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?

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John, that's an impressively flawed article. (Linked here also in case the thread gets tangled.)

Here's yet another person who is daunted by complexity (which he also overstates), refusing to believe something is possible because it's difficult and large. He says, "No one person can or ever will 'look at all the data.' A person can look at an infinitesimally small chunk of data that's out of all meaningful context, but let's get real here: the Earth is about the most complicated system imaginable." If any one person were actually required to "look at all the data", most scientific endeavors would grind to a halt. He is simply making an argument from incredulity. Just because he's overwhelmed by all the data, that doesn't mean that scientists don't have the necessary tools to make sense of it.

In fact, this is pretty much the way science always proceeds. Look at all the data in astronomy. Holy crap, that's a lot of data! Yet we still are fairly confident that we know how stars are born, live, and die. It is ridiculously defeatist to look at a giant pile of data, throw up your hands, and declare mission impossible. Real scientists see a giant pile of data and dig right in trying to make sense of it. Or would Dunning prefer that we not tackle things like epidemiology, because there are so many data points that no one person could ever look at them all?

To be blunt, this is an intellectually retarded position to hold. It would imprison us in the Dark Ages if science were conducted the way Dunning seems to think it should be. What an intensely silly thing to say. How perverse is it to complain that a scientific field suffers from too much data? It's certainly preferable to having too little. He should be embarrassed for saying something this stupid.

Further, he sets up and knocks down the strawman of stopping our carbon emissions overnight: "We musn't keep generating greenhouse gases at the current rate, and we can't simply stop it all. And in the attempt to find a happy medium, we can't expect every individual and company to make expensive and complicated changes, in many cases without good alternatives, out of the generosity of their hearts." Nobody is suggesting that we can stop emitting greenhouse gases overnight, or that companies should sacrifice competitiveness in order to save the planet. But we'll never stop emitting GHGs if we don't make an effort to. And government subsidies and taxes are a simple way to push companies to do the right thing without crippling them. Just like we've done since, oh, I don't know, the invention of governments, companies, and taxes.

And why in the world shouldn't we aim for zero carbon emissions? Once again, Dunning retreats in the face of a daunting problem. Just because it's big and will take time doesn't mean we shouldn't get to work on it. Quite the reverse, in fact.

I agree with Dunning that coal is a killer, the worst of the fossil fuels by far. And I'll hold my nose and support nuclear power, even though I'm not confident that humans are capable of dealing with the waste responsibly for thousands of years, when we have an economic system that has trouble looking past the next fiscal quarter. But fission is probably going to have to be part of the short-term solution, and fusion part of the long-term solution.

Dunning is correct that cost/benefit analyses should be pursued, but the problem there is that our cost accounting systems have historically valued ecosystem resources and services at or near zero. It's not clear to me that Dunning understands this. He doesn't mention it. And if we continue making our decisions based on the idea that the services provided by ocean, air, and forest are free, we're never going to come to the correct conclusions. If our cost/benefit analyses underestimate the damage that will be done by climate change because the analysts don't believe that accurate predictions can be made, then we will just continue to operate with our heads in the sand.

It's something of a side-show to whine about inequities in the Kyoto Protocols. A political framework to deal with the problem of global warming is inevitably going to favor some at the expense of others. Arguing on fairness grounds won't get us very far, however, considering that the industrialized countries were the biggest part of the problem to date, and the developing countries won't sit still for a solution that prevents them from making progress. But ultimately, arguing that we have to have a level playing field is silly, because there's no way to make it perfectly level in any case, and because the countries that attack the problem on their own will generate technology that other countries will want to buy or copy because they will end up cheaper in the long run. But if nobody invests up front, that won't happen. Fortunately, many countries are acting unilaterally, or nearly so. They're the ones that will reap the economic rewards.

But it's disturbing that Dunning thinks so very little of the human capacity to understand our planetary systems, and indeed, of the power of science generally. This is not what I expect from modern, educated people. I am certainly astounded to see atheists hold this view. By rights, atheists should very much believe in the power of science and the dangers of wishful thinking and ignoring problems. Skepticism taken so far that nothing is believable is less than useless.

Dunning concludes by asking for more science, hopefully before it's too late. Which sounds reasonable. Except we've done the science. Enough to understand the problem, how bad it is likely to be, and what we should do about it. He just doesn't want to believe it. And by his standards, no amount of science could ever be sufficient to inform responsible decisions.
Uh, John, TNT666 didn't say money isn't real. And everybody has financial incentives to do bad things. Saying that something good will cost something doesn't mean we shouldn't do it.
And back to you. Never said money doesn't exist, just saying that if your kind were honest you'd say this:

"Willing to go with science as long as it doesn't hurt my pocketbook or the world's dominant richest' pocketbooks"

Then you wouldn't need to be providing bogus anti-Gore (I mean frankly who even cares about Gore? it's not like he invented the darned topic, and any self-designated skeptoid' who makes a living out of criticising Gore is just as irrelevant as Gore himself) and irrelevant references and just so that we can hear 'both sides of the debate'. There are no more 2 sides to this debate than there are 2 sides to the evolution/creationism debate, It's moot.

