If you want to understand how it feels to have your emotions twisted first one way and then the other, I recommend doing your civic duty and being a juror. The opening statements will remind you that your limited animal brain is only wired for evaluating simple, clear-cut, short-term situations.

In that spirit, I recommend watching the following two documentaries back-to-back:

An Inconvenient Truth (Film & DVD)
The Great Global Warming Swindle (YouTube, 8 parts)

The experience should leave you thoroughly confused. Is humankind on the road to Waterworld, or are we a bunch of hysterical wolf-criers?

I happen to live in the area of the world with the potentially greatest global warming impact, in the form of increased hurricane activity and flooding of low-lying coastal areas. I should have a deep vested interest in getting people to panic about this topic, if only for my own self-preservation. However, whenever I see a concept that has consensus among both politicians and the mass media, my spider-sense starts tingling. Historically, those groups love it when people suspend critical thinking. Emotional panics enable the passing of self-serving legislation that would be rejected under rational conditions.

You should do your own research and come to your own conclusions about global warming. Even if it means disagreeing with everyone else. The phrase man-made global warming contains two parts: man-made, and global warming. One part might be true, both parts might be true, or both parts might be false. There are big implications to the truth or falsity of either assertion. My current thinking on this topic is:

  1. Wrong Focus Carbon emissions, pollution, and reduced biodiversity are the symptoms and not the disease. The root cause of most ecological problems is exponential population growth on a limited planet. Population has doubled since 1969, and humans now consume 25% of the planet's resources. It's estimated that the planet can only support 2 billion people at the (undoubtedly bloated and wasteful) USA standard of living. Anyone who cares about a livable planet and a proper legacy for our descendants should be lobbying for population stability via sex education and wide (or free) availability of contraception. Any other focus is like giving an aspirin to a gunshot victim—at best, temporary relief before the next crisis sets in.
  2. Two Problems Cancel Each Other Out A corollary to exponential population growth is that we are rapidly depleting the earth's natural resources. At what point does the availability of fossil fuels start to decline? Now! Peak Oil has already started to raise gasoline prices and will eventually make it too expensive to keep using fossil fuels for individual transportation. This trend will drive the deployment and adoption of alternative transportation technologies during the next 25 years. Nuclear power plus electric vehicles is the most realistic (read: mass-deployable without lowering living standards) alternative to high oil prices and will automaticaly and massively lower carbon emission levels.
  3. We're Not Gods A perspective based on geological time (i.e. not whether it happens to be hot this week, but on patterns and cycles going back millions of years) indicates that large-scale climate changes are driven by outside factors beyond human control. The earth has recurring ice ages caused by about 6 factors of which atmospheric CO2 composition is just one. Depending on what random mood the earth and the sun are in, we could cut carbon emissions to zero and still see our glaciers melt, or we could make CO2 all day long and still enter an ice age like the one that just recently finished.

Let's be less emotional, more humble, and not force other human beings to live by our gut feelings and ideologies. Hysteria and legislation are only justified when there is incontrovertible scientific evidence for a problem and (more importantly) a scientific guarantee that the proposed change will definitively solve the problem. As of July 2007 and based on current evidence, I don't think that the man-made-man-solvable part of the global warming theory meets those two requirements to my satisfaction. I would rather support population stability and realistic energy alternatives like nuclear power. That combo seems more certain in terms of limiting human impact on the planet, while providing enough electricity to replace fossil fuels and industrialize underdeveloped countries to the standard of living that you and I enjoy.

Additional Resources

Optimum Population Trust organization advocating population stability in the UK and worldwide.
Global Warming Test test your knowledge and common sense in this simple 10-question test.
A Crude Awakening best documentary about Peak Oil.
The Oil Drum the most comprehensive source for energy news and opinion.
Earth Story (UK) excellent documentary series about the earth's geology, evolution, and climate.
A Case for Nuclear-Generated Electricity one of the best books for a general audience.

Posted on Sunday, July 15, 2007
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