Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Happened to Global Warming?

The day after I mention that global warming denial is one of the most morally contemptible idiocies on the planet, I get a nice example of global warming denial.

In a BBC article, we hear people arguing that the fact that global temperatures have remained steady for a decade even though CO2 levels have increased is proof enough for the truth of global warming denial.

(See: BBC: What happened to global warming?)

The way these people think, or don't think, it might be fun to argue that they can put their hand in a large kettle of water over a hot fire and keep it there – clamp it in so they cannot pull it out – without any risk of being burned. Well, no, it wouldn't be fun. I have a hard time writing about the cruelty of inflicting such harm on morally contemptible idiots such as global warming deniers. They apparently have little difficulty recklessly putting all of humanity in the same situation.

Anyway, you put the kettle of water over an open fire, put in a ton of ice, and measure the temperature. The temperature of the water is 0 degrees C. Fifteen minutes later, the temperature of the water is still 0 degrees C. You try to distract the denier’s attention from the fact that there is now a lot less ice in the kettle. Seeing that the temperature of the water has not changed, he then agrees to put his hand in the water and have it clamped down so that he cannot pull it out.

Unfortunately, global warming deniers are not clamping their own hand in this kettle of soon-to-be-boiling water. They are clamping our hand. Though I lack the cruelty to play this type of a trick on a global warming denier, they have such a poorly developed sense of moral responsibility that they are unconcerned about the fact that they are putting us in exactly the same situation – strapping humanity’s hand down so we cannot pull it out of a soon-to-be-boiling kettle of water.

Ice caps have been melting at an alarming rate – at a rate that has shocked scientists. The Arctic Ocean is showing signs of being ice-free decades before scientists expected it to be.

(See CNN: Arctic ice to vanish in summer, report says)

The world's oceans are warming as well. (Furthermore, the oceans are becoming more acidic, drawing CO2 out of the atmosphere to create oceans to create carbonic acid in the oceans.)

This energy has to go somewhere. It's not going back out into space – we have satellites that prove as much (as the BBC article reports). So, if it is not going into space, and it is not warming the atmosphere, where is it going?

Global warming deniers must believe in magic – that energy can simply disappear into nothingness, and we do not need to worry about it. This is the extent of their morally contemptible way of not thinking. They're not telling us where the heat is going. Or, if they tell us, they completely ignore the question, "And what is going to happen when that particular heat sink reaches capacity?"

The fact is, CO2 has a particular absorption spectrum. In particular, it strongly absorbs infrared radiation. The Earth has an emission spectrum that is heavily in the infrared spectrum. Short of magic or divine intervention, you cannot put the type of radiation the Earth emits through an increasingly thick soup of CO2 gas and have that gas NOT absorb more and more of that energy.

Not without changing the basic laws of physics.

As I said, not without magic or divine intervention.

This is not a game. The fate of whole cities from Shanghai to Cairo to Amsterdam to London to Miami to New Orleans is at stake. Given these facts, the morally responsible person sweats over the possibility that he could be wrong. The morally irresponsible, reckless, contemptible individual blurts out what he wants to believe and selectively cherry-picks evidence that conforms to that belief.

However, the real moral crime is a society that tolerates this type of intellectual recklessness. All of the drunk drivers, rapists, and murderers combined threaten a lot less destruction than global warming deniers, and yet the latter are tolerated.

The right to free speech prohibits us from legally punishing the intellectually reckless no matter how many cities or countries they put at risk. They still have a right to make their intellectually pathetic and morally contemptible claims. But the right to freedom of speech is a right to immunity from violence. It is not a right to immunity from criticism. It is not a right to silence the person who can demonstrate that they are morally contemptible individuals that moral people not only can but should condemn in the harshest terms.


anton said...

Great Post!!! Perhaps you could provide a link back to your post that contained the explanation of global warming and the bucket of water. It was one of the most lucid explanations I have read.

Anonymous said...

You're missing the point here. The point is the BBC is starting to turn to the dark side. The BBC has been for years the worlds greatest promoter of AGW, bar none. It has been the cherry pickers cherry picker when it comes to misinterpreting studies and spinning science in it's crusade for AGW. But now, something has changed. The shadowy people at the top have finally been paid whatever was required to start back peddaling and selling a whole new story. This is the firt sign that the AGW herd has lost it's finest knight. I have dreamed of this day.

Hume's Ghost said...

The "it hasn't warmed since 1998" line demonstrates a severe deficit of understanding of statistics. Anyone who has ever done a regression analysis will understand that a single data point up or down does not define a trend; what matters is that annual temperatures have been consistently elevated. (Say you go 50 weeks with only 2 cars driving by your house, then after construction reroutes traffic past your house, the next day 12 drive by, then 11 drive by for 5 weeks. It's akin to arguing that more cars aren't driving by your house because the number of cars hasn't increased past 12).

What's more, the 1998 figure is just one analysis. Nasa's Goddard Institute has 2005 on record as the warmest year.

Anonymous said...

Help me out here. As a layman not well schooled in the relevant sciences, global warming debates can seem daunting, but the big thing that's kept me mostly unconcerned about it has been the reports that pop up about how global temperatures have been as warm or warmer in pre-industrial times, far before the human influences to which current climate change is attributed (as well as reports about polar ice thickening, not shrinking).

Are these reports false, misleading, or is there another variable that's not being considered?

Eneasz said...

Hello Anon. Yes, there have been many times in the past where the global climate was much warmer. The evidence of these cycles is actually one of the reasons we know what we do about the causes (and effects) of global warming.

There's nothing inherently bad about a warmer (or cooler) climate. The problem is that all our human infrastructure is set up based on our current climate. A warming will have some good effects, we'll finally have a northwest passage. But we'll also lose large sections of several coastal cities. Some areas that rely on monsoons won't get any, and the people there will starve. Much of Europe may frost over, like Canada. The ocean's acidity will rise, with unknown effects.

It won't be the end of the world, but hundreds of millions of people will suffer, and millions more will die. Primarily so that rich nations don't have to go through the discomfort of burning less oil.