Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Worst People in the World: Ignorant Global Warming Deniers

There is a group of global warming that I would classify as the most morally despicable people on the planet.

Apparently they are able to look upon the potential destruction of whole cities and nations without a twinge of conscience. Somebody with a twinge of conscience would see a responsibility to understand the issue before they say anything - and not try to avoid trying to convince people to adopt a beliefs that would lead to destruction of such magnitude.

Specifically, I am referring to people who write and speak on the issue of global warming but who lack an understanding of even the most basic science involved in this issue.

I am not using this term to refer to everybody who denies global warming. Many of them do not know any better. Of those, many are simply too stupid to be held morally culpable for their errors. Others have an opinion but, recognizing that their opinion is ill-founded, they are not out there trying to convince others that their opinion is correct. This behavior is also morally culpable - but not as culpable as that of the people I am writing about today.

I am also not writing about those people who have an intelligence slightly above that of parrots. They have the ability to recognize the difference between global warming claims and anti-global-warming claims. Of these, they have the capacity to parrot the claims of the latter. But, like a parrot, they do not understand what they say. They are merely repeating what they hear.

The people I am speaking of are people who have a wide audience, who have decided to put pen to paper keyboard to electric circuit) and try to persuade people that global warming is not really happening. Once a person with an audience decides that he is going to try to persuade others of a particular fact, he takes on the obligation of making sure that this is a fact. A person with good desires would be strongly averse to giving others advice that others might follow to their doom. If he perceives a risk as a result of his lack of understanding, he would warn his audience that his claims are not to be taken seriously.

If you know somebody who is a global warming denialist, then ask them this question.

"According to this theory that you say is wrong, how is it that CO2 or some other greenhouse gas is supposed to result in higher temperatures? How do greenhouse gasses work to trap in heat?"

In asking this question, do not accept some parroted cliché about how greenhouse gasses act as a blanket letting sunlight in and trapping it here. If this is the answer you get, then ask, "But how does it do this? What are the mechanisms in play that allow sunlight in and traps it here?"

If they cannot answer this question, yet they are involved in convincing others that global warming is a hoax, then they are guilty of the charge that I have leveled above. The magnitude of their moral culpability is directly proportional to the size of the audience they are speaking to.

Here's the basic story - made simple and easy to understand.

Greenhouse gas molecules have a lot of relationships between the various parts of the molecule. Each relationship is associated with a specific energy level. When a photon strikes this molecule, and its energy level is close to the energy levels of one of these relationships, that energy gets absorbed by the molecule.

We see this by shining a light through a glass box that is filled with one of these gasses. We take the light that comes out the other side and split it up to form a spectrum. That spectrum has a number of black lines in it. These are called absorption lines. These are the energy levels that the gas in the box absorbs and did not make it through the box.

The more gas we put in the box, the more energy it absorbs.

A greenhouse gas is a special type of gas that lets visible light - the type of energy we get from the sun - pass through it. It has few relationships that match the energy levels of photons of visible light.

However, they have many relationships that match the energy levels of infrared light - the type of light that the earth emits into space.

This is how it happens that a greenhouse gas lets light from the sun into the atmosphere, but prevents the heat of the earth from escaping into space. As we increase the amount of this gas in the atmosphere, we do not reduce the amount of light coming in, but we reduce the amount of heat getting out.

Trapping more and more energy in the atmosphere, things get warmer.

The morally responsible denier will know this, and he will be able to give a coherent story as to where the problem is in this basic account. He will fail, because this is basic science, easily demonstrated in any laboratory that has the proper equipment, and that nobody who works in physics or chemistry would deny. The only way to increase the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere without a corresponding increase in the amount of energy absorbed is through the use of magic or divine intervention.

Ultimately, this moral argument does not require that the scientists are right in making these claims. The denialist is already morally culpable simply by putting whole cities, nations, and popoulations at risk.

