No other issue today seems to inflame the passions more than the issue of Global Warming. Most youth and certainly the vast majority of scientists are convinced that the earth is heating up, that this will cause the sea levels to rise, and that human activity is the cause of it all. In order to prevent predicted catastrophe, they want significant action immediately implemented to hopefully change the trajectory of reported environmental trends.
To understand Global Warming we have to look at each aspect of the controversy. We need to consider the issue in historical context. We need to understand the scientific data. We need to understand the motivations of those involved on each side. We need to look at the proposals for change and their probable effect. And we need to analyze and reflect on our own prejudices and behaviors. This post can only scratch the surface, but it will point you in the right directions for further study.
Most people are woefully unfamiliar with anything that has happened outside of their own personal experience. This means that they don’t understand what the past was like, and what happened “way back when”. Rising sea levels and recently increasing numbers of destructive storms seem to be evidence of Global Warming. The fact is that sea levels do change over time. For example, in the time of the Roman Empire, Ravenna Italy and Ephesus Turkey were both coastal sea ports. Both are now miles from the coast. The ancient seaport of Ur in Iraq is now 150 miles from the coast. Storm frequency is rising in our lifetimes, but as recently as the 1940’s, people didn’t move to Florida because of the huge storms that so frequently battered it. So things may appear to be changing, but in the long term historical context, these changes appear to be a return to previously “normal” conditions.
The vast majority of scientists due indeed believe in Global Warming. But here both the data and the motivations are suspect. There have been numerous cases where data was “fudged”. The famous case of emails from the British University of East Anglia shows collusion to manipulate data to conform to what scientists want it to say. Scientific research is almost wholly funded by government subsidy; the bigger the problem, the bigger the subsidies. If Global Warming was debunked, many in the scientific community would lose significant funding. Going against accepted theories also results in scientific ostracism. If you don’t agree with the others, you end up understanding how Galileo must have felt in dealing with the Catholic Church in late medieval times.
Rising temperatures and sea levels are only part of the issue. The other half of the Global Warming controversy is that it is caused by Human Activity, specifically the output of carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is the byproduct of burning stuff (like fuel) and of breathing. Most of the proposals for dealing with Global Warming are directed at changing Human Activity.
Humans are polluting the earth. We can literally see air pollution in major cities. We know that our oceans are filling up with plastic that doesn’t disappear. Chemical dumping is actually increasing in the world, and many rivers are so contaminated the water is literally poison to plants and animals alike. The developed west (USA, Western Europe, Japan, Canada and similar) have made great strides in combating pollution since the 1960s. Of course, they could still do better, especially with auto emissions and non-biodegradable garbage. But most of the real pollution of the planet is now happening in China, the former Soviet Union, and the poor countries of the Third World. We in the west can do little to change their ways. The Paris Accords are a mechanism for sending money from rich countries to the Third World to get them to change. Unfortunately, money given to Third World countries just ends up in the bank accounts of corrupt leaders.
An unfortunate and misguided underlying message in much of the discussion of Global Warming is that Humans are inherently bad for the planet. Many Global Warming advocates believe the world is overpopulated and that we must take urgent steps to reduce the size of the population. I personally believe the planet could support multiples of the current population. The second biggest exporter of food in the world is the Netherlands. Look at how tiny this place is on a map. The reason they can export so much food is how they use their land and resources. Our problem isn’t that there are too many of us, it is that we don’t adequately use what we have, we waste a lot, and we still pollute too much.
What to Do
We need to pollute less. We need to use less disposable non-biodegradable products (like plastic). We need to incentivize movement away from such materials.
We need to reduce air pollution. We are at the point in the west where most things are pretty compliant with clean air standards. But I still see vehicles emitting black clouds on the road. The police should be able to immediately impound those vehicles that pollute more in a day than my vehicle does in year.
We need to encourage other countries to pollute less, and incentivize their doing so through our trade and other international relations policies. Just giving them money is NOT the way to do this.
We also need to “Keep Calm and Not Panic”. Change to sea levels and climate are mostly part of natural cycles that move between extremes across millennia. There are warmer periods, and there are ice ages. There are times of extreme weather and times of relative calm. For example, there are recent increases in seismic activity. I am waiting to hear from the alarmists how humans are causing that.
We need to do much better at using the resources we have, but limiting or restricting the number of Humans we “allow” on the planet is not the way. We need to be better stewards of our planet and take better care of it, and the more people in the developed world, the better we can do this.