The Naked Emperor

22 February 2007

Cooling on Warming

Recently, I read a column by Ellen Goodman of the Boston Globe about global warming. Apparently, if you do not believe that humans are destroying the earth by global warming, you are the equivalent of a holocaust denier.

And I thought that as an American, she believed in the freedom of speech.

Unlike Ms. Goodman, I am saddled with a scientfic background. And I do not believe we should panic or take massive action about this phenomenon.

I will try to explain the science with as little math as possible for those of you without scientific education. Let’s just call this common sense science

Fact 1 - The Norsemen farmed in Greenland 700 or so years ago. This isn’t done now because it’s too cold.

Fact 2 - Wine grapes were grown in Britain 2000 years ago according to written Roman records. It got too cold to grow them for a while but written records tell of them doing well 650 years ago. Then the little ice age came, which some think also started the Dark Ages in Europe. They think they may grow them again soon.

Fact 3 - There have been many Ice Ages. For each to end, the Earth had to become warmer. And for the next to start, the planet had to undergo “Global Cooling”

Therefore we come to:

Fact 4 - The Earth has undergone repeated warming and cooling cycles long before we got here. There is no evidence that this process has stopped since we grew on the planet, or since the Industrial Age. Ergo, these cycles continue to present day.

I’m in medicine, not geology. As far as I know there is no workable or proveable theory as to the mechanism of these changes.

Which brings us to:

Theory 1 - We can not prove if any temperature fluctuation is being caused by normal cycles. When I treat a patient, I must try to rule out all possible causes of the patient’s condition. If I can not rule out a possible cause, I must consider that cause possible.

Given that the Earth’s temperature cycles have been going on for billions of years, it is likely that they continue. While other theories have been proposed, none of them have the credible data to raise their status from theoretically possible to likely.

Now let’s look at the case made for human’s causing global warming.

One of the main talking points for global warming is that the temperature has risen a degree or two in the last hundred years.

A caveat - I’ve pulled these figures from googling the web, but they should be sufficient to drive a few nails.

According to data I’ve seen the Earth’s average temperature has risen between 0.5 to 1.0 degree Fahrenheit over the last hundred years to 58.1 degrees. Remember that this is F not centigrade.

Is this signignificant? I doubt it, either in the statistical or scientific meaning.

“But why not” I hear you cry.

At best this change is less than two percent over a very short period of time. It may not seem short to us but we aren’t talking about us. We are talking about the Earth, and it’s life span is, well, geologic.

The Earth is believed to be 4.5 billion years old. That’s billion with a capital B. The data is for a hundred years. We are looking at just 1/450,000,000 of the Earth’s life to date.

If we equate that data to a human life span of eighty years, we would be looking at less than 6 seconds of data.

The average human heart rate is 72 beats per minute. A two percent increase would bring it to 74.

I can’t imagine any cardiologist making any decisions about a patient’s care with such a small increase in rate over such a short time, let alone push for any radical change.

If that cardiologist did, those actions would be scientifically, medically, legally, ethically, and morally indefensible.

The other argument I hear lately is consensus. But consensus is often wrong. Only recently has most of civilization decided that slavery is wrong. And so was the consensus on that issue for thousands of years.

And scientific consensus has been just as wrong, repeatedly. The consensus thought the Sun revolved around the Earth for thousands of years, or that the Earth was flat. More recently, the same Time magazine that Ms. Goodman quoted told us about the coming Ice Age only thirty or so years ago. And back then there was consensus, and again it was all caused by human activity. Logically, we cannot have consensus about global cooling and global warming. Either one or both is wrong.

Anyone remenber Thalidimide? Or the Planet Pluto? How about the low risks of hormone replacement therapy for women?

Consensus has absolutely no place in science, only facts based on good experimentation and reason.

To argue consensus defies science by it’s very definition.

Science is a search for truth using experimentation and logic to prove fact, and basing fact on repeatable results. Consensus building has never and will never, by definition, be a part of science. Consensus building is by definition “politics”.

To determine policy on scientific matters based on consensus is as nonsensical as allowing makers of fad diet drugs to run the CDC. After all, those drugs are hugely popular and have a “consensus” with consumers.

With these thoughts in mind, I reject the popular conception of “global warming”.

The data does not show a show a geologically significant change. And even if one assumes such a change, we can not prove that it is not natural, therefore we can not prove human causality. And if the best proponents can offer is “consensus”, then we are not talking about a scientific phenomenon, but a political cause.

Look, I want a clean place to live. We shouldn’t make messes, and if we do, we should clean them up. I support reasonable, repeat reasonable environmental policy and spending. And I mean reasonable in the literal sense of the word. Any policy or spending, environmental or not, should be backed by reason, logic, and fact.

To try to decide such important questions based on hysteria is extremely dangerous. How bad would global warming be now if we had taken radical actions thirty years ago to prevent the “coming ice age”? Rash actions serve no one well.

Now the hysteria has gotten to the point of name calling by Ms. Goodman. I fully support her right to call me and others who share my views whatever she wants. It is her right under our Constitution, a privelege purchased for her by the blood of patriots. But I would hope that she would believe in that same first amendment, and also in my right to free speech. And as I last read it, it supports free speech for all, not just those who believe in the “consensus” view. The first amendment was put in place to support the minority’s right to speak out, to protect them from name calling and worse from the “consensus”. Her article makes it evident that she does not believe in rights for the minority. How sad.

As far a being compared to a holocaust denier, quite frankly I’m proud. Newton, Darwin, and especially Galileo suffered great criticism, but stuck with what the science told them. And I choose to follow their lead. I will never compare myself to such greats of science, but to merely understand what they went through a little better is a great honor indeed.

Until Later,

The Naked Emperor


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