The Other Side of a One-Sided Argument
As the title suggests, this is not possible. You cannot take an opposing view on something doesn’t have an opposing view. That is, unless you want to sound like a radical fanatic.
And that is exactly what S. Fred Singer is doing by delivering his speech “Nature — Not Human Activity — Rules the Climate.” Singer, and his supporters (among them Barney Groten, who published a treatise on the holes in the arguments behind global warming) are publicly opposing a scientific consensus on grounds that are both unreasonable and desperate. Singer, according to this article, asserts that “carbon dioxide is not a pollutant” and aims to destabilize the argument for global warming. He focuses on the idea that human influence on the global climate is undetectable and insignificant, and that any expenditure on attempting to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions is a waste of money.
I take issue more with the credibility his argument is being given, and the damage that might cause, than the work itself. There are many people today who take sides in scientific arguments based on religious and emotional grounds. This is most easily seen in the argument of evolution versus intelligent design – sides are taken here not based on scientific fact, and the people arguing about it are not scientists – rather, they pick one side or the other because it either suits their personal purposes, or they feel strongly about the implications of admitting the other side. With global warming, the debates have largely spilled over into the general community. No matter the almost unanimous consensus in the scientific community that our actions are contributing to global climate change, some people can still argue about it simply through ignorance of all the facts.
In an academic sense, it is good to foster opposing ideas, and encourage the digestion and discussion of these ideas. To debate opposing views leads to further development of an idea or ideas. However, in this case, the argument for imperceptible human impact is only credible at a stretch, at best.
While it is true that global climate change is most heavily seen, historically, as an effect of global cycles and subtle changes over time (such as solar cycles, the earth’s tilt, etc), what is being seen here is an acceleration of the process. Global warming, or more politically correct, climate change, isn’t about the fact that because we do what we do, the earth will become hotter and hotter. It is given that, in cycles of warming and cooling, we are in a cycle of warming at the present time. This is clearly evidenced in prior research.
What is also known is that CO2 is a greenhouse gas – it works to trap solar radiation inside the earth’s atmosphere. By looking at levels of CO2 in ice cores dating back thousands and millions of years, there is a definite correlation between CO2 levels and periods of warming. What the theory of global warming focuses on is the massive increases in CO2 that are working to speed up the process. The climate changes we see may be effects we wouldn’t otherwise notice for hundreds of years to come.
The academic speech Singer has given only provides new fuel for a battle that has died down dramatically. The opposing view has been rejected – work is now being carried forward, policy-wise, to work towards reducing our CO2 emissions. His arguments can only revitalize a dead lobby and delay time-sensitive policy decisions. As it is, the slow moving political machines of the world are already too late to stop what is coming – all we can hope for now is to slow it down, and keep it from escalating further.