What you must believe to be afraid of climate change

23 Mar

In order to fear climate change, there are several beliefs you must hold.

1. CO2 drives temperature change

This is a the central belief of the AGW theory. If you don’t believe CO2 controls temperature, then the increase in mankind’s emission poses no threat.

2. Strong positive feedbacks exist

Even if you believe that CO2 drives temperature change, this isn’t enough. Without strong positive feedbacks the temperature increase is minimal. The fear from future climate change arises from the belief that the slight temperature increase will lead to positive feedbacks (such as water vapor) that will further increase the temperature.

3. The temperature record is reliable

The .7c degree increase over the last century is usually considered proof of the AGW theory. After all, CO2 emission have risen quite a bit in the last 50 years, so temperature should have risen as well. To use this evidence, the temperature record must be taken as valid.

4. Life on earth is not very adaptable

If you fear climate change, then you must believe that it will negatively affect life on the planet. This assumes that life will be unable to adequately adapt to the future change in temperature.


This isn’t an exhaustive list and there may be some who fear climate change who don’t hold all four of these tenets. However, if you throw out any one point then fearing climate change makes little sense. If CO2 doesn’t drive temperature change, then increasing CO2 isn’t a problem. If there are no positive feedbacks, then the minimal rise in temperature from CO2 isn’t a threat. If you don’t believe the temperature record, then there is absolutely no observational evidence for the AGW theory. If you believe that life on planet earth is sufficiently adaptable, then an increase in temperature isn’t something to fear.

I would simply point out that CO2 hasn’t driven temperaturesin the past, positive feedbacks are completely theoretical and very controversial, the temperature record is notoriously unreliable, and planet earth has already shown its incredible adaptivity in the past through several ice ages and other temperature fluxes.

Don’t fear climate change.


Posted by on March 23, 2010 in Uncategorized



7 responses to “What you must believe to be afraid of climate change

  1. Anon

    March 26, 2010 at 6:29 am

    As you say, this is not an exhaustive list.

    You also need to believe that increasing temperatures are disastrous.
    In fact, history shows that warm times are prosperous and cold times are damaging.
    Many more people die in cold winters than in warm summers.

    I came across a gem of a comment in a book “Atmosphere weather and climate” by Barry and Chorley, published 1968, available on google books, page 361

    “Unfortunately, the latest evidence suggests that the warm period of 1920-40 has come to an end”.

    There’s a nice ClimateQuote for you!

  2. Bryan

    March 29, 2010 at 1:55 am

    In order to fear CO2 regulation, you must:

    1. Believe that increasing the concentration of a warming gas by 30% (50% by 2050) is nothing to worry about.

    When I learned about the earth’s blanket in gradeschool, they cited CO2 and water as what keeps heat near the earth. Why is the idea that CO2 is a warming gas so controversial now? Because it might be regulated, and that would cost some very rich people some money.

  3. Cloneof

    March 29, 2010 at 8:29 am

    “That would cost some very rich people some money”… If it was that simple Bryan.
    Unfortunately these things are usually payed by tax money.

    But to the question, there are many diffrent reasons why people don’t believe in AGW going disaster on us and I will present my personal reasons for such.

    First, CO2 is a fairly weak greenhouse gas, as I understand you will only get one degree of Kelvin everytime you DOUPLE the amount in the atmosphere. That means that the only way to get in to the disaster levels, we must see how nature reacts to this warming.

    There has been a large fight over how low clouds effect this warming. Low clouds could possibly be a negative or positive feedback effect for the original CO2 warming, there just simply isin’t enoug data to make a full assumption.

    If during a warming period the low clouds move away, that would mean that the low clouds will be a positive feedback while if clouds create the warming by moving away then that would a negative feedback. Roy Spencer used a simple climate model back in 2008 and calculated that if the low clouds would be a negative feedback, then we would only see 0.5 degree Kelvin warming over this century.

  4. Roger

    July 10, 2010 at 4:46 am

    I think you even overstate it somewhat:

    1. CO2 drives temperature change

    I do believe CO2 drives temperature change (in fact, as Bryan tries to point out, it is kind of obvious that it does) — yet I am still not afraid of AGW, and would not be even if I believed points 2 through 4.

    That is because there is no evidence, apart from highly dubious numerical models, that CO2 affects climate change more than, or even as much as, other also kind-of-obvious climate drivers. In particular it is not credible to claim that the effects of CO2 concentration are vastly greater than the effects of varying solar radiation. You can show on the back of an envelope that it is highly improbable. (The fact that certain numerical models predict otherwise is another strike against them; no model that gives such an unlikely result could seriously be considered accurate without very strong supporting evidence.)

    This applies with or without the belief in postulated strong positive feedbacks. That is, even if you believe that the strong positive feedbacks exist to amplify the undoubtedly weak effects of CO2 concentration, no mechanism is known or postulated whereby such a mechanism would not operate just as much to amplify the strong effects of solar radiation. (The converse is not true; there can, and probably do, exist amplifiers that enhance the effect of insolation without enhancing the effect of CO2 concentration.)

    Thus for points 1 to 4 to form a chain which logically results in “fear AGW”, point 1 must be strengthened to:

    1. CO2 drives temperature change very much more strongly than any other known or unknown driver

  5. Sam

    July 10, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Thanks Roger, I think you’re right. Here’s what I meant to say:

    “1. CO2 is the main driver of temperature change”

    That certainly wasn’t clear enough before.


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