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Chapter 1: The Inconvenient Skeptic
I am a global warming skeptic. I am in fact very skeptical about the whole idea that carbon dioxide (CO2) can cause global warming. The funny part is that I was not always a skeptic. A few short years ago I wasn’t a skeptic at all. It was my research into the science of global warming that turned me into a skeptic. The conclusion I reached from my research was that atmospheric CO2 plays a very minor role in regulating the Earth’s temperature.
I do need to clarify what I mean by global warming as well. The Earth has experienced several periods of warming in the past 200 years. There have also been periods when the Earth was cooling and other periods where the temperature was changing very little. Overall there have been more periods of warming. The result is that the Earth today is warmer than it was 200 years ago. I fully agree that this has happened and the Earth is warmer now than it was in the 1800′s.
I am skeptical that CO2 played a significant role in causing that change in temperature. So when I say I am skeptical of global warming, I am very specifically discussing the theory that increasing CO2 levels will cause the Earth’s temperature to increase. That is the foundation of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming). This theory states that humanity is causing the warming that the Earth has recently experienced by increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels.
I never intended to write a book about global warming. If you had asked me 4 years ago about global warming I would have answered that CO2 levels would probably make a difference, but the dangers were overstated. In my discussion with many other engineers that is a fairly normal position. It was certainly the view I had before I began my research.
Since I thought the doom and gloom predictions were overstated I simply didn’t care about the issue. I knew that many people were getting worked up about it, but it didn’t reach a high level of importance for me. I saw no harm in wanting more fuel efficient cars or more efficient appliances in a person’s home. For me it fell into the “no harm, no foul” category. There was no clear danger from the solutions so even if the risks were overstated; the solutions were not a risk either. That is a good recipe for being apathetic about the issue as a whole and that was how I felt about it.
As a result I didn’t take the time to research the science behind global warming. There was very little reason for me to spend my time studying something that didn’t seem to matter; so I didn’t. I do like to read science articles and occasionally I would come across an interesting article that seemed to support global warming or weaken the case against it. That did nothing to make me want to learn more about it.
That was a serious mistake on my part and it continues to be a serious mistake by many in the scientific community. Some of the information being presented as science is absurd. One example of this is a video that portrays CO2 as a bunch of thugs mugging sunbeams trying to escape the Earth (as shown in the movie An Inconvenient Truth.). While some will argue that such analogies are helpful in trying to simplify the issue, the real effect is that such misrepresentations prevent people from understanding the issue. As a science junky I am offended by attempts to mislead people.
I have always been a science junky. I was one of those kids that wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. At the age of 8 I got up at 3am to watch the very first space shuttle launch from t-minus 2 hours and 20 minutes. There is a very embarrassing video of me when I was about 10 years old talking about how I was going to be a scientist/astronaut when I grew up. It never even crossed my mind to do something different.
So it should be no surprise that I got my degree in Chemical Engineering from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. I will disclose at this point that I did work one summer as an intern working in the natural gas fields in Texas. I disliked that job and after working there I was even more determined to work in the field I really wanted to be in which was semiconductors. Shortly before graduating I got the job I wanted which was working in an R&D semiconductor fab. It is where I have been for more than 12 years now.
In that time I have been involved in more than 10 generations of semiconductor technology. I have seen first-hand just how far science can take technology. Being an engineer for the private sector requires results. The technology has been developed in the past 10 years is breathtaking because of the research and development that has taken place. Things that were not even dreams 10 years ago are commonplace today. The precision of the technology in the semiconductor field today is stunning. That is exactly why I became an engineer and why I have continued in that field.
Those are my credentials. Research is something I have lots of exposure to. I have seen new ideas explored, tested and implemented into the latest technology with regular frequency. I have also seen new ideas discarded for not being the technology that was needed. Good ideas come and go, but the technology that I have been involved in must always be smaller, faster and cheaper. There is no time to waste on bad ideas, so I am used to quickly discarding bad ideas. In my view it is time to discard the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).
So how did a Research and Development Engineer at a major semiconductor company get involved enough in the issue of global warming to write a book about it? Especially when only a few years ago I was apathetic about the entire subject? That is a good question and it is an important question because the motivation of everyone in the global warming debate has become suspect.
This is because the global warming debate has become extremely political. Accusations fly regularly that anyone who is a skeptic is just a tool of big oil companies. The fact that I interned for an oilfield service company back in the summer of 1998 will be used as proof that I am still working for big oil. I find that amusing since I rejected the ensuing job offer because I didn’t want to work for the oil industry. Since that was the first professional job offer I had ever received, it was scary to reject it, but I was determined to find a job in the semiconductor industry. Interning for the oil industry had only strengthened my resolve to not work in that field.
That is why I am going to tell the story of why I decided to research the topic of global warming. I did not start off with any agenda or any goal of proving it wrong or right. I simply reached a point where I decided that I wanted to understand the issue. Everything that I have learned and discovered along the way is simply the result of my desire to understand what drives the Earth’s climate.
It all started when I met my wife, Jenny. She is a wonderful person who at the time was committed to living the green life and doing everything she could to reduce CO2 emissions. This did not bother me at all, but neither was it something that I was very concerned about. I remained apathetic about it despite her best efforts.
I am a strong supporter of fuel efficiency for many reasons that have nothing to do with CO2 emissions. I am opposed to pollution and my Eagle Scout project was cleaning up an illegal dumping site. Some construction crew had dumped all the residual concrete and other materials in an empty field a ways away from an apartment complex that they built. I cleaned it up. Taking action is one of those things I seem to do when I find something that I can make better.
As an engineer I understand how dangerous pollution can be and absolutely support being responsible in preventing pollution and cleaning it up when accidents do happen. Being skeptical about global warming does not mean I do not care about the Earth. I care a great deal about the Earth and I believe that humanity is learning to do a better job at reducing pollution. There is further to go, but great progress has been made in the past 30 years.
