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Is Global Warming Really THAT Important?

(Photo courtesy of NOVA's newest documentary Extreme Ice,
definitely check it out for the photography if nothing else)

To be honest, I never thought I would utter the words in the title...EVER. I am a self-proclaimed environmentalist and take climate issues (notice how I stay away from "climate change") very seriously. The title has to do with the front page article in the New York Times Magazine, The Global-Warming Heretic.

The article is about the background and global views of Scientist Freeman Dyson, one of the most liberal (he has an Obama sticker on his car), intelligent, and outspoken scientists AGAINST the threat of global warming being the biggest issue facing society today believing that "all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated." He believes that much of what is conveyed in media like The Inconvenient Truth is propaganda that is blinding us from looking at the facts and information.


I won't get too deep into his beliefs (I do not know him personally and they are now 2 times removed as I am basing them off the article) but Dyson believes that Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere could actually be beneficial for the earth by serving as a nutritional source for certain plants and that any excess carbon could be dealt with using carbon hungry trees. He is concerned with the "enormous gaps in our knowledge." Much of our data (especially that used by Gore) relies heavily on computer generated models and calculations rather than known facts. His biggest problems with these models seem to be that they are over simplified, they do not take into account the biology and chemistry of the atmosphere as a whole. As an engineer who was worked with computer models, I know one of the downfalls is we (as people) tend to use computer models as fact when they are doing what we think they should be doing, and fiction when they are doing something we didnt expect (especially in the face of many unknowns).

The article in the times was well written and pretty long, it spanned the history of Dyson, where he had worked, and what experiences helped him draw his knowledge. But with all those words on the page, VERY few of them focused on what he thought was MORE important. They did grace over his views on coal, both as a horrendous polluter and a catalyst for movement from poverty to the middle class in developing countries like China and India. They also quoted him as saying that we would be "better to attack the real problems like extinction and over fishing." But those 3 things, as well as his views on nuclear weapons were about the extent of the discussion (and the brevity of the discussion was honestly lost in the word count).

I guess what I take issue with the most in the Times article is it treats the issue like a black and white situation, which is how the issue is generally treated. Much of this is probably due to the fact that this scientific issue has become a political one, and politics in America, in recent history, has moved from a "democracy" of open discussion, understanding, and working together, to one of being right or wrong, no in-between. Much time was spent on why Dyson didn't believe the facts and how he came to become a scientist, but little was spent on what issues he DID feel was important. By not spending a decent amount of time on Dyson's view of what IS important, it prevents us from opening up a dialogue that might lead to an understanding on what should be our priorities and how to move forward to fight global warming.

I myself believe global warming is happening and believe it is an issue that my generation needs to take very seriously. I don't often get into discussions about the facts because the truth is, I do not know them like the back of my hand and I will admit that a lot of my views are based on what I feel and the information I have received from sources I trust (Dyson would say this is one of the problems). I will however talk about the causes because whether or not you believe in it, the causes are all problems for everyone, no matter who you are. We can't drive SUVs for the rest of lives, hell, we can't drive hybrids for the rest of lives, because oil is FINITE. We need to move to alternative fuels so we can save oil for the things that can only be done with oil (until we come up with a better technology of course). Not only is oil a global warming issue, but it is a political one as well and sooner we rid our selves of our dependency on oil, we rid ourselves of out dependency on other countries.

We cannot continue to consume at the levels that we are consuming. We need to stop buying pallets of water at the store on a weekly basis (the only thing better than recycling or reusing is not consuming) and eating out as often. We have miles of open spaces across the globe, but there is no reason to fill them with trash. Not to mention many of the products we consume are also made from FINITE materials such as oil.

There is no one solution to any global issue we face, whether it be global warming or poverty. To take on something like global warming we need multiple approaches including education, regulation, a change of lifestyle, technological advancements, solid and reliable research, affordable renewable energy, an ability to prioritize, and more. It's not going to be easy, and it's not going to be quick. But until we can stop treating this like a right and wrong issue (and excluding the opposite side from the discussions at meetings and conferences) and opening up a dialogue among people with different, educated, opinions, issues such as climate change and its causes are never going to be solved properly.

1 comments:

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