By Brian Thompson
I. The Setup
So it’s the middle of October. A dark and gloomy night. I’ve been up past one in the morning browsing the internet for information, pornography, and information about pornography. (Findings: It’s sexy.) I thought my office would be celebrating Christopher Columbus’ bludgeoning of little brown people by allowing everyone to stay home and catch up on their stories, otherwise I would have bumped up my porno schedule. Turns out I was wrong about the office holiday. Apparently my bosses are Leif Ericson fans. And worse, my dog woke me up to take her outside at 4:30am.
Granted, this was probably my fault. She’d been gnawing at her back for days. She’s allergic to flea bites, and all the rain we’d had the last couple of weeks forced the back yard fleas to hole up in their burrows thirsting for blood. So my dog had a few itchy flea bumps, but I was hoping they’d go away before I had to shell out for medicine. I’d just bought a beautiful new winter cardigan, so I was on a budget. Also, I believe sucking it up and dealing with your handicaps is a character building exercise. Which is why you don’t hear me complaining about my beautiful, massive pecs.
But she wouldn’t let me sleep. She kept sticking her tongue in my ear and whining. Sort of like Natalie Portman did that time, but less pleasant. So I took her outside without bothering to put pants on. When I opened the back door, I figured the shrieking sound was coming from my neighbors as they shielded their genital-averse eyes. But when I covered myself with a wayward afghan, the horrid screams continued. Turns out they were coming from my genitals themselves. It was really, really cold outside.
The thing is, this shouldn’t have been a surprise to me or my genitals. It was the middle of October, after all. When I was a kid, the middle of October meant coats with snotty sleeves and Thermoses full of scalding hot soup I flung at the faces of those classmates foolish enough to cross me. But for the past couple of months, temperatures had been hovering around the mid-room level.
Maybe there was something to all this global warming nonsense after all. But aren’t I supposed to be a skeptic?
II. The Findings
There’s a fine line between skeptic and denier. Sure, I don’t believe in ghosts or Bigfoot or alien abductions or grown adults who find “Two and a Half Men” funny. But I don’t believe in these things because there is either no evidence for them or good evidence against them. I mean, have you seen that show? It’s horrible.
Deniers are those who would disbelieve in a thing despite evidence to the contrary. Sure, they call themselves skeptics, and by the strictest definition, they just might be. But when you self-describe as a Holocaust skeptic or a western medicine skeptic, you’re really just letting your ignorance flag fly. You’re a racist or an idiot. In the interest of brevity, we’ll just call you a Glenn Beck.
Looking at the current evidence in regards to human-caused global warming and overall climate change, it looks like global warming “skeptics” might just be Becks themselves. Despite what these folks would have you believe, there is a firm, international scientific consensus on climate change.
This consensus is distilled into the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which took the common findings of numerous studies and put them all into one horrifically boring document. Seriously, the IPCC report is duller than Queen Victoria’s sex life. But its findings are pretty clear. Global warming is happening, it’s affecting the climate, and humans are responsible for most if not all of it. So what’s holding us up from doing something about this? Like most worthwhile endeavors, the morons are in the way.
To be fair, it’s politicians and lobbyists as much as global warming deniers that are keeping governments from adopting progressive climate policies. To be fairer, these people can still be safely classified as morons. But when you’re looking at the claims of the deniers, there are a few common arguments that stick out.
1) If global warming were real, why has the world’s temperature been the same since 1998?
You know, all the members of Ace of Base dying in a horrible car accident wasn’t the only noteworthy event of 1998. That was also the year of El Nino, that mysterious Mexican wrestler who swam in circles around the the world’s oceans until he increased their average temperatures. Or something like that. In any case, 1998 was a hot year, and not just for boy bands. That doesn’t negate the fact that the average global temperatures had been on a steady increase before 1998. It also doesn’t negate the fact that even accounting for El Nino, temperatures have still been on the rise since 1998. That’s right, the premise of this idiotic question is based on a lie.
2) Don’t sunspots cause climate change? I think this global warming nonsense is just sunspots.
The sun’s activity does affect the climate, but not by very much. Also, the average increase in global temperatures doesn’t correspond to any increase in the sun’s activity. Also also, sunspots? Seriously? Was this argument crafted while watching “Superman IV”? (For the record, most of my arguments are crafted while watching “Superman IV”. Hence my participation in the Oxford University “Mariel Hemingway’s shoulder pads: sexy or not sexy?” debate. I argued for sexy. And lost.)
3) Carbon dioxide is plant food. How can plant food be bad? Do you want plants to starve?
No, I don’t want plants to starve. Though there’s a magnolia tree blocking the view into my neighbors’ bedroom that could stand to lose a few pounds. But anyway, this argument has its origins more with industry than with the grass roots global warming deniers. Companies that don’t want to spend the money reducing their carbon dioxide emissions have decided to bet on the shallowness of your 7th grade earth science memory to convince you that sound environmental policy means turning the world into a “Mad Max” nightmare. But the deniers have grabbed onto it, since they’ll grab onto anything. The fact is that while plants do consume carbon dioxide, they can only consume so much. With humans pumping out so much artificially created carbon dioxide, the plants can’t possibly keep up. Even worse, the gas lingers in the atmosphere for decades before it naturally dissipates. Unless we can teach all the trees not to exercise portion control, we’re sort of screwed.
III. The Conclusion
These are just a few of the many, many global warming denier arguments floating around. Like any quack pseudoscience, there are just too many arguments to debunk. Knock one down, and another comes at you like the Flash toward a giant, intelligent gorilla. And these people never bother to address the tattered corpses of all the failed arguments that blanket their feet. UFO people work the same way. Prove Roswell was bollocks, and they’ll just shrug and say, “Yeah? Well what about Duluth, Michigan 1974???” It’s endless and pointless.
My shrieking 4am genitals don’t prove global warming is real, but actual science does. When arguing with a denier, it might help to explain how scientific consensus works. The 2007 IPCC report was forged after the majority of scientists checked and rechecked each other’s work. The deniers can throw out their token supporters with Ph.D.’s, but this doesn’t mean anything in the face of peer-reviewed consensus. These people are disparate and lonely and shrieking into the wind. Just like my testicles on that fateful October morning.
About The Amateur Scientist: Brian Thompson is a professor of amateur science at a major imaginary university and a regular blogger at CHUD. He has been able to read and write for over seventeen years.
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