Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Endangered Speciousness

I don't care about global warming. Just not one of my passions. If it were real, and man-made, then we might have to do what we could to mitigate or accommodate it. But like a dream from which we wake, it is becoming less real all the time.

Thanks to that seminal genius and renowned climatologist Al Gore -- Saviour of Humanity, Spotted Owls, Cetaceans and All Creeping Things, Avatar of Enlightenment, Inventor of the Internet and Master of Southern Black Baptist Preacher Cadences -- we all know that this has been the hottest decade since dinosaurs roamed the earth. No less an authority than NASA has informed us of this inarguable fact of proven reality. Only an idiot would think otherwise. And I'm just the man for the job.

Turns out that NASA's computer program had a glitch. (See here, here.) Remember way back a few days ago, when 1998 was the "hottest year on record"? Reality itself has melted. Cuz now the hottest US year is 1934. The numbers have been reevaluated. The record books have been changed. Sort of a Barry Bonds thing going on, I guess -- asterisks -- the program was juiced up on roids.

1934. Ah, I remember it well. Little did we know how much damage we were doing to The Planet with all those hot vacuum tubes in all those blazing radio sets tuned to Jack Benny and Amos & Andy -- really did a job on the climate. Must have been the cause of the Dust Bowl. Mystery solved. And all those Dance Marathons -- jittering in those big baggy oldman pants and the friction from those flapping skirts must have generated more heat than all our new-fangled private jets rocketing their way nowadays to all our Save-the-Planet concerts. Who knew? Thankfully, Franklin Roosevelt was on top of the problem -- I seem to recall that Saving the Planet was a major thrust of the New Deal -- auspices of the TVA, I think I think.

Per the revised NASA / Goddard data, the uber-hot years of 2000 through 2004 have dropped altogether out of the top ten hot years. Indeed, all of the sweltering nineties and aughts have been officially cooled. Kyoto must be working, retroactively. Thank you, bill clinton -- you saved us, somehow! Maybe it was all the many cooling gusts of wind stirred up by your ejaculations.

Well. Not long ago I pointed out the problem with the "hockey stick" spike in global temperatures. Computer program bug. Now we have another, similar error. GIGO. We inform our opinions with what we believe to be facts. When the facts prove to be fictions, our opinions must be reevaluated. We might come to correct conclusions through illogical means. We might. We might be bitten by radioactive spiders and become super heroes. We might. We might give atoms and molecules an infinite amount of time and unlimited exposure to various forms of energy, until life evolves from inert matter. We might. But part of being rational in an empirical universe is that we give experience more weight than theories. There is an integrity of the mind, as much as of behavior.

I think the planet is getting hotter. I think this is due to the natural climatic cycles that any competent analysis of historical data will reveal. I think that the effect that mankind has had on this heating is negligible. I could be wrong on this last point. But even if the Kyoto protocols were honored by its signatories -- and they are not -- the global temperature would be affected by an utterly insignificant amount, over the next half-century: "If fully implemented, its energy rationing provisions could cost hundreds of billions of dollars annually but would, according to its proponents, avert only 0.07 degrees Celsius of warming by 2050." This, compared to the egregious reality that the non-signatory third world countries would be busily deforesting and igniting hydrocarbons to their hearts' content. (Say, here, here, here.)

If we're gonna save the planet, we gotta stop them chinamen. Forget about the Land Between the Rivers -- invade the Middle Kingdom. Now why the hell isn't Al Gore leading that parade? It just seems inconsistent, is all. What a disgrace -- a politician who sets up phony problems caused by phony enemies ... in this case, us. Unheard of. Unheard of since Hitler, that is. And every other cynical hack self-promoter.

We live on a planet that has rung like a bell from comet and asteroid strikes. But the total atmospheric CO2 is currently 3000 Gt -- that's gigatonnes. Sounds like a lot, but it's half that expected for the late Cretaceous Period, with all those brontosauruses running around all over the place, eating giant ginkoes and getting mauled by T-rexes. Where did all that extra CO2 come from? Fred Flintstone and all his woolly mammoth backyard barbecues? Well, there are homeostatic mechanisms, having to do with sea levels and global biota. But the upshot is, double the CO2 levels, and the planet did very well indeed, thank you ever so much.

The current anthropogenic CO2 released from hydrocarbon-burning is about 25 Gt per year. Much though I disrespect SUVs, I don't think they are much worse than anything else humans have done for as long as there have been humans ... all 6000 years. Burning peat, or wood, or coal, or gallons and gallons and gallons of petrol in your gigantic luxury truck -- this is not a whole lot different than the thousands of megatons of volcanogenic CO2 that the planet has been able to process in ages past.

I don't think we need to throw our civilization into the volcano, to satisfy the god of Al Gore's religion.

No, I haven't proven anything. My argument has holes, largely because I've said enough already, and couldn't be bothered to fill them. As usual, my point is basic: don't panic. It's not sufficient to simple be angry and afraid. It's not honorable to monger fear. When we put our slide show together, purporting to demonstrate the veracity of our case, we must use valid evidence. Otherwise we are liars, in effect if not intention. Even the psychotic paranoid might have enemies, but we don't generalize from the extreme cases, but from the typical ones. Inductive reasoning has brought us too many benefits, for us to start casting rune stones and reading tea leaves. Temperature data that are gathered inconsistently might as well be I Ching sticks. A computer model that generates faulty data might as well be tarot cards. We may be moved, we may be fascinated, we may be convinced -- but we are not rational if we follow along these paths.

What, then? As with everything, it come down to honesty. Integrity won't save us. But without it we're not worth saving.


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