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View Full Version : Please help me educate myself on Global Warming


Sampiro
06-14-2007, 03:08 PM
I really want to understand Global Warming and the greatest arguments for it and against it. I DO NOT WANT TO START A DEBATE ON THE TOPIC (hence the GQ forum) but I would love to have some reading recommended on the topic. I know that it's almost impossible to get impartial reading material, but I would like as impartial as possible.

I took and made A's in Astronomy and Intro Physics to satisfy college requirements and I basically remember that one of them mentioned Rijel and the other mentioned 32 feet per second squared and that's about the extent of my scientific knowledge. I haven't had an earth science course since Reagan's first term and IIRC I didn't do well in it (though I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and I did once pass gas in a greenhouse). Therefore, I'd prefer an "Idiots Guide For Dummies" reading level if possible, and preferably something that you are yourself familiar with and would recommend (I can go to Amazon or OCLC and find the stuff myself but I'm seeking reliable stuff, and the comments on Amazon mean next to nothing).

I've watched Inconvenient Truth and I know it has many critics and a counter-documentary, but I'd really like something that will show me the merits of each debate.

Thanks for any advice.

Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party
06-14-2007, 03:28 PM
I'll let the Earth scientists give you the arguments for AGW, but some arguments against are covered in the book "The Skeptical Environmentalist" by Lomborg (a hefty book, which covers more than just GW).

Rashaverak
06-14-2007, 03:54 PM
The point by point analysis at Gristmill strikes a cogent blow for the "it's happening" side of the debate (although I hate their use of "denial" re doubters: it's such a weasel word that instantly pathologizes what might be reasoned scepticism).

As a layman, it convinced me though...

http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics

1010011010
06-14-2007, 04:05 PM
Anyone have anything studying how rising ocean temperatures affect chemical equilibrium and solubility?

engineer_comp_geek
06-14-2007, 05:43 PM
"Global warming" isn't so much a debate as it is just an observation. If you look at temperature graphs for the last few hundred years, they all look something like this:
http://www.statcan.ca/english/edu/power/ch6/images/globalwarming.gif

The real debate isn't over whether or not it's getting warmer, but rather what is causing it, although there are some wackos out there who apparently don't believe that it is actually getting warmer. Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" has popularized the latter belief, and has brought a lot of pop culture into the debate in the same way that "The DaVinci Code" brought fiction into scientific debates about history. (Just what the global warming debate needed - more crap to wade through...)

Anyway, there are alarmists out there who take data like from the above graph and extrapolate it in ways that don't really make sense, like this graph, which takes a short term bump and extrapolates it into a long term trend:
http://www.sightedmoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/09/Average%20Global%20Temperature%201880-2005%20with%20Projection%20to%202100.JPG
This makes you think that we're basically all doomed within our lifetime, which doesn't really match the long term data. Ignoring stuff like this, though, if you look at the first graph it really does show a global increase in temperature of about half a degree C per century.

The rise in temperature corresponds very well with the amount of pollutants that mankind has been throwing into the environment, which is probably the best argument that global warming is caused by us.

However, if you look at the data for a really long ways back, a completely different pattern emerges:
http://laceylibertarian.us/wp-images/globaltemp.jpg
In this graph, it looks like the "normal" temperature for the earth is around 22 deg C, which is quite a bit warmer than the current average of about 14 deg C. The earth seems to hover around 22 deg C, with occasional "dips" in temperature. This makes it look like we are in the recovery phase from one of these unusually cold "dips". If this is true, then the fact that the current temperature rise corresponds to mankind's pollution is just a coincidence.

This is the essence of the debate. Is the current rise in temperature man made, or is it just a natural process? Or, is it both?

It's worth noting that man and quite a bit of other forms of life on this planet all evolved during the last "cold" period. If the earth does "recover" to a nice and toasty 22 deg C, it could spell doom for us all, since we aren't adapted to living under those conditions.

I don't have any good books that I can point you towards. However, just be a bit skeptical about everything that you read, on both sides of the debate. Anything based on computer models is probably a big load of hooey. Computer models are based on our understanding of the earth, and we really only have decent data to work with for recent times. For quite a bit of the earth's history, the earth's environment worked in a way that is completely different than what we are used to. For example, the entire area between New York and, say, Florida, had roughly the same temperature, instead of Florida being noticeably warmer like it is now, and scientists really don't have a good explanation about why this was. Current computer models work fairly well with minor adjustments to the way things are now, but when things change quite a bit from what we are used to, most of the computer models will probably just completely fall apart.