This is a historical post.
I’ve been concentrating on mostly arguments that AGW Deniers use that have little or no merit. In this post I’ll cover the AGW Denier arguments that I feel have some merit, though I’ll also explain why none of these arguments are sufficient to make me feel comfortable with the AGW Denier’s conclusions. In a future posts, I’ll address problems with AGW Believer’s arguments.
The “Earth is Absorbing the CO2 Anyway” Argument
One argument is that the earth is doing an amazingly good job of absorbing the extra CO2 that humans are putting out. Turns out, this is a correct argument.
I don’t think climate scientists really understood how good the oceans (and probably other mechanisms) are at absorbing CO2. About half of the CO2 surplus that we run just sort of disappears without a trace. The rest collects into the atmosphere.
First of all, this argument acknowledges that there is a CO2 surplus. As we’ll see in a future post, this is an important point.
I’ve even seen this argument extended out to include the idea that eventually the earth will absorb all the CO2 and we have nothing to worry about.
Unlike the arguments in my last post, this argument has real merit. In fact, it is at least possible that the earth is so much better at absorbing CO2 that the climate models all have it wrong – scientific consensus or not.
But the question I have to ask is this: how comfortable are you with this claim? I mean shouldn’t we be worried that the earth (through the oceans?) are only absorbing half of our surplus CO2 that we’re creating? Even if the earth could be counted on to eventually absorb the rest, wouldn’t we have to first stop the surplus and give it a chance to catch up? Wouldn’t we still have to at least cut back by half of the surplus?
Also, do we really know for sure that there isn’t a problem with letting the oceans absorb our surplus CO2? The AGW Believers claim that this makes the oceans acidic and could potentially destroy the food chain in the oceans. They claim that in a catastrophic case, it would be disastrous for all life.
Is this true? I have no idea. But that’s just the point. We really don’t know either way. For the moment, the prudent assumption would seem to be that we have a growing our CO2 and the earth isn’t keeping up. There simply is no evidence for any other scenario as of yet.
The “Global Warming is Just a Fancy Way of Saying Good Weather” Argument
Orson Scott Card particularly likes this argument. This argument is that global warming is real but natural. But even if it weren’t natural, it’s a good thing, so let’s keep it up. Typically this argument includes the idea that as CO2 goes up, plants grow better, life thrives, and we’re all happy. Heck, we’ll probably need the extra good weather to avoid a future ice age, so do your part in warming it up!
Again, this is an argument that has some merit. It is at least possible that global warming will turn out to be a good thing and it’s certainly going to be good up to a certain point. (See Medieval Warming Periods Argument below)
AGW Believers point out that a mere 2 degree cooler global average created an ice age before. The earth is right in the goldilocks zone, not too hot and not too cold. It is well known that the earth is always at risk of either becoming a massive ice block or a boiling soup. None of that is considered controversial.
What is debated is not if it’s possible to freeze or boil the earth, but only at what temperature levels the tipping point is reached. And the answer is that we just don’t know for sure.
Just to prove my point, look at this quote from physicist Frank Tipler. Bear in mind that Frank Tipler is a die hard AGW Denier.
The Earth’s atmosphere is finely balanced between runaway glaciation and runaway heating due to the greenhouse effect. Runaway glaciation can occur if the ice caps get too large: an increase in the ice caps cuase an increate in the amount of heath reflected back into space; this leads to a decrease in the surface temperature, which in turn causes the ice caps to beomce even larger… This process continues until the entire planet and all life is frozen solid.
Run away heating can occur if CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere. The added carbon dioxide causes the surface temperature to rise via the greenhouse effect, which in turn causes more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere from surface rocks. This in turn drives the temperature even higher, etc. This process continues until the oceans boil away… (The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, p. 567)
While the above quote sounds like a AGW Believer writing, this quote — in context — has nothing to do with AGW at all. It was merely a description of how fortuitous it is that our planet can sustain life at all. I suspect Tipler has yet to figure out that his own book has this passage that is potentially at odds with his own vehement AGW Denying.
