Tuesday, February 17, 2009

State of Fear or An Inconvenient Truth

I watched "An Inconvenient Truth"(a movie which shows the ill effects of greenhouse emissions) right after I read Michael Crichton's "State of Fear"(a book which calls greenhouse effect a hoax and everything around it a propaganda by the environmentalists).

It will be appropriate for me to share my experience with my class mates so that they can have a reasonable judgment on their part to decide if greenhouse is really affecting our lives or if its merely a hoax! The best way to decide on this is to watch the movie along with reading the book, as your mind tries to be fair in its judgement.

Three sentences which very well reflect the message of the book are:

  • The science that supports or does not support the theory behind global warming is so incomplete that no reasonable conclusions can be drawn on how to solve the "problem" (or if the "problem" even exists).
  • Elites in various fields use either real or artificial crises to maintain the existing social order, misusing the "science" behind global warming.
  • As a result of potential conflicts of interest, the scientists conducting research on topics related to global warming may subtly change their findings to bring them in line with their funding sources.
courtesy: Wikipedia

The strong conviction with which the author tries to relate his work to reality is quite interesting, like the following disclaimer:

"This is a work of fiction. Characters, corporations, institutions, and organizations in this novel are the product of the author's imagination, or, if real used fictitiously without intent to describe their actual conduct. However, references to real people, institutions and organizations that are documented in the footnotes are accurate. Footnotes are real."

Personally, I have grown up seeing images of effects of global warming on television and magazines. But I never tried to chase the relationship between, lets say, a devastating hurricane and increasing global temperature. There are a lot of other examples which reports tell us, that are related to global warming. I just took it for granted. After reading the book, which challenges everything with graphs and figures, you start questioning your basic line of thinking.

Here is what I thought, right after I read the book:

“State of fear” is about the idea or rather a perception we call “Global Warming”….did you notice the peculiar way I present this topic!!!!! Its all the effect of the book!!

Well Global Warming as I believe now is just an idea supported by facts. Its a tentative idea….No one’s sure about it. People are scared though.

Another thing…….what you get to learn from Newspapers or magazines….They write what we want to read like everyday you find an article on “Global Warming”…what will keep them in business

I was too biased in my mind regarding the concept of global warming after I finished the book, so, I had to watch Al gore's movie to get a fair picture. I did it. I cannot tell you how hard it is to believe who is right and who is not, even for an engineer like me who tries to trust only scientific data and facts.

I request all my classmates to do as I did or may be they have already had their experience with the book and the movie. I would like you guys to share your thoughts on this topic as comments to this particular blogpost. It will affect my judgement.


Alex Quintana said...

Well, I had not thought about the issue of global warming very much before I saw a documentary about a year and a half ago (sorry, but I don't remember the name). It made claims similar to the book you read; global warming is not caused by us, scientist use it as an excuse to get funding for research, etc. There were many big named scientist (what was portrayed to me) that were interviewed, and they explained how they were part of the search for answers on global warming until they realized the lack of/distorting of truth in the matter.
In the movie, it was actually claimed that the average temperature for a particular year directly correlated with the number of solar flares on the sun. This was shown in a chart that dated back hundreds of years, if I remember correctly. So this movie (if I remember it, I will inform you all), supports the claim that global warming is out of our control.

gully said...

I believe this is the video you are thinking of.. "The Great Global Warming Swindle" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzSzItt6h-s

How can anyone believe "scientific" facts they have not calculated or witnessed for themselves? The Earth's temperature has fluctuated throughout its existence, and has certainly reached temperatures greater than we are experiencing. If you wanted to correlate that temperature gradient to some other phenomenon, you could certainly find hundreds of justifiable relations.

But does that mean we are not negatively impacting our environment? Is it not still possible that the human race has developed the technological capability to live outside it's ecological means? As we take this material out of the earth that took millions of years to settle and condense and burn it at a rate the earth could have never imagined, are we to assume this is justifiable? Smog, acid rain? The fact that we KNOW these resources are finite and are being depleted - argue about the time scale all you like.

Does the escalating civil need for a renewable source of fuel to keep this busy technological hustle and bustle life going not have the same fundamental objectives as those seeking to reduce emissions and stop "global warming"?

I cannot fathom believing that the current human practice of life seems reasonable in the sense of ecological balance.

