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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The Church of Global Warming

How can you tell who someone’s god is? You look to see whose name they invoke as the cause of all things, good or bad. By that standard, the god of the devout Left is Global Warming; here is the Psalm of Al, from which the faithful constantly quote (King James Version):

  1. Great storms ravage our cities, and the wise man saith: Global Warming hath done this.
  2. Drought keepeth all storms at bay, and the wise man saith: This also hath Global Warming done.
  3. Global Warming maketh the oceans rise; it maketh deep snow to fall;
  4. Flood and fire, feast and famine, typhoon and tornado, hail and lightning, all things good and bad that come from sky or sea, Global Warming hath made them all.
  5. And when our homes are beneath the waves, we shall know that Global Warming in its wrath hath seen our sins.
  6. For our vehicles that glut themselves on oil, for the trees we cut and land we clear,
  7. For the cooling and heating of our houses, for the plowing and harvesting of our fields, we are punished.
  8. Whenever we burn carbon and release it into the air, we shall know that Global Warming seeth it, and is wroth.
  9. O man! Thou hast flouted the great god of the sky, and by three degrees of temperature we shall be burned,
  10. For Global Warming is a jealous god, and small and annoying is man.

Orson Scott Card, via Tim Blair.

36 comments to The Church of Global Warming

  • Johnathan Pearce

    If GW is true, and is as worrying as some claim, the interesting question for advocates of free-wheeling capitalism though is what can be done to deal with it. Taking the piss out of Al Gore is good fun, but there comes a point where you have to figure out what to do just in case these guys are actually correct.

  • Johnathan – I expect we’ll adapt and continue to flourish, like we always have.

    I think the real danger lies in making too many concessions to global warming crusaders, considering that the high priests of this religion (Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown etc) have built lengthy and successful careers out of erroneous fear-mongering. Today, environmentalism – moreso than climate change – stands as one of the most threatening impediments to the development of humanity.

  • Perry E. Metzger

    I’m about as radical a libertarian as one can find, but I’m also educated in the sciences, and so far as I can tell, global warming is not a myth.

    I don’t see how the usual batch of knee jerk socialist responses are going to fix the issue. I’m also not exactly a fan of the “everyone drive less and use more efficient lightbulbs!” pablum.

    However, it is stupid to deny scientific facts. Yes, you can find plenty of web sites that will cite very biased information and claim global warming is a myth, just as you can find web sites that claim that evolution is a myth and provide “evidence” for it, but at this point, there is a mountain of reproducable studies that say the issue is real.

    What do I think should be done about it? “Leave the market alone.”

    Let the market switch us to solar and nuclear power as the price of fossil fuels goes up and as the price of other technologies go down. My biggest worry is that insane greens who have a completely irrational hatred of nuclear power (burning coal pollutes the world far worse) will block it.

    Libertarians should not be denying scientific fact. We should instead spend our time combatting the religious impulse of people to think the modern world is evil and that we must repent for our sins by living cruddy lives and waiting for (in their minds) our inevitable and justified doom at the hands of a wronged Gaia.

  • Sandy P

    Yet, a Russians scientist recently said we’re going into global cooling…..

    Go figure.

    Until they can control the sun, we’re wasting our money.

  • Sandy P

    A good question to ponder, is man better suited to adapt to global warming or cooling?

  • Brad

    ***If GW is true, and is as worrying as some claim, the interesting question for advocates of free-wheeling capitalism though is what can be done to deal with it. Taking the piss out of Al Gore is good fun, but there comes a point where you have to figure out what to do just in case these guys are actually correct.***

    They being right will be revealed much more slowly than they seem to let on, and humans will adapt and trade as they have for thousands of years. The religiosity of the whole equation in the argument is that huge tides will engulf the coasts, and what is not awash will be desert. It is the equivalent to Jonathan Edwards saying we are in God’s angry hand ready to be tossed into hell, so we’d better shape up (or be forced to).

