Sunday, October 10, 2010

Global Warming: A Satirical Argument

To whoever reads this:
The following is, in my opinion, an effective if not slightly satirical argument concerning global warming. I gave this speech in a competition once, and while the audience thought that it was funny, the judges were less enthusiastic. Perhaps they took it too seriously. I'm not going to tell you what my opinion on the debate is; instead, you can decide for yourself.

Global Warming v. 2.0
By: Peter Last

            One of the largest debates of the current time is that of global warming. Proponents of the theory believe that the average temperature of the world is steadily increasing due to human activity and that if something is not done to curb these activities, the planet will eventually become incapable of supporting life as we know it. Research in support of the theory has resulted in policies of nations which are very expensive yet necessary for survival of the planet. Despite all of the data which supports the theory of global warming, there are still people who ridicule and disregard it. Sometimes their arguments can be very convincing; therefore, it is necessary to have a firm scientific foundation with which to rebut their arguments. By looking at the effect of greenhouse gases, data concerning global temperature, and statements by prominent people, a solid opinion of the debate of global warming can be attained.
            The ultimate cause of global warming is gases in the earth’s atmosphere with incredible insulating properties. These gases trap the sun’s heat next to the earth’s surface, raising its temperature to levels that it would not otherwise attain. The atmospheric gas with the most insulating potential is water vapor. The concentration of water vapor has been remarkably constant throughout history, so this gas must not have much to do with global warming. Also, consider that a campaign to reduce water vapor and by association water itself would be a miserable failure. Coupled with this is the fact that there is no way to reduce the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere. Consequently, global warming activists have sighted carbon dioxide, a much less likely candidate, as the main cause of global warming. Carbon dioxide has only one seventh of the insulating potential of water vapor and the effect that increased amounts of it have on the earth’s temperature becomes muted as its concentration increases. In fact, due to all of the other gases in the atmosphere, if all of the carbon dioxide were removed from earth, the temperature would only drop by about 2.7 °F. The fact remains, however, that a catastrophic increase in temperature over the last century has been accompanied by a 25 percent increase in carbon dioxide. If you simply ignore the fact that this increase in temperature occurred before the increase in carbon dioxide, it can be imagined that the carbon dioxide actually causes the warming. After all, perhaps the earth was simply getting a jump start on the climate crisis.
            Despite the potential that greenhouse gases have to trap the sun’s heat and increase the earth’s temperature, many people deny that any such warming is actually occurring. This denial flies straight in the face of an abundance of data that can be used to support the theory of global warming. James Hansen is a well known scientist who spoke before the United States Congress concerning global warming. In support of the theory he cited an “observed warming during the past century of from 0.6 °C to 0.7 °C” This translates to an increase of between 1 and 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 100 years. With such massive amounts of global warming, the earth’s temperature could jump twenty degrees Fahrenheit over the next two thousand years giving many parts of the earth a climate like that of Texas which, in retrospect, may not be such a bad idea. This prediction does not seem likely if any data besides that of Hansen is considered because his observed warming was 30 percent greater than that of any other study. The reason that Hansen’s study showed more temperature increase than anyone else’s is because of the extremely scientific method that he used as opposed to the less accurate methods of biased scientists. Not wanting to mess with a lot of numbers, Hansen simply took the mean temperature of the first ten years of the century and subtracted it from the mean temperature of the last ten years. In this way he was able to arrive at his figures using only twenty percent of the data while scientists desperate to disprove the theory of global warming had to use all one hundred percent of the data in their studies. Another piece of information that Hansen used to support global warming was a graph showing NASA’s global temperature records from 1880 to 1988. The last segment of the graph represents the first five months of the last year and shows a steep increase in temperature. This graph would seem to be misleading since the variance of monthly temperatures is three times greater than the variance of annual temperatures. In other words, temperature very obviously increases during the first five months of the year, but apparently this is also proof of global warming. If James Hansen said it, then it must be true.
            Due to all of the facts in support of global warming, the majority of scientists in the world agree with this theory. This can be seen from the statements of influential individuals and groups of scientists. In 1986, Senator Gore said that “there is no longer any significant disagreement in the scientific community that the greenhouse effect is real.” This statement is certainly true but then again so is the statement that earwax tastes bad. The real message of this statement is in the implication which is that there is no disagreement that global warming is occurring. The United Nations’ document, Scientific Assessment of Climate Change, is an example of a prestigious group of scientists making a very telling statement about global warming. In the policy maker’s summery at the beginning of the document, the statement is made that “There is a greenhouse effect that already keeps the earth warmer than it would otherwise be.” What I am not going to tell you is that this statement is so misleading that 40 percent of the contributors to the Scientific Assessment worried that this statement would be misunderstood while nearly 100 percent of the scientists in an equally prestigious group had the same concerns.
            Clearly believing in global warming is the only educated position to have on the theory. The facts concerning carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases hurt the theory, but facts aren’t everything. There is also the data compiled by prominent scientists like James Hansen, scientists who arrive at their conclusions using very unscientific procedures. Finally, global warming is clearly true because many outspoken scientists believe in it, and if they say that it is true then it must be. So it can be seen that sometimes it is necessary to have great faith in scientific theories. Even when facts seem to disprove theories such as global warming, these theories must still be trusted because they are the only logical things to believe.

Thank you for visiting my blog. Hope that you enjoyed it.
Peter Last

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