But there are lots of skeptics and there always will be. Lots of evidence trying to clarify a problem nobody can fully define. But is ignoring the potential disaster and living with the consequences worth the luxury of having more machines to do your daily tasks so you can watch TV?

What if we're right? What if we're wrong?

I apologize if I came off abrasively in any way, I'm just trying to provide food for thought, not judgement

Stuart said...

I strongly disagree with Al Gore and his approach to informing America about "Global Warming". He is using his name to spread what many could call propoganda to the American people. If you search Al Gore on TED.com he has a new speech, where he continues to show graphs with illegible sources, displaying the data he wants to show. He never addresses the other side of the arguement, as a good debater should do. The unfortunate truth is that the average American will believe all almost anything the media publishes. Why do you think these ridiculous magazines along the check out line stay in business, because people out there believe that Madonna had an alien baby.

My rant is drifting, but my main point is that we need to put qualified, unbiased people in the position of informing America about the situation of global warming. Unfortunately, as Abhishek said the media just delivers a product to stay in business and they are not concerned with the accuracy. The other problem lies in sciencie influenced by the funding sources. Is a research climatologists going to report that there is no link to the Earth's temperature and human emissions if the funding came from Al Gore and his Global Warming organization. The answer is no because that scientist needs to feed and house his family like the rest of us.

The following is my stance on global warming and you can take it for what it is. My background is in geological engineering, but I remain unbiased to this "global warming" situation. If you notice in must global warming talks, take Al Gore for example, no one asks a geologist and their scientific data on the Earth's temperature not from the last 100 year but the last 100 million years. Through the Earth's existence there has been levels of CO2 three times higher than it is today. These periods are call greenhouse periods, which are marked by higher sea level and significant red and blue algal blooms. These periods also produced our oil we consume today. Through the Earth's history the amount of CO2 and Earth's temperature is direct, and to this day no one has been able to show that the increased antropogenic CO2 has caused the equivalent increase in Earth's temperature. Until that is proven under legitmate scientific research then global warming is a non-issue. The organisms on Earth adapt to Earth's conditions, as humans we developed from global cooling, but dinosaurs developed from global warming. The point being that we are only along for the ride and the Earth is on its own course. I still believe we should control our emissions for our well being, but we are only ants in the kitchen and the oven is going to warm and cool the kitchen on a level beyond our control. I have attached a link to a respectable earth science university in Australia, a country that barely knows who Al Gore is, and it shows the basic correlation between the Earth's temperature and CO2 level over the past 400,000 years.



David Wogan said...

Gully makes a good point. Whether we believe in the temperature fluctuations, data sources or whatever, does this really impact whether or not we should move away from fossil fuels or habits we have formed? I tend to think that it doesn't. Fossil fuel supplies are becoming harder to extract and air quality problems that we can see, like smog, are proven to come from our smokestacks.

One thing that everyone can agree on is Al Gore has been successful at framing the conversation. Look to this very blog post, it has us talking.

Bourgeolitarian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bourgeolitarian said...

Gully, you pose the question "How can anyone believe 'scientific' facts they have not calculated or witnessed for themselves?"... this is an epistemological question, whether you meant it to be or not.

- Have you ever witnessed or calculated that the world is spherical?

Of course not. You seem to be espousing a sort of constructivist philosophy of science - that personal knowledge of scientific fact is exclusively a priori and scientific fact itself is purely a construct. Then, later in your post, you mention that we "KNOW" our resources are finite.

- Can you empirically endorse that our resources are finite? Again, have you witnessed these "facts?"

The reason I bring up these ostensibly impractical questions is to present the uniqueness of the "global warming" question. As with any provocative question, its answer(s) can often be subversive of our societal beliefs and expectations; however, unlike many other paradigms of thought, global warming immediately makes us question the epistemic authority of the provided data. In less abstract terms, one would not immediately question the empirical accuracy and/or biases associated with the modern paradigm of Heat Transfer. Global warming, on the other hand, seems to compel us to ask these questions of ourselves. Further, when we encounter literature and rhetoric which is at odds with our own formulation of the issue, it is at once discounted as propaganda!

Personally, I think it is absurd to believe that global warming issue is a conspiracy - simply a pecuniary construct for greedy scientists. The pragmatic implications of organizing a surreptitious worldwide consensus to deceive the populace into turning off their lights seems far-fetched. Epistemologically, I believe we can be sound in appealing to our scientific authorities, just as we always have.