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When a Smart Person is talking to a non-Smart Person, he loves to line up an enumerated list of ‘Questions’ for that person. Devastating questions. In answering them the non-Smart Person will inevitably reveal how much of a neanderthal he is somewhere.
Let me demonstrate by tackling some Questions recently asked of Bryan Caplan by (some guy who wrote a cartoon book) regarding Climate Change.
Are you comfortable saying that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas?
Um, sure? ‘Greenhouse gas’ is a category of thing with a definition. Carbon dioxide meets that definition. Duh. This is like asking am I comfortable saying that 2 is an even number. There is not real debate about this.
That human emissions of carbon dioxide are raising atmospheric CO2 concentrations?
I guess; if humans emit X CO2′s then at least in short-term there are X CO2′s that weren’t there before. Though there could ultimately be feedback effects, which I don’t trust anyone to have modeled well. (For example more CO2 -> more trees -> less CO2, so it’s a wash? I dunno. Nor do you.)
Perhaps the real implied question is, if one goes back to (say) 1850 and spawns a parallel universe in which one instantly and without pollution kills all the humans, then runs the clock forward to today, is there more CO2 in our universe than in that parallel universe’s 2014? In that case, my even-money bet would be ‘yes’. But I don’t feel hugely strongly about that. I also don’t care or think it is germane to much of anything.
That global temperatures have been increasing over the past century?
So they say. I haven’t been measuring. I have seen measurements that seem fine and show warming from the late 1800s to ~2000. It seems to have paused in the last decade or two though.
Climates change. Did you know there have been “Ice Ages”?
That humans are partly responsible for those increasing global temperatures?
I doubt it, unless ‘partly’ is defined so expansively as to mean ‘causing an epsilon temperature increase, with probability epsilon, for some epsilon>0′.
Again it would be convenient to check that parallel universe, but absent that, all we have are computer models to inform our answer to this question. I don’t trust the output of those computer models to have the resolution or accuracy enabling them to establish a hypothesized Human Responsibility Factor as being measurably, statistically-significantly different from 0. Does the cartoonist? If so, why, exactly?
That “it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”?
‘The’ dominant? No, I do not think this extremely likely. I think it is one of the possibilities, sure.
By the way, none of the above questions matter one iota regarding what forward-looking climate change policy ought, or ought not, to be.
Thanks everyone, this has been: QUESTION TIME
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