Take it on faith

Posted by Lex, on November 4, 2007

People of all religions are often asked to accept some plainly contradictory things. For those unwilling to reconcile the irreconcilable there has always been the “spiritual but not religious” path, which for many – but by no means all – offers at least a kind of feel-good metaphysical gravitas without all of that hierarchy, organization and obligation.

For those unwilling to go even so far as that, there has at least been Global Warming, which offers them not just the chance to feel righteous about themselves, but also – and this is crucial for your true zealot – to feel superior to someone else. And that’s before the right-thinking set gets all weak in the knees at the notion of first world to third world transfer payments.

Sort of like purchasing an indulgence.

Now? Maybe, according to the London Telegraph, not so much:

One of the greatest problems Gore and his allies faced at this time (1997) was the mass of evidence showing that in the past, global temperatures had been higher than in the late 20th century. In 1998 came the answer they were looking for: a new temperature chart, devised by a young American physicist, Michael Mann. This became known as the “hockey stick” because it showed historic temperatures running in an almost flat line over the past 1,000 years, then suddenly flicking up at the end to record levels.

Mann’s hockey stick was just what the (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) wanted. When its 2001 report came out it was given pride of place at the top of page 1. The Mediaeval Warming, the Little Ice Age, the 20th century Little Cooling, when CO2 had already been rising, all had been wiped away.

But then a growing number of academics began to raise doubts about Mann and his graph. This culminated in 2003 with a devastating study by two Canadians showing how Mann had not only ignored most of the evidence before him but had used an algorithm that would produce a hockey stick graph whatever evidence was fed into the computer. When this was removed, the graph re-emerged just as it had looked before, showing the Middle Ages as hotter than today…

More serious, however, has been all the evidence accumulating to show that, despite the continuing rise in CO2 levels, global temperatures in the years since 1998 have no longer been rising and may soon even be falling.

It was a telling moment when, in August, Gore’s closest scientific ally, James Hansen of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, was forced to revise his influential record of US surface temperatures showing that the past decade has seen the hottest years on record. His graph now concedes that the hottest year of the 20th century was not 1998 but 1934, and that four of the 10 warmest years in the past 100 were in the 1930s.

Furthermore, scientists and academics have recently been queuing up to point out that fluctuations in global temperatures correlate more consistently with patterns of radiation from the sun than with any rise in CO2 levels, and that after a century of high solar activity, the sun’s effect is now weakening, presaging a likely drop in temperatures.

That may or may not happen. Mr. Gore’s “larger truth” beyond his proven obfuscations may or may not in fact be accurate. Maybe it’s worth clamping the brakes on the worlds’ largest economies, the driving engines behind an international growth phenomenon which has in the last century raised unprecedented hundreds of millions of people out of existential poverty in favor of a transnational wealth redistribution scheme. Although that, gentle reader, is a damned hard sell, politically speaking.

You might even have to call it something else.

Especially considering that whatever good might come from such an effort would be rapidly rendered moot by the industrial exhalations of massively more populated developing countries such as China and India, who, faced with social pressures of their own, decline to stop their ascent from poverty on some intermediate floor, thanks for asking.

There are many things that might be true that, at the end of the day, are simply unverifiable. And therefore unfalsifiable. Which combination takes them out of the realm of science, and into the realm of faith.

Which, we are often reminded, is a poor place from whence to legislate public policy.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Neptunus Lex, Politics and Culture

One response to “Take it on faith

  1. Pingback: Index – The Rest of Neptunus Lex | The Lexicans

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