Despite what seems to be an ironclad case for global warming and the assumption that it is human caused , there is still considerable debate in the media. If we are going to create appropriate public policy to deal with climate change, then we have to keep from being diverted by the fallacious arguments. Unfortunately, there is a lot of phooey out there perpetuated by people who cite scientists and who claim to be scientists. I’m not sure if these people are just misinformed or working on behalf of a hidden agenda, but we can filter them out by keeping aware of the essential situation.
The fundamental proposition goes like this:
1. For about the last 100 years, the Co2 level has been rising at an unprecedented rate. According to the Woods Hole Research Center,
Suddenly in the 1800s, as the Industrial Revolution takes off, atmospheric CO2 concentrations begin an unprecedented upward climb, rising rapidly from 280 ppmv (parts per million by volume) in the early 1800s to a current level of 376 ppmv, 77 ppmv above the highest concentrations previously attained in the course of the preceding 400 thousand years.
2. The rise in atmospheric CO2 seems to correspond to–and likely be causing–rapidly rising global temperatures, as show in the graph at right from NASA. The graph shows temperature anomalies relative to the mean temperature of the years 1951 to 1980.
Debate about the temperature rise concerns how the temperature is measured. There is no one thermometer for the planet, so a single temperature is computed by taking measurements from various points around the globe or from satellites. Experts dispute the appropriate ways to do this; however, the general conclusion seems to be that the temperature is rising abnormally.
3. Suspicions are high that the phenomena has been a side effect of industrialization. According to the Washington Post,
An international panel of climate scientists said yesterday that there is an overwhelming probability that human activities are warming the planet at a dangerous rate, with consequences that could soon take decades or centuries to reverse.
Any argument against global warming would have to directly refute this data. We are faced with many pressing social issues, and they can become hopelessly complex unless we have some grounding in the data and use a combination of data and commonsense to weed out spurious arguments. In future posts, I’ll take a look at some of the counterarguments and see if any can overturn this.