A few weeks ago I posted a movie review on Chasing Ice. A reader posted the following comment:
I’ve seen this documentary, they are beautiful and astonishing videos, everyone should see how glaciers calve in time-lapse. These videos document how glaciers calve but they are not evidence that CO2 is the cause. Suggesting that they are calving faster than ever before, or that they will never regrow, or that this has never happened before is pure bunk.
Still, everyone should see these videos, they are compelling.
The comment is complimentary enough, but it appears to discredit the content of my post entirely. Several things have happened here that warrant some contemplation:
- The movie Chasing Ice simply documents facts, in this case receding of glaciers. The movie does not imply this is man-made, nor it is trying to be proof of such. The movie is a documentary showing the years of relentless, dangerous, painstaking work by a dedicated leader and an entire team of assistants.
- In my post reviewing the movie I also didn’t offer it up as proof, but I did make insinuations appealing to the reader’s common sense. The commenter, I hope, was trying to discount me, not the creators of the movie.
- I must have been provocative enough to elicit that response, and I take that as a positive outcome.
It occurred to me that it is very easy to discredit the hard, sometimes life-long work of dedicated people with very simple, general statements. This happens a lot when an “expert” gets on television and debunks some study, outcome, book, opinion or sometimes life-work.
In this particular case, the commenter is right. The movies showing glaciers receding at a rapid rate are not evidence that CO2 is the cause. Suggesting that they are calving faster than ever before, or that they will never regrow, or that this has never happened before, is not quite pure bunk in my opinion, but the commenter is right.
We know that only approximately 11,000 years ago there was so much ice bound over land in the northern hemisphere that glaciers reached down to Minnesota and Montana in the United States, and the Bering Straight was dry so people could walk from Asia to America. Yes, these glaciers are not here today, and the oceans are high again, so it certainly has happened before (we don’t know quite exactly how fast).
However, we do know that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is now higher than it has been for 80,000 years, with the possible exception of very short spikes during major volcano eruptions.
The vast majority of climate scientists do agree that humans are the cause of the high CO2 levels in the atmosphere. I am too old now to go back to school for five more years for a Ph.D. in a climate science so I can personally contribute scientifically to this debate. I also don’t personally know anyone who actually has such an education. Therefore I must rely on what I can read about both sides of the argument, discuss the topic with as many people as possible, and come to a conclusion based on all this personal analysis.
Can a climate scientist then pick up my post that results from this study and burn a huge hole in it in just a few sentences? Yes, sure, and there is nothing I can do about it.
However, there are some interesting and telling voices out there:
Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth.
— Øystein Dahle, former Vice President of Exxon for Norway
Of course, we all know that half the Republican members of Congress do not believe that global warming is real, or that, if it is, it’s caused by human activity.
Fly over any part of the world today and look down. Or check out a YouTube made from the international space station using time-lapse photography:
Do you see the massive scars humans left on the planet? Do you think that humans could make those scars and not leave the equivalent scars in the atmosphere?
The burning of fossil fuels on this planet started in earnest about 100 years ago and is now happening on such a massive scale that we’re predicting that we’ll run out of oil and gas in 20 years, 50 years, 100 years, 200 years? Whatever. We’ll run out very soon, on a geological time scale.
- Do I have personal experience as a climate scientist? No.
- Do I have evidence that man is causing global warming? No.
- Do I have proof that the high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere come from our burning of fossil fuels? No.
- Do I have proof that there is no god? No.
- Do I have proof that there is a god? No.
Let me just bring in the philosophical concept of Occam’s Razor, which speculates that if there is a problem, the simplest solution or answer is the most likely one to be right:
If it walks like a duck, if it looks like a duck, it if quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
I’ll go with that for a moment, and starting with January 1, 2013, let me turn the tables:
- Prove to me that the high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere does not come from human activities.
- Prove to me that human activities are not the major cause why our glaciers are melting at an unprecedented speed.
- Prove to me that we could not stop this process and turn things around to get the balance back into the atmosphere that was there in 1800, by simple changes on how we live and travel.
Those on the high horse of “it’s immoral to leave this debt to our children” ought to join me in the conviction that it is more than immoral to leave a broken planet to our children, it’s criminal. Quite frankly, if we break the planet enough, the debt simply won’t matter.
Happy New Year!