L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

06 April 2007 Blog Home : April 2007 : Permalink

Scientific Consensus

As noted by Justin Levine over at Patterico and as reported by the BBC, and others, the "scientific consensus" on global warming is being held up by political haggling. As Justin comments sarcastically:

Now that sounds exactly like the kind of science I learned about in school - free from political considerations and biases…Can’t wait to read this ’scientific’ report.

There are about 5 related questions when it comes to global warming
  1. Is it happening?
  2. Is it caused by humans?
  3. Can we stop it?
  4. Should we stop it?
  5. Is what is currently proposed going to help?
There is consensus that the answer to 1 is "yes". However there is apparently little consensus about how much warming is occuring with notes that at various times in the geologically recent past (the medieval period and various times in the last few millenia) as well as at far earlier times, the earth has been hotter (sometimes a lot hotter) than it is now. In other words yes the earth probably is heating up but it is not, so far, looking like anything that the planet has not weathered before

This leads us on to question 2. The answer to this is a definite maybe. There is evidence that other planets in the solar system are also heating up indicating that the sun may be causing some or all of the rise. There is evidence that various gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane are implicated in temperature rises. There is evidence that humans have caused some part of the increase on carbon dioxide and methane within the atmosphere. There is considerable about whether these gasses are the prime cause of global warming and about how much of their rise is caused by human emissions.

Given the debate on question 2, it should come as no surprise that question 3 is generally speaking dodged. It is, however, a critical question. Whether or not global warming is caused by humans, excessive global warming will undoubtedly cause problems so we ought to see if we can try reversing it. Of course if the warming is cyclical and not caused by humans then we probably can't do anything about it anyway but even then we might be able to mitigate it a bit. And there is the question of how we would go about stopping it without killing the vast majority of subsistence farmers on the planet because they seem to cause much of the problem through agriculture (e.g. growing rice and herding cattle) and land clearence (burning forests).

On the other hand, and leading to question 4, as the Skeptical Environmentalist pointed out, it may be so herrendously expensive that a better way to spend our money would be to work out ways to improve the life of those adversely affected by it rather than trying to reverse it. Since these folks are also in general the subsistence farmers noted above probably the best way to help them would be to move them off the land and into cities. In other words the best way to help is probably to increase the development of poor nations and that comes at an increase in energy use and hence of increased industrial greenhouse gas emissions. By removing subsistence farmers from the land we may in fact end up reducing greeen house gasses because cash crop, intensive, agriculture is generally far more efficient and requires less land to provide equivalent food.

This brings us to question 5. Oddly enough politicians don't seem to mention making poor people richer as the best way to solve global warming. In fact the problem I have with global warming is that the politicians seem to be using it mostly as an excuse to put up taxes and for attacking global free trade and dynamic free-market economies such as America. None of these acts seems likely to actually solve the problem but they do have the effect of entrenching big government statist policies so I rather question whether the whole thing is not some scam by the supported of big government to convince the rest of us to go along with their socio-economic model.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin