Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The climate debate

As you may know, I listen to a regular podcast on this website. While it is an economics based site, once in a while they have on climate scientists. This week the format was a bit different. In place of having a single person and an in depth interview it was a debate forum with two climate scientists. The science of climate has become a desperate struggle of two sides - one convinced that the presence of man and burning of fossil fuel has caused an in ordinate amount of warming and that the risk of doing nothing is catastrophic the other convinced that the contributions of man are intermingled with all the other factors and the "damage" of man cannot be separated from nature. Here are some of the debate points that stuck out and my characterization:

  • The burning of fossil fuel has the positive effect of reducing global poverty. No one wants more poverty.
  • CO2 was discovered as a greenhouse gas in the 1800s
  • We do not fully understand all the factors that go into climate change.
  • All the computer models over predict warming at every level of CO2.
  • Melting of the polar ice is not a danger for sea levels - see glass with scotch on the rocks.
  • Melting of land mass ice is a danger - if all the ice on the world's land mass melted it would raise the ocean level seven meters.
  • There is prediction of sea levels rising one inch every decade, but that is not as catastrophic as localized effects like a hurricane that can raise the water level locally 15 feet in a few days.
  • Civilizations can adapt to the raising of ocean levels as long as it is over time.
  • France went from near zero nuclear power to 80% nuclear power - any nation can do the same when it merely has the political will.
  • Not all climate scientists want massive change, just making buildings more energy efficient is fine.
It was refreshing to listen to what we "know" about climate science. I conclude that the potential risk is great, but we have no conclusive evidence that man is causing the risk or merely a bit player in a epic production. I recommend that everyone listen to the debate. 

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