Trying to understand global warming

A search on Amazon for books on “Global Warming”  brings up a list of 6317 possibilities, reflecting every possible view of the subject.   If one spent just a single minute reviewing each book,  it would take 105 hours.  That’s two weeks’ worth of eight-hour days.  Obviously, a comprehensive analysis of this complex subject requires a great more than reading an occasional headline or news column.

The topic of global warming seems to hit a vulnerable spot in a lot of people.   Arguing a point by name-calling  is distressingly frequent.  The titles on the first page of Amazon book list include words like “scam,” “rip-off,” “hoax,” “conspiracy,” “fraud,” “corruption,” “cover-up,” “blunder,” and “fools” appear .  Further down the line, there are religious assurances from all camps — global warming is a punishment from God but the truly righteous will be saved, or the claim that global warming isn’t happening at all but a small number of people are exploiting the vulnerable in order to make money. Non-negotiable so-called religious or supposedly scientific convictions sometimes seem to be an excuse for not examining the evidence.

My own assessment is that global warming is happening, and that within several decades it could reach a tipping point making it impossible for us to reverse it.   The consequences could be devastating.

Will it happen?  The most optimistic scenarios are that

1) global warming isn’t actually happening,or if it is, it’s a natural variation which will stabilize itself irrespective of our greenhouse gas emissions,

2) human ingenuity will find enough ways to reduce our greenhouse emissions to stabilize the environment, or

3) — well, this possibility isn’t really optimistic — energy use will be cut because the human population is drastically reduced as a result of some catastrophe like an epidemic similar to the Black Plague.

Addendum:  I suspect that “global warming” is actually too narrow a description for the environmental changes which are occurring.  Scientists today, for instance, have published a 17-year world-wide study indicating that the viable male sperm count has been decreasing on average at the rate of  almost 2% a year.  The causes of this worrying development are not yet clear, but the suspicion is that it is the result of  our modern life styles including high levels of saturated fats, smoking, alcohol, drugs, obesity, and exposure to industrial chemicals, especially those used in making plastics.  The falling sperm count may also begin before the child is born.  That’s another factor that could reduce global energy use.

One would hope for less drastic solutions.  Assuming, of course, as I do, that a solution is needed.

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About Terry Sissons

Terry Sissons is the author of The Big Bang to Now: All of Time in Six Chunks, and this blog is a dialogue about the universe and what’s happened in the last 13 billions years.
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