Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Readers of the Inanities Debate Global Warming

Interesting discussion happening in the comments from yesterday. Thought I'd offer a sample in today's post and then add my one and a half cents. Yesterday, I wrote that I'd like to see a Frontline episode laying out both sides of the global warming debate. In response, Heath wrote:
"I'd like to see [opposing sides in the global warming debate] use definitive, scientific proof bolstering their opinions as opposed to them making quotes about statistics we have no way of proving. In the end, I really do not know which side to side with. I want to think global warming is real so we can get off our ass and react to changing it, but the skeptic inside me wants to disbeleive anything that may be politically driven."
Shawn came back with this:
"To me, that really confuses what ultimately should be a simple argument that needs no very special episode of Nightline to resolve: do you want to do nothing and hope there is no such thing as global warming, or do you want to make an effort just in case? ... We don't need a real debate, because there shouldn't even be a debate! Special interest groups have made a no-brainer decision into something that somehow makes people conflicted..."
Hinesy wrote: "the problem is, [global warming] isn't a dramatic effect, like the tsunami a year and a half ago. It's just this slow creeping death that is easy to ignore...so we ignore the shit out of it. It's silly."

Papadeas weighed in with: "How politicians play this is a different ballgame. I believe they are very biased and, on one end, side ideologically with industry, and on the other play Cassandra without hard data and stats to show the ignorant public."

Craig wrote: "There should be no debate. Pollution is bad, whether or not it's starting hurricanes and whether or not doom is imminent. Let's clean it up, a-holes."

Finally, Heath posed this question: "My point is, if the lines being drawn on what is considered adequate and accepted amounts of pollution, which they most certainly are, who gets to decide. You know, I've heard answer number zero everytime I ask this, yet I see everyone tap dancing around it while flaunting their ideas of absolution. Then who, pray tell, decides? WHO?!"

For me, I think the government decides. It's the government's job to protect the public from things like this, so it's their duty to get educated on the issue of global warming (which is where climatologists come in) and work to fix the problem. If the folks in charge (i.e. Bush) are only talking to one side on the issue (i.e. Michael Crichton), and censoring people in their own government when the message is different than theirs, than we Americans are, once again, dealing with dangerous incompetence. I mean a NASA climatologist came out and said something drastic needed to be done in the next 10 years or global warming's end run would be irreversible, and the central sentences in his conclusions were rewritten by some 25-year old Bush flunkie to make them more equivocal. Just because our government is being horribly run at the moment, doesn't mean we should revel in its current weakness and say it should forever be ineffectual. When the American government works well, it is a great thing.

To offer a taste of the opinions being offered on the conservative side of this issue, I give you this: On "This Week with George Stephanopolous", George Will cast aspersions on the global warming uproar by a) citing America's supposed panic about "global cooling" back in the seventies and early eighties, and b) complaining that if something like the Kyoto treaty were signed onto by all of the industrialized nations, the world expenditure would be one trillion dollars for something that, according to him, may or may not have any basis. Will says that, at any point in planetary history, the earth is either warming or cooling. I think the climatologists would agree with him, but what I think Will is conveniently omitting from his pithy observation is how fast the planet's temperature's rising. That's what's got all the eggheads in a tizzy. I think spending 1 trillion dollars worldwide to get ourselves out of danger on this issue, isn't that big a deal, especially considering that, all by ourselves, we've spent a quarter of a trillion dollars on the Iraq war. Our old friend and teacher Dr. Lacy poo-pooed the idea of global warming by citing the fact that on a timeline of planetary history, the length of time humans have existed is relatively microscopic, and the length of time we've been capable of measuring the temperature worldwide barely atomic. Obviously, Lacy was taking the long view of things by saying, in essence, the planet can take whatever we dish out. (Which begs the question, "But can we humans take it?") But I can't imagine that all of these climatologists shouting dire warnings at us are taking the short view. I read recently that about 187 million years ago, global warming was not only a real thing, but killed off nearly every living thing on this planet -- making the dinosaur extinction pale in comparison. Average temperatures were well into the 100's. What the geologists/paleontologists don't know is what caused the warming.