    Mankind will adapt, we have no need to worry just now with what is a hyperconservative attempt to make sure that the snows remain on Kilamanjaro throughout eternity.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Libertarians should not be denying scientific fact. We should instead spend our time combatting the religious impulse of people to think the modern world is evil and that we must repent for our sins by living cruddy lives and waiting for (in their minds) our inevitable and justified doom at the hands of a wronged Gaia.

    Well put Perry. Candidate for Samizdata quote for the day.

  • and so far as I can tell, global warming is not a myth.

    I agree global warming is not a myth. However the notion that it is caused by human activity is quite a different matter and the evidence is far from convincing.

  • Midwesterner

    RAB just sent me this link yesterday or the day before. I’ve already forwarded it and printed a hard copy for myself.

    Most of you have probably already seen it, but in case not…

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1070-2331369,00.html

  • Midwesterner

    In James Waterton’s thread, The final nail in the coffin, Paul Marks made many of his typically incisive and insightful comments.

    I found two statements he made that I wanted to him to reconsider but I never commented so in that thread.

    At Aug 25 @ 8:08P he said -

    “Media people (like the establisment generally) have nothing much in common with Islam.”

    and, a couple of paragraphs later -

    “Of course if the West is destoyed the comfortable lives of the elite will end with it – but this does not occur to them.”

    I believe it does occur to them, and that they are, at heart, kindred spirits with the Islamists who also seek the destruction of civilisation and the defiance of science and learning for the service of a higher ‘good’.

    Like the strange mix of Allies in WWII, the share an enemy, and it is us.

    Thoughts, Paul?

  • What Perry said.

    We know that “climate change” is the natural state of things, and there have been significant climate changes in historical times, not to mention thousands and thousands of them over geologic time.

    This is not the first time things have gotten a tad warmer. And we cannot really explain the mechanism behind any of these purely natural climate changes. That means that, among other things, any claim that the current climate change is unnatural is based in large part on supposition and speculation.

    At this point the correlation between CO2 levels and warmer temperatures is anything but clear. The long-term record seems to indicate that CO2 increases following warmer temperatures, not preceding them, and the global temperatures over the industrial age do not map at all cleanly onto global fossil fuel use.

    We don’t even have decent correlation, and people are already leaping ahead to causation.

    There is also the tiny detail that CO2 is not even the most significant greenhouse gas, and that its effect as such is likely to cap out well short of the eschaton predicted by many.

  • Nick M

    Let’s assume that the environ-mentalists are 100% right and all their computer models are bang-on.

    Well, what can we do? We can spend a bloody fortune on windmills and Priuses and it will, according to their own predictions shave mere decimal points off the global temperature rise by 2100.

    Or we could adapt to the new conditions.

    In a perverse thought experiment kinda way I’d like to see the wildest dreams of the likes of Greenpeace enacted – no cars, no planes, me sitting at this computer pedalling a generator to keep it going only for GW to carry on regardless.

    There is a deeply perverse anthropocentric irony in claiming that I’m destroying the planet every time I leave a TV on standby.

  • Dr Pangloss

    Yet, a Russians scientist recently said we’re going into global cooling…..

    Go figure.

    Ice ages are traditionally preceded by relatively short warming periods. The current interglacial may be ending – and the erratic behaviour of the global climate we’re seeing now may indeed augur the next ice age. Or maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the climate will warm and tip, maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s doubtful that it’s got much to do with any consequences arising from the habits of mammals. We may be capable of many things, but we’d have to be really trying very very hard to make much of an impact on the planet. Perhaps we’ll reach for the stars – whatever, the planet will be here and functioning long after we’ve departed the scene.

  • We do have a modicum of climate history behind us. One bit of that history was called the “Little Ice Age”, and we are still climbing out of it. A thousand years ago, England was growing grapes and making wine, and quite happy about it.

