Here we go: I don’t buy that global warming is caused by what we’re putting into the atmosphere. It may very well be possible that human activity is indeed responsible for it, but no-one’s really proven it yet. Call it an unfortunate side effect of my skeptical brain and my desire to critically evaluate things.

I certainly take what the doomsayers tell us with a large grain of salt, yet if you read on I’ll establish that we’re mad if we don’t back their play.

One of the basic premises of science is that it seeks to find the formulae that describe the way the universe works. To put this in the lingo of the everyman, science is trying to find the stories that explain how things work. Once you know the whole story, you can change one part of it and successfully predict how that one change alters the whole story. For instance, once you know the formula for speed (velocity = distance / time) and an object’s speed, you can alter the amount of time travelled and find out how the change in duration alters the amount of distance travelled at that speed (or the amount of time it takes to travel the original distance) using your formula, rather than actually changing the object in the real world and making more measurements.

That’s essentially what scientists on both sides of the global warming debate are doing when they tell us how things are going to turn out if we do/don’t change our input into the environment. Their respective formulae calculate the Earth’s temperature by filling in the known values of time and carbon emissions and use that data to to estimate the Earth’s tempurature. All without us sending a time travelling thermomter to 2050.

In the terms of global warming, the formulae being proposed are much (much, much) more complex than our formula for calculating an object’s speed. Nonetheless, they can be explained in fairly basic terms; we have the scientific majority telling us their story (of SCIENCE!) which says that there is a relationship between the amount of CO² into the atmosphere and the rise of global temperature. By way of example I gesture now to Al Gore waving his pointed stick at a giant chart. Armed with a formula that fits existing data they say they’ve extrapolated the following about the future: we’re fucked.

The other prevailing theory (also, of SCIENCE!) is the one presented by anyone anti-green (let’s say, for instance, heavy industry lobbyists and white supremacists, but I’ve picked those groups out at random). “No!” they shout, waving at the far end of Al Gore’s chart. “WTF? Your pretty graph has all these spikes in global temperatures at regular intervals, and it sure as sam hill looks like we’re due for another.” And they’re quite right, there. But, then, the greenies reply, “You r-tard. Do any of the historical spikes look anywhere as beefy as this one we’ve in now?” The last retort, though, goes the other way, “Er, hang on. Your chart seems to be a bit small, don’t you think?”

And therein lies the problem with both sides of this battle of scientific stories.

The amount of time we’ve been collecting verifiable data on the atmosphere isn’t really that shit-hot when you look at the complexity of a system like the Earth. We don’t have enough of the facts to declare either one or the other of these theories a 100% accurate description of the relationship between greenhouse gasses and global temperature.

But there are other things going on in the realm of environmental science…

The media has carbon dioxide tunnelvision lately. Anyone remember the other greenhouse gasses? A methane particle contributes 20 times as much towards the greenhouse effect as a carbon molecule – but there aren’t nearly as many methane molecules floating about. We’re doing our damnedest to make more, though, and I don’t see the masses rising up against cow burps.

To get really crazy, maybe we need to make sure we’ve got enough CO² in the atmosphere to keep us growing enough food to feed the planet through the mini-Ice Age that’s potentially due quite soon. We can devote our science to figuring out how to scrub the atmosphere later, when the big chill is nearly over. Assuming there is an ice age due, that is.

A bit of Googling turns up more zany schemes. In the end, though, one really ought to pay heed to experts in the field, since they’re the only people will the skill set necessary to make heads or tails of the situation.

Until we have enough data to gather enough information to accurately model our home planet’s weather patterns and prove any model correct (or at least disprove the others incorrect), surely the smartest course of action is to act as if either of the most accurate ones are correct. In that situation, wouldn’t you want to err on the side of caution and make sure you try to reddress the worst predictions of each theory?

(Also, I like this stand because, frankly, most of the evangelists on either side of this debate are kind of scary – like all extremists.)

(No music today. Back to audio pleasures next post.)