It is academic scientists against big money (and their bought scientists). And this won't change no matter how many pseudo-web-references you waste here...
Right back at you sir...

JohnD. You just can't stop can you? It's like you have a disease. A disease that compels you to try to change my mind. You will just have to live with me being here... and not sharing your opinion

You have reiterated your same old tired denial pseudo-2-sidedness much more frequently than I. So if I am diseased then that would make you, by your own standards... terminal... my condolences to your wife :)
Well because people have gone out and looked at evidence from ice cores and the way that animals have migrated over millions of years and having looked at those things and others you can say looking at the evidence the Earth was covered in a sheet of ice a mile thick a billion years ago and the only reason that it is not still like that is the volcanos pumping out gas into tha atmosphere.
I problem I see with climatechangyologistograpologistomaniacs is that they look at evidence from the past 50 years and run round telling everyone the sky is falling but they will not look at anything which suggests its always been happening.
Luckily over the past 6 months or so there have been more scientists willing to stand up and say its all bollocks.
Sorry, Jez, but that's total crap. Climate scientists are well aware of the geologic record back billions of years, as well as the effects of volcanoes and ice ages. None of those things has any bearing on what we are currently experiencing, which you'd admit if you were interested in the actual science rather than your faith-based beliefs.
The problem here is that evidence is only given for the part that everybody can agree with. Yes, the planet is getting warmer. Ok. But it DOES that. And then it gets cooler. And then warmer again, and so on.

When it came to the part about CO2 and green house gases being the cause all it said was 'scientists think...' with no names or evidence being given. This is about the same thing as when FOX news gets away with saying whatever they want by adding the words 'Some people say...' at the beginning of it and then never citing a reference of evidence. Thats not news, and this isn't science... it is opinion.

'Some people say that Obama is the antichrist and is a secret gay-jew-muslim-atheist-communist-black panther.'
Erik, you need to educate yourself on this. There are thousands of peer-reviewed papers supporting the reality of anthropogenic global warming, with tens of thousands of scientists' names attached in black and white. This is not merely a matter of opinion or guesswork. And it's really, really, really, not hard to find this stuff if you just look. I went to nature.com, the web site for the prestigious journal Nature, which publishes peer-reviewed papers, and did a site search for "anthropogenic climate change" and turned up 681 articles, with names of scientists proudly attached. Here's a link for the search to save you some typing, but feel free to not trust me.

You could do the same think for the journal Science, which also publishes peer-reviewed papers. Gee, that search returned over 100,000 hits. My goodness, the science mafia certainly isn't hiding their research very well, are they? Who knows what kind of panic could be sparked if this gets out?

Yes, both sites require you to pay to see the full articles, but you can see the article abstracts for free. No mystery, no man behind the curtain, just science working the way it has for a couple hundred years. And Science and Nature are not just some blog sites set up by a handful of climate scientists who like to quote each other. When Faux News says "some people say..." they are either making shit up or quoting one of their own pundits or a batshit Republican that they want to hire as a pundit. When people talk about the real science behind AGW, it's tricky to point out just one source because their are thousands. It's an embarrassment of riches.
I appreciate the link. This is exactly what I have been asking for and nobody else seems willing to reference or link. I'm not some paranoid weirdo saying that its a huge conspiracy, simply a guy pointing out that we should be seeing actual evidence and citations rather than only hearing assurances and opinions.
I apologize for the sarcasm in my previous post. Well, half-apologize, anyway. It's very frustrating that people can't find these citations. They're not really hidden, though it's fair to say that they are rarely front and center in the debate. Again, I think that's because it's such an enormous stack of research that most journalists and bloggers see little choice but to boil it down to a summary. "Well, the library is over there, but here's the short version."
Hi Erik -

You're right - mainstream media tends to be sparse at best on the details. Most people are frightened away as soon as you start printing equations and chemistry charts. What we get is something easy to digest, but also easy to misread and manipulate.

Over on the group "Atheists who love science," someone started an interesting thread about the public perception of science due to this process of making it so easy to digest. Somewhere around the third page the OP has a copy of the paper he's just written on the subject. Said it extremely well and illustrates just how easy it is for the public to be led by the nose by a media more interested in selling ad space than the facts.

And sometimes with lethal consequences.


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