    We’re just getting back to those halcyon days of yesteryear. Global warming does indeed seem to be real; but it follows on the heels of half a millenium of global cooling. It’s pretty hard to blame automobiles for the cooling – so let’s praise them for taking us out of the deep-freeze that killed off the Norse settlements in Greenland.

    Dr. Ellen

  • Sadly, Al was popular in Edinburgh on Sunday (scroll down if necessary):

    See here.

  • Brian

    The place where my house currently stands was, two shakes of an organic lamb’s tail ago, covered with over 100 feet of ice.

    So the climate changes. End of story.

    The global warming enthusiasts have to show…

    1. The temperature of the earth is rising (that is, all of the earth not a few selected parts of it).

    2. Tne amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising (there is even a smidgeon of evidence for this, although not very much).

    3. The rise in temperature is caused by the rise in carbon dioxide (this is always assumed, rather than proved).

    4. That the additional carbon dioxide is artificial in origin.

    So far, so bugger all evidence.

    The next stage is policy.

    5. That cutting carbon dioxide is the best (cheapest, most convenient) way to fix the problem, and

    6. The cost is worth-while.

    No enquiry into either of these points has even been considered, except by Mr Lomberg (hiss, evil).

    When Green Slime advocate all these energy saving measures, of course, it is assumed that the hard-working, self-sacrificing, noble, honest, incorruptible environmental planning board members will be allowed slightly more material reward than the rest of us.

    It doesn’t have to be all that much, as it’s really just a status thing. Besides, the servants can pull the cart along, can’t they?

  • Daveon

    Based on the latest climatic data I’ve no trouble that not only is the temperature rising, but it is currently doing so faster than any of the relevent historical data suggests has happened previouly.

    Whether or not this is down to us is a different question.

    I do know that from my time as an engineer it is quite possible to screw up stable systems by introducing loading factors into them that are less than extreme cases but can still muck up the built in feedback mechanisms.

    There are some nightmare scenarios around this which will be nasty to live through and I’m not 100% sure that our current civilisation could cope with them intact. There isn’t a comforting historical comparison we can look to.

    It is quite possible that the rapid warming could lead to dramatic cooling in areas – the shut down of the North Atlantic conveyor being the real nasty for the UK. Other scary possibilities from a purely “human” perspective would be things like glaciers in South America vanishing completely and taking with them the entire drinking water supply for several countries with millions of people living there.

    I suspect that we’re probably too late to do too much about this but from another angle, the burning of dead organisms from eons ago is a particularly dumb way to run our technological civilisation, especially when we have much better alternatives (nuclear, for example) that would be viable if we were not deluding ourselves that fossil fuels are “cheap”.

  • JB

    If these scientists are so certain where the earth’s climate is going to be in 100 years how come they can’t tell me whether it’s going to rain or shine next week?

    Predictions about the future of the earth’s climate are difficult to make. Just look at Ehrlich’s Population Bomb. I would think that a prediction about population growth and food supply would be much easier to make than a prediction about the earth’s climate yet his predictions were completely wrong. The earth may have warmed in the last century or two, but it is far from certain that it will continue to do so at the rate it has done in the past, or that it wouldn’t even be reversed by, for example, a huge and unpredictable volcanic eruption that blocks out the sun. In that case, maybe we’d all be thankful that the earth had warmed as much as it has done in order to limit the amount of cooling.

  • RAB

    Doomed Doomed! we’re all Doomed!!

    I’M sorry Captain, but the Tribbles seem to have eaten their way into a completely different thread.

  • @Daveon who wrote:

    Based on the latest climatic data I’ve no trouble that not only is the temperature rising, but it is currently doing so faster than any of the relevent historical data suggests has happened previouly.

    Is there any chance you might expand on this, referencing your evidence, and the accuracy/reliability thereof. Or is it all “just a suggestion”? My suspicion is that the period over which we have any reliable data is so short as to indicate “no worrying knowledge”.

    And, on this, why might the rest of humankind consider it sensible to “share” your nightmare?