It does not matter whether the drunk driver actually does get home without killing anybody. He has already proved himself morally culpable by making the attempt. The attempt to get home alone shows his callous disregard for the lives and well-being of others.

It does not matter whether the person who finds a gun on the ground, aims it at somebody else, and pulls the trigger, discovers that the gun is not loaded. He has already proved himself morally culpable by aiming the gun and pulling the trigger. That act shows his callous disregard for the lives and well-being of others.

It does not matter whether the global warming denier is right about whether global warming is a problem. If he cannot answer these basic questions about the science of global warming, he cannot claim to know that there is nothing to worry about. That act itself shows his callous disregard for the lives and well-being of others.

Unlike the drunk driver or the potential shootist in the first two examples, the global warming denier has callous disregard for the potential destruction of whole cities and countries and whole populations of people. The drunk driver and potential shootist still has the opportunity to argue that they would not put whole populations at risk. The global warming denier who does not understand the basic science of global warming cannot offer us that assurance. He has already proved that he is willing to put whole populations at risk.

Whatever level of condemnation we would give to the drunk driver or careless shooter - whatever we would think of that person - the global warming denier who does not understand the physics of greenhouse gasses is orders of magnitude worse - a villain to rival the worst that Hollywood script writers have ever imagined to date.

12 comments:

Bacopa said...

Great idea. I doubt most global warming lobal warming deniers could explain the the bit about how CO2 is largely transparent to visible light but absorbs a lot of infrared radiation. I could, but then I'm not a global warming denier.

I sometimes listen to a local AFR station. They've got global warming denial on there almost every day. I doubt these dudes could explain why CO2 is thought by many to be a factor in global warming. They mostly ignore CO2 anyway and either deny that warming is happening at all, or attribute it to variations in the Earth's orbit or variations in solar intetensity.

Why it's the case that the American Family Association feels the need to take a position on this issue at all is an interesting issue. Perhaps this blog will investigate this.

John Doe said...

I realize that you are trying to simplify in order to speak on the level of we mere mortals who aren't totally versed in all the science of global warming, but you forgot one important element.

Saying that greenhouse gases are science that cannot be debated is akin to saying that arsenic is a poison. Duh. But the devil is in the details. A little arsenic in our shrimp and lobster never hurt anyone.

CO2 molecules makes up only what, three hundred parts PER MILLION of the atmosphere? So when global warming alarmists say that CO2 has increased 100% what they mean is that it increased 150 parts per million.

The real issue is whether that small of an amount of greenhouse gas makes a difference. The CO2 level has been higher in eras before the last 150 years and the world didn't come to an end. CO2 fluctuates.

You seem to be arguing about something that nobody disagrees about. Nobody says CO2 isn't a greenhouse gas. Nobody says arsenic isn't a deadly poison, either. At high enough levels.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

John Doe

Thank you for providing me with an illustrative example of somebody telling us that we have nothing to be concerned about even though he knows almost nothing about the issue he is giving advice on.

The pre-industrial level of CO2 in the atmosphere was approximately 275 ppmv (part per million by volume). Human greenhouse gas emissions have raised it to nearly 400 ppmv so far. Business as usual has the potential of raising it to over 1000 ppmv.

Given the composition and intensity of sunlight and earth-emitted infrared radiation, a doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere from 270 ppmv to 550 ppmv will result in the atmosphere absorbing an additional 3.7 watts per square meter column of air. All else being equal, this amount of energy will result in 2.92 degrees C (approximately 5 degrees F) of warming. This is more than enough to put whole cities and whole nations at risk and to create a great deal of death and suffering among significant populations.

Of course, we know that all else will not be equal. However, that does not change the fact that greenhouse gas emissions (particularly CO2) creates a risk.

This brings to light my comparison to the drunk driver or the person who picks up a gun, aims at, and pulls the trigger. Their moral culpability comes from creating a risk that others will be harmed - showing a callous disregard for their welfare.

