Friday, October 12, 2007

About my views on global warming

My friend Admiral Burns left a comment on my earlier post about using old paintings as a tool for climate science.

Admiral Burns said...
Since you find this "cool" Mr. Stajduhar, would you please kindly explain exactly what your opinions are about global warming? Do you dismiss global warming entirely, or do you just doubt its impact?

The Admiral makes a fair point. Since I started this blog I've posted a number of things on global warming because I think the subject is...well interesting. Unfortunately, not all the articles I've linked to agree on every point. To the extent that people use these links to infer where I stand on an issue, some confusion is understandable. Therefore what follows is the quick and dirty rundown of of my views on the issue.

I think it's "cool" that old paintings can be used a scientific tool.

As for global warming, it seems fairly clear the earth has gotten about one degree Fahrenheit hotter since 1900. Whether this is part of a normal variation or something caused by man is in my opinion, an open question. As I'm sure you know, the earth's temperature has varied considerably over the course of recorded history. In the 1200's it was much hotter than it is today-England was a major wine producer and exporter during the middle ages. By the 1500's it was much colder than the present-there are paintings of people ice skating on rivers that haven't frozen in hundreds of years. Presumably neither of these extremes were caused by cars.

My suspicion is that some of the current warming trend is caused by man (though it's worth noting that Mars is also getting hotter suggesting that a substantial portion of the current trend is caused by variations in solar output). The real question is how serious is global warming likely to be, and if it is as dire as some suggest what can be done.

I think I've been fairly clear that I think the gloom and doom stories are laughable. Even funnier though are the lifestyles of some of the people running around telling me (and you) to sacrifice. One suspects that if they really believed what they were saying, they'd try to lower their own carbon footprint out of self interest. As Glen Reynolds says, I'll start acting like it's a crisis when the people who say it's a crisis start acting like it's a crisis.

Indeed while global warming will have winners and losers, my suspicion is that it will be a net plus (more productive growing seasons in Europe and North America, the opening of the northwest passage to commerce etc.). I also think that most of the proposals to "fight global warming" are either A) too trivial to make a difference, B)too expensive to be practical, C) unlikely to work, or some combination thereof.