    There are some nightmare scenarios around this which will be nasty to live through and I’m not 100% sure that our current civilisation could cope with them intact.

    And on:

    It is quite possible that the rapid warming could lead to dramatic cooling in areas – the shut down of the North Atlantic conveyor being the real nasty for the UK.

    How does the engineer in you define “quite possible”? Do you have the temperature profile preceding the last “shutdown of the North Atlantic conveyer”? Or better, a series of measurements over many such events, showing the statistical variability, for comparison with the series of measurements (that we do have) for the longish known continuum when it did not shut down. [That would be for the likelihood ratio: P(observed temperature profile | imminent shutdown) divided by P(observed temperature profile | not imminent shutdown). For those not initiated into the symbology of Bayesian statistics, 'P()' means probability and '|' means 'given'. This likelihood ratio is a very close approximation to how many times more likely it is for a shutdown of the North Atlantic conveyor to happen (leading, most likely, to an ice age) that not, given the temperature profiles that have been seen recently. I'll take bets on us having either not the faintest idea, or it being incredibly unlikely over the predictable future. And on us having not the faintest idea, what specific precautions are you taking against being run over tomorrow, rather than any other day of your life?]

    And:

    Other scary possibilities from a purely “human” perspective would be things like glaciers in South America vanishing completely and taking with them the entire drinking water supply for several countries with millions of people living there.

    Great Britain has been glacier free for quite a while. I know this summer has been rather dry (in Beaconsfield at least), but drinking water still flows out of the tap, and bathwater too. Garden sprinkler water remains available, but it seems that this is no longer at the “standard price”. Any comments on this, and whether the absence of glaciers means an absence of rain? That is beyond your term “scarey possibility”?

    You claim to be no longer an engineer — phew.

    Best regards

  • David Roberts

    Many people seem bemused by the science of the global warming debate. I offer this as a possible way out. In any argument I always have more faith in those who present information together with its sources; and less faith in those who denigrate the motives and the intelligence of those who hold a different view from themselves. I don’t claim it is infallible but I find it mostly works. There is another thing, always distrust those who are certain. Finally science normally doesn’t work by consensus.

    David Roberts

  • jk

    With the Popper book on this site’s logo, I keep waiting for somebody to make the case that, using Popperian epistemology, the predictions of global warming have not been accurate enough to support the theory. And that contradictory evidence put a lot of holes in the theory, to be kind.

    Until a solid theory is available, creating policy on it is premature. This Q and O post raises some good concerns, even though the author is sympathetic to GW.

  • veryretired

    One of my current heroes is a man named Dr. Jonah Folkman. For over 30 years, he was an outcast, a pariah, in his chosen field of cancer research because he believed that it was possible to control tumors by controlling the blood supply that allowed them to grow.

    After years of clinical research, he finally showed that cancer tumors use certain chemical signals to trick the body into building blood supplies into them, and, what’s more, that the entire concept of cancers “metastacizing” (sp?) was wrong.

    Untold numbers of people underwent unnecessary, radical surgeries, esp. mastectomies, based on the fallacious belief that escaping cancer cells from the original tumor travelled through the body and started secondary tumors elsewhere.

    As it turns out, the original tumor excretes a chemical that stunts the growth of other tumors in the body, and when it is removed, the inhibitor is also gone, so new tumors develop.

    The refinement of that inhibitor is now the subject of feverish research all over the world, and the accepted concept of how tumors spread has been significantly revised.

    There are similar stories to be told about the much scorned scientists who first proposed plate tectonics, the big bang, or the killer asteroid of 65 million years ago, to cite just a few examples. The scientific concensus is often wrong, and often held onto for reasons other than pure science.

    Considering the fact that the Earth has been in an interglacial warming phase for millenia, and specifically in a warming phase since the end of the “little ice age” a few centuries ago, it is hardly news that the climate is warming. It’s always doing something, one way or the other.

    What is hidden in all this vituperative, vindictive, and very political, debate is the alleged necessity of having large areas of human conduct placed under the control of those most hysterically claiming that the sky is falling, and only their draconian proposals can save us from ourselves.

