Why I'm Skeptical About Anthropogenic Global Warming
A recent article gave some merit to my doubts. If Christopher Monckton, the author, is correct, then human-made CO2 has very little impact on climate, and far less than most people think. He’s not the only person who espouses this position, over the last year I’ve collected a good number of articles all giving good reasons to doubt the anthropogenic global warming (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).
Climate is an emergent phenomenon. As such, it’s incredibly hard to predict. There are so many variables, and in order to build a comprehensive model they all have to be taken into account and weighted accurately. This is a nearly impossible task, given that we don’t even have a complete list of variables yet, let alone a good weighting system.
This is highlighted very well in the fact that the sun’s role in controlling the Earth’s temperature now seems to be very large, much greater than previously thought, and we appear to be in a particularly active period right now. It’s entirely possible that most of the warming we’re seeing is due to increased solar activity, as many of those articles point out.
Another problem that I’ve always had with CO2 warming is that every ounce that we release from burning fossil fuel was once in the atmosphere. Maybe this is me being naive, but the earth managed just fine back when plants were freshly converting that CO2, why shouldn’t it now? I’ve also read that ninety percent of the non-living organic material on earth is in unusable sediments, which would mean that we’d hardly be resetting Earth’s CO2 meter at all. Again, I might be misunderstanding the situation, but just from an arm-chair thought-experiment perspective, it doesn’t add up.
The final problem that I have with anthropogenic global warming is the little ice age. This was a period of colder-than-normal temperatures, lasting from about the 14th to the mid-19th centuries. This covers the entire history of recorded temperature, and its end coincides with the start of the industrial revolution. Perhaps our baseline is off, because we had five and a half centuries of unusual cold, and we’re just now re-entering normal temperatures. As Monckton points out, before then it was actually hotter than it is now (I’ve heard that 2,000 years ago it was a full 2 degrees Celsius hotter).
I’m not saying that the climatologists have generated this controversy for their own gain. Maybe they did, but I doubt it. They almost certainly firmly believe that human emissions will cause massive global warming. But are they right? Or is there merit to Monckton’s objections? It certainly looks like there’s some.
I’m also not saying that we should do nothing about curbing emissions and pursuing alternate energy sources. Oil will run out, and when it does we’ll need some form of energy. Investigating our options now will make the technology that much better when it does run out. We might even discover something better than oil and coal.
What I am saying is that I think it’s best to be skeptical about complicated issues that are difficult to fully resolve (which is why I’m also skeptical about free will and the nature of consciousness). Once the evidence is truly unambiguous, then I’ll be sold. But until then, I’ll be on the sideline of this debate, Al Gore be damned.
(In case there are any more would-be commenters who don't know what skeptic means, I'm not saying that anthropogenic global warming isn't happening. I'm also not saying that it is. I'm saying that based on what I've seen, I'm not convinced either way. I've teetered back and forth on this issue for quite a while, and am currently leaning back toward "it is happening" based on all these links. My position after reading a whole bunch of the stuff that has been posted will most likely be "it is probably happening". But I still prefer to wait it out. Also, to the people who say "the thousands of scientists say it's so, so it must be so!": that's not evidence. That's not a reason to believe something. Several of the articles I linked to were by an MIT climatologist. I realize that most climatologists believe firmly that warming is happening, but that doesn't make them right. The evidence they has does. Which is why I'm currently looking at that.
Also, no need to be nasty because you think I'm an idiot. If you disagree with me, just point me toward realclimate.org or somewhere that has good explanations and data quickly available. Don't be an asshole. Besides being totally unnecessary, it won't help you any.)