Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Global Warming and Me

So, it looks as though global warming has taken a 16 year break. People are reacting predictable; those who believe global warming is a threat to mankind aren't going to let the good news get them down and those who don't believe in global warming at all are declaring themselves the victors. Me, I'm feeling pretty neutral.

I believe that the world is warming and that humans have something to do with it. I don't have any relevant training or understanding of the science behind it, so I defer to those who do. What I do know is that the science is really complicated, so I'm skeptical of the numbers climatologists put out. I always wonder when I read a news article that says some professor says that it will be 3.4 degrees hotter. Is the decimal really significant? How much less likely is it to be 3.5 or 3.3 degrees? I don't think that there is anyone who could convince me that what they are doing has any real accuracy. The only thing that all these studies has convinced me of is that it will probably warmer. The earth may warm less than they are predicting, or it may also warm more. I don't think anyone knows. Actually, I know nobody knows.

With that being said, even if the earth were to warm a lot, I'm not particularly worried. Why? Because we're trying to predict things 100 years from now. As uncertain as the climate may be, human civilization is much more uncertain. Look at how different life is now from 100 years ago, and apply it to global warming. How much more prepared are we now to deal with global warming than we were 100 years ago? Air conditioning, food processing, agriculture, transportation, and medicine have advanced so much in the last century that we are in a much better place to deal with warming now than we were then.

And I'm not just talking about American's. Over the century, the lot of every person on earth has gotten better. Some nations have really flourished, others not so much, but I don't think any have regressed in any meaningful way. If this continues, who knows how well off some countries will be in 100 years. Look at South Korea. They went from one of the poorest countries to one of the richest in about two decades. Who knows what could happen to other nations in ten decades?

So, how much better are we going to be able to deal with warming in another 100 years? Just like the climate itself, I have no idea, but I'm pretty sure we will be better able to deal with it. Plus, any of the downsides of a warmer planet will develop gradually. Yes, some farmland in Mexico may become untenable, but it will happen slow enough not to cause a huge disruption in food production and we will have time to start planting more farms in northern Canada. Yes sea levels will rise, but they will rise at a slow enough rate that we can move inland without huge numbers of refugees, or build dikes to keep out the rising water, or do something else that no one has thought of yet.

The best part of this view is that I can be optimistic almost under any circumstance. I'm allowed to believe that humanity will be better off if the world is hotter or colder, or if it stays the same. Sure, I can't claim that people who disagree with me are evil, but I'll deal with it.

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