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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 5:31 am | Fair 44º


Trent Benedetti: Climate Change, and Disagreement, Discussion and Dogma

Climate change is a topic about which people disagree. There is nothing wrong with disagreement, even passionate disagreement. But nothing is accomplished when those on any side of a topic employ bombastic rhetoric, communicate in shrill tones and convey sanctimonious certainty about their particular points of view.

Unfortunately, shrill, sanctimonious bombast is often what we get when it comes to climate change.

Earth’s climate has always changed. There have been several periods of both global cooling and warming. As we look forward, do we know exactly what causes one or the other? No.

Yet, some claim they do. We have all seen quotes like this: “... global-warming ... with consequences too important to ignore, still has a vocal minority of deniers. To support their ludicrous claims, they cherry-pick statements from a dwindling and tiny fringe minority in the scientific community.”

It is obvious that the person responsible for these words believes in global warming. Equally obvious is a desire to marginalize anyone who believes otherwise.

For global warming believers, man-made greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, principally carbon dioxide (CO2), drives concern about future climate calamity. However, not everyone agrees, including some very smart people.

One is Princeton University physicist Will Happer, who testified before Congress and said, “I believe that the increase of CO2 is not a cause for alarm and will be good for mankind.”

Or, Dr. Kiminori Itoh, of Japan’s Yokohama National University, who has served as an expert reviewer for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He has declared global warming the “worst scientific scandal in (history).”

Instead of these distinguished academics, perhaps you would prefer the views of a Nobel Prize winner?

In that case, consider Dr. Ivar Giaverer, a leading scientific supporter of President Barack Obama in his 2008 campaign. Giaverer believes the “alarm regarding climate change is grossly overstated.” He questions the evidence and describes the belief in climate change as “religion.”

He also considers irrelevant the frequent claims about the number of scientists who believe it. In Giaverer’s mind, being relevant requires being right.

These are but three distinguished scientists who are skeptical about the relationship between man-made greenhouse gases and climate change. Three of many.

The climate we experience results from a very complex system. It is affected by so many factors that we cannot truthfully claim to have an accurate count of them, much less the almost infinite number of ways they relate one to the other.

Take atmosphere. It is one of many components comprising our climate system. In turn, there are many elements in the atmosphere, of which CO2 is one.

CO2 from all sources comprises approximately .04 percent of our atmosphere. Of that, approximately 3 percent is man-made. In other words, man-made CO2 accounts for slightly more than one part per million of our atmosphere — and atmosphere is only one part of the climate system.

How can anyone claim to know with certainty what effect man-made CO2 will have upon our climate over the next one, five or 10 years, much less the next 100? Man-made CO2 is an infinitesimal fraction contained within an infinitely complex climate equation. No one can predict with certainty what effect one tiny variable — one variable among thousands, millions or even billions — will have.

Yet people continue to dogmatically claim they know, to emphatically assert they are right. Laurens van der Post, an early critic of South African apartheid, said: “human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt they are right.”

We should continue to discuss climate change. In time, we might agree. Until we do, the climate change dogma is scary.

— Trent Benedetti is a member of the board of directors of the Committee to Improve North County and a longtime local business owner. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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