In any case, we don’t really know at what point we will pass the tipping point and boil our earth. So this argument has some real merit. However, this is a sword that cuts both ways. It’s equally possible that the AGW Believers have underestimated the boiling point in their model. “We don’t know for sure” means just that. It could be better than we fear or it could be worse than we fear.
The “Medieval Global Warming Period” Argument
I couldn’t decide whether or not to put this argument into the “with” or “without” merit category. This argument actually does have merit, though not in the way it usually gets used. This argument is based on the belief that there was a global Medieval warming period.
I hear three arguments on this one: First, that the climate models don’t show this warming period, so the models must be wrong. Second, that there was no CO2 from industry back then, so this proves warming happens on its own. Third, that the warmer temperature was good, not bad, to the earth’s inhabitants.
The first argument, has merit. The second is a red herring and should be ignored. The third is the same as the one above.
It is true that some of the models don’t show the Medieval warming period. However, I noticed that An Inconvenient Truth did indeed show something that could pass as a Medieval warming period. However, one thing to keep in mind is that we don’t even know for sure that a global Medieval warming period took place. Certainly a regional one did, but we don’t have any proof that it was global in nature. So it’s impossible to pit this fact against the models.
The second argument is (to use a stock market analogy again) like saying that because the stock market once went up due to one known cause that this proves the current stock market run, centuries later, must be the same cause. I trust you see the problem.
The main merit of this argument is that it does show how little we really know and it is at least suggestive that our models could be incomplete in ways we can’t even imagine.
The “It Will Cause an Economic Disaster” Argument
Vader at Jr Ganymede vocalized this argument well:
We don’t know if changing our output of CO2 will produce climate changes that are good or bad. We do know that reducing CO2 will do a lot of economic harm.
Ergo, take no action until we know more.
Of all the “good” AGW Denier arguments, this one is the “best” in my opinion. I am going to cover this argument – including why I don’t buy it – in a future post because it deserves considerable attention. But for now, let’s just admit that it’s based on a false dichotomy between doing nothing or doing what the liberals want us to do with no consideration for any other possibility.
The “They Lied So They Can’t be Trusted” Argument
John Stossil did a report on how Global Warming Scientists misrepresent their findings, at least at times. Of this, I have no doubt. So I’ll list this as an argument with merit and I’m going to cover it in more detail in my next post.
As I’ve shown in my past post: the Deniers are just as bad if not worse in this department. So we probably shouldn’t be drawing any conclusions about the AGW Believers as a whole, but instead about human nature as whole. Yet somehow, that makes my feel worse, not better.
More concerning are the charges that the IPCC actually listed AGW Deniers on the list of scientists that helped draw their conclusions and (as one claims) he had to sue to have his name removed.
The IPCC claims this isn’t what happened, and I confess, I don’t believe one incident like this proves the IPCC is being overtly deceptive. Doesn’t it really just demonstrate that the IPCC is a giant bureaucracy where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing? Did you expect otherwise?
If the IPCC really did intentionally list all scientists involved, even ones that are AGW Deniers, but implied that they were AGW Believers, shame on them. But the fact that so few of these people came forward and complained suggests either a huge overwhelming consensus or that we just have a handful of mistakes. Either way, this argument isn’t as good as it first seems.
Also, remember the old saying to never confuse stupidity for malice.
The “Oil Will Run Out On Its Own” Argument
I think this is the second best argument with merit. The argument goes that we’ve already reached peak oil, so oil costs are going to rise on their own and alternative energy sources will be sought on their own, so a cap-and-trade policy is redundant and the problem will solve itself.
My concern with this argument is that it’s really just a huge warm and fuzzy guess on several fronts, the least of which is that we really have no idea if we’ve reached peak oil or not, much less how it will play out in connection with CO2 emissions.
And, truth be told, if there was a serious study predicting that peak oil was going to reduce CO2 emissions (there are none as far as I know) we would have greater cause to be skeptical of that study then we do of the current climate models because economic predictions have a success rate equal to chance.
Looking back over the last post and this one, I feel I can characterize my point of view on AGW Skeptic arguments by saying they are at their worst when they try to ‘prove’ Global Warming is not a problem and at their best when they stick with pointing out that we don’t know as much as we think we know.
In my following posts, I’ll discuss how I finally made sense of it all.