    Oddly enough, it is the lifestyle choices of the ordinary citizen which mysteriously require the most severe controls, and there is a tranzi-legion of controllers just waiting to fly all over the world to arrange as stringent a regimen of restrictions as they can think of—on the economies and societies of the capitalist west.

    Isn’t it odd how it always works out that way. No matter what the problem, it’s always the same old villain. Why, it’s almost like a broken record, or deja’ vu, or something.

  • Dave

    Nigel,

    Is there any chance you might expand on this, referencing your evidence, and the accuracy/reliability thereof.

    Most of it is pretty available, although I would recommend going to the sources rather than the digests made by any side. I doubt if it will be practical nor sensible to try and reference the data here nor debate it. If you would like to, I can hook you up with some of the people I know in the “weather business” and you can discuss likely models with them.

    How does the engineer in you define “quite possible”?

    I explained in a little detail my view on this in the section you felt your should snip. If you’d like me to explain how this happens in control systems I’ll be glad to recommend some books. Please email me.

    Great Britain has been glacier free for quite a while.

    And that has exactly what to do with my point about the very real problems in South America that I referred to in my post?

    Although your comment that garden “sprinkler” water is available in Beaconsfield is interesting. Its certainly not in my backgarden and I’m not more than 25 miles from there.

  • @Dave/Daveon, who writes:

    Most of it is pretty available, although I would recommend going to the sources rather than the digests made by any side. I doubt if it will be practical nor sensible to try and reference the data here nor debate it. If you would like to, I can hook you up with some of the people I know in the “weather business” and you can discuss likely models with them.

    I thought this was a public debate.

    Publish links/references to your evidence here, for review and comment by everyone.

    And:

    If you’d like me to explain how this happens in control systems I’ll be glad to recommend some books.

    I’m pretty familiar with control theory thank you. You seem to be asserting that existence of complex real-world systems is sufficient to mean that your particular assumed model of climate is correct and that the proposed control by humans will be effective. Isn’t it a little more difficult that that?

    Anthropogenic and other global warming theories have been discussed before on Samizdata, recently including on 27th July and 20th July. There, evidential links were included, refuting there being a clear and dangerously strong effect from CO2 levels in preference to other explanations, including the Wegman Report against the Hockey Stick Theory (long and mathematical with summary here) and a simple but clearly scientific and evidence based summary by the late John Daly.

    The main point is that there is global warming from solar and orbital effects that are (currently) outside human control. There is also a very modest effect from CO2, that is most likely not sufficiently big to be as important as the other effects. Such sound scientific work as we have available indicates that the CO2 contribution is not that big and the benefits from reducing CO2 are not sufficient (as in no where near sufficient) to warrant the economic cost.

    An engineering analogy of the issue as currently seen is that of a bridge, in which all the effort has gone into the decorative aspects (particularly attractive to some people), but the bridge is not well enough engineered and will fall down when driven over.

    Best regards

  • abc

    Experienced north-pole explorers now regularly report degrading sea ice conditions each spring. Scientists speculated last year that summer sea ice in the Arctic may become a thing of the past. Scientists in Antarctica report that most glaciers are receeding but a few are getting bigger. A rapidly warming climate is a reality. Whether it is caused by human activity is unproven but from what I hear the weight of evidence supports it. Man-made or not I don’t think that global warming is a left/right issue.

  • abc wrote:

    Whether it is caused by human activity is unproven but from what I hear the weight of evidence supports it.

    But is he talking about the weight of evidence or the weight of propaganda?

    As he has just added to the latter, I’m rather hoping (yes really, I love evidence, it’s the best) he will prove me wrong by providing links/references to some of the former.

    Best regards

  • Worrierking

    How much of global warming can be attributed to Keith Richards’ smoking in Scotland?

