Chair Force Engineer

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Inconvenient Snowstorm

The media has been running non-stop stories about global warming over the past few weeks. Frankly I'm growing tired of it, especially knowing that it's colder than a witch's teat in New Mexico. We're even getting abnormally frequent snowfalls to accompany the chilldown.

I'll openly admit that I'm skeptical about the belief that humans are a significant contributor to global climate change. I realize that my beliefs will cause me to be persecuted by certain people who equate this denial to denial of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, I want to be on the side of science, not on the side of snap-judgements and dogmatic adherence to theories that are far from proven.

In science, all theories must withstand rigorous testing. The net effect of this is that we have few ground truths and many theories that have been good enough to withstand every test we've thrown at them. Human-caused global warming should be no exception, but many scientists, and the media at large, are willing to accept it on blind faith.

The climate is an exceptionally complex system, and climate models will be very difficult to either confirm or refute. Nevertheless, every theory (and that's what I'm calling the myriad of climate models: theories) makes specific predictions that can be observed or refuted by testing. While lawmakers around the world want to "fix the situation" by adhering to the Kyoto Treaty, my proposal is that humans should deliberately attempt to alter the climate through increased production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. If the climate models are worth the paper they were written on, they'll be able to accurately predict the global changes that result from our excess production of greenhouse gases.

Some may say that it's irresponsible to deliberately increase our greenhouse gas output. Maybe it will prove to be true, but if so, we'd have to fix the greenhouse gas problem anyways. I feel that the peace-of-mind such an experiment would offer would be worth the effort in conducting it, and the effort of cleaning up any ill effects. At the same time, I fear that if the climate models supporting human global warming are refuted, the debate will be far from over. The supporters of the refuted models will claim that the tests were flawed in some way. The case with dogmatic beliefs (and I feel that human-induced global warming has become that way) is that people will believe in spite of evidence, rather than because of evidence.

Studying earth's climate has profound implications for human colonization of other worlds as well. The idea of terraforming Mars into a habitable world is quite popular in fiction. Could it potentially be done in real life? One possible way is through production of greenhouse gases on Mars, which will warm the planet and cause subsurface water and gases to outgas. While advocates of a "Green and Blue" Mars believe that humans have the power to change Mars for the better, it will be mankind's ability (or inability) to change earth for the worse that will determine how effective our terraforming efforts will be.