Global Warming And Me

It is increasingly difficult to be a skeptic when it comes to global warming. That’s not because I am doubting my scientific beliefs, but because it’s more socially acceptable to be fearful of Vanuatu being inundated or Greenland turning green.

I was listening to the Faith Middleton Show today on Connecticut Public Radio. Global Warming was the topic and Dean James Gustave Speth of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies was a guest.

Dean Speth is a heavy hitter on the subject. I could copy his CV here, but I am so overshadowed by his achievements, I’d rather not risk the comparison.

Still, after hearing Dean Speth, I felt I had to send him this note:

Dear Dean Speth,

I listened to your broadcast today with great interest. Though I am skeptical of the harshest global warming pronouncements, I enjoy listening to experts, such as yourself and learning when I can.

Trust me when I say, it would be much easier to be a believer. It is a much more socially acceptable viewpoint to have.

Nearly ten years ago, I was invited to the White House to listen to then Vice President Gore speak on the subject. In spite of all I’d been told, he was a masterful speaker, making scientific points to an audience of meteorologists without benefit of notes or a written script. And yet, I wasn’t won over.

Though it’s purely anecdotal, most of the other meteorologists I spoke with then and speak with now, feel as I do. As operational forecasters, we use computer modeling on a daily basis and understand how weak it can be. We know we can’t always forecast tomorrow’s temperature accurately, much less next month’s or a few decades from now. Heck, we can’t always accurately initialize the models! It’s not for lack of trying.

Long range global modeling makes too many assumptions and takes too many shortcuts to keep me comfortable.

Unfortunately, the rhetoric concerning global warming has gotten so out of hand that lay people are starting to say they notice it! Summers are warmer. Storms are stronger. Winters have less snow.

Last summer and fall, our wild tropical season was attributed by many (Trenberth and Shea as an example) to global warming. Has it abated this year?

If global warming is science and not politics, why is every consequence I hear a negative one? Are there no positives, even in the most dire global warming scenarios? Won’t I save on heating oil? How about road wear and plowing in North America, Europe and parts of Asia? Won’t Siberia and the Great Plains of the US and Canada have a longer growing season?

And if Kyoto is the answer, why are the exclusions that exist in that treaty, and other exclusions which some countries have unilaterally declared (Germany’s removal of coal restrictions) for themselves, never mentioned? You made no mention of these today when declaring all the industrial countries had ratified Kyoto. If I were India or China, I’d ratify a million Kyotos which weaken my competitors and don’t touch me.

Again, it would be so much easier to believe. I am not a political extremist. I believe a clean and pure environment is good in the abstract. I am just scared we’re being sold an expensive bill of goods based on shaky science and strong emotional appeal.

Thank you for taking the time to read my email.


Geoff Fox

Hamden, CT

I don’t expect Dean Speth to read my email and have a Eureka moment. I didn’t expect to be won over when I listened either.

Still, one of us has to be wrong. If it’s me, I’d rather know now than later. I hope he feels the same way.

4 thoughts on “Global Warming And Me”

  1. Geoff: Most not all people I talk with under thirty years of age take global warming as a proven scientific fact. If you express any doubts at all you are suddenly categorized as a “Republican” or an executive in the oil business. The subject has been completely politicized and I have added it to my list of forbidden discussion topics along with abortion, gun control and religion.

  2. Even if you are skeptical, isn’t it important to be cautiously optimistic that it isn’t a threat? The truth of the matter is that there’s no 100% conclusive evidence either way. If we fight global warming only to find that it wasn’t a problem, we’re still doing fine. Alternative energy is a good thing any way you slice it (among other examples). However, if we don’t fight it and then find out that it is indeed a problem, then we’ll be very sorry.

  3. In response to Kyle – you would be correct if the proposed solutions weren’t so expensive and invasive. As difficult as it is for our industries to compete on a worldwide basis now, it would be even more difficult and in some cases impossible. We all make choices for practical reasons that aren’t necessarily the purest choices.

    There are no easy answers.

  4. What you don’t point out (perhaps out of politeness) is that Septh is not a scientist, but a lawyer and a policy analyst — in fact, he is a low key version of Al Gore. I think your point about politics trumping science in this debate is underscored by the fact that the Yale School of Foresty and Environmental Studies is headed by someone whose training and expertise is neither in foresty nor environmental science, but in law and politics.

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