Discussion Of Climate Change

Healthy is probably not the first adjective that climate change skeptics would use about their position. At least that’s my conclusion given the pariah status conferred on anyone who resists the conventional wisdom that climate change is both bad and caused by human activity. Skeptics have been chastised, vilified, even threatened. And some have retaliated with their own aggressive defense.

Climate change presents a serious challenge to the UK and to the international community. Recent Climate Change Conferences in Montreal and the G8 and the Gleneagles Summit have attempted to co-ordinate the international response to climate change.

Hot Topic: Climate Change

The problem is that to get people fired up about a long-term, diffuse and tricky to resolve problem like climate change, some fervor is required. It is a problem where acute pain will creep up on us, many times undetected. And even when effects are acute they’re difficult to attribute. After all they could have happened by chance anyway.

Most climate change is actually slow and slow change is hard to prove. It is even more difficult to spend public money on or, worse still, put in place policies that might hamper economic growth, just to slow further an already slow change.

So the solution was to speed it all up. Add some intensity and make the whole thing immediate. Al Gore made Inconvenient Truth in this style. Create some buzz using fear.

Only this is difficult to maintain. Momentum is easily lost when the basis of the argument is emotion and not unequivocal facts. Most of the time we need to be in a position to see it to believe it. This is why there’s still a million people in the world who end each day hungry. If we saw poverty with our own eyes we would soon do something about it.

Climate change isn’t visible. It is a gradual shift in weather patterns, perhaps a subtle frequency change in extreme events. It manifests as earlier onset of spring, a shorter than usual rainy season or a few more tornados. But all of these could happen by chance.

Whether or not last week’s tornadoes were caused by climate change, extreme weather is on the increase. ‘

Skeptics become more than a nuisance in these circumstances. Inevitably they want evidence to be convinced of the phenomenon. This is what skepticism is, an open-mind until there is enough evidence for a decision either way. Only in the climate change debate, just asking for more evidence is equivalent to treason.

Except that climate change skeptics are vital even if global warming is real and proves to be caused by human actions.

If we must spend money to reduce emissions, slow growth in the utilization of fossil fuel around the world [a huge call for all those countries with emerging economies ] and to take measures to adapt to climate change then we need to find out these are genuine priority tasks.

Climate change negotiators have been working on an international deal to slow global warming, including a UN proposal called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

Climate change action needs to be more important than direct spending on poverty reduction, food security, health care, conflict resolution, education, and a series of local issues.

Just today I heard a caller on a radio talk show advocate that $4 million in taxpayer finds should be spent on a public swimming pool rather than more car parking space at the train station. For him the pool gave a much better public outcome. He probably would have some friends among the climate change skeptics and a few ‘what are you thinking’ from the warmers.

Skeptics force us to be so that any action is the correct call. It is a weak position to just ignore or attack a naysayer.

Given that I have been advocating for the courage of skepticism I thought I should take my own little questionnaire to out myself on this issue.

Are you a climate change denier? No. I believe that climate change is real. Climate has always changed and always will.

Do you believe that humans are at the root of what many see as global warming? Probably, because we have changed enough of how the natural world works. We have released carbon from vegetation and soils, and burnt enough fossil fuels to have an impact on atmospheric dynamics.

Scientists have sternly put forth their view on the most important natural cause of climate change as human extension of the greenhouse effect and global warming. This effect is a type of warming that is caused when the earth’s atmosphere entraps the heat that is meant to be radiated from the ground in direction of space. Gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitric oxide, and water vapor in the air act as a glass on a greenhouse that allow the sunlight to cross, however, blocking the heat from dodging.

Is human activity the only driver of a changing climate? Definitely not and it’s easily trumped by the bigger cosmic cycles. Human activity may be a climate nuisance. However, we’re not all powerful.

Can humans ‘fix’ climate change? No, we cannot ‘fix’ something that is not broken. That said we should reduce our impacts but it isn’t in our powers to end the climate changing however much we might like to think we can. Instead we should be investing our smarts and resources into managing the impact of climate change on our production systems.

So are you a climate change skeptic? Yes I am, because I have always been cautious and needy for evidence. ‘ Innocent till proved guilty’ is a much more powerful way to gather the truth than to just presume guilt.

I am even reasonably convinced that human activity of the last 200 years [before then there were too few of us to really have any impact ] is enough to be a driver of further change.

These realities mean that we will need skeptics to help us make sure that it is useful to all the effort to get awkward policies through our national and international political processes or, to put it more simply, to keep everyone honest.

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