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Feb 16, 2007

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Ted Gossard

Yes, Michael. Politics interfering with science. Good points.

I'm still not convinced, however, that there isn't something to this global warming. Though not to the point Gore takes it.

Michael Kruse

I am actually going to conclude this series with some observations about global warming although this series is not exclusively about that. Here are just a few thoughts.

There is no question that on balance the global temperature has risen slightly over the past century. About 1 degree F as I recall.

There is no question that the temperature has risen steadily since the late 1970s, although the hotest year on record was 1998 and the global temperature has remained pretty stable since, despite CO2 emissions increasing by 20%.

It is very likely that the global temperature was warmer about 1,000 years ago that it is today and higher than the projections of the IPCC for 50-100 years from now. The National Science Administration gives about 2 to 1 odds that this was the case.

It appears likely that human produced gasses have contributed to recent warming.

The challenge is in discerning how much impact the gasses have had and what the impact of more gasses well be.

For instance, it is tempting to conclude that more gasses will mean corresponding increases in more heat. Imagine the heat from the sun entering your car and warming up the inside. Eventually it warms up to a point and stablizes. Similarly the gasses absorb only so much heat and then each additional amount contriubtes to less and less to trapping heat. Some scientist believe the gasses in the atomosphere are at or near that level.

My point in this series of posts is not to reach a defninitve conclusion about warming but hopefully to demonstrate that we live in a world of uncertainity with competing risks that must be weighed. It is also to highlight why science simply can't be left to the experts.

Matt Wiebe

Thanks for these thought-provoking posts on this. I admit to having been swept up by a lot of the global warming hoopla, but this does raise some healthy skepticism about scientific alarmism.

Michael Kruse

You are welcome Matt. You used what I consider to be the magic words: "healthy skepticism."

Matt Wiebe

Yes, I definitely prefer the healthy type to the life-crippling type!

Ted Gossard

Thanks, Michael. I do strongly agree that we can't bank our confidence on what expert scientists say. And it's important that they disagree in degree on this. Evident in the Diane Rhem show, the day after the Al Gore film was released.

Sam Carr

Michael, I agree that there is much uncertainty to the science as far as GW is concerned but there is absolutely no doubt about the deleterious effects of pollution, urbanisation and industrialization generally on biodiversity foer example.

Anyone who works with endangered species knows that species that have had stable populations for millenia are now getting wiped out at a fast rate.

Scientists may blow hot and cold on GW but if the result is greater protection for the biosphere, I'm all for it!

Michael W. Kruse

Sam, I largely agree. Here are some distinctions I would make. Technically, CO2 is not pollution. Plants and trees call it air. :) When we look at the period between 1970 and 2000 we that according to the EPA:

GDP has increased 161%
Vehicile miles travelled increased 149%
Energy consumption increased 42%
US Population 3increased 39%

Yet the amount of the six principal pollutants has decreased 25%. Now almost almost all that decrease happened prior to 1995 and it has been stable ever since. But that means that per capita pollution is still in decline.

I am not sure we know how stable the species levels have been in the past but the evidence does indicate depletion happening now (though not at the rates the Mr. Gore would have us believe).

I can't remember which International agency it was at the moment that showed that as per capita GDP increases up to about $3,000 a year pollution per capita increases. As the number goes higher the pollution per capita goes into decline. Once people reach a certain level of economic prosperity they turn to environmental concerns.

The two places where see that highest rates of pollution and environmental degredation are in nations mired in poverty and totalitarian (of recently totalitarian) nations.

Ironically, economic growth in these area, which is tied to a growing world economy may be necessary to achieve the prosperity that will create a more comprehensive focus on envrionmental concern. Yet that very growth also will lead to more strains and challenges on reducing per capita pollution.

I will write more on this later but my central point I am making is the complexity and uncertainty that is inherent in all of this. Rigid moralizing on CO2 emissions or denial that our economic actions have consequnces strike me as inappropriate responses to God's call to creation stewardship. We have to embrace and address the complexity.

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