Here’s a couple of graphs you’ll stumble across repeatedly if you try to keep up with the pseudo-science of anthropogenic global warming. The first is of the famous observations from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii showing the steadily-increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide since 1958, a few of years before I was born. The second is from the NOAA, detailing average temperatures since 1880. Between the two it is quite clear to see that nothing is clear. CO2 since 1958 has steadily increased; temperatures have generally increased, but show quite a bit more variability than CO2. There is really nothing that can scientifically be concluded from the two graphs, at least so far as causation is concerned. As the second graph states, the temperatures have trended up since 1975, but CO2 has steadily marched upward all along. Correlation isn’t causation, but a lack of correlation means there can be no causation.
I could put up a graph of my advancing age, and it would march in lock-step upward with the Mauna Loa graph. Maybe increasing atmospheric CO2 is causing me to age. Or, even more portentiously, maybe my aging is causing atmospheric CO2 to increase.
Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal observes, like I’ve been saying all along, that the notion of anthropogenic global warming has all the characteristics of a religion, rather than of a scientific endeavor:
Consider the case of global warming, another system of doomsaying prophecy and faith in things unseen.
As with religion, it is presided over by a caste of spectacularly unattractive people pretending to an obscure form of knowledge that promises to make the seas retreat and the winds abate. As with religion, it comes with an elaborate list of virtues, vices and indulgences. As with religion, its claims are often non-falsifiable, hence the convenience of the term “climate change” when thermometers don’t oblige the expected trend lines. As with religion, it is harsh toward skeptics, heretics and other “deniers.” And as with religion, it is susceptible to the earthly temptations of money, power, politics, arrogance and deceit.
Sounds about right.
But the Economist reports that perhaps things aren’t as dire as we once believed, at least it isn’t according to yet another pseudo-scientific study that was published in the journal Science:
The result offers that rarest of things in climate science—a bit of good news. The group’s most likely figure for climate sensitivity is 2.3°C, which is more than half a degree lower than the consensus figure, with a 66% probability that it lies between 1.7° and 2.6°C. More importantly, these results suggest an upper limit for climate sensitivity of around 3.2°C.
In other words, the study concludes, based on geologic evidence (ice cores and such) that the sensitivity of the climate to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 is less by half a degree Celsius than the IPCC concluded in 2007, and eliminates the upper range sensitivity of 10 degrees Celsius, limiting it to only 3.2 degrees.
As if. There is absolutely no way to know whether either of the predictions have even the remotest basis in reality. They are each speculation layered upon speculation depending upon unproved premise after unproved premise, all tenuously perched upon a mountain of human hubris. To believe that some prediction about earth’s future climate, which is subject to a virtually unlimited supply of impossible–to–model variables, is better by a half degree than some other prediction of earth’s future climate, embodies the essence of St. Augustine’s admonition to the early Christians: First you must believe, then may you understand.
Though there hasn’t been identified a “God” gene, it is clear that humans innately need a god to worship. They have mostly fashioned in their own image the gods they would worship. What better image to fashion for a secular god than to borrow the attributes of a popular monotheistic god, the God of Abraham, that exacts tribute and punishment for the original sin of mankind simply having existed? This is what the idea of anthropogenic global warming represents–that man’s inherently selfish and evil nature can only be restrained and sanctified through fealty to a higher power and purpose. The earth generally, and the earth’s climate specifically, become the anthropomorphized higher power that will sanction mankind’s evil activities, and sanctify his blessed ones. The breath of every human, trading atmospheric oxygen for carbon dioxide, is an insult to the earth’s climate, thus every human is a reprobate that needs the AGW god’s grace. Moses himself, the architect of the irrational, arbitrary, capricious, vengeful God leading Israel to the Promised Land could not have more cynically devised a deity to suit his purposes.
