Let’s talk global warming

What do you get when you cross a polar bear with increasing carbon emissions?

The answer may surprise you, depending on who you ask. Despite what we are taught in school, it seems the jury is still out on whether global warming is an amateur conspiracy created by alarmists or a cold hard fact.

Tsunamis. Earthquakes. Ozone depletion. Depending on who‘s talking, you will hear a range of explanations for what’s happening to the planet. Some say humanity is in the early stages of an approaching doomsday, with pollution or beef over consumption (think methane) to blame. Others will respond that nothing unusual is going on and that everyone needs to move on.

Confusing? Contradictory? Too much to handle? Fear not, my fellow citizen of the world. We are here to clear up and dissect some of the myths surrounding global warming:

1. What does the data tell us? Is there global warming?
If you haven’t already noticed, the main theme here is that the answer varies depending on one’s point of view. Look at the data some institutes have put out. The US Environmental Protection Agency tells us that “seven of the top-10 warmest years on record for the lower 48 states have occurred since 1990, and the last 10 five-year periods have been the warmest five-year periods on record.” It’s no wonder the current outcry exists. This piece of data is a pinhead on a profusion of similar statistics, which, when viewed concurrently, make it hard to dispute the fact that something is happening.

You will also get answers from critics telling you the data is engineered, distorted, and somehow unrelated to the actual climate situation. This idea also isn’t difficult to believe. Mistakes are common in data collection and analysis, and it’s possible some trigger-happy scientist made their conclusions prematurely. Additionally, these facts are decontextualized and published in scary little blurbs so that you rarely get the chance to ask important questions about the data.

2. Could there be false data?
Of course, the possibility is there, as stated in the previous section. There is skewed and misinterpreted data, sure, but what does the big picture tell us? What is the overall trend? Despite individual pieces of data failing to attribute causes and explain external influences, the general consensus is that something is changing. To be clear, the issue may not be that data is false in and of itself, but that there is little room for interpretation and dispute (consider correlation vs. causation). Once a hypothesis of environmental doom is shown to be true even in the most minute way, you’d want to react as fast as possible, no? Again, the data probably isn’t false, so it seems to be a matter of presentation and review.

3. Are the effects of global warming mild?
“The problems are being grossly exaggerated,” Freeman Dyson, professor emeritus at Princeton University, said. “They take away money and attention from other problems that are much more urgent and important.

It’s something to think about. Besides, wouldn’t you love a proper three-month (or dare I say it, even shorter) winter, as opposed to the frozen wasteland we experience every six months? Even with climate change being shown to occur, it could be a non-linear model whose effects come and go. In reality, mother nature is volatile and her effects are hard to predict. However, even the most hard-line global-warming sceptic will admit to the vastness of natural phenomena and the general unpredictability of the natural world. While not requiring Chicken Little theatrics, it is always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the environment.