Monday, April 22, 2013

Why I Won't Drink the Climate Change Kool Aid

As I write this, my state sits in the clutches of its third unseasonal April snow storm.  At the same time, it is also Earth Day across the country.  These two factors seemed to be enough to motivate me to write a post about my thoughts about global warming, climate change, or whatever they're calling it these days.  I've written on the topic before, but this will probably be my most thorough explanation of why I just don't buy the hype.

As I reflect on it, I find that the reasons I don't believe that we're doomed to destroy the planet fall into two basic categories: theological reasons, and what I'll call "natural" reasons (more on that in a minute), or basically, some problems I have with the way the science behind the climate change debate is conducted.  But first, two basic theological reasons that I don't buy the climate change theory that I'll discuss very briefly:

1. The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof.  In other words, God owns this place, so he gets to say what happens and doesn't happen.

2. Mankind cannot destroy anything without God's permission to do so.  The idea that human beings could thwart God's plan for the earth is the height of arrogance.  If you wanted to say that God is allowing human beings to destroy the earth, then we can start to have a conversation, but I think that conversation ends pretty quickly (see below).  Some theologians, like Tim Challies, don't buy the climate change theory, but argue that human beings have nonetheless failed in their duty to responsibly take dominion of the earth.  I don't necessarily agree, but at least we have a place to start.

Now onto some of my "natural" reasons.  It should be noted that I am willing to be corrected on any of my conclusions listed below.  I am certainly no scientist, but I think I have at least a knowledge of how science works, and this is where most of my doubts about climate change come on the scene.  If I am wrong about my thinking on the points below, please feel free to contact me.  I'm sure there are many who might charge me with oversimplifying the situation or making unfair generalizations or misunderstanding the way climate science works.  That may be, and I'm open to correction.  So here they are:

1. All predictions of environmental doomsday scenarios have failed to come to pass.  So many people have been declaring the end of the earth due to man-made climate change for the past 40 years, and have been subsequently wrong, that I don't think it's unreasonable to place as much credence in their prognostications as I would in Harold Camping saying the world was going to come to an end in May of 2012.

2. The sample size is too small.  Human beings have only been studying weather patterns for about 130 years.  In other words, we've only been conducting scientific experiments on the earth and on weather patterns for a comparatively very short period of time.  If we go with the generally accepted supposed age of the earth as being 4.54 billion years old (which I don't, but I'll use that number for the sake of this argument), then that means we have been observing the earth and weather patterns for only 0.000000028% of earth's history.  Do we really think that that sample size is large enough to make solid conclusions?  How in the world do we know that the patterns we are observing today are extraordinary?  We don't.  We can't.  So then, to make up for this little glitch, climate scientists speculate on what they believe weather patterns, average temperatures, and ice core depths of the past were like.  But how can they do that with any certainty?  I understand how they can hypothesize on what trends of the past were like, but this is not hard science.  It is theoretical at best.  It's based on what I'll call "historical science" that just can't be proven.  In a sense, it seems as though the scientific method has gone by the wayside.  

When I was a kid, one of the major subjects of discussion in all of my elementary science classes was that there was a hole in the ozone layer that was going to allow the sun to seep in and fry us all.  Well, that never happened.  And come to think of it, when's the last time you heard anyone talk about a hole in the ozone layer?  I think it was some time around sixth grade.  Why don't we talk about it anymore?  Could it be the science that precipitated the hole-in-the-ozone doomsday scenarios was flawed?  We better make sure we know what we're talking about if we go around telling people the sky is falling (pun intended).  And before the hole-in-the-ozone hysteria, there were warnings about the coming ice age.  Did I miss it?  Why didn't that happen?  And who is going to apologize for working us up into a frenzy over what science had so clearly (cough) predicted?

In more recent years the acceptable term has been "global warming."  But now that term has been put on the shelf in favor of "climate change," because now science doesn't support a warming, but a "change" (note how the word "change" is vague enough to encompass any anomaly - more on that below).  We got all worked up about global warming, but apparently that's off the table now.

3. All evidence is analyzed with a bias.  No matter what a person is studying, he or she brings to the table a certain set of presuppositions and preunderstandings.  This is true of any kind of science.  We are all influenced in certain ways that color the way we see evidence and data.  In my experience, this is  especially true of climate science, if for no other reason than the incredible external pressures climate scientists have placed on them.  Therefore, I find their analyzation of evidence and subsequent conclusions to be at least somewhat suspect.

4. All evidence is analyzed with a political agenda.  I am wary of scientific conclusions produced by men and women whose means of making a living for themselves is dependent upon their findings supporting a certain conclusion.  Peoples' jobs and political careers depend on having climate studies turn out a certain way.  Can someone really be objective under such circumstances?  I have no evidence of how often this occurs, but I know that it does occur.  And just the reality that this happens on even an irregular basis should be cause for concern about the validity of the findings of climate change science.  To top it off, the media puts a spin on the findings that will bend them even more toward their own political agenda.  Who can we trust?  I don't know for sure, but I think it's wise to take climate change reports with a healthy dose of skepticism.

5. All evidence supports the climate change theory.  It's interesting to me that no matter what the whether is like, you can find someone who bangs the climate change drum saying that such weather is proof of man-made climate change.  That's what Paul Douglas does in this article, one of the goofiest ones I've read on the topic.  It was written during the heat wave of the spring of 2012.  In it, Douglas says this: "It's 85 in March.  What will July bring?  It's as if Mother Nature seized the weather remote, clicked America's seasons on fast-foward, turning the volume on extreme weather up to a deafening 10.  This isn't even close to being 'normal.'"  Well, Mr. Douglas, if memory serves, July of last year was decidedly within the limits of normalcy.  It was not the apocalypse you thought it would be.  And what about this year?  It's the evening of April 22 as I write this and we're expecting 5-9 inches of snow overnight.  How do you explain that, considering that one year ago it was the exact opposite?  Or how do you explain the winter of 2011 which was exceedingly average?

The way I see Douglas and other climate change theorists explaining it is quite simple: all evidence points to climate change.  Why is it so hot?  Climate change.  Why is it so cold?  Climate change.  Why is it snowing so much?  Climate change.  Why have there been so many tornadoes recently?  Climate change.  Why is there a drought?  Climate change.  Why are we having this seasonably average weather?  Climate change.  Why is it that when we have seasonably average weather, no one uses that as evidence against climate change?  Climate change is a position that is seemingly supported by all evidence, which again, makes me suspicious.  The use of all evidence - regardless of how it seems to support or disprove the hypothesis - seems incredibly dishonest to me.

6. Climate change is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  What I mean by that is this: if the doomsday scenarios do come to pass, climate change proponents can wave their finger in our faces and say, "Told ya so."  but, if those scenarios do not come to pass, "evidence" will either be put forth to support a different scenario, or climate change proponents will pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves for saving the world with their dire warnings.  They can't lose.  Either way, they win.  If the world ends, they were right.  If the world keeps spinning, they were the heroes that inspired us all to change our ways (even though there is no evidence of such a thing).  Ironically enough, this seems to me like a very unscientific place to find oneself, especially when one is constantly trumpeting the virtues of science.

So there you have it.

No comments: