Is global warming real, and what should we do about it?

Yesterday’s topic suggestion from the Daily Post was the question of whether global warming is real. Well I’m not quite educated enough about climate science to give you all the details, but in answer to the question of whether it’s real, yes—you don’t need to be a scientist to know that the world is warming up. If you look at the graph below, the rate of warming has accelerated a lot in about the past forty years (and it’s probably no to do with the sun). You can point to the cold winters the West has had for the past few years, but overall the world in general is warming.

There's been a clear trend of warming over the past half-century, and it's no longer about the sun.

Even most skeptics accept that the climate is changing. The real debate is whether or not climate change/global warming is (a) caused mainly by human beings and (b) something we should worry about. While the public in America and the UK (but not mainland Europe) is split on this issue, about 98% of active climatologists would say yes to both questions.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all going to die. There have been new discoveries that the Greenland ice cap isn’t melting at quite the rate we thought it was and some glaciers are actually growing (so annoying the Times is behind that paywall). These don’t mean the skeptics are right, but it does suggest that global warming may not be as bad as some doomsday environmentalists would have us believe.

What do I think? Again, I’m no expert, but given the very wide consensus among climate scientists who do know their stuff in this area, I think completely denying global warming and not taking any action about it would be a foolish mistake.

However, call me a cynic but I think that trying to stop climate change now is rather futile. People are very unlikely to change their ways until it’s too late. What we need to do is find a way to adapt to global warming – and given that we can survive in space, we can surely survive on a warmer planet. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but realistically we won’t get it done before it’s too late. This may mean large-scale migration and a change to many other aspects of our lives (people will change their lives if they want to live, they just won’t do it quickly enough to stop climate change happening), but a warmer planet isn’t necessarily one that we can’t live on.

I will also say something else: the planet is not in danger. The Earth has been through far, far worse than what we’re doing to it. The amount of turbulence in the Earth’s early days that it managed to sustain was pretty phenomenal, and then it managed to support human life later on. The Earth is remarkably strong and a little increase in greenhouse gases will do little or no harm to it. If anyone or thing is in danger from climate change, it’s us and animal life – not the planet. 

That’s my take on the issue. If anyone more educated about climate science disagrees with me or wants to bring up a different point, they can do so in the comments.


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