In the publish-or-perish mentality of academia, is global warming just one in a long line of political agendas disguised by scientific method?
Uncork the sunscreen and throw on some shorts: Summer's coming. All across the solar system.
Recent studies show the sun is working overtime; its radiance and brightness are the highest scientists have seen in decades, and ice samples collected in Greenland reveal this could be the most active period the sun has seen in over 1,000 years.
Earth isn't the only one feeling the heat; Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and many of their satellites are showing marked increases in temperatures, with zones on Jupiter shifting as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. "At least close to the new [storm] and to the equator," writes physicist Lubos Motl, "nothing less than global warming is expected."
These extraterrestrial hot spots have thrown a number of scientists into turmoil. Having preached for years humankind is the leading cause of Earth's warming crisis, they must either accept a multitude of causes that affect our climate, reveal the United States' black ops program of exporting greenhouse emissions to other planets, or continue to browbeat the scientific community and the public at large into submission.
Which route do you think they'll take?
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Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was an Italian cosmologist who first proposed the sun was nothing more than a star seen from our unique vantage point. Scientifically accurate, his thesis was nonetheless savaged by his peers and the Catholic Church because it challenged long-held religious views concerning a geocentric (earth-centered) universe. Bruno was put on trial for his beliefs (he also made the mistake of denying the virginity of Mary) and was burned at the stake while fellow scientists struggled erroneously with Ptolmeic epicycles and retrograde motion. Scientific advancement was held back for generations because popular opinion disagreed with it.
We're not so far removed from 16th century inquisitions and heresy, mind you. The past 100 years begat a number of scientific theories embraced by crackpot scientists and the world governments eager to exploit those conclusions. And while Bruno may have suffered alone on that funeral pyre, the eugenics programs birthed at the dawn of the 20th century claimed thousands of lives and altered the perception man has about his neighbors. Even Trofim Lysenko nearly starved the Soviet Union to death with unsubtantiated agricultural "vernalization" because his pseudoscience gained him favor with Stalin.
The world embraces lies and superstition all the time; they're just not usually wrapped in the trappings of science. Eugenics was embraced by the powerful, funded by the wealthy, and reported on by the educated and erudite. It was billed as a major crisis for the human race, yet in the end all it did was divide man against himself as a means to justify their bigotry. There was never any crisis, but the elite sure made it seem like one, and scientists looking for funding and recognition were more than willing to play into those fears.
Is global warming the latest stab at politicized science? Look no further than Al Gore's Academy Award-winning film for the answer. In case you haven't noticed, it's very hip to care about the environment now; buying hybrid vehicles is a status conscious move, and people purchase TerraPasses to mitigate their carbon footprint (because driving and, um, exhaling are bad for the planet). It's one of the most over-reported issues of the day, and you can't read about it without also hearing how we're to blame for rising temperatures.
But what is the most influential greenhouse agent on the planet? Water. "Estimates of the impact of water vapor on global warming vary widely from a minimum of 60% of all greenhouse effect to 98% of all greenhouse effect," writes Michael Rivero. "But even at the minimum of 60%, that leaves 40% of greenhouse effect to be shared by all other chemicals combined, including carbon dioxide and methane, which has ten times the greenhouse capacity, pound for pound, as carbon dioxide.
"Only .117% of atmospheric carbon dioxide is directly attributable to human technology such as automobiles. If humans ceased all technological activity, we would still see 99.883% of the carbon dioxide remain in the atmosphere, assuming all other factors remain stable."
I'm not suggesting that there aren't things we can do to improve our environment. Reducing waste and eliminating the hot air coming from the mouths of doomsayers like Gore (who approved a highly polluting zinc mine near his property and once released billions of gallons of water from a dam during a drought for a photo op) are two impressive steps towards helping the planet. Every time you think critically about someone who says he's responding to "immediate action that needs to be taken to end the climate crisis," your lack of urgency on this non-issue improves the state of the world tremendously.
But if you are concerned about man-made enviromental issues, start reading about depleted uranium weapons. Unlike carbon-dioxide levels, DU is absolutely controlled by governments like the United States, and it's simple to track the deleterious effects it has on human life. It causes widespread damage to everyone in its vicinity, be they the intended target or the soldier firing it. DU also has the added benefit of releasing clouds of radioactive dust that travels where the wind blows, so the entire planet is poisoned.
The planet is damaged more by political agendas than by carbon emissions. Governments let industry pollute our drinking water with rocket fuel and our food with hormones and genetically modified pesticides. Those are real crises that can be averted. But we can't stop the earth's temperate zones from getting a little warmer. Some scientists believe we're still recovering from the last Ice Age 15,000 years ago. It's certainly possible; the tundra of Russia was at one point a savannah. Thinking we can stop the climate with legislation and petitions is as foolish as thinking we can dim the sun.
The scientists that study and research climate understand the skepticism in man-made global warming. Try listening to them instead of the politicians or celebrities who get their data from sound bites and fundraisers. If that doesn't work, then please embrace your slavish devotion to science fads. I hear there's a lot of funding to prove power lines cause cancer. We can shut off everything and save the world!
Well, not the air conditioners. This summer's gonna be a warm one, after all.
Canon Fodder is a bi-weekly analysis of politics and society.