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Global Warming, And Frozen Christian Brains

Al Gore Fake frozen head
(Al Gore. Source: [broken link] www.algore.org/gallery/displayimage.php?album=10&pos=2. Fake frozen head. Source)

1) Introduction

Since I've started participating in Christian politics, I've been getting unsolicited e-mails, with titles like "Ten Reasons Why Global Warming Is A Scam", or "Kyoto Is Junk Science", or "Why The United Nations Is Telling Lies About Anthropogenic Climate Change", etc.

Some of these e-mails are interesting, but some contain rather weak arguments. No, that's too polite. Some of them demonstrate a hilarious incompetence unworthy of Christians, especially Christians who claim we should vote for them to govern Canada. You almost feel like asking: "Hum, shouldn't you take your head out of the freezer, before saying anything about global warming?"

I will now try to list some of the worst arguments I've heard against the Kyoto Protocol. (Please note this doesn't mean I'm in favor of Kyoto. Strictly speaking, it's currently impossible for me to agree or disagree with Kyoto, since I don't yet have enough information about it.)

2) "People who say the climate is warming are pro-abortion, therefore Kyoto is bad"

Please. Go read your Bible. We are all sinners [1Jn 1:8], so all of us here present have something bad in us. Some of us have problems with alcohol, some have cheated on their income tax return, some have cheated on their wife, some said bad things about a brother behind his back, etc. This means anybody can point his finger at any one of our opinions and say: "What he said is false, because he has such a sin".

Yes, many pro-Kyoto persons are also pro-abortion. Given abortion is wrong, this proves they are wrong about abortion, but it's only a clue that something could be wrong with Kyoto. Take a counter-example: almost all the pro-choicers I know are very much in favor of riding their bicycles to work. That doesn't mean bicyles are bad!

(By the way, there is nothing wrong with trying to find out why there seems to be an affinity between supporting Kyoto and supporting abortion. Maybe another effect of the Atheist Trinity?) But remember the important difference between a proof, and a clue.)

3) "Some pro-Kyoto scientist made one mistake here, therefore Kyoto is bad"

Please. Go read your Bible. "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" [Lk 6:31]. How do you feel, when anti-Christians say: "Here is one Christian who made one mistake, therefore all Christians are wrong"?

Are all scientists perfect? Of course not. Do scientists consider themselves to be perfect? If so, how come they are always harping about the necessity to "repeat the results independently"? How come they are so smitten with "peer-reviewed journals"? All good scientists know they can make mistakes, which is why they work in such a way that other scientists can double-check what they are doing.

I can guarantee that in the (hundreds of?) thousands of pages of scientific articles about global warming, there are several mistakes. And I'm willing to bet 100% of scientists agree with me. Scientists don't consider scientific documents to be the inerrant Word of God.

4) "Such a percentage of scientists are against it, therefore Kyoto is bad"

Please. Go read your Bible. What do you say when people tell you that such-and-such a percentage of Canadians are in favor of "gay marriage"? Do you say: "Oh! in that case, sodomy is peachy keen!", or do you quote [Lv 18:22]?

Truth is not defined by quantity. Even if 100% of scientists said the Moon was made out of cheese, the Moon still would not be made out of cheese. Also, almost by definition, just about all scientific discoveries occured during a moment in history when roughly 100% of the scientists disagreed with whatever was being discovered! If they had all agreed beforehand, it would not have been a discovery!

Think about it. If you want to know whether it's snowing outside, will you conduct a poll? or will you open the door and look for yourself? The very fact you feel obliged to quote such polls is almost a proof that the issue of global warming is not something simple and obvious. And even if the majority of scientists were against Kyoto, it would still be only a clue, not a proof.

5) "Kyoto is based on junk Science, therefore Kyoto is bad"

Please. Go read your Bible. Saying that many scientists are totally wrong is a big assertion, and you had better be able to back it up [Ex 20:16].

Let me help you. I'll start up a challenge, "Stefan's Junk Science Challenge"! It's very simple: if you claim that this or that is "junk Science", that means you know what real Science is! (Otherwise, how could you tell the difference?) So just send me an e-mail explaining what real Science is, and I'll post it on my web site, with a hyperlink here at the top of this article.