I think part of the reason doubt still exists about global warming is the media's often abyssmal record on accurately predicting global-scale calamities. I remember when acid rain was going to change the landscape of this country. Made the covers of Time and Newsweek. Supposedly, the acid rain would wreak havoc by defoliating trees and doing bad things to my skin if I was ever caught out in it. More recently, I was told by all so-called responsible media outlets to stock up and take shelter for 'Y2K'. Neither ever materialized. Maybe I'm being short-sighted and naive by suggesting global warming transcends this kind of bad reporting from the media, and a group-think herd mentality on the part of scientists, but I suspect I'm not. I think global warming's a very real thing.

To correct the problem, the onus is on governments to regulate businesses. Fareed Zakaria suggested (on the same "This Week" show I alluded to earlier), taxing the amount of carbon a plant puts into the air. The more carbon a plant puts out, the more they have to pay the government. If the government offers businesses the choice: operate cleanly or give us money, I guarantee you the company will start operating cleanly. Heath asks "who decides the acceptable level of pollution?" and the answer is, again, our government, or at least they should. And if the government shouldn't have the power to decide acceptable levels of pollution, than who should? No one? Should that question be left to the free market?

Anyway, I love reading everyone's opinions on this issue. Keep 'em coming. More tomorrow.

21 comments:

blankfist said...

I remember when acid rain was going to change the landscape of this country. I was told by all so-called responsible media outlets to stock up and take shelter for 'Y2K'.

Right. Exactly. Ludicrous. These are the sorts of 'panty-in-a-bunch' hysteria that ignites us to want to act against it. I mean, I agree, I thought acid rain was a problem, too. I remember that Diff'rent Strokes episode where Kim [I think that was her character name] washed her hair with rain water and it turned it green. I must've been no older than seven or so when I saw that episode, so I didn't challenge what would make a person wash their hair with rain water, but on any account, I was under the solid belief that acid rain water would, without a doubt, turn your hair green. And, for a while, if I was outside when it started to rain, I'd rush for shelter, terrified my hair would turn green.

Makes you wonder why these mysterious Chicken Littles were yelling "the acid rain sky is falling", when in fact it wasn't the cataclysmic end of the world they'd have us believe. Will global warming be? I don't know. But, my point in the previous post was, why go blindly giving bureaucratic entities the absolute okay to do what they will in the name of safety? I mean, isn't that what kinda happened with the Patriot Act? You know, for kids?

That aside, I wanted to point out something you said, Crane. In one breath you say, "for me, I think the government decides", but in the next you say, "If the [government] are only talking to one side on the issue... and censoring people in their own government when the message is different than theirs, than we Americans are... dealing with dangerous incompetence". Wow. So, you can't have your cake and eat it too? Oh I get it, you want the government to decide where these proverbial lines should be drawn, but you admit to the shortcomings of the government's ability to make decisions. And, for that last part, I agree. So, what's the answer? Here again, do we give this decision blindly to our government, have them wink and nod as they hand over another atrociously bad set of laws governed my another atrociously ill-conceived government organization that would soothe the public's current flavor-of-the-month hysteria? I'm sure if you give the government this absolution WITHOUT DEBATE, they'd make this new organization sound official! I bet they could even make it seem like we need this organization lest we'd all be reduced to shitting, pissing factories of disease and death. Maybe they could call it the Federal Department of Climate Reform, or the United States Department of Global Security? Hey, that sounds official, how can it be wrong?

I'm not saying global warming may not be a very real and scary reality, but shouldn't we go proceed with reason and facts and debate before flinging liberty out the window? If I've learned one thing, the government will take all the power and as much of your liberty as you are willing to give up.

blankfist said...

go proceed = proceed

Maybe I should proofread my entries? Possibly. Then again, I have a full time job, and I try to squeeze in the occassional post when time permits... so, needless to say, they're rushed.

blankfist said...

Did anyone watch tonight's Southpark episode? I hope so. Talk about timeliness.

