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This page contains all of the posts and discussion on MemeStreams referencing the following web page: The Question of Global Warming. You can find discussions on MemeStreams as you surf the web, even if you aren't a MemeStreams member, using the Threads Bookmarklet.

The Question of Global Warming
by possibly noteworthy at 7:02 am EDT, May 23, 2008

Freeman Dyson, skeptic, in The New York Review of Books:

I begin this review with a prologue, describing the measurements that transformed global warming from a vague theoretical speculation into a precise observational science.

There is a famous graph showing the fraction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as it varies month by month and year by year (see the graph on page 44). It gives us our firmest and most accurate evidence of effects of human activities on our global environment. The graph is generally known as the Keeling graph because it summarizes the lifework of Charles David Keeling, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. Keeling measured the carbon dioxide abundance in the atmosphere for forty-seven years, from 1958 until his death in 2005. He designed and built the instruments that made accurate measurements possible. He began making his measurements near the summit of the dormant volcano Mauna Loa on the big island of Hawaii.

He chose this place for his observatory because the ambient air is far from any continent and is uncontaminated by local human activities or vegetation. The measurements have continued after Keeling's death, and show an unbroken record of rising carbon dioxide abundance extending over fifty years. The graph has two obvious and conspicuous features. First, a steady increase of carbon dioxide with time, beginning at 315 parts per million in 1958 and reaching 385 parts per million in 2008. Second, a regular wiggle showing a yearly cycle of growth and decline of carbon dioxide levels. The maximum happens each year in the Northern Hemisphere spring, the minimum in the Northern Hemisphere fall. The difference between maximum and minimum each year is about six parts per million.

RE: The Question of Global Warming
by Stefanie at 2:47 pm EDT, May 23, 2008

Dyson wrote:
The main point is religious rather than scientific. There is a worldwide secular religion which we may call environmentalism, holding that we are stewards of the earth, that despoiling the planet with waste products of our luxurious living is a sin, and that the path of righteousness is to live as frugally as possible. The ethics of environmentalism are being taught to children in kindergartens, schools, and colleges all over the world.

Environmentalism has replaced socialism as the leading secular religion. Environmentalism, as a religion of hope and respect for nature, is here to stay. This is a religion that we can all share, whether or not we believe that global warming is harmful.

Unfortunately, some members of the environmental movement have also adopted as an article of faith the be-lief that global warming is the greatest threat to the ecology of our planet. That is one reason why the arguments about global warming have become bitter and passionate. Much of the public has come to believe that anyone who is skeptical about the dangers of global warming is an enemy of the environment.

The Question of Global Warming
by bucy at 6:18 pm EDT, May 23, 2008

The main conclusion of the Nordhaus analysis is that the ambitious proposals, "Stern" and "Gore," are disastrously expensive, the "low-cost backstop" is enormously advantageous if it can be achieved, and the other policies including business-as-usual and Kyoto are only moderately worse than the optimal policy. The practical consequence for global-warming policy is that we should pursue the following objectives in order of priority. (1) Avoid the ambitious proposals. (2) Develop the science and technology for a low-cost backstop. (3) Negotiate an international treaty coming as close as possible to the optimal policy, in case the low-cost backstop fails. (4) Avoid an international treaty making the Kyoto Protocol policy permanent. These objectives are valid for economic reasons, independent of the scientific details of global warming.

The Question of Global Warming - The New York Review of Books
by dmv at 5:13 pm EDT, May 27, 2008

This means that the average lifetime of a molecule of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, before it is captured by vegetation and afterward released, is about twelve years. This fact, that the exchange of carbon between atmosphere and vegetation is rapid, is of fundamental importance to the long-range future of global warming, as will become clear in what follows. Neither of the books under review mentions it.

Freeman Dyson writes a book review.

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