Global warming means it will get hotter or colder, drier or wetter, stormier or calmer. One of the people at a recent conference on global warming made just such an asinine statement. Talk about covering your bases — if we have weather, it's because of global warming.
About the only fact in this global-warming brouhaha is that the planet has warmed up about 1 degree in the past century. Keep in mind that in the past the planet has gotten much warmer and much colder during times when humans were too few to make any difference. So-called greenhouse gases are not the only factor that can cause Earth to warm or cool. Volcanic eruptions can put enough particulate matter into the atmosphere to cause a cooling, and there are variations in the radiation from the sun.
Carbon dioxide is a natural component of the atmosphere. Animals breathe it out and plants "breathe" it in, a good example of a partnership, because while our respiration produces carbon dioxide, the photosynthesis of the plants absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, which we need.
The fact that there is carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere makes our planet livable. If they were absent, then at night the earth would lose all of its heat and temperatures would plummet. So some greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are good and necessary.
The global-warming dispute has arisen over the question of how much is good and how much is bad. Frankly, scientists don't know. All of the projected stuff you hear is based on computer models of the atmosphere, and the atmosphere is far too complex, with too many variables, to be reduced accurately to a computer spreadsheet. What you really have are the computers making guesses and the scientists making guesses based on the computers' guesses. And don't forget GIGO. Computers are not intelligent and cannot think. Garbage in, garbage out.
Be skeptical, too, when you read that some scientist studying an ice core can tell you what the planet's weather was 600,000 years ago. He is projecting beyond his evidence. His ice core can only tell him what was going on in that particular, small spot.
There are currently about 330 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You might think of it as having $330 compared with $1 million. It doesn't seem to me like enough to cause trouble, but I'm no scientist, and even the scientists are in disagreement.
The unfortunate thing is that global warming — which is, after all, a theory — has taken on, like evolution, the characteristics of religious dogma. The true believers cast the doubters as heretics to be scoffed at and scorned. The nonbelievers suggest the believers are na´ve, misguided or venal (after grants that only go to believers in global warming).
I personally don't care one way or the other. If the planet wants to get warmer, it's OK with me. It's OK with me, though slightly less OK, if the planet wants to get colder. As for hurricanes, droughts, floods, blizzards and such stuff, we have all that anyway, always have had them and presumably always will. As for projected catastrophes 100 years out based on guesses that are based on guesses, I couldn't care less.
My street smarts, which are the only kind I have, tell me that no one can predict next year, much less 100 years into the future. Sometimes meteorologists with all of their satellites cannot even accurately predict the weather for two days out.
I'm not worried about industrial production because the oil will run out and the industrial machine will slow down considerably. Of all the things a person can worry about, global warming should be close to the 100 mark on his list. And don't forget, of course, that regardless of climate change, we are all mortal and will eventually go to another place whether in rain or shine, heat or cold. God was good to us. He did not give us the job of saving or preserving the universe. Smart God. Most people have all they can handle dealing with their family and their own yard.
December 31, 2005
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.
© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.