Do Humans Cause Global Warming? I Have No Idea
There is a story about the great Greek philosopher Socrates who went on a search for the wisest man. During a long journey visiting scholars, poets, politicians and other wise men, Socrates found that they all spoke with confidence about things they clearly did not know.
So Socrates told his protégé Plato that he, Socrates, was the wisest man because everyone else thinks they know something and, “I at least know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.”
That’s why I feel that I am the wisest man in any discussion about global warming. Oh, I’m sorry, I mean climate change. I sometimes have a difficult time keeping up with my euphemisms. [SIGNUP]
It used to be that politics and religion were the two topics you needed to ignore at social engagements. But both topics now pale in comparison to the emotional charged topic of global warming — er — climate change. You see, climate change is both politics and religion.
For the uninitiated, the arguments aren’t really about “climate change.” Who can argue the climate doesn’t change? Without that fact of life, John Bolaris would have spent most of his life as a dancer at Chippendale’s. He might still be dancing on the senior circuit.
No, the argument is about man’s contribution to the warming of the planet that is allegedly hurling us into an Apocalypse that will, apparently, be especially bad for polar bears. I mention the polar bears because every picture that accompanies a story about climate change seems to require a photograph of a polar bear looking sad amidst broken ice. I actually think the polar bear in the picture is just confused and trying to gauge whether it is worth breaking into a full sprint to try and eat the photographer. Polar bears, you see, are one of the few animals that will hunt man. But that has not stopped them from taking the top spot on the “Save the…” list. Whales are yesterday’s news.
I have seen documentaries on climate change, including Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. I have also read articles that outline why man is and why man isn’t contributing to the warming of the planet.
I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t know.
People much smarter than me, with letters after their names, have looked at the data and come to much different conclusions. And although there are more who say carbon emissions have caused the problem, there are some distinguished researchers who say hog wash, including Penn professor Bob Giegengack, who has been studying climate change long before it became hip, long before Al Gore invented the Internet.
So, I just don’t know.
But it really doesn’t matter that I am undecided on the cause of climate change because I believe firmly in the solutions. I am for clean air and water. I am for drastically reducing carbon emissions. I am for alternative energy sources.
I thought that would be enough. But it’s not.
At a party a few weeks back I made my case to a fervent climate change believer. I made my case that it is irrelevant to me which side is right or wrong because we can all agree on the fixes. She looked at me like I was a Geico Caveman. “You mean you don’t believe in climate change?” she said.
“Well of course I believe that climates change.” Her face started contorting as if someone in the room passed a little carbon emissions. I continued, “I’m just not sure it is caused by us.”
She turned and walked away. I was being shunned as non-believer by a Climate Scientologist.
I will tell you the other side is just as bad. My conservative friends look at me as if I am a subversive when I don’t sign on to their point of view that climate change has been concocted by the left to create a new money making industry. That isn’t surprising. My Republican friends believe every Democratic initiative is a scheme to get their money. And now I’m suspect because I can’t completely discount that pumping millions of tons of carbon into the air might have some effect on our climate.
I just don’t know. But I can’t even organize my sock drawer, let alone a global conspiracy.
I just think we should clean things up because it’s the right thing to do. If it stops the melting of the polar Ice caps so the polar bears can have some privacy from the Climate Paparazzi, bonus!
But that’s not good enough because both the zealots and the heretics of the climate change religion need to make believe or condemn you. And so the argument has become more important that the solutions. The ends don’t matter at all — only the means.
And so the arguing continues, loud and passionate, by people who have never done one bit of research on the subject or have even read a study. Emotion often fills a vacuum left by a lack of knowledge.
In short, they really don’t know.
I really don’t know either. But at least I know I don’t know. So, like Socrates, at least I know one thing. And when it comes to climate change I am therefore the wisest man in most discussions.
LARRY MENDTE is a former Philadelphia news anchor who writes for The Philly Post on Mondays and Thursdays. His video commentaries are seen on Tribune television stations across the country. You can view them at www.wpix.com.