  • jk

    Man-made or not I don’t think that global warming is a left/right issue. — abc

    Sadly, it is. Because anti-modernity leftists are using this issue to promote a radical environmnetal agenda. Science should not be politics, but it has been hijacked in this instance.

  • I see only two meaningful results of global warming:

    1. Everybody starts getting really good at building umbrella houses, and using the soil as their natural A/C unit.

    2. We now know that polar bears can interbreed with grizzlies. And we know from a couple years back that algae can grow inside the hollow follicles of polar bears in warmer climes.

    So we’ll all be busy undergound drinking while we hide from the giant camoflaged eating machines?

  • Midwesterner

    This(Link) may or may not be the same Dave Travis I know from our ice boat club.

    “David Travis, a climatologist at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, presented a paper at a recent American Meteorological Society conference showing a widening of day-to-night temperature ranges in the days following Sept. 11. His research includes findings that challenge prevailing views of contrails and climate.

    “Without contrails, Travis was able to measure temperatures across the continent and compare them to similar measurements taken before Sept. 11. He found that the difference between the warmest temperature during the day and the coldest temperature at night grew 3 degrees on average, and as much as 5 degrees in parts of the country where contrails were likely to form.

    “Net cooling effect

    “This would mean contrails shield the Earth from the sun during the day, causing lower temperatures, and warm it at night, trapping the Earth’s heat like a blanket. Because there are generally more flights and more trails during the day than at night, Travis speculates contrails have a net cooling effect on the Earth. His conclusion is a radical departure from the conventional theory that contrails contribute to warming.”

    Which is interesting in light of this(Link).

    And yes, that extremely short ice season was 2001/2002 when air traffic was significantly reduced. This reasonably helps to demonstrate that while we clearly have some effect on our environment, it is sometimes (as in this case) not the one researchers are expecting. It also suggests that we are effecting it in both directions and a partial remediation may be worse than none at all.

  • Jacob

    “Man-made or not I don’t think that global warming is a left/right issue.”

    Global warming should not be a left/right issue, it should be a purely scientific one.

    However, the remedies proposed are strictly left/right, ideologically based. And the fierce debate over remedies (Kyoto) has spilled over into the scientific debate.

  • abc

    But is he talking about the weight of evidence or the weight of propaganda?
    I am not a scientist myself but a friend of mine is. I consider her to be fair minded. She has no political involvement and is a genuine career scientist. She told me that she has studied the issue from both sides and she concluded that the weight of evidence supports the man-made hypothesis.

  • @abc

    An analogous situation:

    Mrs Smith says her most honest and reliable friend told her that she had a friend with most excellent eyesight who saw George Peterson leave the scene of the murder only minutes after it occurred.

    The above does not do in a court of law. I do not find your hearsay evidence sufficient, though (apart from your acceptance and promulgation of hearsay) I have no other reason to doubt your judgement. Furthermore, I have no reason at all to doubt your sincerity – I just don’t consider that particularly material to the discussion here.

    Now, please ask you fair-minded female friend who is a career scientist to let you publish here, either her written assessment (the existence of which, I agree, might be expecting too much) or at least links/references to the evidence she found most convincing.

    Best regards

  • Midwesterner

    Nigel, we do effect our environment. There is little if any room for doubt there. The question is how do we effect it? This is where the anti-technology left has it so bunged up. Like Will Rogers said, it ain’t what we know that’s the problem, it’s what we know that ain’t so.

    A simple (simple, not easy) thing like grounding all high altitude air traffic at night could make a substantial change in global temperature and actually counteract the consequences of increased solar output.

  • abc

    Global warming should not be a left/right issue, it should be a purely scientific one.
    It should also not be a purely scientific issue. The huge amount of money which is being spent on monitoring, measuring and analysing climate change indicates a serious gap between the accumulation of knowledge and the ability to actually do anything about it. It will be useless knowledge in effect. Perhaps future generations will find themselves in the unfortunate position where they are partly aware of how their own destruction will proceed but utterly helpless in the face of it.