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On Climate Change

In light of a recent post of mine, I wanted to share something from my old blog on the topic of Climate Change, which is fast becoming a religion of sorts. Any denial of it and man’s direct responsibility for it is blasphemy and/or heresy for one side of the aisle. Any agreement with it is just as sacrilegious to the other side.

Because of this quandary, I took some time to look at Climate Change through the lens of the problem solving & decision making methodology we use where I work. Whatever you think about Climate Change, you might agree that people tend to first form a conclusion and then look for data to support it…and, of course, explain away or ignore any data that doesn’t support it. Why is that? Politically speaking, if we can definitively tie Climate Change to human activity (CO2 emissions), it’s a perfect opportunity for a power grab—to control a whole lot of human activity. On the other hand, refuting the aforementioned has the opposite effect if one wants to limit government involvement in human activity.

Before we can even being to address any concerns about Climate Change the situation must be made clear. Before a situation can be made clear any ambiguities and over-generalizations must be dealt with. Beginning at the beginning, we can see that the term “Climate Change” is ambiguous because both “climate” and “change” can mean too many different things to too many different people, so I went to a NASA website for clarification on what is changing and how. I found these:

  • See levels are rising
  • Ice sheets are shrinking
  • Arctic sea ice is declining
  • Glaciers are retreating
  • Snow cover is decreasing
  • Oceans are acidifying
  • Extreme weather events are increasing
  • The Earth and oceans are warming (Global Warming)

Whatta mess!!!

Next is to look at one thing at a time and tackle the most serious concern first. Which concern above would have the biggest current and future impact? I’ll go forward with the premise that Global Warming is the highest priority concern on the list above because it could conceivably be causing most of the other things on the list.

If my superiors at work were to ask our group to look into the Global Warming situation, we would look at something called “The Should” and also something called “The Actual”. For this case, “The Actual” would be the current average global temperature assuming we can get a reliable measurement. “The Should” would be the Earth’s normal average temperature range…the way it should be. What would be the upper limit of that normal range and what would be the lower limit? I can tell you that a huge difficulty we’d run into right away is defining “The Should”. This is very problematic because you cannot truly understand a problem—in terms of an abnormality—if you do not understand what is normal.

But why not just look at the rise in CO2 since that is the presumed main cause of the warming? We could, but we’d invariably be back to the same questions about the Earth’s temperature. What “Should” is good? At work we’ll define “The Should” for a product or system based on historical manufacturing records and control limits and/or established industry standards among other things. There are no such standards for the Earth’s average temperature range that I know of, but we can look at history.

Let’s suppose we have about 200 years of accurate global temperature data. My guess is that it is much less than 200 years because of the many years with no satellite temperature data from space, but we’ll go with it. Also, the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, but I’d say the climate 4.5 billion years ago is irrelevant data for humans living today. Let’s go back an amount of time in which the first mammals were happily living on Earth, breathing clean air and drinking clean water. Mammals go back about 200 million years. Keep in mind that 200 million years is only 4% of the Earth’s lifetime, so it’s a relatively short period of time to look at, but we’ll go with it. So, 200 years of temperature data in 200 million years of history would represent .0001% of the time.

To put this in context of something we can grasp, the Dow Jones Industrial average (DJIA) has been around for about 120 years. .0001% of 120 years is about 63 minutes. Suppose that tomorrow the DJIA were to dive 1000 points from 1:00PM to 2:03PM. At 2:04PM, should we conclude a long term financial disaster and an urgent need for more industry regulation? For even more context, consider that 0001% of ten years is about 5.3 minutes. Suppose you walk into a ten year old home for the very first time with a family inside going about their business and you begin measuring the temperature. You note a warming trend of about 1°C after about 5.3 minutes and announce a domestic warming crisis and begin to regulate the families’ activity. Seems like hysteria to me without more data.

Chart taken from MarketWatch

In either the case of the family home or the DJIA, if you were to declare a crisis and an urgent need for regulation you’d likely be on the receiving end of some blank stares. This does not mean there should be no concern for Global Warming. In my profession I would need to report that there is not enough information to define “The Should”, so we would likely move this issue away from a problem analysis and into a decision analysis. Problem analysis focuses on the question “Why did it happen?” while decision analysis focuses on the question “What should we do?”

A good decision in this arena is above my pay grade, but whatever the decision, let’s be aware of two opposing extremes…

#1 Nature Worship

The view that nature is “perfect” just the way it is acts as a kind of secular “dogma”. With this as a base premise, we can see the logic that concludes the following…any unnatural interference or manipulation of nature for the benefit of man is a deprivation of nature’s perfection, and a good definition of evil is just that—a deprivation of perfection.1 Therefore, defending anything in nature against man is intrinsically “good” and promoting man’s industrialization and expansion is intrinsically “evil”.