Anonymous said...

blogging about your own blog is so fascinating. More please.

harwell said...

Just to re-emphasize the Global part of Global Warming and that this goes well beyond Americans and their fears of flinging liberty out the window, consider these statements:

In China, car "ownership is still minuscule in per capita terms: 7 or 8 out of every 1,000 people, compared with a global average of 120 and more than 600 in America. The number of private cars in China—about 10 million—is still only half the number of cars in America at the onset of the Great Depression. But Beijing, a city of 12m people (counting only registered residents) has 2m cars, some 80% of them in private hands. A quarter of a million of these were bought in the past two years."

And: "Even if the Chinese are not turning American in their car-using habits, their new love of motoring has worrying implications for the environment. Most of Beijing's air pollution is caused by cars. The city is often enveloped in a dirty haze, notwithstanding regulations that require cars to meet the European Union's Euro III emissions standards by 2008, in time for the Olympics."

And: "China's rapidly growing dependence on imported oil—one-third of it now for car use—is causing deep anxieties about the country's energy security. Petrol consumption will no doubt be curbed by taxes, better technologies or the use of alternative fuels. But demand for cars will go on surging. Ford's David Thomas estimates there are 450m people in eastern China with a purchasing power of over $7,000 a year; $6,000 is the usual threshold at which car-ownership begins to take off."

Think about that. Even if the guy from Ford is overestimating the market by half - and the article offers contrasting evidence to suggest that this is an overestimation - that's still 225 MILLION potential new cars producing new pollution in China. 250 million.

There are 1.3 billion people in China and 2/3 of them are under the age of 35. If I know anything about American ingenuity it's that we will have no trouble convincing them they need cars. And they have every right to buy them, and I hope we sell them to them and help stabilize the American auto industry.

But if we don't consider the ramifications this could have on our global environment right now, then greed could be the underlying reason why an entire continent is clouded in smog.

Crane's right - this is the government's job and responsibility. This is WHY we pay all those taxes. And last I checked, they just won't let any joe schmoe walk into the UN building and offer up a power point presentation...It's a global issue and it's bigger than our government and our liberties. It has to happen on a global stage and I'm simply disappointed that America isn't leading the way.

http://www.economist.com/business/displaystory.cfm?story_id=4032842

Anonymous said...

it's called blogging not boring. bring the funny back crane.

Fine we will vote dem and buy hybrids move on.

blankfist said...

Haha! Awesome. It's good to see ol' anonymous has retained her/his (I'm betting on "her") sense of humor through all this tired debate, but at least it's a debate, right? At least we're talking about it. And, nice story, Harwell, it sounds like there are a lot of people in China, dude, and it sounds like there's shocking evidence to suggest they may be driving cars. Holy shit! Driving cars?! And, with a number like 250 million new cars, it sounds terrifying. We must rush out and do something about these 250 million new cars in China! What should we do? Oh no! God help us all!

Will that have long term effects on our ecosystem? I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. But, when people throw around "250 million!" and try to move me with fear, I'm rarely moved. It sounds impressive, Shawn, I'll give you that, but I'm not altogether sure it's a problem. Like I said once, twice or a thousand times, give me facts. Period.

Now, on with the funny, Crane!

blankfist said...

And, just to be clear (before Harwell jumps back in with "but I gave you facts, slipnuts! What part of... blappity blah"), by "facts" I mean what "facts" or "evidence" do you have that suggests 250 million new cars in China will cause Global Warming, or at the very least, cause some sort of long lasting effect to our ecosystem. I want to believe you, Shawn, just remember that.

harwell said...

Heath...you live in Los Angeles. If I have to convince you that smog exists and that it exists because of cars and that it's not going anywhere, then hold my hand and I'll teach you how to tie your shoes while we're at it, you simp. Jesus H. Christ. If you can't believe your own eyes, then I don't even want you to try and believe what I have to say. I don't want your brain to explode. (At least not until the earth's own heat causes that to happen)

Does smog cause Global Warming? I DON'T KNOW AND I DON'T CARE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. Please, please, please - whoever you have reading this aloud to you just ask them to read that sentence again for me so that I can stop getting frustrated by your complete lack of retention. And whoever is reading this for Heath, please emphasize the words "Lack of retention." Thanks...

