I do not understand the entire science behind global warming (as I have not spent my entire life studying the sources and nature of GHG), but the topic intrigues me. I am not alone--well, not AS alone--in my lack of understanding. Scientists do not not understand the full affects of GHG on Earth's systems either. For example, as we learned during our climate change lecture, is there a possibility that the "cooling" affects of GHG outweigh the "warming" affects? We don't know what we don't know.
Climate change is an interesting subject not only because of the debated impact of anthropogenic carbon, but also because it has created so much hysteria and political fervor. When lots of people--especially those who have no business speaking intelligently about climate change (i.e.: politicians, movie stars, college students who have read a chapter in a text about global warming, and other "activists")--jump on the wagon too fast, I become skeptical. I fear climate change has become a money-making machine. Too many marketing specialists, researchers, universities, renewable energy firms, advertisers, reporters, and politicians have too much invested for it to fail.
I ran across an article by Nicholas Dawidoff in the NY Times (link below) about the global warming opinions of the world renown scientist Freeman Dyson. Dyson is currently 85 years old and because he swims against the school regarding climate change, he has been ridiculed left and right. While I disagree with some of his claims, I think he provides a sobering perspective to the global climate change issue. He agrees that human activity has increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but he says that most scientists who tout global warming do not know enough about the complex biological processes in our ecosystems. He also states that we, as co-inhabitants of this globe, should be more worried about true evils like "war, poverty, and unemployment." I agree with this statement. Instead of being driven by the hoopla of climate change, policy makers need to address true, deadly issues like education deficits, malnutrition, and poverty. Do we really want Aunt Susie to be driving that expensive HEV, or do we want that rebate money going to pay a teacher more? I think our government's priorities are skewed.
Carbon-producing businesses, vehicles, and people (guilty: I eat too much red meat) have been demonized unnecessarily. Yes, we need to be responsible citizens by being good stewards of the environment and by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but calling for extreme behavioral changes based on a theory is excessive. Although we should not ignore harmful pollutants like particulates, ozone, sulphur-based molecules, and nitrogen oxides, I, like Dyson, believe that nature will take care of herself.
(Send your comments. I am ready for them. I know my thoughts are very unpopular.)