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December 2007
January 2008

2007-12-01 »

Sanity and Climate Change

My friend and former engineering classmate David Pritchard writes a summary of a book on global warming and compares it to a related scientific paper.

I really like David's analysis. It's short enough to be readable in a few minutes, but long enough to have actual content. It also states far more facts than opinions, leaving you to make conclusions for yourself.

I took one key point away from reading it. Maybe it's obvious to you, but it was never obvious to me, and it seems not to be obvious to a lot of coffee table environmentalists. The point is just this: our goal needs to be to stabilize the atomospheric carbon level.

Does that sound too obvious? Think about what else it means:

  • It doesn't matter whether the carbon level increase is caused by mankind or not. There are arguments that global warming/cooling happens on a natural cycle. Answer: irrelevant. Stabilizing it won't make things worse, and it might make things better. (Dinosaurs probably didn't cause an ice age, either, but that didn't make it any more comfortable for them.)

  • It doesn't really matter whether the carbon level increase affects the temperature, or how much. An increase in carbon levels in the atmosphere might have all sorts of effects we don't know about; just keep it the same, and we risk nothing. The same can be said for most of the arguments about positive/negative feedback loops, etc.

  • You don't have to stop emitting carbon. Too little carbon would be just as bad as too much. Remember, things are absorbing it again. You just have to keep things in equilibrium.

  • You can keep things in equilibrium by increasing carbon "sinks" as well as by decreasing emissions.

This is a gross oversimplification and David's article says many other important things in a clear and well-balanced way, and includes references. You should read it.

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