#2 Nature’s Neglect

Beware of any ideology that says man can and should interfere and manipulate nature anyway we see fit. God wants us to take care of the temporary dwelling place he gave us. “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the Garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it.” (Gen 2:15) So if we are to be good stewards of all the gifts God gives us, including the Earth, should we not be trustworthy stewards? Of course we should. “Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” (1 Cor 4:2)

 

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas, Aquinas’s Shorter Summa (Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2002), p. 125.
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Ben Butera

Ben Butera is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and currently a Solutions Development Manager for a global 500 company. In 2010 he was certified as an instructor and Program Leader for his company’s initiative in analytical problem solving and decision making. In 2016 his first book was published entitled “Faith with Good Reason: Finding Truth Through an Analytical Lens”. Ben is also co-author of “Two Catholic Men and a Blog”; a blog about Catholic faith and reason. He is a religious education catechist, a husband, a father and lives with his loving wife and three children in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.

15 Comments

  1. “Beware of any ideology that says man can and should interfere and manipulate nature anyway we see fit.”
    “So if we are to be good stewards of all the gifts God gives us, including the Earth, should we not be trustworthy stewards?”

    Somehow, these two statements paired together feel like the cliffhanger calling us to tune in next week. Seems as if a lot more elaboration is due in order to sort these out.

  2. “CO2 is poisonous!” scream the chicken littles of our day, as they sip nicely carbonated soda by a tree that breathes it in.

  3. These people cry that carbon emissions from burning fossil fuel is causing global warming and we’re all a’gonna die. To remedy that they propose useless worthless less than 30% capacity factor wind and solar, and shutting down the ONLY baseload source of power that does not emit carbon – nuclear. And Germany is finding out that it doesn’t work. They are razing whole towns to mine for coal because when it comes to a choice between lights out freeze in the dark of winter or electricity, even the die hard enviro-wacko will opt for electricity from fossil. Angela Merkel, that’s your cue.

    IF they believed – truly believed – in what they say, THEN they would scream to replace oil, gas and coal with passively safe advanced nuclear designs like the thorium fueled molten salt reactor, or the GE-Hitachi PRISM sodium fast neutron burner, or the General Atomics High Temp Helium Cooled Reactor. But they don’t believe. It’s all a line of crap. It’s the pagan religion of goddess Gaia.

    And PS, I am a 40+ year nuke professional and I don’t believe in any of that global warming crap. But I do believe in what you said, Ben. We gotta be faithful stewards of the environment. Dumping billions of tons of pollution into the air every year will have an effect, and whatever that effect is, we likely won’t enjoy it. I say let’s treat all power generation the same – nobody gets to dump his pollution into the environment and nobody gets govt handouts. Level the regulatory playing field and compete fairly on the free market. Solar and wind would dry up without govt handouts. And if oil, gas and coal had to sequester their waste as nuclear does, they would likely go down the tubes simply because of the volume of waste. But let’s see. Let’s let the free market work instead of gerrymandering everything with this global warming nonsense.

  4. There are credentialed “skeptics” who point out matters that “alarmists” ignore. How explain: the warmer than now intervals in ancient and medieval times; or the evidence the carbon dioxide is an effect, rather than a cause of warming; and the reality that manmade CO2 amounts to about a tenth of a percent of all atmospheric carbon dioxide; does not plant life convert CO2 into 02; And the biggest question of all is how many billions of people must be eliminated from the face of the earth to remove that infinitesimal portion of carbon dioxide? I have yet to hear a high priest of the Church of Constant Catastrophe satisfactorily answer these questions.

  5. Even more devastating is the fact that carbon dioxide is a trace gas to begin with—i.e. less that one tenth of one percent of the total atmosphere. So we’re really talking about a tenth of a tenth of one percent.

    But weesa gonna die! they tell us.

  6. Were Hillary (shudder) elected, we would continue hear the “Weesa gonna die chorus. About all we could then do would be to replace the proud eagle, substituting Chicken Little as our national bird.

  7. Exnoaaman,
    You bring up a good point. The things from NASA I brought up are “concerns”. Any concern can be addressed even if not based in fact. Once clear about a list of concerns they can be clarified and prioritized. Then you go where the data leads which could be basically…no where

  8. My discipline is history not climatology so when someone cites events as proof of something I always look to history for precedent. Sure enough, all of the items cited on the NASA website have taken place in earth’s history, a number of them independent of any manmade presence. In addition, no reputable climatologist will speak of a climate period of less than a century though there may be events within that period. The great warming of the late10th-early14th centuries that brought both the renaissance and the black death was such a period The cool winters from 1944 to 1952 was an event. It also caused heavy particulate precipitate in England where a number of people died from toxic smog. A change in emissions laws plus a moderating of the weather (not climate, they are two different things) prevented a recurrence. Finally, to assign a specific case to a specific problem, the data must support the conclusion within two standard deviations for confirmation. In the matter of anthropomorphic climate change, this has not yet been done. Side note: Assuming there was a way to cool down the climate, it is highly unlikely that Canada and Russia would be on board with any program that eliminates the millions of hectares of arable land that has been added to the northern regions of those countries during the past three decades.

  9. THE ONLY THING SCIENTISTS FEAR IS UNEMPLOYMENT,,,,like the early 70’s when nasa geeks were working in the malls,,,,so global warming is their new full employment insurance, it’s that simple.

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