Thu, 17 Jul 2008

Global Warming vs. Intelligent Design

An article by Kenton Williston in EE Times suggests that the issues of Global Warming and Intelligent Design are comparable. He says that you need faith that the facts are wrong to support Intelligent Design and to oppose Global Warming, and that there is no place for such faith in the field of Electrical Engineering. So, he's disturbed to find out that not every EE agrees with him.

The trouble with his posting is that global warming is primarily an issue of economics. What decisions we make depends on the costs we face. After all if global warming posed no risks, no costs of adjustment, no changes in lifestyle, who would care whether it was happening or not. But some people claim that we must pay huge costs now, or suffer much larger costs later. So, to get the correct answer on what to do about global warming, you must consult economists.

As it turns out, doing nothing about global warming isn't all that expensive relative to the alternatives. It's possible that some new technologies will be created which help us control CO2 emissions cheaply. If so, we should adopt them. Otherwise, steps like the Kyoto Accord cost so much now in return for such small benefits so far in the future, that they are no better than doing nothing.

Now, I happen to be of the belief that the climate has been changing all the time; that those changes are visible in recorded human history; that they have been going on long before humans were burning more than campfires; and that they are unstoppable. All that we can do is to adjust to them. So, if we're warming the global a little more with our CO2 emissions, it's just a small addition to the cost that we are going to have to pay regardless.

Sure, low-lying areas will become inundated, just as the areas just off shore were inundated thousands of years ago. Atlantis is not just a possibility, it's a likelihood. Perhaps the story of Atlantis was meant as a cautionary tale: don't build so close to the sea because the sea level changes.

If we squander huge sums on reducing CO2, only to find that the globe was always going to warm up, how faithful will Kenton look then? Better to stick with the science of global warming:

and not try to make unwarranted cause and effect relationships between these facts. That requires a faith I do not have.

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