Huh. Just finished State of Fear, which I picked up on a whim for $1 at Half Price Books. Wow! As usual, Michael Crichton has given me something to think about. As usual also, it was a quick and easy read through incredible adventures in distant lands, complete with a likable super-intelligent character with encyclopedic knowledge of everything, a few buffoons who disagree with said character, nefarious schemers releasing global terrors, and a sprinkling of techie gadgets and hot babes.
Disregarding for a moment the fact that State of Fear is a novel, Crichton lays out a pretty convincing argument that global warming is not actually happening, and that it’s just the latest pseudo-scientific fear propagated by the media. Historically, the Cold War and nuclear winter was another such fear; the deterioration of the human gene pool was another. The Cold War just led to a big arms race and a lot of unnecessary bomb shelters and Spam; the gene pool thing led to eugenics.
“But, Dan, how can we disregard the fact that State of Fear is a novel? It’s a work of fiction!” Right, but (in typical Crichton fashion) he’s done some research. Disregard the scenes where, for example, a couple of untrained lawyers rescue themselves from an Antarctic crevasse with pretty much just a rope, and concentrate on the scenes where something is being debated. Whenever John Kenner (the smart character) starts preaching to one of the buffoons, it’s always backed up with a lot of data and citations. Sure, anyone can throw in a bunch of footnotes. But I trust Crichton to make them pretty legitimate. And it made me think for a minute: what IS my basis for believing in global warming? Besides “of course global warming is happening” or “all the scientists know global warming is happening.”
Even better, what’s YOUR basis?
Now, this merits further research, for sure. A quick googling shows that Crichton’s drawn a lot of flak over this book, which either means he’s wrong, or he’s right. (in the top 10, he’s got one supporter, and it’s the Heartland Institute, which is a conservative think-tank, isn’t it?) Hopefully, later I’ll actually do this research and decide for myself. (Right now, I’m still surrounded by a pile of THINGS, so I should clean those up.)
Whether he’s right or not, Crichton at one point reiterates the fact that we live in so much fear! If it’s not the environment, the media is stirring up fear about terrorists, or murderers, or diseases, or identity thieves, or whatever. Stop being so afraid, get out there and live your lives like we did thirty years ago! (minus the Cold War.)
The strongest argument for global warming remains, simply, that the earth’s temperature demonstrably rises along with CO2 levels, and we have data from the last few years that shows that it is rising, on average, around the world.
Also, we’ve seen a lot of fucked up weather patters and shifts in what were otherwise regular weather occurences - and that is the real threat of ‘global warming,’ which we should instead refer to as ‘climate change’ because that more accurately addresses the underlying problem.
A lot of places have already seen changes in their local rainfall, which is how we’re really going to get fucked by global warming. For instance, if you think a place like Darfur is bad now, imagine it with a co-occurring famine.
I’m not backing this up right now, but I have read things to the effect of:
- CO2 strongly correlating with temperature. This data is from a survey of ice in the north pole, I think, so it yields info from even thousands of years ago.
- The average global temperature has risen
- Otherwise reliable weather patterns have recently become unreliable
And then there’s that whole bee thing, which is just as fucked up, but is way more observable and way less explainable.
…but the bee thing has nothing to do with global warming, as far as anyone knows.
The reason I think we need to be concerned about global warming is that the consequences of assuming it isn’t happening and doing nothing, and being wronge, are worse than the consequences of assuming it’s happening and doing something, and being wrong.
In the first case, it quite possibly could be the end of our civilization as we know it. Potentially even human extinction, though that’s really-far-fetched. In the second case, perhaps we enter into a global economic recession, but likely not and we’ll have a cleaner, more efficient society and economy.
Regardless of global warming, we need to find alternates to fossil fuels (they’re running out) and they might as well be clean to reduce other pollution (smog, acid rain etc etc).
Janet Jay -
I am not going to comment on the substance of your post because, although I remember reading some huge articles that took Crichton’s research to task, I don’t feel like/don’t think I could find them.
But what I wanted to say is that Michael Crichton is my good friend’s uncle and he is, without a doubt, the biggest douchebag around. The stories I could tell you! So I wouldn’t just trust him on anything.
Thought I posted a comment here. Guess it didn’t go through. I blame the internets.
What I mean to say is this: yeah, I think global warming’s happening too; the book’s just shaken my conviction from 99% down to maybe 85%. I’ve got to look into it more.
Alex: the argument of “if we act like it’s real and it’s not, no big loss” isn’t so good, because we might do dumb stuff that can reverse-screw-us-up. Think about national parks- you always hear about them hunting wolves, then reintroducing wolves because there are too many deer, then hunting quails because there are too many, or whatever. When we try to do big grand-scale messing around with nature in the name of preserving it, often we mess things up.
The argument of “There are other reasons to conserve and find alternate energy sources” is a good one though. I’m still gonna try to conserve things!
And who knew he was such a jerk? Bummer.
I met a guy who studies geo-sciences, and here are his opinions. Again, these are his sentiments, not mine:
Significant, meaningful global warming is not caused by CO2, and there is no scientific consensus.
1. CO2 only holds in a very small percent, about 3%, of the total wavelengths of radiation that come from the sun. This means that even if you have infinitely more CO2 around, at most you can hold in 100% of 3% of the total heat-causing radiation that reaches the earth.
When we compare the levels of those 3% of the radiation spectrum that show up on weather satellites from today with what showed up 40 years ago, there is no difference.
In other words, all of the warming caused by CO2 already happened before we even got far enough along to make satellites.
2. My correlative observation from the ice study in the north pole does show causation, but the other way around: as temperatures rise on earth, the ocean releases more of the CO2 trapped inside of it. This is a readily observable property of liquids. Just open two 20 oz. cokes; one cold and one warm. A lot more gas will escape from the warm one. Same with the ocean and CO2.
3. The #1 greenhouse element is water, which holds and reflects 90% of the radiation that reaches the earth from the sun.
4. The surface of the sun has increased in temperature by 7 degrees celcius since we have been able to measure that sort of thing. Makes sense that it would get hotter here.
5. The ‘vast consensus’ is an insidious misrepresentation. The report that everyone cites, the IPCC, cites 2,500 scientists. It implies that they all agree with the conclusions of the report, which is not the case.
Interesting perspective. However, he said that I should check out the movie The Great Global Warming Swindle, and just judging from the wikipedia entry on it, it seems like it may not be the best source. But, the wikipedia entry only cites factual conflicts, not certainties, so I have no feel for how much that movie actually legitimately establishes.
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