The moral character of somebody who does not understand global warming telling us we have nothing to worry about is orders of magnitude worse than that of the drunk driver or the person pointing a potentially loaded gun telling us we have nothing t worry about.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Oh, and by the way.

0.042 grams of arsenic will kill a person with a mass of 70kg.

This is less than 1 part per million.

Imagine what 100 parts per million of arsenic will do.

By what rationality do you claim that 550 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere can have no effect and is not worth worrying about?

John Doe said...

Does being a condescending little punk work for you in your regular occupation? I never said in my comment that we have nothing to worry about, I said you were arguing about something that nobody disagreed with you about.

And, excuse me, I don't take some anonymous person's word for it. I'm interested in where you got your numbers: ..."270 ppmv to 550 ppmv will result in the atmosphere absorbing an additional 3.7 watts per square meter column of air. All else being equal, this amount of energy will result in 2.92 degrees C (approximately 5 degrees F)."

Surely, a man as intelligent and all-knowing as youself can provide a link, or at least set forth the proof that what you say is true?

Alonzo Fyfe said...

John Doe

The numbers I referenced are basic numbers that can be found in just about any text on climate change.

So, I'll just go to a nice, basic source: Wikipedia.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth's_atmosphere

As of November 2007, the CO2 concentration in Earth's atmosphere was about 0.0384% by volume, or 384 parts per million by volume (ppmv).

[A]tmospheric CO2 levels were about 260 – 280 ppmv immediately before industrial emissions began and did not vary much from this level during the preceding 10,000 years.

And: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiative_forcing

Radiative forcing can be used to estimate a subsequent change in equilibrium surface temperature (ΔTs) arising from that radiative forcing via the equation ΔTs = λΔF, where λ is the climate sensitivity, usually with units in K/(W/m2), and ΔF is the radiative forcing. A typical value of λ is 0.8 K/(W/m2), which gives a warming of 3K for doubling of CO2.

(3 degrees kelvin = 3 degrees celsius = approx 5 degrees fahrenheit.)

John Doe said...

Ahhhh. Now that I've read the Wikipedia articles that you've cited, and others linked thereto, I'm beginning to understand. You're accepting hook line and sinker the "models" that the global warming scientists have set up (you know, the scientists some of whom have been revealed to be charlatans). In other words, "it's true because the scientists say it is so." Clearly, that is simply an appeal to authority, which is not logical.

And let's face it. Their models are simply their best guess about what might happen. They even admit that they don't know what happens when negative feed backs occur, such as increased water vapor and cloud cover.

I'm no scientist but even I know that as the temperature of air increases, the amount of water vapor (clouds to you nimrods) increases, and the less sunlight reaches the earth, thereby causing tempertures (at earth's surface at least) to be lower. So, in the end, all they are really saying is that they think the earth might heat up the more CO2 is in the air, but they aren't sure.

And then they try to measure the temperature in order to see if it jives with their theory, and it turns out that they fudge that data by "homogenizing" the data, and when asked in Freedom of Information requests for the raw temperature data, they hide the data, and later claim to have thrown it out in the trash. NOW do you see why those emails were so harmful to your cause?

And I'm NOT even saying your cause is incorrect, I'm merely looking at information with a jaundiced eye. I look at the deniers' information the same way. I'm here, buddy, I'm open to being convinced by the power of your logic. I wouldn't be wasting my time leaving comments if I wasn't. By the way, you made good points about the 3% post. I'm still pondering it, but you made good points. Just to show I'm not disagreeing just to be a troll.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

John Joe

Ahhhh. Now that I've read the Wikipedia articles that you've cited, and others linked thereto, I'm beginning to understand. You're accepting hook line and sinker the "models" that the global warming scientists have set up...

Absolutely nothing that I have written about so far in presenting these facts is taken out of a climate model. These are applications of the basic laws of physics. They reveal the temperature change by radiative forcing alone, in the absence of any positive or negative feedback mechanisms.

