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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Climate Change

I’m going to come out of the closet: I am a climate change sceptic.

I can’t deny the fact that the climate is changing… I don’t need a climatologist to tell me it’s getting hotter. What I am not yet convinced of is that human endeavour has had any significant influence in creating or aggravating it.

I’m not saying that I reject the hypothesis that humans have caused or contributed to climate change, just that I am not convinced of it yet.

All of the people I consider to be reliable scientific authorities have come out in support of the hypothesis. While that lends credence to it, none of those people are climatologists, so I don’t really know how much they can be trusted on the issue.

I keep hearing that there is “overwhelming evidence” supporting the hypothesis. While that may well be true, I haven’t seen much of it. What evidence I have seen seems to be circumstantial at best… hardly what I would call compelling.

Perhaps I’ve heard too many Chicken Little stories about killer asteroids, killer flu and killer bees to take it seriously when seemingly alarmist claims are made about the end of the world. Whenever someone starts going on about how mankind is causing its own downfall, my Bullshit Detector starts beeping like crazy.

I think the main reason I can’t overcome this doubt is that whenever someone starts spouting statistics about how much carbon dioxide we spew into the atmosphere and how much the average sea temperature has changed, the biggest piece of information seems to be missing: the baseline comparison.

It seems to me that things like atmospheric carbon content and average water temperature are the sorts of things that tend to fluctuate over time. What hasn’t been made clear to me is what would be a normal, “natural” amount of fluctuation. Apparently these things have fluctuated very little over the last few thousand years, which leads me to believe that we’re due for a change anyway.

Another problem is that there seem to be so many different proposed causes: carbon emissions, methane emissions, ice-cap albedo, solar flares, deforestation and so on. In my experience, whenever a zillion different causes are linked to one effect, those causes are usually all crap.

Before anyone has a panic attack, I do like to pursue, at least in principle, many of the suggestions put forward to help “combat” climate change. Not because I think I’ll be able to make any difference to it, but because they just make sense.

It makes sense to use fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones: they last longer and use less power, which means I save money in the long run. If everyone else did it too, it would allow us to make our limited resources stretch further… I’m all for efficiency.

The same goes for driving Hybrid cars… if they didn’t cost as much as two normal cars, I would seriously consider driving a Prius. When they become more ubiquitous and affordable I will buy one for sure. Again, it’s just a matter of efficiency.

Right, so: I challenge you Chicken Littles – convince me that I should be worried about climate change, but please keep it simple and straight-forward.