But let me warn you: if you can't spell "Epistemology", and if you don't know what the letters "Ph.D." stand for, you will be publicy humiliated. And even if you do have a Ph.D. in Epistemology, success is not guaranteed. I've seen many smart people fail this challenge miserably.

Does that mean you should blindly believe anybody who claims to speak in the name of "Science"? Of course not! Does that mean "junk Science" does not exist? Of course not! Does that mean Kyoto is based on good Science? Maybe, maybe not, I don't know yet. But do be aware that the accusation of "junk Science" is extremely serious.

6) "Such a corrupt politician claims global warming is true, therefore Kyoto is bad"

Please. Go read your Bible. Even powerful and corrupt men sometimes tell the truth despite themselves [Jn 11:50].

By definition, corrupt politicians will use anything to gain and keep power. Some politicians pretend to be worried about global warming to gain votes, other politicians pretend to be pro-life, etc. In itself, the fact some corrupt politician has chosen global warming as his war-horse doesn't prove anything. We have to decide the case of global warming on its own merits.

7) "Here is one argument against global warming, therefore Kyoto is bad"

Please. Go read your Bible. When good judges have to decide who is right, and who is wrong, do they only listen to one side of the story [1R 3:24; Dn 13:48]?

Finding an argument against (or in favor of) global warming doesn't mean much, if you haven't made any effort to hear what the other side had to say about that argument. Yes, that is complicated and time-consuming, which is why so many people take the easy way out and follow their prejudices. Being a good judge in a complex case requires much self-denial [Mt 16:24].

8) "Scientists in favor of global warming say Earth is more than 4000 years old, which is contrary to the Bible, therefore Kyoto is bad"

Please. Go read your Bible. Interpreting the Bible is not always easy [Ac 8:30-35; 2P 3:16; etc.].

If you feel the sudden urge to try to solve scientific problems by reading the Bible, please do yourself a favor and go re-read the conclusion of How To Evolve A Debate Against A Darwinist. Actually, go re-read that whole article.

9) "OK, so let's suppose you're right. What should I do about Kyoto?"

Of course, you're free to think and say what you want about Kyoto, but here are my suggestions:

9.1) Always start by saying you're pro-life. When people ask you whether you're in favor or against Kyoto, always start by saying you're pro-life. Explain to them that being pro-life doesn't just mean you're against abortion. All life comes from God. The beauty of trees swaying in the breeze, the poetry of pure water jumping over rocks in a stream, the sudden chirping of nestlings who have just noticed that mommy is flying back with supper, all of that is life, and all of that is good because it comes from God. We have been entrusted with God's creation, and we have to take good care of it.

9.2) Conserve energy, reduce your ecological footprint. Whether Kyoto is good or bad, we already know that mankind is wasting too much energy, and making too much pollution. There is no counter-indication to becoming more green, and more green now.

9.3) Read up on climate change. The truth is out there. Either the climate is changing, or it's not. If it's changing, either the change is "anthropogenic" (i.e. caused by human activity) or it's not. If it's anthropogenic, either it could have disastrous consequences, or not. And if there is a risk of disaster, either the Kyoto Protocol is a good solution, or it's not.

Go read some serious, university-grade textbooks on Physics, Biology, Climatology, etc. Then go read the actual Kyoto Protocol, The Scientific Basis, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Mitigation, etc., etc. Then go read all the arguments against global warming, and all of the counter-arguments. Remember to eat and sleep once in a while.

9.4) Go hunting for the paper trail that lead your party to its current position on Kyoto. Canada is a democracy, so important decisions can't just pop out of the blue. Can you find your political party's official position on Kyoto? If so, how was this position arrived at? Can you find a paper trail of the balanced, public, and democratic debate that occured inside that party before that position was taken?

9.5) Don't be afraid to admit you're not an expert. Being brutally honest, and admitting you don't understand all the Science involved in climate change, or even just admitting you've never actually read the Kyoto Protocol, could be the greatest service you've ever done for your neighbor. Many people are just like you, and they are just ashamed to admit.

Suppose you had to choose between two taxi drivers, both as ignorant as each other. Which one would you choose, the one who admits his ignorance, or the one who trumpets his belief that he knows how to get to your destination? Which one is more likely to ask for directions and consult a roadmap? (I'd vote for him too!)

