Response from reader about global warming

Back in August, I wrote down some thoughts on a letter to the editor from Caleb McClennen published in the Boston Globe regarding global warming. Caleb wrote a response on the blog entry and in an email to me. Here is what he had to say, with my own response underneath.

Jonathan,

It was great to read your reaction to my letter to the editor of the Boston Globe from this August. Unfortunately, I only recently came across your response! So, for whatever it is worth here is a clarification of my viewpoint, because it was misinterpreted:

The idea is this, instead of investing the $103 million of taxpayer?s dollars on continuing to research what has been the conclusion of the vast majority of published scientific reports to date, invest the money in trying to search for remedies to the input of carbon and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. (This, by the way is not debated in the science world, only the connection of increased 'greenhouse gasses' to global warming is...)

The evidence mentioned, wildfires, Frances heat waves, temperatures in Iraq and the blackout, were presented to show what could indeed be effects if global temperatures continued to rise and to ask the question how much more heat could we really take? As stated in my question, "What if the temperatures this summer were even further elevated by climate change?" How much worse would the heat wave etc. be?

If we are going to spend money on research, why not drive economic growth by researching technical solutions, instead of continuing to spend the money finding out what we already know, ?greenhouse? gasses are on the rise, input by existing human technologies, and this may have already led to or soon lead to an altered global climate. Either way, are cleaner cars and power plants really that bad of an idea?

Incidentally, your statement, "What struck me about this particular opinion is that the author has not only concluded that the Earth's temperatures are in fact rising, that the recent weather is evidence of this fact..." is completely without base. No where in my opinion did I make those conclusions. Please re-read the article and see that my main point was, "what if..." evidenced by the statement, "What if temperatures this summer were even further elevated by climate change."

Anyway, thanks for the inferno photo. I would love to hear more responses to this email. Especially ones where I am called a "whack job"?.

I hope to hear back!

Caleb

Caleb,

Nice to hear from you. You are right, I incorrectly attributed a conclusion on your behalf rather than an 'if' conditional that you actually wrote.

With regard to the issue itself, I regard the taxpayers' money as belonging to the taxpayers. If it was proven that human civilization is causing global temperatures to rise to a level that would have a meaningful effect on society or the environment, that would be a cause for action. But no such evidence exists, and I am not even sure an experiment could be carried out that could prove this. Many people simply skip the proof and take the giant leap into interventionism based on 'potential dangers', not unlike the numerous 'Wars' the government carries out on drugs, obesity, terror, etc. Intervention is not simply an outward design of inanimate objects; it comes at the point of a gun, and it is useful to never forget that. I would rather make sure there is actual proof of an anthropogenic source of meaningful climate change before resorting to intervention.

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I suspect that one is better

I suspect that one is better off looking at carbon sequestration methods and climate change effect amelioration than yet another model of "is there global warming?"

I think that yes, the globe is warming, and whether it be anthropogenic or solar in origin is irrelevant. Mars is undergoing global warming, for goodness sake.

It is a mark of the unserious climate scholar that worries about anthropogenic sources and whether/how much Man is raising the temperature. In my opinion, anyone serious about climate change is working on how to deal with the temperature actively, and not simply standing atop history yelling "Stop!!"

It is a mark of the

It is a mark of the unserious climate scholar that worries about anthropogenic sources and whether/how much Man is raising the temperature.

So it is irrelevant to the government requiring so-and-so emission standards from SUVs whether those SUVs are actually having an effect? I guess I am an 'unserious climate scholar'.

Gee, take everything

Gee, take everything personal now...

I should extend and revise my remarks to say:

For those worried about climate change, and concerned with the effects, focusing strictly on either "whether man is doing it" or "ending the activity of man that is contributing to it" is not going to affect climate change in any great deal. In the first case, whether it is anthropogenic or not doesn't matter, since you still have to deal with the effects (its another to study to what extent warming is occurring and what effects that may be). For the other, talking about "reducing emissions" likewise does nothing about the "truth on the ground"- that global warming is occurring (assuming it is). A passive approach is not serious, that's holding one's head in the sand.

Likewise, if someone is seriously worried about global climate change, one's efforts would be better spent looking at what effects greater warmth could have than continuing to seek/disprove an anthropogenic aspect.

And opposing/reacting to government intervention with regard to climate change is something altogether different.

Nothing personal at

Nothing personal at all.

Caleb's letter espoused cleaner cars and power plants. It's vitally important to know whether 'dirty' cars and power plants are having any effect on climate, before businesses and automakers are forced to spend billions for modifications.

There are other reasons to

There are other reasons to have cleaner cars and non-emittive power sources other than strict climate change rationales. But of course I agree otherwise.

The ultimate clarification would be to specifically state that I find the IPCC-type of climate scholar ultimately unserious about the topic, since the only prescription ever offered is "reduce emissions"- a monomania of sorts that indicates an agenda not to discern climate truth, but to support a preconcieved policy position.

Jonathan, Thanks very much

Jonathan,

Thanks very much for the respons and continued dialogue on the website. Your comments are interesting as I have struggled with the question of how we 100% know for sure the link between certain mechanisms and drivers and an particular observed phenomenon. For the science behind climate change, please refer to the book, "Climate Change 2001: Then Scientific Basis" http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/index.htm Indeed it is difficult to ever conduct an experiment with earth and be sure that the theory holds true. However, this is a complexity that occurs in all of earth science. For example, How a Hurricanes, Plate Techtonics, Mountain Building, Geostrophic Ocean Currents, etc... all operate. We only have the power to observe these phenomenon as well as we can and understand the mechanisms behind these processes with only these observations. This, however does not prevent us from taking action to prevent damage from earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanos, tidal waves. Even though we could never experimentally recreate these events.. We know with some degree of certainty how they start and what we can do to decrease our likelyhood of being damaged by them. The same is true for climate change. However, I understand there is a camp of people out there who refuse to read the scientific literature, and continue to claim that there is no evidence of anthropogenic causes to climate change. To each his own.... I don't think this really can be a debate as one of us will argue the evidence is strong enough and the other one will argue not ... But, if it is the case that you HAVE read all the scientific literature from BOTH sides of the argument and you still maintain your opinion, I respect your conclusions...

With regards to why not reduce emissions for cars and power plants... Have you ever tried to go outside in Los Angeles in the summer time during a smog alert? see this ABS news story for details: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/wnt/US/WNTsmog030720.html

In terms of unfairly forcing businesses to make billions in modifications, I agree. But, if we, the taxpayers are going to spend the money, why spend it on even further research, what new conclusions will that reveal (as you have pointed out)? Let's look to find ways to live with any existing changes and to encourage industry to lower their emissions not only for the climate, but air pollution in general. Major car companies now are marketing hybrid cars and fuel cell cars that only emit water. How great would it be to have a car that if you left on in your garage wouldn't kill you from the toxicity of the fumes? Or a power plant that didn't need a 500 foot high smoke stack to prevent us from breathing what is being dumped into the atmosphere?

Okay, again, I look forward to hearing back!

Caleb