He would have accomplished just as much had he said, “The sun rises” or “Dogs bark.” Yet another example of uncritical soundbite over meaningful distinctions.
So what are the meaningful distinctions? Recently I watched a ninety minute class on Climate Change by Dr. Jay Richards of the Catholic University of America. He pointed out that to talk meaningfully about climate change, you have to ask four questions:
- Is the Earth warming?
- Are we causing (or at least contributing to) it?
- Is it bad?
- Would the advised policies make any difference?
The first two questions are surprisingly uncontroversial. Is the Earth currently in a warming trend? Yes, just like there have been these slight up and down trends for as long as we could measure.
Are we contributing to it? Yes. Carbon does contribute to the well documented greenhouse effect. So does water condensation. Thank goodness for without the greenhouse effect, the planet would be uninhabitable. On the other hand, could it be too much of a good thing? So . . .
Is it bad? This is where things get controversial. The models project a dismal future even though observable reality does not. The frightful photos of the seasonal melting of glaciers should be coupled with the seasonal reforming of glaciers but that doesn’t sell magazines. (Also there is nothing concerning about photo of the polar bear on a small piece of ice – they do that to catch seals).
Here is the problem with models: Models depend upon assumptions beyond the measurable facts. For example, carbon in the atmosphere won’t raise the temperature so high so that the North Pole would collapse. However, we can add the following speculation to our model:
- Assume the temperature rises and some ice melts and becomes water.
- Water is darker than ice.
- Therefore the water should absorb even more heat.
- Therefore more ice will melt
- This cycle continues melting much more ice than the original change of temperature would melt.
It is not the worst of assumptions except for the fact that it does not play out in actuality. As a result, assumptions cause the models project a worse future than observable trends.
Would the advised policies make any difference? No and the class can go into the specifics of the Kyoto agreement to show that the billions of dollars would be a waste other than tepid comfort for the “just do something” crowd.
But a larger spiritual question is in view. Do we really think we can control everything, even the climate? Of course we should minimize pollution to the atmosphere but beyond that, how about the historical solution – adapt? You do know that land bridges that used to have foot traffic is now underwater so such an idea is not unheard of.
Worse case: Over time houses may need to be moved inland and sea walls added. The poor may need help insulating their homes. But that is different than doomsday “vote for me or die” scenarios.
Further, climate change is not always negative. If things are really changing over time, deserts become farmland. Hot or cold areas could become tourist destinations. It works both ways.
Jumping from the phrase “climate changes” to catastrophe is a large, irrational leap. There are meaningful questions and solid steps in between.
If you would like to watch the class, message me and I’ll send you the link. The Colson Center is happy for us to share the link with friends but not post generally on social media.