I have recently become aware of two camps of thought with regard to global warming/climate change, niether one relating to religion vs science. On one side is the internationally recognized theory of rapid devastating change and on the other a token uncertainty of the actual changes occuring in terms of what effects we may be facing and how quickly they will emerge.
As a "regular sort" I don't really know a lot of the science involved with our changing conditions and so I guess that puts me in between the two in this arguement. They both have very valid points and the answer to this riddle is important- so what do you all think?
Perhaps instead of asking what a bunch of random people think, you should go to a forum of climatologists and ask what they think. All over the internet there's the question: "What do you think about climate change?" as if someone's opinion is going to change whether or not human activity exacerbates climate change. It's becoming more and more rare that the popular media offer simply the scientific point of view; instead it's always, "Opposing viewpoints: Random opinionated poorly-educated conservative vs. climatologist whose dissertation was on anthropogenic climate change." When will we start to admit that the two sides aren't equal?
I have some other discussion questions:
Gravity: What do you think?
Evolution: What do you think?
Newton's Laws of Thermodynamics: What do you think?
Hi David & all,
I just recently saw the previous exchange (posted on "Origins") which led to this. I am pretty alarmed at some of the climate change denialist stuff, as well as the really strange snide remarks about scientists. I am not yet a full-fledged scientist, I am just starting my Master's program but have bachelors in biology (ecology track) and environmental studies. I also work for the US Forest Svc, with a bunch of research scientists, and I live in the Pacific. I say all this because I will share with you some perspective that I have that doesn't come from the many excellent websites where you can find a lot of the general info. I don't if it will make a difference or not to those that already seem convinced.
First, the concern of the FS scientists that I work with focuses, of course, on forest health and ecology. they are seeing major changes in ecological scenarios due to warming- change of course is not unusual, the scary thing is how rapidly these changes are occurring. for instance, in Hawaii nearly all of the native forest birds left (all endangered) have been restricted to areas above 4000', because this is above the "mosquito line" (mosquitoes carry diseases which devastate bird pops). in the last 10-20 years, that line has alarmingly started to crawl up the mountains due to warming temps - restricting habitat for birds. this is a major concern for those charged with protecting critical habitat. we're talking islands here - there ain't noplace left to go, so to speak.
GMO - there are huge debates raging everywhere about the safety of GMO. while I won't get into that, i will say that a particular GMO effort really stood out to me. the staple food of pacific islanders is a corm-producing plant known as kalo or taro. the low-lying pacific islands who have depended on this starch are beginning to suffer from salt-water intrusion that kills their kalo. university of hawaii scientists are working on GMO salt-water resistant taro to make sure these people continue to have food to eat. (what they can do about fresh water i don't know, because the salt water is filling the fresh water lenses and at some point in a not very distant future these islands will be uninhabitable).
coral reefs - the news is not good. at our last conservation conference for the state of HI, there was a presentation on results from dozens of studies around the world of coral reefs. coral reefs are bleaching at an unprecedented rate (that is, they are expelling the live organisms, zooxanthelle, with which they have a obligate symbiosis). studies from different parts of the world have documented that this is directly correlated with sea temperatures - at a certain temperature, the zooxanthelle do not return and the coral dies (bleaches). since coral reefs are the bedrock of our entire (and already unstable) ocean system - and thus all life - this should be a huge concern for all of us.
more forest - there was one guy (Larry) posting against GW who I noticed had a canadian flag for his picture. i thought he may be interested in some local issues. part of my job is to work with outside scientists who want to perform research in our forest in hawaii. this fall i had a request from a large (and very prestigious) group of researchers from the Canadian Forest Service, who are testing the ability of some new satellite technology to determine forest health. (we have a grove of douglas fir that happened to be in the path of the satellite). the driving force behind their research was canada's current loss of forests due to the northward migration of the pine beetle, which never before could survive the winters there (the bug hasn't adapted, but the temps have gotten warmer, expanding its potential range). they are trying to figure out how to use satellite data to map damage by the beetle, because it occurring over such a huge, landscape scale that current methods can't map it.
this summer i was privileged to personally see a scientist from the IPCC speak for nearly 2 hours. the science was incredible. the studies were done by so many people, from so many countries. i find it astonishing that so many people suspect this science could be "invented"!
in conclusion (i know, long post) the point I want to make with my post is that there really is no debate within science. fire ecologists, ornithologists, marine biologists, agriculture researchers, foresters, entomologists - in all of these disciplines I personally know people who are actively responding to climate change. not the how, if, whens, or whys of climate change, but the EFFECTS. they are researching the EFFECTS of the climate change that we can tangibly already see and experience. for them, there is no room for the niceties of the broader GW "debate", because this stuff is happening and happening fast. if this were a natural warming trend, you would never see so many organisms in so many different ecosystems so highly threatened. the problem is that it is happening WAAAAYY too fast. there is not enough time for natural adaptation.
The problem with "waiting until we have all the answers" is that it only works if all the science if wrong. right now, scientific investigation is the only tool we have to get any sense of what will happen in the next 20,50, 100 years. even if that tool is imperfect, we can't wait around for consensus - we have to act on that information we do have, gathered with the best tools we as human beings have been able to conceive. the consequences of waiting and finding out the scientists were even HALF right are tremendous.
OK, i've said my piece..peace!
Argh, Simon, it makes me too sad to think that you may be right! my very good friend is a grad student in psychology and we have some very fun debates in which she repeatedly has to explain to me why human behavior can be so irrational (i prefer ecology - plant behavior is so much easier to figure out!) I don't know how to approach things in any way other than with reasoned thought and explanation...which is why I joined atheist nexus. its comforting to find like-minded souls on here. its hard for me to realize that for some people being a skeptic seems to mean ignoring sound scientific data and research. so i keep beating my head against the wall.....
Actually, I'd say it's psychology, denial and politics.
AGW has become such a political issue (here in the States at least), I know a few people personally who I'm positive are denying it primarily because the Democratic party is largely 'For' while the Republicans are largely 'Against.'
I swear to Imaginary Friend In The Sky ... if Al Gore made a movie about how setting yourself on fire is a bad thing, loyal Republicans across America would be self-immolating at every Teabagger party.
Hey, actually, that might not be a bad idea.... "This just in! President Obama urges all Americans to stop seasoning their own food with rat poison."
I've often felt people who esteem their brains the most are the least rational!
Putting our frontal cortex on a pedestal is a dangerous activity. That part of our brain is not the part that controls our daily activities, our ability for fitness, our hunger, our emotions. People who listen to their frontal cortex too much are denying their basic brain functions, and THAT'S what makes irrationality. It's not our frontal cortex that allows us to distinguish between BSers and charlatans and truthful people, it's our instincts, our animal side.
If we as a society placed a bit more emphasis on our other brain capacities, we'd probably have a cleaner planet.
I'm certainly glad for example I never met mr Dupont or Ford, I'm sure I would have disliked them as people completely in adulation of the abilities of their frontal cortex
Hmm. TNT666, I agree that there's more to it than the frontal lobes, but they are awfully helpful when it comes to spotting logical fallacies in arguments. I'm sure the whole brain is involved in deciding whether something is bogus or not. I'd hate to shortchange any part of it.