Monday, February 12, 2007

Global Warming and That Inevitable Doom


by Tika

I cannot say that I was born an optimist, but I am neither a cynic. I am opinionated and suspicious, which helps me a lot when I have to do my science. With global warming, I am no skeptic. I champion the reasoning that we humans are at fault; science dictates this.

I remember when Al Gore ran for president. Of course he lost unfairly: there was some malfunction of some sort in Florida, which did the deed to his great disappointment. This of course they say this is unfounded, but it is my opinion.

So nowadays former Vice President Gore goes around with his Mac powerbook, talking about how global warming is to us like a frog in a cup of water that is about to boil. Like the frog, we just sit there, waiting, until its too late. A hand takes the frog out of the boiling water or we die. He titles it: "An Inconvenient Truth".

We are of course doomed from the start. The earth goes round and round the sun with a catch: as long as the sun keeps on burning. But as all burning goes, it will burn out, and the earth will stop turning. We have 4 billion years until this happens; the earth is only about 4.5 billion years; life has evolved on earth for 3.5 billion years; our species is about 250,000 years old. We sit on top of the earth like the frog in the cup of water; it's ok.

Humans have become one of the greatest species on earth because we have found ways to push this thought of doom far away from our minds. We grew prosperous and we multiplied; we are now 6.6 billion in total, older than the age of the earth itself.

We've made our presence known here on earth by taking in most things we cannot give back. We are part of nature, but we have fooled ourselves to thinking that we have grown apart from it. We feel comfort in the burning of the sun, though finite, it is to the individual human life infinite.

We are doomed; this is natural we say. Species have come and go here on earth, because the earth is limited from the start. So we just sit.

But a couple of days ago, the smartest people of the lands, and some of the most powerful bunch got together saying enough is enough. They have finally felt the temperature rising; the water has been not quite lukewarm for sometime now. It is natural, but we have made it that way, with probability above 90 %. Sure, numbers are just one way to say this truth.

It is a giant leap to agree on the idea that we humans are in fact a formidable force of nature. But to go against such a formidable force takes much more than a leap. It takes an ingenious effort on the part of both scientists and leaders of the world to go so far; a great revolution in our science and humanity. We just hope that we move fast enough before our cup boils over. It is no longer convenient to be skeptical, unless we all accept such a fate to be our inevitable doom.

**Illustration obtained from http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.city.sendai.jp/soumu/kouhou/emailnews/ecolife-e/images/TokoroYukiyoshi.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.city.sendai.jp/soumu/kouhou/emailnews/ecolife-e/&h=600&w=425&sz=92&hl=en&sig2=-juZreEyQBO2tXT6nCKXsg&start=2&tbnid=mELYDxuqwI2YaM:&tbnh=135&tbnw=96&ei=-wfQRaKfG4yuaaCD0ZYC&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dglobal%2Bwarming%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26sa%3DG

6 comments:

rizal said...

On the second thought, I think I'd rather comment here :-). On global warming, you may (not) want to read this skeptical environmentalist (in pdf), who once said, "save the world, ignore global warming".

Surely he's been hated, but he made a good interesting point on the benefit that may forgo if you devise all resources to prevent global warming. No throwing cups, please.

Scott said...

I'm a Michael Crichton zombie-fan myself. My views through these posts: http://scottthong.wordpress.com/2007/02/26/carbon-dioxide-and-global-warming-5-reasons-why-im-not-alarmed/ and http://scottthong.wordpress.com/2007/03/07/stop-focusing-on-global-warming-start-focusing-on-humanity/

(the second one quaotes you, rizal)

Tika said...

