David turned me on to an interesting article on global warming. The best part, however, was this comment to the article, which I have paraphrased:
To accept the program of action put forth by proponents of global warming, we have to accept the following presumptions:
1. We can accurately measure whether the earth is getting warmer or not.
This requires us to accept, among other assumptions, these questionable ones:
- That the proxy data (ice core samples, tree rings, etc.) are sufficiently reliable to provide a good baseline for comparison
- That the timeline of climate change is adequately large to be meaningful. (1,000 years versus 1 billion, for example)
Now that you’ve proven that the Earth is in fact getting warmer, we have to ask
2. We can accurately assess the cost and benefit of global warming
Perhaps global warming produces net benefits to humankind. Why should we assume that the current temperature is optimal? We might find that a warmer planet is quite beneficial. If so, we need not bother with solutions, as there is no problem.
Let’s assume that the pundits are correct, and that global warming produces a net cost to society in general. Now, we need to determine if
3. We can accurately assess man’s contributions to the putative warming
Perhaps man contributes little or nothing to global warming. There is significant evidence that the planet might be warming all on its own. If so, is it reasonable to demand societal change?
So we assume that mankind is contributing to global warming. Now we need to determine whether
4. We can accurately model and predict how changes to man’s behavior will affect the putative warming trend
Global warming pundits demand a spectrum of changes. How will those changes affect global warming? Is it conceivable that we might overshoot? Or perhaps the combined effect of available changes is completely negligible. If we don’t know the impact of a particular change, then we’re really just shooting in the dark.
Let’s assume we can, in fact, measure the impact of particular changes on the climate. Now, we must presume
5. That we can meaningfully lower man’s impact on the climate through a coordinated global effort
Perhaps we discover a few changes that, if made, would reduce or eliminate man’s effect on the climate. Could these changes be implemented globally? It is unlikely that a few local changes would have significant impact.
Let’s assume #1 through #5 are demonstrable. We have now demonstrated that global warming is real, that it is bad, that man is causing it, that there are a set of changes which will result in a meaningful solution, and that these changes are globally feasible.
Now for the kicker. We need to know
6. That the global efforts at combating the putative warming have a net quality of life and economic benefit around the globe. In other words, the costs of remediation are outweighed by the benefits.
Needless to say, we have a long way to go before we really have a handle on the problem of global warming and the feasibility of commonly accepted solutions.