Sunday, April 22, 2007

Climate Change?

What is climate? What is nature? Has climate ever been stable? What defines climate stability? At The New Statesman they're asking the question "Has climate change passed the point of no return?"

There are a lot of assumptions in the question. A number of posters correctly point out that warming and cooling are natural facts. Is it possible for man to gain control over his environment and to what extent? This is an old question and it is natural to man: it is human nature to want to control as much space around us as possible. This is why we build houses, why we plant and preserve foodstuffs, why we save money and invest it. It's not so crazy to want to control the environment too. Wouldn't it be nice?

Yet those who claim man is controlling the environment seem to see it only in the most negative light, as if our control of nature could only be a Dr. Frankenstein abortion or, rather, an abortion that continues to live and haunt us, a vampire, indestructible since made by the human mind. Their tone is both hysterical and depressed.

But look at what our control of nature has wrought on the positive side. Do I really need to do an accounting from the drop in infant mortality rates to transplants? from sea voyages to space voyages? from starvation to constant year-round supplies of a variety of foods no king could imagine just a few hundred years ago? ubiquitous central heating? cleaner environments by far that the Greeks who threw their garbage in the streets?

Some posters see it this way, in a positive light and are prepared to argue against the assumptions in The New Statesman's question. One poster points out that science isn't made by consensus anyway:
Science does not earn its proofs by majority votes but by theories tested by experiment. If the theory is capable of prediction, it's a good theory.
Another upbeat poster says:
i think of oil spills when the initial reports say, "It'll take hundreds of years for this landscape to regain its natural beauty," and 8 years later the oceans have managed to clean up what our screw-ups have wrought. so many examples of humans giving themselves more credit than they deserve.
A good point. There's a bit of delusional thinking here and it oscillates with a feeling of impotence. That's a fascinating juxtaposition of two seemingly opposed feelings and it resembles nothing so perfectly as a nightmare.

And this was another reasonable response:
Climate has changed since Earth was created. We already have witnessed 4 climate change since 1895, and alawys [sic] alarmists predicted the world was reaching a point of no return, either from warming or ferom [sic] cooling. Earhs [sic] was warmer than now between 800-1300 AD and much cooler from 1400-1715 AD. So relax, keep working and enjoy life!
I've left this one for last:
...the absence of religious faith (and even vehement opposition to it) has led to the present "return of the repressed content" of Christianity. In the late 60s there was an ice-age scare but it didn't take since it had no cultural resonance. "We've been bad, we will burn" has obvious cultural resonance.
The "return of the repressed" comes from Freud. It would be interesting to see a study done to test my theory that more atheists, agnostics and anti-religious types are seized by Global Warming hysteria than those who are secure in their religious faiths. Since we know that a larger proportion of political conservatives are religious than those who are politically liberal and that fewer political conservatives "believe in" global warming as an unstoppable man-made train than liberals, the hypothesis has promise and needs to be tested.

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