Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Complex Equilibrium


Lance Burnham runs through the standard objections to the "alarmist" view of climate change:

  1. It's depressing, and therefore incorrect.
  2. Al Gore's house is too big!
  3. Climatologists have demonstrated that the climate changed in the past, even before human civilization existed, so how can they possibly blame humans now?
  4. Teh Commies!!!1
  5. The sun is to blame for climate change, assuming it's actually happening, so lie back and enjoy the ride!
That said, he does have a couple of clever new arguments up his sleeve.
The world is a complex equilibrium and our creator, if that was the case, installed a lot of checks and balances.
At first glance, this is similar to David Limbaugh's claim that the earth's delicate balance proves that it's not delicately balanced. Burnham's innovation is to point out that if a creator gave us us checks and balances, we'd have checks and balances, so we must, so there. Which is a weird argument, given that Burnham worries about the effects of global cooling, and says that "Alberta is known to once have been a tropical sea" (once in a while climatologists actually do get something right, God bless 'em).

In short, dramatic climate change is perfectly natural, which proves that the climate is stable, except when it's not. Or to put it another way, here's a bunny with a pancake on its head.

Let's take a closer look at how these checks and balances work:
The carbon cycle is inherently balanced as an increase in carbon production in the atmosphere is followed by an increase in carbon storage and consumption by plants and algae.
That's not quite accurate...not least because what's pertinent here is the rate of carbon storage relative to the rate of emissions. But what's really problematic is the assumption that the process of achieving "equilibrium" will be pleasant for humanity, which Burnham himself admits is not necessarily the case.

Here's some more of the same:
And in global terms, 70 per cent of the world is covered by water and correspondingly 70 per cent of the climate is set by the sea regardless of what we do on land. If the world gets warmer, more cloud forms over the sea, reflects sunlight, and cools the world.
Again, that's not how it works. And so what if it were? What we're interested in is the transition from one state to another, and what it means for sea level, rainfall, plants and animals, or what have you. In other words, the "awful effects" of climate change, in which Burnham refuses to believe, would result from the very processes he invokes as wise provisions of a loving God.

To Burnham's credit, he understands that "in the form of fossil fuels, energy is a somewhat [!] finite resource." This leads him to the dazzling conclusion that we should "unleash the creativity and power of humanity moving the production and use of energy up the chain closer to where it all comes from which is the sun."

This cheerful outlook is what separates him from "the nihilistic Gore and Suzuki" -- both of whom have consistently recommended mass suicide rather than research into alternative energy -- and obliges him to spout disinformation dreamed up at thinktanks funded by the fossil fuel industry.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to beat my head on Watertiger's desk.

(Photo by George Grantham Bain.)

4 comments:

monkeygrinder said...

David Suzuki is a nihilist? I didn't know that!

(just kidding. that ranks as some of the weirdest climate sophistry ever.)

Phila said...

that ranks as some of the weirdest climate sophistry ever.)

Yeah, isn't it? Initially I was thinking, "this is the same old shit...why bother?" But he actually ended up surprising me.

dan mcenroe said...

The carbon cycle is inherently balanced as an increase in carbon production in the atmosphere is followed by an increase in carbon storage and consumption by plants and algae.

Kind of a shame we're clear-cutting all the forests then, isn't it?

uncle noel said...

That rabbit sandwhich appears to be undercooked.