Devil's Advocate: Climate Change
The Holes in the Climate Change Argument
Okay, I want to play devil’s advocate for a minute, just to pose a question that always nags at me when the Climate Change debate comes up. I am not necessarily a doubter, but I see a lot of problems with the way that the argument is made. In my opinion, we don’t need “Gloom and/or Doom” to know that breathing in more car exhaust than air is bad for you. If you didn’t know that, you can try it at home with a hose in your garage! No? That doesn’t sound appealing to you? The same thing applies to the planet: all air is recycled, and it takes time to filter out the wastes. You see? It wasn’t that hard to relate how pollution is harmful. Not once did I need to point out the number of scientists who agree. Majority opinion has never been a valid scientific proof. In Sir Isaac Newton’s day, more than ninety-eight percent of scientists could not solve the problems of physics. At any given time, the majority of scientific understanding is incorrect, but that is not the point of science, either.
The Scientific Method is a process by which scientific conclusions can be reached and understood. We all remember the concepts of hypothesis, but have you ever broken the word down? “Hypo” is the opposite of “hyper”, and “thesis” is defined as “an idea to be proven”. So hypothesis translates to “Without an idea”, or “Without an expectation”. You take what conditions you know, and manipulate the variables until you categorically prove a predictable outcome every time. Let me repeat that, for the cheap seats, because you are all going to throw a lot of Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson at me: “To categorically prove a predictable outcome every time”.
However, this is never the case with Climate Change. In the 1970’s, the beginnings of this controversy came onto the scene. This was immediately following the scientific controversy over lead in the atmosphere, and the nation was awash in environmental fervor. It began with Global Cooling: the idea that greenhouse gases would create a barrier through which sunlight couldn’t penetrate, leaving a cold dead world beneath. It was a terrifying idea, and gathered a ton of support. People panicked because the first predictions said that by the mid-eighties, food would be scarce and we would begin to get all Mad-Max as all the plant life died out. It scared the hell out of everyone. The mood in the seventies wasn’t exactly upbeat: we had just lost Vietnam, our President had resigned in disgrace and the hippie movement had devolved into a drug culture sans-idealism. To quote Hunter S. Thompson: “The wave broke, and rolled back into the sea.” Needless to say, with so much changing, a lot of people found their new cause in the environment.
The only problem was that the Global Cooling theory never materialized, and no one knows why. The idea made total sense, so why did no one see the temperature changes that they expected? It turned out that there were some serious problems that made the greenhouse gas argument more complicated than the lead argument. Lead only exists as a gas after combustion. It seeks to bond with other elements, but it can’t naturally disburse over wide areas because it is naturally solid. In other words, only man-made conditions can possibly result in wide area spread of a pollutant like lead. CO2 is an entirely different animal. It is ever-present, and the parts per million is different all the time. We know it naturally erupts from volcanoes, forest fires and other natural phenomena. We know where the line is to change the climate drastically, however we still had no idea how it gets there.
We know that the Earth began as a molten ball of volcano-hate. Spewing lava and deadly greenhouse gases to this day. We also know that most eruptions put out more greenhouse gases in one day than several years of human industrialism. So here is the question: If greenhouse gas build-up is capable of climate change dramatic enough to sanitize the planet, how am I writing this article right now? That is what people in law enforcement call a “clue”. So, when Global Cooling never materialized, the argument became Global Warming. It still had no explanations, or direct links, but it made sense so people taught it. I remember in school I learned about all of this as a kid and took it for granted. Adults wouldn’t be wrong, would they? I mean, my whole world depended on them being right.
Finally, as an adult, I heard about Climate Change. “Well, what kind of change?” I asked me. When I looked into it, I got genuinely worried. Here is a scientific field with no expectation for causal links, no predictable outcomes, and no possible way to experiment. We know that C02 can change the climate, however if all that CO2 were still around, the Earth would long ago have choked to death. So something must work to keep the environment balanced (No, not God). Some process must be filtering this kind of thing out, but we have no idea what it even is, despite the fact that those in the field seem sure that they understand it’s capabilities and limitations. If I told you my car could go 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds, but I had no idea how and I can’t physically show you the car doing that but I have still frame pictures of the car at various stages of acceleration that support my claim, would you believe me?
