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This long post is about my views on climate change. Feel free to skip everything below the line... it's not intended to respond to Jim or anyone else: I encourage everyone to question all the evidence and make up their own mind. This is just a couple of comments I want to make on the subject, based on my own beliefs and convictions after years of reading everything I can get my hands on about the issue (both for and against).
The only thing that I want to keep above the line, so that hopefully everyone reads it, is this: the conversation about climate change must be science-based. Our individual biases, political or otherwise, should enter the conversation when we discuss responses to it... but the science of what is or is not happening, and what is or is not causing, should be kept as objective, data-driven, and free from bias as possible. I've seen flat-out lies and forgeries from people on all sides of this issue, and all that says to me is that there are liars among us, and people who will sacrifice integrity for fame, fortune, or power... it does not change the issue nor should it influence us. Discard those who are known to lie, and look for better evidence.
Now for the long part...
From everything I see, 99.99% of the scientific community worldwide agrees that climate change is real and is happening right now. Having some tiny number of people genuinely convinced of the opposite view does not constitute a "real debate" IMHO. Yes, there is a small number of scientists whose research leads them to believe that humans are not able to influence climate change. I think they're wrong. Or, if you want to look at it a different way, I'd say that this means we have a 99.99% probability of "yes" and a 0.01% probability of "no". Same thing, really.
I am utterly and completely convinced that human-influenced climate change is absolutely real and already happening. (Is that definitive enough? ) The natural cycles of Earth's climate may also be a factor... but are we humans changing our climate's equilibrium? You bet... I'll put every dollar I have on that bet. We are pushing the Earth away from the equilibrium point, and the next equilibrium point will be significantly warmer because the preponderance of what we're doing to the climate pushes toward hotter temperatures.
But the fact that we're pushing toward a hotter equilibrium does not mean everything will get steadily warmer. Any natural system of discrete variables "wobbles" when pushed away from equilibrium: you get some warmer instances and some colder instances, but most importantly you get more frequent cases of extreme weather and gradually greater deviations from the mean as the system "wobbles" more and more unsteadily. Throughout this wobbling, the average (mean) temperature will gradually get warmer, but not by much. That's where we are today and where we'll likely be for the entire 21st century.
And therein lies the problem: some day, who knows when, the system will -- not might, will wobble a bit too far to come back, and then it'll tip over and find itself a new point of equilibrium. At that point, things are going to get really bad for us. The Earth will survive... but we may not. And until we reach that tipping point, maybe in 2100 or 2200 but maybe also in 2050, there will be no burning bush nor fiery skies to herald imminent danger.
We must change. We must. Or our grandchildren will pay a very heavy price for our negligence and greed. We are gambling with the survival of our species and I do not want to make that bet.
We must change. However, that change need not be a negative. As more and more people come to realize that this is all true and is really happening, the world will both need and want better solutions. Someone will develop new technologies to give us great quality of life without harming the planet... and we can be that someone. Light bulbs have gone from incandescent to halogen to CFL (not a great technology IMHO) to LED. A 100W bulb wastes 95% of its electricity as heat. A 10W LED lamp gives off the same amount of light, but no heat. My Tesla runs neck-and-neck with a BMW M5, but is 700% more energy-efficient. 54 mpg standards by 2025? Bah... I've got 100 mpg-e in 2013. We can do better, and we can make money doing better.
I repeat: there is no reason for "greater environmental responsibility" to mean significantly greater costs, or reduced quality of life, or anything like that. No dark ages... far from it, let us move to a new Enlightenment!
People keep asking me: what if I'm wrong? Well, if I'm wrong, the only bad thing to happen is that we'll spend a little more money in the short term favoring the introduction of new technologies that produce energy and products with less pollution, and new technologies that allow us to enjoy the same lives we already lead with less consumption and (again) less pollution. Nothing bad will happen if we work for conservation, for clean energy, and against pollution, but very, very bad things will happen if we don't.
Lastly, let me flip the question around, if you're still reading this and you happen to be convinced that the climate won't change. If you're 99% confident that the climate won't change, and there's only a 1% chance that you're wrong... are you willing to take that chance?