Daily Outrage: 19 August, 2010
Even though the science is startlingly simple, support for the head-in-the-sand crowd is increasing in public opinion polls. There is a logical disconnect here that begs for an explanation.
First, there are 5 basic observations which cannot be disputed:
1) Atmospheric energy directly effects weather and average global temperature.
2) Carbon dioxide molecules absorb and trap infrared radiation (heat energy).
3) Human consumption of sequestered carbon as fuel is increasing atmospheric CO2.
4) Changes in available CO2 directly effect energy gets trapped in the atmosphere.
5) Weather patterns are changing and average global temperature is rising.
All of these things are true; even the last statement has been documented thoroughly. The difference of opinion centers around degree of causation between observations 4 and 5. Most reputable researchers quietly agree that this link is well established, while a vocal minority disputes their data. One web guru tells us that 31,000 Americans with degrees in science reject this connection.
While 31,000 looks like a big number, the actual number of people in the U.S. with science degrees is more than 22,000,000. The 1/7 of 1% of American scientists, who support this view, are so proportioned as to define a lunatic fringe. Though arguments based on popular opinion are hardly scientific, scientific opinion derives from repeatable research. Still, scientific majorities have been known to be wrong; so let’s consider the fringe theory. They tell us that climate change is being driven by sunspots and a long period solar cycle.
The evidence is not without factual basis. Our Sun is a variable star with fluctuating energy output that does affect our planet’s atmosphere. Say they are correct, that solar variation is the primary cause for atmospheric heating; observation 4 is still true. That means that our voracious appetite for carbon based fuels is making things worse.
Whether the human generated increase in atmospheric CO2 is the direct and primary cause of global climate change, or merely exacerbating the effect, is immaterial. Decreasing CO2 will help slow down the heating of our atmosphere; so what’s the problem?
The real issue is confidence. Our public discourse is so polluted with lies and self-serving half-truths that Americans no longer believe anyone or anything. This skepticism is wise when dealing with politicians; it is foolhardy in the face of a warming planet.
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