Climate models are used to determine temperatures AFTER the effect of positive and negative feedback mechanisms.

Now, here you are authoritatively asserted that I was giving the results of these climate models when, as a matter of fact, I had not.

Clearly, you do not care whether your assertions are true or false. You do not have a sufficient sense of intellectual integrity that goes into doing basic research to support the claims you are making. You will state whatever it pleases you to state regardless of its truth value.

And you are willing to do this to misdirect and mislead people on matters as important as those leading to the potential destruction of whole cities and the suffering of whole populations.

What type of person acts this way?

John Doe said...

Dude, you have a hair trigger temper. You assume that you can divine what other people are thinking and you ascribe to them the worst possible motives.

I just read what YOU cited to. There, THEY talk about models, and so I used their language, and you jumped all over me for it. If I'm wrong, sorry.

But look what else I've found from the article:

"Without any feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 (which amounts to a forcing of 3.7 W/m2) would result in 1°C global warming, which is easy to calculate and is undisputed. The remaining uncertainty is due entirely feedbacks in the system [water vapor etc.]"

NOTE: Your comment said this was the correct figure: "All else being equal, this amount of energy will result in 2.92 degrees C (approximately 5 degrees F)." THE ARTICLE SAYS 1 deg C, YOU SAID 2.92deg C!!! I believe that all of us can agree that a difference of 1.92between what you wrote and what they wrote is very significant. If this is so easy to calculate, how did you both come to different numbers? Who is wrong and who is right?

Here is a portion of what you wrote: "Absolutely nothing that I have written about so far in presenting these facts is taken out of a climate model. These are applications of the basic laws of physics. They reveal the temperature change by radiative forcing alone, in the absence of any positive or negative feedback mechanisms."

But I don't think it as cut and dried as you try to make it. Part of the simple equation is represented by the greek alphabet Lambda (my puter doesn't type greek symbols). As you probably are aware, different scientists ascribe different values to Lambda. Some say it is as low as .2something, others place it as high as .8; if so that is not just "basic laws of physics." Rather, that has injected subjectivity, or at least ample wiggle room for disagreement. That's similar to arguing 2 + 2 (or is it 1.5? Or 2.7?) = 4. Uh, no it doesn't = 4! It equals 3.5, or 4.7, depending upon what value Lambda really is.

Sorry to get nit picky, but the Devil (or for you atheists, the irrational mythical being with evil traits ascribed to it) is in the details.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

John Doe

Yes, you are correct. I obviously cited the wrong part of the article and reported the wrong final number.

1 degree C (instead of the 3 degrees C that I cited) is the correct number.

Dang, I wish I had not done that.

I am sorry for that. It should not have happened.

Note that this was my mistake and not a mistake of the scientific community or in any way shows any flaw in the global warming science.

Now that we have identified an error, let us look at its impliations for the original posting.

Which was to criticize individuals who write that we have nothing to fear about global warming even though they no nothing about how global warming works.

My post was written to condemn those who claim that we have nothing to worry about with respect to global warming science even though they know nothing about the basics of radiative forcing. It offers a simple test as to whether the agent has gone to the effort of knowing what he is talking about, and condemns those who say that the science is bad when they know nothing about the science they are criticizing.

You struck me with valid criticism based on the peer-reviewed science. A legitimate criticism from which there is no escape. Against that there can be no defense. But it is not the criticism of those who know nothing about the issue.

John Doe said...

I'm NOT interested in playing "gotcha." I have no preconceived notion as to what is true and what is false. Your side might be correct. I am skeptical, but not an adversary. You made a mistake, big whoopee. Everybody makes mistakes. You were man enough to admit it. You gained tremendous amounts of credibility with me.

I don't like advocates on either side of the issue. I want the truth to prevail, not the side which has the best advocates.

Kenneth said...

nice asshole comparing an unscientific fact to the holocaust.

So if i disagree with man made global warming i am a nazi?