This is as far as the argument ever needs to go: Do you want clean air and clean water? Yes or no?

If you say "Yes, but..." then congratulations, there's a job waiting for you at the White House. I'm sure you'll thrive.

You can't clean up the air until you clean up the cars. Hybrids are a step in the right direction, but they're not exceptionally affordable for most right now. Don't you think many low income car owners would LOVE to buy a hybrid since they're the ones who generally have less money to spend on gas??? Our hybrids aren't at that level yet for mass ownership at all income levels. And they still use gas, dammit! We landed a robot on the moon; I suspect we can build a better engine...

JudgeHolden said...

Even if the 250 million additional cars won't by themselves finish off the world, (though I'm fairly positive they won't HELP the ecosystem), the question is what will all of those cars do to the people who live in cities like Beijing? Peggy was just in Beijing, and the pollution there was so bad that shortly after arriving there, she started feeling congested -- when she blew her nose, instead of finding what she expected to find, she discovered more than a few specks of black. For a day or two after she left this was still happening. She was congested for weeks after she got back, and that was mostly from the Beijing smog. The smog there is intolerable. It's a big white cloud that looks a lot like fog, but isn't nearly so innocuous. The citizens of Beijing breathe that crap in their whole lives. If all those bike-riding Chinese decide to buy cars as the article Shawn cited predicts, the air-quality in Beijing is going to be so bad people are going to be able to carve their initials into the air with a spoon. I don't know what effect smog has on the atmosphere over time, or what direct effect it has on global warming (though all thouse pesky climatologists seem to see a link), but it does have a practical negative effect on the people who have to live in it. Shortened life spans and an increase in cases of asthma are all facts and statistics that prove that 250 million more cars in China will make the lives of Chinese people demonstrably worse than they already are.

noahkey said...

I think ol' anonymous is Crane's dad. I mean, who else was in college during the Vietnam war AND want to read this blog of five people.

He probably thinks by not signing his name he can lay low and not embarrass Crane.

He would be wrong. Be ashamed Crane.

If it is not your dad, your blog has obviously been infilitrated by The Riddler

harwell said...

So those are stats, facts, and personal experience, Heath.

Just let us know when you're done cleaning that gigantic bloop off your face and we'll be happy to read more of your pathetic whining about the liberty you claim to be in possession of now and so afraid to lose. It's really quite amusing.

Anonymous said...

As I was saying, she stumbled upon a solution whereby nearly ninety-nine percent of the test subjects accepted the program provided they were given a choice - even if they were only aware of it at a near-unconscious level. While this solution worked, it was fundamentally flawed, creating the otherwise contradictory systemic anomaly, that, if left unchecked, might threaten the system itself. Ergo, those who refused the program, while a minority, would constitute an escalating probability of disaster.

Yes. This is about Zion.

noahkey said...

"Yes. This is about Zion"

WTF?

BOC

blankfist said...

Oh, lookee here, Shawn made an attack on my character. That’s what Dems and Repubs do when their arguments are troubled by a thing called facts. If you don’t give in to their inane bullshit, they have no recourse but to make attacks on your character. And, the attacks Shawn made were aplenty. Let’s see there was an attack on my intelligence with the whole shoe tying business, and then there was another attack on my intelligence with the “simp” line, which was funny, and then there was another one there, there, oh and there… well, you get the picture.

