Global Warming: Man Made or Not – So What?

February 13, 2007

In the debate of Global Warming, skeptics often claim that while temperatures and greenhouse gas (GHGs) concentrations are up, the cause is not man made emissions. Stretching it, man made GHG emissions cause only a tiny part such as, say, 3% of the total. Hence we need not and cannot take action. Nor should we. We are not responsible, liable or guilty. Such is the stand of a skeptic.

Update 2/21/2007: Post 3 in my Global Warming essay is now live – click to proceed to Post 3 – Few Like It Hot. This preview “Man made Or Not – So What” is out of date and is updated in Post 3. Previous posts in the series include: Post 1 – Culprits, Scoundrels and Villains and Post 2 – Politics, Scandals, Mass Committees. Check them out, it might be good for your health.

Out-of-date – See above [Below is a preview of my Global Warming essays] Out-of-date – See above.

Some of the skeptics make valid points and should not be ignored. They may possibly be right. There is nothing wrong with drawing different conclusions from the same ideas and data. Consider that while most scientists agree with Einstein’s relativity theory, others don’t. Life goes on, no big deal. No one owns or knows the answer. Unfortunately, Global Warming is an urgent issue and we must decide on a course of actions real soon. Debate is nice but results are better.

Here, I won’t rehash the basic point of who or what causes Global Warming. That’s for other parts of these essays. The question is nearly irrelevant. Temperatures are up. Concentrations of GHGs are up. That we must deal with without the distractions of some silly blame game.

From my particular point of view, the evidence is overwhelming. Man made GHG emissions over the last 250 years are the main culprits that may eventually kill us all. The real question is not why or how temperatures are up but what the heck we do about it. Let’s run a little allegory on that theme.

The Tale about How We Survive or Die

The vast majority of us will die of “natural” causes, such as cancer or heart disease. There are several real life options how to deal with such a probability. One approach is the prevention of the diseases. Another approach is to cure those inflicted. A third option is to do nothing because the condition is “natural” and/or countermeasures are “beyond-ones-control”, “against-ones-beliefs”, “too-expensive” or perhaps “hopeless”.

Prevention of the diseases makes a lot of sense. Eat healthy food, exercise, don’t smoke, drink one glass of red wine a week but no more, munch aspirin, use green light bulbs, pray, check your prostate/breasts and/or colon regularly. Do not indulge in poor behavior such as smoking pot, burning wood, popping pills, robbing banks or watching TV. Those are good guidelines but they do not guarantee the outcome. Nothing compels anyone to follow these suggestions. In fact, few do and most never will.

Curing the diseases becomes an important issue if you are inflicted with one of them. At that point, prevention becomes meaningless. It doesn’t matter if the condition is caused by our own behavior, genetics, the environment, imported oil or plain bad luck. All that matters is what you do about it. You’ll either pursue the third “no hope” option (below). Or you’ll engage in a fight involving many available, but expensive technologies. These technologies usually come at a personal price – they carry severe side effects, costs and are not guaranteed to work.

Many people choose the third option – throwing up their arms in despair and fade away. We all have to make decisions, no blame allowed. Some feel they have a right to lazily smoke, drink, use drugs and, when disease strikes, continue to lazily smoke, drink and use drugs. The dire side effects of curing the disease may be too overwhelming or even against religious beliefs. Procrastinators delay facing facts, going back to bed. Fools refuse to acknowledge reality and head for Las Vegas. The glove does not fit all hands. But it is wrong if this option is applied across the border.

Let’s Beat Global Warming

Global Warming is not different from the little tale above. We are inflicted with the disease of overheating temperatures, inertia and, as George W. Bush puts it, an addiction to oil. Little does it matter if the problem is natural or unnatural, man made, cyclic, religious, magical, wizardly or even a partial hoax.

We know where we are. Prevention and cures are the true issues, not the hand wringing of Why or How Come. The options are exactly the same as in the little tale above; only the means are different. Here are two proactive although generic ways to deal with Global Warming. Both ways are the main subjects of this series of essays and I’ll be a lot more specific in time:

  • Start real preventive actions. The cancer is here in force but hopefully not yet so irreversible that we are already lost. We must tackle the primary suspect, GHG emissions, real soon. Many well understood equitable options already exist. They are technically simple but hard to act on, tough to face and grim to implement. Enforcement is not a popular subject, nor are mandates. Options boil down to political willpower, leadership, mandatory limits (caps), monetary incentives (taxes and/or option trading), technical innovation, significant personal sacrifices and a lot of luck. Incidentally, the current version of the Kyoto Protocol is neither a workable solution, nor an excuse not to act.
  • Work on a cure. A cure means reducing current high temperatures. Some early ideas are available but difficult to apply. Scientists and engineers look at “out polluting the pollution”, shooting a few thousand giant or millions of small mirrors into space, deploying huge stand-alone scrubbers, bombing clouds and another few bioengineer ideas. Prevention is much easier than finding these types of cures. If prevention fails, these ideas may be our only remaining weapons. (Perhaps Sir Richard Branson’s $25 million reward will help, as offered by the Virgin Airlines chief to whoever can suck a billion tons of carbon gases out the atmosphere. Actually, perhaps another way is to ground his and other airlines.)

The third “do nothing” option is not for most of us as the crisis pressure escalates. I don’t believe we are sufficiently fatalistic to just disappear into the eternal sunset together with our kids, grand kids and the rest of the tribe. Saying that we need not, cannot or should not take action to prevent or cure the Global Warming disease is utterly wrong for the vast majority of us. The approach is incredibly cynical and unethical. Perhaps experts such as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney can stomach it, but us peons cannot. Such a policy should not be forced on us but it may be: to date, there are no truly effective preventions or cures in sight. The political willpower certainly is not present – anywhere. Nor is personal responsibility sighted in any evident manner. The suicidal third option is in effect by default. That is very bad news to most of us.

Thanks, Karl

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2 Responses to “Global Warming: Man Made or Not – So What?”

  1. rooxy said

    er. . . i think . . well . .ummm . .yeh..global warming isnt caused by man cause water is the main cause and waters natural! . . . er. . . yeh . . .right.

  2. Karl said

    Hi Rooxy

    You’re absolutely right. Humidity, or water vapor, in the atmosphere is the biggest greenhouse “gas”. You are also sort of correct saying this is a natural process we can do nothing about. No one argues those points.

    Atmosphere water vapors come, mostly, from the evaporation of ocean surface water. While that is a pretty volatile process, we can’t really do anything about it. The question, though, is why evaporation occurs in the first place. Some it certainly is “natural” but here is the trap:

    Global Warming causes temperatures to go up, both in the atmosphere and the oceans. That will cause increased evaporation, which being a greenhouse “gas” will cause further increases in temperatures in a “positive feedback loop”. Water vapors are associated with Global Warming and, worse, part of the many feedback loops that accelerate the warming.

    Water vapors are bad news but, we actually can do something about them and that is to reduce emissions of carbon gases..

    Karl

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