Climate Change: Framing a Scientific Issue

This is not a political entry, but it is about politicization, to elaborate on my post about a liberal credo. I was debating climate change with someone today who, I thought, was not confronting the real questions and stubbornly making this a political debate. This is how I attempted to help us make traction.

The primordial earth had no free oxygen, but plenty of CO2, N2, and water. Life systems regulated the atmosphere as they evolved. We can approach the issue of atmosphere and climate change by considering the atmosphere at a more primitive state.

There is no doubt that humans have increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Life systems will certainly be able to correct what we’ve done so far — on a scale of hundreds of years. The more CO2 we put in, the longer it will take. So how much human-contributed CO2 would be intolerable, assuming that might be possible? How long will it take biological feedback mechanisms to make it tolerable?

These are the critical questions.

Anyone who takes a firm stand on a scientific issue but refuses to engage the essential questions, whether the issue is the influence of biology on human behavior, or vaccination, GMO, or climate change, is wrong, prima facie. They are engaged in demagoguery, not debate.

The following is political, and I don’t want to conflate it too strongly with my main point, above, but I do think climate change is an issue:

If we acknowledge a problem, how do we fix it? We don’t want to regulate industrial emissions in a way that undermines the very infrastructure that will create the technology we need to solve this problem. That needs to be acknowledged. However, a lot of the carbon dioxide that we emit is not being emitted efficiently toward building up technology and a better brain trust. It is squandered in planned obsolescence for short-term profit and in the manufacturing of useless crap.

Letting those who profit from old technology run the debate just won’t work. The invisible hand of capitalism does not always push us toward more efficiency, toward solving long-term problems. It’s great for addressing short-term problems, but this will require government help. We didn’t get to the moon without government help, and we won’t solve this without it either.

About robertpkruger

Writer, editor, and software developer. Former president of
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