“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Shall I become an expert on Anthropogenic Global Warming?

Apparently, I must. In the past, I've concluded that I can comfortably decide how to vote, purchase, act, etc. with respect to the possibility of mankind-caused climate disruption due to the burning of fossil fuels and the resultant carbon dioxide emissions (hereafter abbreviated by "AGW" - anthropogenic global warming) by determining whom to trust as "experts." I've linked several blogs that clearly support the notion that we are dangerously destabilizing the atmosphere/ocean system by our prodigious carbon dioxide emissions.

But, while such as "Watching the Deniers," "Eli Rabett," and others discount many, if not most, who are skeptical of the AGW claim as lacking in intelligence, being in the pay of fossil fuel interests, the Chamber of Commerce, or other less than savory motivations, there is a sizeable contingent of folks who seem to have intelligence and integrity and yet who argue against AGW.  Some aren't even listed in Sourcewatch. The one who's caused me to ask the question in the title of this post is Warren Meyer of the Coyote Blog.

Meyer is (apparently) a small business owner and avowedly a political and philosophical libertarian. I'm a medium sized business partner and inclined toward a libertarian philosophy. I'm inclined to think that libertarianism will meet its downfall in the excessive discounting of the long term so that when people acting in their individual interest recognize the phenomenon of energy descent it will be (if it isn't already) too late. I would be interested in Meyer's opinion of the societal goal directed behavior that was necessary to enable the U.S. to fight and win the Second World War.

And while Meyer acknowledges that his credentials to speak as an expert on climate change do not come from peer reviewed papers, a professorship in the Earth Sciences Department of a University, or a Doctorate in a Climate Science related field, the arguments in the paper linked above are compelling and, were it not for a couple of years of absorbing the information in the "pro AGW" (exceptionally stupid phrase) blogosphere I would have found them dispositive. He states that he thinks his paper should be read as journalism rather than a scientific paper.

So what am I to make of this? If I rely on the experts mentioned above, Meyer is to be ignored. And yet I find that to be problematic. Dr. Tobis, Eli Rabbet, Steve Carson, etc. are not going to take the time to absorb Meyer's paper, dissect it, and summarize its errors and misconceptions. My choices are thus to ignore it or to learn enough to evaluate it on its merits myself.

Specifically, Meyer argues that:
There is no doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and it is pretty clear that CO2 produced by man has an incremental impact on warming the Earth’s surface.  However, recent warming is the result of many natural and man-made factors, and it is extraordinarily difficult to assign all the blame for current warming to man.  In turn, there are very good reasons to suspect that climate modelers may be greatly exaggerating future warming due to man.  Poor economic forecasting, faulty assumptions about past and current conditions, and a belief that climate is driven by runaway positive feedback effects all contribute to this exaggeration.  As a result, warming due to man’s impacts over the next 100 years may well be closer to one degree C than the forecasted eight.  In either case, since AGW supporters tend to grossly underestimate the cost of CO2 abatement, particularly in lost wealth creation in poorer nations, there are good arguments that a warmer but richer world, where aggressive CO2 abatement is not pursued, may be the better end state than a poor but cooler world.
This is far different than Dr. Tobis, Grinzo, Rabbet, et al would contend. But I need more than simply "Meyer is wrong, we know, trust us." I guess I will have to build my edifice of knowledge from the ground up.

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