Saturday, December 09, 2006

Is the Argument Over Global Warming Misdirected?

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Noted intellectual giant, James Inhofe was at it again, with Wednesday’s hearing entitled "Climate Change and the Media."
(Inhofe) convened a hearing with witnesses who share his view that the media has hyped coverage of climate change. "Hysteria sells," the chairman grumbled at one point. "Scare tactics should not drive public policy," he said at another, pressing his view that rising Earth temperatures are mainly a natural, cyclical phenomenon.
One of the benefits of living with a scientist is that I am often called to challenge my initial (sometimes emotional) reactions in favor of a careful weighing of the available evidence.

In our discussions of “global warming,” my partner has frequently made an argument that, in light of Senator Inhofe’s repeated denials of the presence of global warming, makes a lot of sense.

The argument is that the focus should not be on "the presence of global warming,” but on “the increase of greenhouse gases.” The rationale is that the scientific evidence for global warming is inconclusive enough to continue allowing people like Inhofe to make arguments against it. Because we are talking about millions of years of history and cyclical weather patterns, it is not possible for either side to definitively “win” the debate.

On the other hand, there is clear scientific evidence that greenhouse gases are being produced at skyrocketing rates (click here for source). There is clear evidence that such gases trap infrared rays that could heat up the earth like the sun heats up the inside of a car. This makes it a debate about chemistry and physics, rather than a debate about history!

One way of looking at the issue is in relation to the decision on whether to eat trans fats – a topical comparison considering the City of New York’s recent ban on their use in restaurant food preparation. If you want to convince someone to restrict the intake of trans fats in their diet, you would not try to argue that scientific evidence proves they will have a heart attack in the future. That would be silly, and easily ignored by anyone who is determined to use history (I haven’t had one yet! Other people have eaten trans fats and not had them!) to maintain their current diet.

On the other hand, a scientific factual presentation of the existence of trans fats, and how the body processes them, leaves little room to argue that they should not be eliminated from the diet whenever possible.

People like Senator Inhofe are always going to be able to find historians to present a feasible-sounding (to him anyway) argument to maintain our current diet of greenhouse gas production.

But let’s see him produce some scientists who would argue that increased production of greenhouse gases doesn’t increase the risk factors for a global climate heart attack!


  1. Lost Wages Joe10:12 AM

    I prefer to dismiss Imhofe's final (hoo-ray!) hearing as the sound of a lame duck quacking. Isn't this committee being taken over by our own Barbara Boxer? Despite her apalling taste in men (inside joke alert: Seenos knows what I'm talking about...), I'm confident that Babs will actually take steps to protect our environment, rather than to act as a willfully-ignorant whore for the polluters like Imhofe has.

  2. Anonymous8:36 AM

    Easy there LWJ! I only hooked up with Barbara Boxer one time, and that was before I quit drinking!

  3. Anonymous8:39 AM

    Easy there LWJ! I only hooked up with Barbara Boxer one time, and that was before I quit drinking!

  4. Well, since the earth is only 5,000 years old, at the rate these changes are happening, I think we can expect catastrophic climate change sooner rather than later. That's my scientific opinion.