Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shall We Stop Dithering and Act on Climate?

Actual scientific consensus has it that human activity (which includes C02 release, methane release, positive feedback from increased humidity in the air due to warming over the poles, and so on) is the cause of the current climate shift, a shift which seems to be happening more quickly than any in the geologic record. Solar activity and natural variations have been ruled out by experiments. Truly, they have.

If someone decides that the bulk of the scientists who study climate are not reliable sources of evidence because the evidence is inconvenient, then evidence-based argument becomes useless with that person—they’ve gone to a place where reason can no longer touch them.

I try not to be that kind of person on a wide variety of topics, including this one. But since the scientific method is the best tool we have available to approach truth, it is the tool I apply.

And the truth that seems to be emerging is that Earthly species are dying off as quickly or more quickly than anything we’ve seen in the geologic record—we’re living in the midst of the fifth great extinction.

Unfortunately, trying to develop robust forms of alternative energy only begins to address the problems we face.

Be that as it may, I’m not willing to throw up my hands and say the problem is too big to be solved. I would prefer the human race reach cultural adult hood and move forward; and I don’t even have children.

But alternative energy is a good place to start, because C02 is the biggest contributor to climate change (according to the scientists that study climate, noted above). And there is something we can do: support alternative energy programs,and politicians who support alternative energy programs, even those that from a strictly narrow financial viewpoint will lose money. We need to widen our viewpoint beyond next quarter’s profits and recognize longer term trends. If we can’t use evidence and reason to see wider time horizons and act on our conclusions, the best climate models we have predict we’re going to crash headlong into a breakdown far worse than the current economic recession.