I don’t understand why people are so ready to believe in global warming. Even if it is true, the effects will not be significant for a very long time, much too long for us to take the measures we are taking now.
I’ve also read enough convincing and levelheaded counters from smart, independent people that I also am not convinced global warming is caused by people, or is necessarily happening at all.
For reference there is Michael Crichton, this guy, and James Hogan (highly esteemed hard sci fi author). The last author has written a very interesting book called Kicking the Sacred Cow that I highly recommend. It debunks and/or shows persuasive alternative theories to many "facts" we "know" today. Besides global warming, he also tackles topics like Darwinism, the big bang, catastrophism, and AIDs.
I like the comment because it gets to the crux of the matter, which is epistemology. When faced with a complex argument, how do you decide what is true and what is not? In this case specifically, how does one come to an informed opinion about whether or not climate change is occurring, and if so, why?
It’s important when reading articles like the ones the commenter mentioned to realize that it’s fairly easy to convince lay people of anything with selective use of facts and logic, especially when the attempt is well-written. It’s much harder to do the same to experts. Cherry-picking data won’t fool someone who has ready access to all of the rest.
The overwhelming majority of experts in climatology believe that climate change is occurring, that the cause is largely man-made, and that we don’t have much time to avert the potential crisis. That’s an incontrovertible fact. You can argue about why that is. Some say it’s due to social or political pressures, or Al Gore, or a host of other reasons. But you can’t really argue that they don’t endorse the idea. Even the ones funded by oil and coal companies do.
Personally, I like Occam’s Razor here. One explanation is that there is some cabal of scientists and left-wing politicians who have formed a global conspiracy with the intention of destroying our economy by forcing a widespread and expensive change in energy policy, and that said cabal has ensured that anyone who disagrees will never be published or elected and will be laughed out of the scientific or political community. Another explanation is that most climatologists who studied the issue believed that the data pointed to anthropogenic climate change. I don’t know about you, but I’d lump the people in the first group in with those who believe that Bush engineered 9/11 and ones who think The DaVinci Code was a documentary.
It’s also important to consider sources. Neither Michael Crichton nor James Hogan are or were climatologists. They’re both authors. Smart authors who know more about science than most, but still not climatologists or even scientists. And the original article’s writer is a software engineer.
As an uninformed person (i.e. non-climatologist) I’ll accept the word of the vast majority of informed persons (i.e. climatologists, including the ones who have clear incentives to the contrary) over the word of a couple authors and a programmer. That doesn’t mean I’ll be correct 100% of the time, and I might not even be on global warming. I accept that. A broken clock is right twice a day, and sometimes hapless skeptics are too.
Nobody can be right about everything, and the nature of climate change is that the ultimate decisions have to rest with citizens, the politicians they elect, and entrepreneurs, most of whom can’t be expected to know everything about everything, or even everything about global warming. The best they can do is take the most informed opinions around and act on them.
And that’s what many of us who believe we need to take action on climate change are saying. We’re not saying we have any special knowledge about the problem, and we’re not saying that it’s unquestionably mankind’s fault. What we are saying is that clearly those who devote their lives to the study of such matters overwhelmingly agree that we need to take action, and that we therefore should because we have no better advice to the contrary.
So I side with them. I won’t always be correct in doing so, but in the long run I’ll have a much better track record than those who simply choose the argument that is politically expedient or causes them the least concern.