TimManBlog

Whatever I'm Thinking

Climate Change Common Sense

Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media writes a clean and sober review of what he calls another climate change food fight.

“The Berkeley Earth Project [BEST] reported that they were preparing four papers, one of which confirmed that there had been a general rise in global average earth-surface temperature over the last 200 years…The results weren’t really all that dramatic — the general response was ‘well, duh!’  It was the PR that was flawed.”

For some of that “flawed PR”, see the Yahoo! News story “Skeptic finds he now agrees global warming is real.”  As I see so often, a popular media outlet lazily distorts a story in order to reinforce their thought-template on the subject.  The debate is not about whether the Earth is warming; it’s about whether the cause has been human activity.  The Yahoo! article and most of the PR for the BEST studies misses this point.

Martin lists some examples of how the world was once warmer than it is today:

“In 200 CE there were wine grapes being grown in northern England, and about 1000 CE bread grains were being grown successfully in Greenland: is it really warmer than it was then?  Doesn’t look like it — but that makes trouble for the idea that we’re warming unusually.”

So it was a lot warmer back in 200 and 1000 than it is today — and warmth back then could not have been caused by SUVs.  Human-caused global warming seems like a passing hysteria that comes over us from time to time.  Anybody remember the saccharine scare?

This debate illustrates two human tendencies I’ve seen over the course of time:

First:  We emphasize our personal experiences over second-hand knowledge.  People remark that Hurricane Irene was exceptional even though hurricanes have hit New York many times before.  Same thing for the tornado outbreak in Alabama last Spring — we’ve seen similar tornado outbreaks before.  So we insist that today’s warming is an exceptional event because we never personally experienced the climates of the Middle Ages.

Second:  We tend to believe that we are the ultimate cause of events.  It’s an arrogant belief but it’s often true.  At one time there was a great plague and people believed their sinfulness was the cause of it.  Flagellants went from village to village whipping themselves as a form of penance.  When Muslim terrorists flew planes into buildings to knock them down and kill people, many asked “What did we do to make them hate us?”  Even if it casts us as EVIL, we like to believe that we are the ultimate cause of events because it gives us the ultimate hope of control over those same events.  It’s a similar impulse that propels the man-caused global warming belief:  since it is getting warmer it goes without saying that humans are the cause of it, not natural cycles or sunspots, etc.  Just ask Yahoo! News.

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