Wednesday, June 06, 2007
On Global Warming, Let Cooler Heads Prevail
NASA Chief Michael Griffin apologized today for his controversial remarks last week when he said in a radio interview: "I have no doubt that ... a trend of global warming exists. [But] I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.”
Though he realized belatedly the minefield he was walking into, I have news for Griffin: I agree with you. I like to think I'm not an anti-science Luddite, so I hope you believe me when I say my beef with the global warming alarmists is about how climate science has been interpreted in the public dialogue.
Griffin was spot on when he said today about the global warming debate "unfortunately, this is an issue which has become far more political than technical." Given the poor level of insight that most politicians (and indeed, the public as well) have about climate science, I am extremely wary about the productivity of a political situation.
After all, it seems like "global warming" to most people means something bad that happens from buying Hummers and voting Republican--and if neither bad habit is curtailed within the next few years, we're all going to die. News flash, people: a warm weekend in January 2007 isn't a doomsday symbol, it's an "anomaly", i.e. a good day to have a picnic outdoors.
While we're in a period of warming right now (which, for the past 40 years or so has been fueled by greenhouse gas emissions), I don't want to hear anyone breathlessly exclaim how this year is hotter than last year or five years ago--that is statistically irrelevant.
Some obvious facts are too often overlooked. How many people know that global warming and the depletion of the ozone layer are two entirely separate issues? Or that the Earth has experienced warming and cooling in the past, cyclically and over long periods of time (hundreds of thousands of years)?
So yes, global warming exists. We should be working to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, for both environmental and geopolitical reasons. But that doesn't mean succumbing to the hysteria that has enveloped the global warming debate. Our planet is a strong and fascinatingly complex system, and it is not one so unstable that anything we do in the near-future is going to have a permanent, "tipping point" effect.
Whatever needs to be done to adequately address global warming (and I don't think that entails anything drastic), I don't want to see economically unfeasible pipe dreams pursued, or worse yet, see Sheryl Crow's "one square of toilet paper" rule enacted.
My sentiments may come as an inconvenient truth to some political agendas, but I think the use of scare tactics with regards to global warming is disingenuous and ultimately unhelpful.