All that, yet the instinct that humanity has gone a bit off the rails in the treatment of its environment–the true foundation of the anthropogenic global warming catechism–is sound. Exploitative capitalism, i.e., capitalism that depends upon paying less for its inputs than they are actually worth, whether the inputs are clean air and water, or the sweat off a coolie’s back, necessarily has no view to the costs it imposes. It exists to impose costs without paying for them so far as it can get away with. The earth, and a great many people living upon it, have suffered tremendously as a result. It doesn’t take the worship of some phantom god to see this. It’s no accident that the idea of anthropogenic global warming gained purchase about the same time as global, exploitative capitalism flourished in the post-Cold War information age.
Human beings are inherently selfish. They are not social creatures, except as their innate tendency to exploit and degrade their fellows and their environment could be considered social. And they are born that way. It is only through years and years of accommodative nurturing that they sometimes are able to see outside of themselves, and grasp the idea that if everyone acted upon their selfish impulses with no regard for others, the whole of humanity would collapse into barbarism and anarchy, with very few of anyone’s impulses ever getting satisfied. Exploitative capitalism is still an infant. Capitalist organizations are spoiled children, treated akin to the “little emperors” promulgated by China’s one-child regime, allowed to get away with anything, so long as the wealth keeps flowing. Their exploitation of the tragic commons of air and water and wilderness are ignored, particularly as nations first begin the process of industrialization and development.
What the AGW people truly seek is an accounting for these costs. They understand that humanity is on an unsustainable trajectory. Their belief in anthropogenic global warming is just a vehicle for adjusting the trajectory by accounting for the full costs to the environment of mankind’s activities upon it. Theirs is a noble, if misguided, expression of man’s better nature.
Great harm has been inflicted on the earth in the name of progress, in the name of enrichment by serving man’s rapacious appetite. Blue-fin tuna are fished nearly to the point of extinction. The oceans are treated as gigantic sewers, with waste being pumped into the rivers feeding them, and directly. The air in some cities, particularly in the developing world, particularly in China, is hardly fit to breathe from the belching smokestacks of industries, and the electric plants that power them. Vast tracts of jungle are daily clear-cut in the service of enriching some portion of humanity at the expense of many others. An insult to the earth’s environment anywhere is an insult to the earth’s environment everywhere. There is no such thing as China’s air or India’s water. As the AGW movement attempts in some measure to make clear, we are all in this together.
Western capitalists will argue that as development proceeds, environmental concerns that were once ignored become paramount. They argue that an unpolluted environment is a luxury good. Which is, to an extent, true in the West. As the West got rich, polluted rivers were cleaned up, smog-filled skies were cleared, and endangered species were protected. But all this was expensive, and nearly as soon as capitalists were forced to account for the costs of their environmental exploitation in the West, they left to find other, less costly, locales to exploit. Will their exploitation make these new locales rich enough to demand a better environment? Perhaps, but then it will be off to exploit whatever remains to be exploited.
The answer to environmental exploitation is similar to the answer to human exploitation discussed in a post yesterday–the actualization of the true costs of the economic activity of production and consumption. Gasoline sold in the US at $4/gallon would cost at least twice that much, were a true accounting rendered. There is the massive cost of keeping supply lanes open via military interventions in far away lands. There is the cost to human health of breathing air polluted by millions of tailpipes. There are the injuries and deaths accruing from accidents on the roadways. And ultimately, there is the enormous cost of relying indefinitely upon an unsustainable way of life.
The global warming debate is really an argument over how to equitably live together, in harmony with each other, and with the earth that succors life. The world has become much smaller over the last half century. It is now becoming clear that inequity anywhere is inequity everywhere; that exploitation of humans or the environment anywhere is exploitation everywhere. No matter how vociferously the 1%’ers in government and industry would argue otherwise, no matter how desperately they wish to build walls around their kingdoms in order to profit from their subjects, we are all in this together. It is a platform of the AGW movement that the warming effects of economic activity knows no national boundaries. Neither, it must be added, do human needs and desires.