Etc., etc.

10) Conclusion

In a way, all of Christianity is based on the belief that: "Jesus Christ is the Lord!" [Jn 20:28] In somewhat the same way, you could say that all of Science is based on the humble statement of bare facts when we know them, and the humble admission of ignorance, when we don't [Jn 9:25].

If some Christians continue to publicly make all kinds of silly assertions about global warming, they might some day become the anthropogenic cause (with 100% scientific certainty) of a new joke about "those three little words that Christians find so hard to say":

I don't know!

 


 

Appendix: Analysis of a few specific arguments

Stefan taking his daily medication to try to control his ignorance
Stefan taking his daily medication to try to control his ignorance

I could probably spend the rest of my life analysing anti-Kyoto (or pro-Kyoto) arguments. I'm sorry, I have other things to do. But I will invest some time to examine some arguments. (You can also see related correspondance with Mr. Steve Jalsevac from www.LifeSiteNews.com, as well as a more formal debate about Kyoto with Mrs. Vicki Gunn of the Christian Heritage Party.)

A.1) The OISM petition

"Most scientists do not believe human activities threaten to disrupt the Earth's climate. More than 17000 scientists have signed a petition circulated by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine."

I don't know.

But first, see Section 4 here above.

Second, imagine if I sent a letter to every Canadian citizen, which included an article called: "Scientific Study Proves Christian Politicians Are More Likely To Favor Beliefs Over Science", as well as a pre-paid postcard they could sign and send, to support the banning of Christians from Parliament. And both the letter and the article would be formatted to appear as if they were an official mailing from the Canadian government. I'm willing to bet I would get quite a few postcards!

To do things right, I would need to send a postcard that would include at least two options, Yes and No! And if I sent supporting documentation, it would have to be at least two articles, one in favor, and one against. And good articles! Plus I would need to clearly state I'm just an ordinary Joe doing a poll, not some official and powerful outfit.

According to some sites dredged up by Google (like www.wikipedia.org) the OISM petition apparently had the same shortcomings as my imaginary "Ban Christian Politicians" petition. If you have better information, please tell me.

A.2) Temperature data from satellites, etc.

"Our most reliable sources of temperature data (satellites) show no global warming trend."

I don't know.

But if that statement is true, then of course I'm against Kyoto! The only source of information I have right now is an article on Satellite temperature measurements, which contradicts that claim. Who is right? I don't know, but I would be interested in watching a debate between two opposing groups of scientists on this question. Listening to just one side of the argument seems anti-scientific to me.

A.3) Climate models

"Global climate computer models are too crude to predict future climate changes."

I don't know.

I'm not a climatologist, but I am a programmer. My offhand reaction to that argument is: "It depends on the model". Given a computer program in C++, I can make it produce any result you want! So here again, we would need to actually examine the underlying climate science, the existing computer models, etc. At the very least, we need to identify which model we're talking about, and listen to both sides.

A.4) Conclusions of the IPCC

"The IPCC did not prove that human activities are causing global warming."

I don't know.

I've never read the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, but apparently it does claim human activities are probably causing global warming.

A.5) Advantages of global warming

"A modest amount of global warming, should it occur, would be beneficial to the natural world and to human civilization."

I don't know.

I've heard several people argue against Kyoto by saying that increased CO2 levels would help vegetation. But the pro-Kyoto arguments I've heard always mention harmful effects which have nothing to do with vegetation: increased droughts and desertification in Africa, increased floods in lower lands, increased serious storms, etc. Here again, I'm not qualified to say who is right and who is wrong, but making plants a bit greener seems like only one possible effect of global warming.

Selling carbon credits to stay in bed!
Selling carbon credits to stay in bed!
(Copyright 2007 Geek Culture.)

A.6) Costs of reducing emissions

"Efforts to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions will cause massive economic damage and eliminate countless jobs."

I don't know.

The whole issue of costs is very complicated. As I've noted elsewhere, one of hard problems about Economics is that there are so many variables. I can easily imagine a scenario where reducing greenhouse gas emissions would cost nothing, at least in Quebec City. Just walk to daily Mass with me today, and you'll see all the cars with only one person in them. If Quebec City imposed a 10,000$ fine for being alone in your car on weekdays between 9 AM and 5 PM, we'd probably cut emissions substantially, without spending one penny! And nobody would arrive late for work!