This comment is a copy of my reply to Scott's posting:

Scott: "I will change my stance if convincing evidence comes to my attention. (This would be similar to my views on evolution - prove it beyond reasonable doubt, and I’ll accept it)"

Scientific "truth" is never based on anything 100%. There is always doubt and science is all about estimating this doubt. Read research papers in scientific journals and you will see that scientists will always state their claim with a certain amount of doubt. If these claims are put out in the form of numbers/statistics, you will always see some margin of error associated with the results. Good scientific papers will always state these doubts, if they don't then they are bad papers and you should not trust them. So you can never state that something is 100% accurate without any doubt. You can only say that your claim is accurate up to a certain margin of error.

Problem is lay people, even naive scientits, don't really understand this convention and they become prey to people who like to use this aspect of science to mill out some theory of scientific conspiracy.

Sure science is a human endeavour and there is some non-neutral aspect in science. But the idea behind the scientific establishment and the sceintific method is accepting that there is some non-neutrality involved in human rationality. This is why it is not enough to have just one "scientific" study saying that global warming is the result of human activity. There must be hundreds of studies with sound empirical evidence behind them to state the same claim. These hundreds of studies, in the form of scientific papers, are not just put up out there for people to read with the claim and the empirical data behind them. Additionally, they must pass through tight scrutiny by scientific peers most expert in the field to finally be published in scientific journals for other scientists to read up on and then reply with their own study of the same claim. This goes on and on until scientific journals are saturated with some overwhelming claim such that it is almost the same as saying the claim is 100% true in laymen's term.

I now accept that human activity plays a big part on global warming because a lot of scientists say that it is,not because Al Gore said it is. I do not have any expertise on this matter, I rely solelly on the judgement of scientists most expert in the field. I trust the scientists in the field since, not only am I not an expert in Global warming, I also do not have the time to filter out every claim made by every scientist on the subject, even though I myself am trained to question such scientific work, albeit in another field. I trust the most respected scientific journals on this matter when they say that a majority of scientific studies published in theirs and many other scientific journals show that there is a very high correlation that human activity is causing global warming. If a nonexpert non-science trained individual wants to question and doubt the scientists in the field and wants to put out a claim of their own, I suggest for them to not just read up on what these scientists say about this but to train to become a scientist in the field and do some real scientific study.

It took some years for IPCC to state this 90% claim of human activity as causing global warming. Over 600 scientists most expert in the field signed the IPCC claim. This from decades of tough scientific scrutiny. This shows that it is not some immature conclusion based on sloppy science. I don't think now is the time for non experts in the field to stir up some conspiracy idea behind this claim, we should let the scientific establishment figure this out. The time now is to act and support the science behind what we are going to do about this obvious problem. I agree that telling people not to drive their car is the best way to deal with the problem. It is a complicated social and environmental issue that must be addressed seriously and intelligently with good sound science.

Tika said...

rizal: "save the world, ignore global warming".

Sorry for the very long delay in the reply! I have read through some part of the skeptic link. Basically I come to the conclusion that most people who are anti global warming dont like it because of the $$$ factor.

Whatever the politics behind global warming, I base my conclusion on accepting the reality of climate change solely on what the scientists of the field have to say, that is climatoligists and the like, not politicians ;). It is obviously real they say. My take is what to do about it.

Interesting coverage by Nature magazine on the economical debate of climate change:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v445/n7128/full/445582b.html

Let me know if there is resticted access and I can personally send the articles to you.

rizal said...

Tika, I don't disagree that global warming is real. So me not anti global warming :-).

The problem is, first, how to measure the (economic) loss of it, in order to design how much our (current) welfare to be given up to prevent the loss.

Second, even if we know the loss, hence the resource to deploy, we still need to compare it with the loss caused by other problems of the world -malaria, AIDS, famine, etc.

If spending the resource to, say, t AIDS, have greater impact than global warming, the resource should go there first. What problems are more pressing is indeed subject to further empirical test.

It is not all about the money, but on how to make a priority for the resources that we should give up and allocate to save future generation.

And, please kindly send that Nature article, I got no access.

ps: Scott, no problem. And good argument of you.

Jufri said...

I Just Write it To.... we all have to act to reduce Global Warming.