Saturday, April 26, 2014

Oversimplified Cause

As a science teacher my challenge was helping students realize science subject matter connected with many events in their lives. Some students regarded science as their favorite course, possibly because they were able to connect science subject matter with their total life experience. Their comprehension of the world became broad-based and exciting. Students who envision science only as a topic of narrow investigation find the least enjoyment in their studies. Interested students not only experience fascination with specific classroom experiences, but also extend those discoveries to perception and enjoyment of their world.

We used the term “narrow investigation” in our opening paragraph. In explanation, climate change has become a cause célèbre for many politicians and environmentalists. Climate change enthusiasts tout “science” as a primary support pillar of their argument. What does the “science” tell us? Since the Industrial Revolution atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased roughly 40%. The greenhouse gas (GHG) qualities of CO2 are blamed for increasing Earth’s temperature. We do not deny some truth to that precept. Carbon dioxide gas may act as a lid to entrap Earth’s heat from the sun instead of letting it reflect back into space. Carbon dioxide is widely recognized for its qualities as a GHG. Other atmospheric gases are also GHGs, including water vapor and methane. Together, water vapor and methane are far more significant GHGs. Climate change enthusiasts’ intonation of “settled climate science” has forced our climate discussions to become exceedingly narrow in scope. The trace gas carbon dioxide has assumed front and center position in the discussion.

Let us enlarge upon the narrow scope. Most of the “blame” for climate change is assigned to production of the greenhouse gas CO2 from the consumption of fossil fuels according to the proponents of fear. Climate change enthusiasts cite an accelerating concentration of this trace gas. Fear of future climate disaster has resulted and now grips large segments of our populace. National and United Nations politicians have fomented this fear along with urgent proposals of expensive remediation such as reduction of petroleum and coal usage and intensive promotion of wind and solar power.

Some unchallenged science students in my classroom were unable to envision science in the broad picture. Their picture of reality was too narrow. Had they been able to look at the subject in its broad scope, their enjoyment of the subject would have expanded. Most climate change worriers investigate a narrow scope of climate and weather science. Is knowledge about carbon dioxide a significant topic of climate science? Yes, it is, but its importance should not be overstressed. Climate science is exceedingly broad in scope and complexity. The science of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse effect, and the effects of other far more plentiful GHGs is only the beginning of our study of short term weather and long term climate. Variable solar output and its impact on cloud formation, numerous recognized atmospheric and oceanic oscillations, and longer term collective changes in earth’s orbital and axial variations known as Milankovich cycles, affect Earth’s climate far more than the trace gas CO2.

Natural climate variability is hardly ever discussed or assigned explanatory power by climate change enthusiasts. For example, our current 17-year cycle of Earth cooling is unexplainable in terms of the GHG carbon dioxide. It is easy to denigrate climate change deniers by casting them as science illiterates or calling them members of the “flat earth society,” particularly when the case for climate change becomes difficult to make.

Kenneth William Samples in his volume A World of Difference presents one chapter called “Straight Thinking.” He lists “Oversimplified Cause” as a betrayal of straight thinking. Samples says, “This fallacy occurs when an effect has multiple causes, but only one cause is identified.” Another caution Samples offers is the “Domino Fallacy,” whereby, “…someone asserts that a particular action or event will set off a chain reaction of events ultimately leading to devastating consequences.” The strident voices of climate change enthusiasts have provided cause for review of the principles of effective argument and straight thinking.

Our blog on the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute (ATRI) website commenced in 2007.  Until 2012 we did not comment on the issue of global warming. Of late the climate change issue has become ever more strident. The drought of 2012 triggered our first venture into the topic. The severe winter of 2013-2014 inspired us to renew our attention to the issue yet again. Earth’s climate is ultimately God’s gift for the physical sustenance of the human race. To close this series of climate posts, we offer a reprint of our 4/29/2013 post. It was appropriately titled “God’s Climate System:”