and dynamic system: there have been droughts and there have been Ice Ages. Weather is unpredictable as anyone who has used a weather forecast knows. Historical evidence suggest that temperature fluctuation is common; in the period up to 1940, temperature rose then sank following that year; the Romans grew grapes at Hadrian’s Wall when they occupied Great Britain; Tudor explorers wrote of sailing north and finding no sheet ice.

Sure, temperature can be seen to have increased slightly – that fact is pretty undeniable (except in Antarctica where the temperature has actually cooled - see graph below). Habitable, mostly urban, areas have increased in temperature ie. the areas were most people live which leads to more people believing the media and the environmental lobbyist’s unscientific claims about global warming. The temperature increases in urban areas because more people live there and there are clearly more buildings nowadays.

The available data suggests that global warming is either not happening at all or is not human caused. Why the media and environmental groups (which are themselves now billion-dollar corporations and so are not to be trusted giving out ‘impartial’ advice; they have a vested interest) would be so intent on spreading this idea of global warming is incomprehensible: perhaps it’s human anthropocentric arrogance related to humanity’s deep yearning to control things including the weather, maybe it’s just to scare people like the ever-present threat of terrorism, maybe it’s just to make money. Mostly I think people are gullible and maybe they even want to be scared. I’m not suggesting that people like Al Gore are bad, I’m sure they have the best intentions but I think they’re wrong.

Unfortunately for me I’m a fan of Pascal’s Wager and so clear logical reasoning points to me changing the premise of it from the existence of God to the existence of global warming. Simply put, it’s better for me to be wrong and do something (turn off lights, avoid excessive fuel consumption, recycle, etc.) than for me to be right and do nothing. If I am wrong at least I’ll have done something to help and not just drove around haphazardly in a carbon-emitting SUV with all the lights in my house on. Better for me to be a hypocrite and chastise global warming-believers while still doing my bit for the environment than to be a smug git and run the risk of breaking the planet.

Afterword:- It took me ages to find those graphs because I was looking for relatively non-partisan ones; most of the data on climate change is produced by groups which are in the pocket of either big industry or environmental groups and so are quite obviously biased. These are the best I could find (for a lazy Saturday morning).

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