Global Warming: A Step by Step Look At the Key Arguments – Part 1

First, all major economies must put forward decisive national actions that will reduce their emissions, and begin to turn the corner on climate change. I’m pleased that many of us have already done so, and I’m confident that America will fulfill the commitments that we have made: cutting our emissions in the range of 17 percent by 2020, and by more than 80 percent by 2050 in line with final legislation.

-Barack Obama at Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009

Barack Obama, understanding the histrionics required in climate-change debates, promises that U.S. emissions in 2050 will be 83 percent below 2005 levels. If so, 2050 emissions will equal those in 1910, when there were 92 million Americans. But there will be 420 million Americans in 2050, so Obama’s promise means that per capita emissions then will be about what they were in 1875. That. Will. Not. Happen.

-George Will commenting on Obama’s Copenhagen pledge

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

-Carl Sagan in Cosmos, dervied from earlier statements by Marcello Truzzi and David Hume

At the Climage Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009, Barack Obama pledged the United States to drastically reduce carbon emissions.  Obama is the most prominent of those who say that unless we take drastic action, we will suffer devastating climactic changes including rising seas and dramatically increased hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters.  While it is theoretically possible that we could make these reductions solely based upon improvements in renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind, at the current time there is no reason to believe that these technologies will progress anywhere close to the point that these advances alone will allow us to make these reductions.  This would then require Americans to dramatically reduce energy use which would severely curtail both the economy and our lifestyles.

If the climactic devastation consequences are real, then we all need to make these sacrifices, but I agree with Carl Sagan’s statement that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.  Barack Obama and others claim that the debate is over, that we have all the evidence we need.  Are they right?   Is the debate truly over?

The argument by those convinced that global warming will lead to climactic devastation can be broken down into the following statements:

  • Global temperatures are rising.
  • Carbon emissions from humans are why global temperatures are rising.
  • The global warming will cause catastrophic environmental consequences.
  • It is the proper role of the United States government to enact regulations on private companies and individuals to protect the environment.
  • The actions of the United States government will effectively prevent these consequences.
  • The evidence supporting all of the above is so overwhelming that we should no longer debate or delay.

For us to take the proposed drastic actions to reduce our carbon emissions, every one of these statements needs to be true.  In this series, I will look at each of these statements in turn.  I will say now that I agree with at least one of them.  I hope that breaking down the global warming issue in this manner will help clarify the issue.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2009/dec/18/obama-speech-copenhagen-climate-summit

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/04/AR2009120403073.html

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