AskaSciBlogger: Global Warming Debate


I read this article in the NRO, and the author actually made some interesting arguments. 'Basically,' he said, 'I am questioning the premise that [global warming] is a problem rather than an opportunity.' Does he have a point?...

While I am no expert in giving out answers to global warming I do know how to ask questions and would therefore like offer readers the chance to digest some views on the subject. Everyone knows that the debate about global warming can be broken down into several headings. In order to spark debate let me pose them as questions, then refer the reader to some interesting essays. The questions that have me fascinated are:

1. Is the warming of Earth due to a natural climate cycle or due to humankind's burning of fossil fuels?

2. If global warming is occuring because the planet is in the midst of a warm interglacial period (called the Holocene), will humankind's burning of fossil fuels increase the temperature above and beyond what would naturally occur?

3. Will human-induced global warming disrupt the natural glaciation cycle, or eliminate it completely?

4. Whether it be from a natural cycle or from human activity, will global warming raise the average global temperature to a degree that guarantees permanent damage to the flora and fauna of Mother Earth?

5. Are there any conceivable benefits to humankind from global warming? If so, do they outweigh the risk to those humans living in parts of the world that would be damaged by warming?

6. Should humankind be allowed to adapt to a world under the influence of global warming, even if it means leaving certain countries to live in other ones, or forming new countries?

7. Does chaos theory predict that global warming will lead to inevitable catastrophic changes in Earth's ability to sustain life, or will our species be able to adapt and survive living on a warmer, more inhospitable planet?

8. Does humankind have a moral obligation to stop using fossil fuels, even if it means returning to a more primitive way of life? Do the governments of the world's nations have the right to restrict individual freedom in the name of lowering the average global temperature?

For those who would like to read some contrarian views on the dangers of global warming I suggest these essays:

Global Warming: Enjoy it While You Can

Warmer earth might be welcome trend

Oh, for cryin' out loud - why not just link to the be-all and end-all of information on the global warming controversy? Wikipedia, come and bury us with facts and figures!

Anyone who reads this entire Wikipedia entry and clicks on every link in it is either Al Gore, Michael Fumento, or blessed with an unusual amount of free time. Good luck!

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1. Global warming today is mainly due to burning of fossil fuels. This is the conclusion of IPCC and other serious scientific studies.
2. Earth will obviously become warmer than otherwise, but go far enough back and you'll find an even warmer time. The problem right now is the speed of the warming so that the biosphere doesn't have time to adapt, not that a warmer world is in itself worse.
3. Unlikely. The CO2 we emit will in the end be absorbed in the oceans and then the warming spike will stop and glaciations will continue. OTOH, I don't think anyone knows exactly why the current ice ages started so we don't really know what it'll take to end the cycle.
4. Define "permanent damage". Species will go extinct, but given a few million years new species will come to replace them.
5. Of course, some will benefit, but on the average change is bad because people have adapted their lifestyles to the current climate, built coastal cities that will be flooed when sea levels rise etc. Even those areas where climate become more hospitable may find themselves in trouble as they get swamped by refugees from less lucky places.
6. If we don't reduce emissions we have no choice but to adapt as best we can. Even if we eliminate emissions the climate is going to continue to warm for half a century so some adaptation is unavoidable.
7. Species can, given time, adapt. Unfortunately they aren't given that time, and evolution of new species if glacially slow from a human perspective.
8. We have an obligation to phase out fossil fuels, but this will not force us to return to any primitive way of life. It just mean we have to focus our advances on other areas. Only if we stretch the ecosystem too far do we risk a collapse of civilization that would lead us back to primitive living styles. (for the few who are lucky enough to survive).
8b. Governments don't only have the right but the obligation to prevent people from hurting other people, and that includes limiting how much they may pollute the atmosphere.

By Thomas Palm (not verified) on 30 Aug 2006 #permalink

I've read that global warming is so bad that it has even affected the sun. Apparantly the sun is the hotest it's been in the last 1,000 years. I don't know how they know that.