To give another imaginary example, suppose this whole global warming thing was a hoax, and suppose Canada converted its whole economy to manufacturing objects used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (like wind turbines, or solar cells, or energy-efficient city buses, or low-emission cement kilns, or scrubbers for coal-fired plants, etc.). With all the countries desperately trying to reduce their emissions, Canada might make a fortune and have zero unemployment, even if Kyoto was a hoax!

Those are just silly imaginary examples, but still they show that calculating costs can be very complicated. At the very least, somebody claiming to know what the costs are, should provide his financial model, along with all the assumptions and their justification. Then we'd need to, once again, listen to both sides.

A.7) Scientific certainty

"Science must prove 100% what their findings are based on, with the results of tests, experiments etc. You cannot guess and estimate that we are 88% or 92% sure that Global warming is manmade. This kind of science is absolute nonsense and unscientific, and is truly laughable."

I don't know, but I should.

I did spend several years in university studying Philosophy, and this is smack in my department. I'm not sure, but I think this refers at least partly to the problem of "scientia non est nisi de universali". Let's take an example. Suppose some scientist was studying your wallet, and could only see what was inside. He could determine that every two weeks, you'd get a paycheck. But on any given week, he couldn't be 100% sure, because, for example, one day you could lose your job, but on payday, your son would just happen to return some money you loaned him. So you'd get apparently paid, even though you didn't. Or on another payday, you could get your money, but you'd also get mugged, so nothing would be added to your wallet (even though you did get paid).

Let's take another example: a scientist studying a triangle. The nice thing about triangles is that they can't get mugged or lose their job. If the sum of their interior angles equals 180 in Euclidian space, then that will never change. A scientist can describe that triangle with 100% certainty.

For climate change, if scientists could make the list of all possible causes for global warming, and eliminate all of them except greenhouse gases, they could be sure at 100%. But since they don't understand the climate perfectly, maybe something is "mugging" planet Earth, or "paying back a loan".

How good are the current scientific opinions about global warming? I don't know. I would probably need to get a Ph.D. in climatology and spend many years studying the data before starting to even understand what these IPCC reports are talking about. And I've never even read one IPCC report...

A.8) Kyoto and national sovereignty

"Kyoto gives power to international bodies (which we haven't elected) that are influenced by Non-Governmental Organisations (which we haven't elected) and therefore are not accountable to the electorate. Yet, their decisions would be binding on Canadian citizens. The effect of this is, we have reduced our own control over our country."

I don't know.

I don't know if Kyoto includes coercion, and if so, what coercion. Offhand, I would be surprised if all those countries had signed away their sovereignty. From what I know, most international treaties have too few teeth, not too many.

I haven't read the Kyoto Protocol, but Article 27.1 seems to say: "At any time after three years from the date on which this Protocol has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Protocol by giving written notification to the Depositary." I don't know about you, but if Canadians could stop paying taxes just by "giving written notification" to the Minister of Finance, I think that Minister would get a lot of mail tomorrow!

Seriously, I'd have to read Kyoto carefully, then consult some professional lawyers trained in International Law.

A.9) Carbon credits purchased from the Axis of Evil

"Annex 1 countries (That's us) have to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5% below their 1990 levels. We are presently up 24%. Therefore, using this scenario we will need to purchase carbon credits from other countries. These include such countries as: North Korea, China, and Iran. Thus we are in effect reducing our economy to build the economy of countries who seek the destruction of our way of life."

I don't know.

Must we absolutely purchase carbon credits? Let's suppose global warming is real, and anthropogenic, and potentially harmful, etc. I've heard several times that we could not meet our "Kyoto target". Is this even true? Suppose we couldn't, does that mean we would be forced to buy carbon credits? If so, would we have to buy them from "nasty countries"?

What would happen if we did our best to reduce emissions, then purchased carbon credits from poor countries in Latin America and Africa (who desperately need financial help anyway), then for the rest, just tell the the world: "Sorry!" (We would also shrug our shoulders and look innocent. Canadians are good at that!)

I don't even know if that would be permissible. Does anybody know?

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