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September 12, 2006

Global Warming

James Lovelock, the creator of the Gaia hypothesis, had an interview where he said something that sums up the reasoning for my position on global warming:

The human species has been on the planet for a million years now. We’ve gone through seven major climatic changes that are equivalent to this. The ice ages were shifts in climate comparable with this one that’s coming. And we’ve survived.

That series of glaciations and interglacials put the pressures on us to select the kind of human that could adapt. And we’re the progeny of them. And we’re just up against a new and different stress. Maybe we’ll come out better.

But he takes a different position from this than I do. Lovelock's position is that global warming is a very serious problem that is going to essentially leave the tropics uninhabitable, and therefore we need to take immediate action to prevent global warming.

I find it hard to see the overwhelming, unquestionable evidence that keeps being asserted, but never really demonstrated, for global warming being primarily due to man-made causes. I am not yet even convinced that we are in a long-term warming trend. Our knowledge of past climate changes is very incomplete. I find the arrogance of those who claim absolute knowlege on this subject quite unappealing.

As a result of my skepticism, I think we would be better off focusing our attention on technologies and methods of living that would adapt our lives to a warmer climate, rather than spending it all on "solutions" to a problem that we might not be able to solve, and that might not even exist. If the Earth is in fact in a long-term warming trend, and if that trend will result in a significantly warmer climate, then working on adaptive technologies will help us to avoid inconveniences that would cause. (Forget the hype, mankind has, as Lovelock points out, thrived in much warmer climates than currently exist, and we did it with far fewer technological aids.) If the Earth is not in a long-term warming trend, such technology developments will still undoubtedly have benefits; the knowlege gained, for example, could be applicable to space settlement or to adapting to climate cooling if that process happens. (And a new ice age is hardly beyond the realm of the possible.)

In short, we would be far better off learning to adapt to climate change than trying to avoid impacting the climate. That said, more nuclear power would be a good idea, for other reasons.

Posted by jeff at September 12, 2006 5:56 PM

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I also agree that adaptation to change is the best course. I also don't believe that humans are the primary cause of any warming trend that may be happening.

Posted by: Roderick Reilly at September 14, 2006 3:42 PM