Date: Mon Feb 04 2002 - 15:28:10 MST
It should always be a red flag when your ideological preferences are in
alignment with your beliefs about an objective but controversial issue
like global warming. An ideology is a useful tool but a terrible master.
In the interests of constructing an accurate view of the world, you must
be suspicious of easy and comfortable beliefs which conform with your
preferences. In the long run, basing your life on falsehoods about the
world is dangerous. Better to expend the mental energy to objectively
study issues even when they contradict your pet beliefs.
For a quick overview of the scientific consensus, I recommend last
year's report on Climate Change Science by the National Research Council.
It is available online at http://search.nap.edu/books/0309075742/html/.
The report is only 29 pages and begins with a 5 page summary. Appendix B
includes biographies of the contributors which should put to rest any
contention that these are brainwashed government flunkies. They are in
fact respected scientists with strong credentials, many of them members
of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.
Here is an excerpt from the summary, reviewing the earlier report by
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):
"The IPCC's conclusion that most of the observed warming of the last 50
years is likely to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas
concentration accurately reflects the current thinking of the scientific
community on this issue. The stated degree of confidence in the IPCC
assesesment is higher today than it was 10, or even 5 years ago, but
uncertainty remains because of (1) the level of natural variability
inherent in the climate system on time scales of decades to centuries,
(2) the questionable ability of models to accurately simulate natural
variability on those long time scales, and (3) the degree of confidence
that can be placed on reconstructions of global mean temperature over the
past millennium based on proxy evidence."
In my opinion, denying that human-caused global warming is the
consensus of the scientific community is putting our heads in the sand.
It represents the worst case of letting oneself be ruled by an ideology
rather than vice versa. The reason we have scientists is so that
people can spend their entire lives becoming expert on questions such
as these. Refusing to accept their conclusions because they contradict
our ideological beliefs is irrational. No Extropian should allow his
mind to mislead him in this way.
For reference, a critical analysis of the NRC report by
the libertarian Reason Public Policy Institute is online at
http://www.rppi.org/rr103.html. IMO this simply excerpts the caveats
and uncertainties listed in the NRC report, hoping to present bait which
will attract sympathetic ideologies. A careful reading of the NRC report
reveals that strong statements like the above are made in the context
of the uncertainties which the report describes. In other words, even
though the impact of human actions on warming "cannot be unequivocally
established", nevertheless the consensus of the scientific community is
that there is a link. All the cautions and concerns that the Reason
people highlight do nothing to change the stated conclusions of the
report. Science is never certain, but the Reason people wave around the
report's cautionary language as though that invalidated its conclusions.
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