Global Warming: Why the Case for Radical Action Has Not Been Made

I am not on the global warming bandwagon, as I have said before.  I am not convinced that a solid case has been made by Al Gore and company that would lead me to alter my lifestyle in an effort to save the world from burning up.  It’s much more complicated than simply saying, “The world is getting warmer; let’s stop it!”  There are a number of things that have to be proven first:

1. That the world is, in fact, getting warmer.

Most everyone agrees by now that it is, so I grant this point.

2. That global warming is a bad thing.

I’m not convinced of this.  I have read that more people die from cold weather each year than from heat.  Why should we automatically assume that if the earth gets warmer, more people will die than if it stays the way it is or drops in temperature? 

3. That, if we grant that global warming is bad, it is so bad that it warrants dramatic changes in our society such that would lead to great economic burdens.

Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.  If global warming is bad, how can one make a case that it is bad enough to warrant actions that will stifle our economy and bring great suffering to the poor?  What if the negative consequences of our response to global warming are worse than global warming itself?

4. That human activity causes global warming.

There is a basic principle of scientific reasoning that says that if phenonemon Y occurs when conjoined with factor X, X may or may not be the cause of Y.  However, if one can determine that Y occurs additionally absent factor X, then X is definitely not the cause of Y.  In this case, we are seeing the earth’s temperature increase in conjunction with the widespread use of fossil fuels for energy.  But before we can say that the use of fossil fuels has caused the temperature to go up, we should ask if the temperature has ever risen in the absence of the widespread use of fossil fuels.  I think all scientists would agree that the answer to that is yes.  The earth’s temperature changes constantly, cycling up and down.  The earth warmed long before humanity was putting carbon emissions into the atmosphere.  How else could we have come out of the last ice age?  I’m not convinced that we are even responsible for this.

5. That human activity is capable of reversing global warming

It is one thing to say we have caused it, but quite another to say we can fix it.  These two should not be assumed to be the same.  Maybe we have caused it, and maybe we haven’t.  Either way, the case has not been made that says we can, by our own efforts, stop it now that it has started.

6. That human activity will have such an effect as to produce significant results in the effort to stop global warming.

Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, that human activity causes global warming, and that human activity can begin to reverse it.  What are the projections for the degree of success that we may have in doing so?  If we cut emissions dramatically, in the process creating massive suffering for the poor of this world who will be priced out of the energy market, can we say for sure that the effect would be a significant reduction of the earth’s temperature?  What if the result is so miniscule that it makes no practical difference?

7. That human activity will not have such a dramatic impact that it will lead to the opposite problem of massive global cooling.

What if everything works the way Al Gore wants, and then millions of people who can no longer afford to pay their heating bills freeze to death because the temperature has cooled so dramatically?  As I said, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.

 It’s not just a matter of proving one or two of these.  All seven of them have to be demonstrated before I would be convinced to join the global warming bandwagon.  Al Gore has a long way to go, from where I sit. 

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