Shawn claims there are a lot of stats, facts and personal experience in his thinly veiled character attack above to suggest the deterioration of our ecosystem is reaching a critical limit. And, I can’t dispute the personal experience part of it (by the way, Shawn, the sky in Los Angeles right this minute is a beautifully clear and beautifully blue), but I certainly can do my part with the “stats” and “facts”. It’s not just Beijing responsible for what’s known as the Asian Brown Cloud, or the more politically correct term, “Atmospheric Brown Cloud”. This brown cloud is produced, with concentrated and high levels of pollutants, from all over Asia, but the largest concentration does come from Beijing AND Shanghai. Not only that, but the concentration of pollutants, dark emissions and aerosols coming from Beijing and Shanghai are the highest recorded from an aircraft except when recorded inside plumes from wildfires, according to a group of scientists from 13 nations who formed back in 1999 to sample plumes of pollution blowing east from China’s seacoast. Wow! That’s some serious pollution.

See, I just backed you up, Shawn, with facts. Now, let me go on record here saying I never said pollution wasn’t bad. It is bad. In a perfect world, we’d be driving hydrogen cars, but that perfect world may be a long, long ways away… or it may never arrive, because it’s debatable whether or not cold fusion is even plausible, but I digress. There’s nothing healthy about breathing in noxious pollutants, right? I mean, we know this. But, we breathe them in every day. And, if you own a car, you’re breathing them in and adding to the pollution problem. Direct exposure to heavy pollutants is absolutely not healthy, and that’s one reason we have chimneys in our homes, catalytic converters in our cars, and so on. But, I’m not talking about direct exposure because we can all agree that it’s bad for you. The key word here being “direct exposure”. I’m talking about pollution that causes global warming… and it does, in a sense.

Here’s how it works. Let’s go back to the Asian Brown Cloud I mentioned earlier. The cloud is dark and mostly made up of soot, which blocks the sun’s rays and absorbs heat, thus artificially cooling the earth beneath it, which in turn can cause less evaporation from the ocean, causing less rainfall, which can cause regional droughts. This is all according to Veerabhadran Ramanathan, the Indian scientist responsible for discovering the Asian Brown Cloud, although I couldn’t imagine it to be too difficult to spot.

Look at that! Science! Fact! Stats! Wow. We’re on a roll. Soon, however, research discovered the aerosols (particles such a soot) cooled and soon dropped from the sky, leaving much of earth’s atmosphere relatively pristine. And, in the US, pollution is brighter than the Asian Brown Cloud, due largely to efficient US combustion processes which create less soot, which contributes less to the short term global warming because the lighter clouds reflect heat back into space rather than absorbing it. This is all according to an atmospheric scientist at Columbia University named Dr. Surabit Menon. Google him at will.

This is the real pollution we’re facing: the kind that settles to the earth, leaving the air “relatively pristine” as Dr. Menon put it. Remember the huge plumes of smoke bellowing out from NY after 9/11? Mostly soot. And, what happened to the people surrounding New York? What about Jersey? Hell, the rest of us? Did our ecosystems deteriorate into a post apocalyptic Mad Max world? No, The people surrounding NY saw ash fall back to the earth and… the air becoming clear again. The black in Peggy’s tissue was largely from the soot in Beijing, and, yes, direct exposure to these pollutants is a bad, bad thing. My advice? Don’t go to Beijing. There. Your problem is solved. But, don’t think this sort of pollution is causing long standing global warming, because the real science behind it debunks that myth, and until the myths surrounding long standing global warming are proven to be factual, I think we should at least entertain the idea that maybe, just maybe, we don’t go rushing forth making laws (without debate, sheesh) to stop what hasn’t been proven. It’s just plain silly.

Anonymous said...

Damn. That shut everyone's mouth bitches!

blankfist said...

Yes, I guess they're still wiping the bloop off of their faces, anon.

harwell said...

That's Heath Michaels, folks: The Brown Cloud of Logic.

blankfist said...

That wasn't in any way a pathetic rebuttal, Shawn. It was well thought out; yet, it’s ripe with the sort of brevity that is clear, bright and illustrative of a larger, more profound idea. Man, your graduate degree in whatever writing it was has really shown it’s worth just now. Brilliant.

Craig Moorhead said...

I walked through downtown DC yesterday and had a headache from the fumes. And this is where our president lives.

Who gives a shit about global warming? I just want to breathe.

Clean it up, a-holes.

blankfist said...

We're all free to speak our mind and not be locked away!