The argument they make is never “If x, then y. It will happen that way every time.” It can’t be. There are literally infinite variables to the uncontrolled universe, and a conclusion on a global scale has to include all the variables of the planet. With our current understanding of the planet, it is completely and utterly absurd to think that we understand what is happening. We know so little that we aren’t even sure what questions to ask, yet.
The argument is always based on the number of people who are in consensus on the subject. So, pretty much the most harmful and misleading scientific proof-requirement that there is. It even affects some of my own heroes. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch Cosmos. They mention the lead argument to rile you up about cover-ups and such, followed by some meandering history. In one episode Mr. DeGrasse Tyson says that human beings are creating more greenhouse gases than have been seen throughout history (he specifies a timeframe, like “in one year”, but I can’t remember the scale and it would be very hypocritical of me to make one up, considering.). In the same episode, not twenty minutes separated from this statement, he discusses the Sumatran Super-volcano. It erupted seventy-five thousand years ago, and spewed so much gas and dust into the atmosphere that it blocked out the sun for over a decade. Well, I have never gone ten years without sunlight, so both of those statements can’t be true. Either they have inaccurate data on the eruption’s impact, or they have inaccurate data on humanity’s impact. Either way, it doesn’t help their case.
The other common “majority shaming” tactic is “every schoolkid knows”. I just saw Pelosi do this to Trump. She said “Even elementary schoolchildren understand climate change better than the President”. Well, for one, no. No, they don’t. They believe, because kids believe nearly anything you tell them. I convinced my stepson, who is a straight A gifted student, that Mallard Ducks are robots used to lure ducks to ponds and that the white line was where the head screwed on. Luckily mom stepped in before he decided to check and wound up pulling a duck’s head off in a public park. The point is that kids believe what you tell them so that you will like them. It is their defense mechanism. Not that we are maliciously “brainwashing” our children, but we are shoving this information down their throats at impressionable ages and completely removing any expectation of proof or results at the same time that we do it. Yes, this is absolutely as damaging as the anti-vaxxer argument, and yes, runaway environmentalism can kill just as many people as ignoring environmental issues.
The world has almost four times the population that it can reasonably sustain. The fundamental property of the universe that is working against us is entropy. You will never get one-hundred percent efficiency out of an energy source. With electricity we get heat loss and EMF, and with mechanics there is vibration and rotational loss. If you built a generator that produced 115 volts, it will always take at least 115.1 volts to run it. No matter what. This is because of the natural forces working on the generator. It requires energy to move to create the energy. For every measurable amount of energy we create, some is lost to a form of matter that we can’t readily convert. Remember E=MCe2? Matter and energy are interchangeable, but at some point the matter requires an inordinate amount of energy to be converted. Sure, we could make fuel out of sand, but the amount of energy we invest to make it into something usable would create far more pollution and use more energy. Our most efficient energy conversion is still chemical energy, which means making dinosaur juice into greenhouse gases.
Now, we all know that this is a finite resource and we are aware of cleaner theoretical options, but let’s remember Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Higher energy efficiency comes with much more disastrous mishaps. We should definitely be working on solutions, but they need to be practical before we can benefit from them. The batteries for hybrids and electric cars are recovered by strip mining entire mountains, but somehow they have been sold as “clean”. Here’s a fun fact: The rock movers, tractors and crushers they use to get hybrid batteries are decidedly not environmentally friendly. So how did all of this happen?
Quite frankly, because people need to feel that they are doing something and affecting the world positively. Okay, we can do that. We can be working towards a better cleaner environment without the threat of apocalypse looming over our heads. Especially when that prediction is based on shoddy science, at best. Again, I am only trying to poke holes in this argument so that people can concede that there are holes in it. We have all been drinking the Kool-Aid so long that I think we get lazy and just accept what we are told without an understanding. Any scientist who feels their conclusion should be accepted without explanation would be laughed out of a peer review. That’s what we don’t have with Climate Change. We have snap shots in history, and most of them don’t show the world that you think you know. In short, I am not a believer in the idea that “Human Industry is going to kill all of us in the next 50 years”, but I don’t need to be to know that better mpg, less carbon mono/dioxide and trash that doesn’t take 100,000 years to degrade are better for all of us.