Despite the fact that I care about pollution and favor fuel efficiency, I am now an ardent global warming skeptic. How can that be? The answer is simple. I decided to look at the science behind global warming. It didn’t happen overnight and it took almost a year before I was actively researching the topic, but it all started with simple request from Jenny for me to watch Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth. That is not the type of movie I would normally watch, but she wanted me to watch it.
I will admit that I was more than a little skeptical of watching a scientific movie about global warming that was made by Al Gore. Al Gore and science go together like SpongeBob Squarepants and Mensa. In the end, I decided it would be a good thing for me to know more about global warming than I did at the time. I told Jenny I would watch the movie after I did some of my own research into the topic.
That was a truly profound decision, even if I didn’t know it at the time. Getting the facts about the science of global warming is comparable to untying the Gordian Knot. Each side of the debate is very well entrenched and they don’t even discuss science anymore. It has devolved into a series of talking points that each side memorizes for every possible comment that could be made. There is no real thought process behind most discussion anymore, just mindless regurgitation.
Somewhere in the mix of it all there is good information, but it has become buried deep inside misinformation and is scattered about and disorganized. There is simply no place where someone can go to get a good scientific overview of the Earth’s climate. That is all I wanted to find, but everything that was available was just arranged as talking points designed to highlight the flaws in the other side’s arguments. That is not science, that is political debate.
I let Jenny know that it was going to take a little longer than expected because I had made my second decision on the issue. I was going to have to analyze the raw data and analyze it like I would something at work. I had decided to look at the whole issue and reach an independent conclusion about global warming. That was my equivalent solution to cutting the Gordian Knot. Instead of sorting through the conclusions of other people, I would look at the data only and reach my own conclusion.
That is something that I am not sure has happened before. I considered the theory of global warming possible, but I was not convinced that the consequences were being accurately presented to people. That was my view when I started to earnestly research the topic. I did not start out disbelieving the whole thing and trying to prove it wrong, I simply wanted to understand the issue fully so I could determine how seriously to take the potential risks. That was what I expected to learn from my research.
It didn’t cross my mind initially that the entire theory itself was fundamentally incorrect, but that is exactly the conclusion that I eventually reached. Not only that, but the actions that are being proposed to counter global warming are becoming increasingly dangerous. The dangers range from economy-wrecking laws which will radically increase the price of energy to putting mirrors in space to reflect sunlight away from the Earth. I cannot even express how amazingly stupid that last idea is.
The situation had been changing all along, but because I had been apathetic about it, I was not aware of the increasingly absurd solutions that were being considered. The situation is far different from what it had first appeared to be once I really started to look at the issues. It isn’t simply a case of no harm, no foul like I once thought it was.
Understanding the Earth’s climate and the potential of global warming has stopped being a scientific curiosity to me and has become a serious topic because the solutions being proposed would be detrimental to my family’s life. If the threat of global warming was as real as projected, then it would undoubtedly be worth the sacrifices that would be required. My children are important to me and I would never sacrifice their future.
Let me be very clear on this point. If I had reached the conclusion that global warming was a threat, then I would have dedicated my engineering experience to solutions to reduce CO2 emissions. That would be simple for me to accomplish as solar power is related to my field of experience and it would be a quick transition for me to make. Nor would it be difficult for me to get involved with nuclear power which is a much better solution for generating electricity.
I would also be trying hard to convince people that global warming was real and should be taken seriously. It was the scientific conclusion that I reached that decided the course of action I have now taken. Because I took the time to understand the issue from the ground up, I have a different perspective than most people involved in the debate. I have an engineer’s perspective on global warming.
Once I had taken the time to understand the issue I was left with another problem. I had a solid understanding of the issue from a very practical point of view. I could see how the information I had could benefit many other people. That left me with the responsibility to share what I had discovered. I was able to put together a comprehensive picture of the Earth’s climate and how CO2 fit into the picture.
That is what this book contains. It isn’t even really about global warming. It is about understanding the Earth’s climate. It does discuss global warming because there is a part of the Earth’s climate that CO2 does play an important role. Understanding the climate as a whole is much more important than simply a discussion about CO2. Once the climate as a whole is understood, it is easy to reach a conclusion about what the increasing concentration of CO2 will have on the Earth’s climate.
It is possible from what I present that some people will reach a different conclusion from the one I have reached. It does happen that scientists can reach different conclusions from the same data. One current day example of this is the two very different conclusions reached about the velociraptor dinosaur that was made famous by the movie Jurassic Park.
The debate is about what type of hunters the velociraptors were. The movie supports the theory that they were pack hunters. It shows them working together much like a pack of wolves work together today. The other theory is that they were solitary scavengers that fought each other when scavenging large creatures, behavior more like modern day komodo dragons. These are two very different conclusions reached from the exact same data by the paleontologists who study the velociraptors.
I expect that people will reach different conclusions from my own. That is how science is supposed to work in the real world. Regardless of what a person believes about global warming, this book does provide an organized overview of the Earth’s climate and the different factors that drive it. I hope that even those who reach a different conclusion will agree that it does provide a good overview of the science and the debate that surrounds global warming.
There are a few things that I hope each reader will gain from reading this book. First is a better understanding of the factors that drive the climate. While the Earth is large and the climate is complicated, understanding the most important aspects is fairly easy to understand. These factors have driven the climate for millions of years and they are not going to change.
The second item and perhaps the most important thing that I want readers to gain is an understanding that the Earth is always changing. Not once in the past 50 million years has the Earth’s climate stayed the same for any significant amount of time. The third is directly tied to the second one. It is to understand that the Earth will change in the future, no matter what mankind does.
Regardless of what conclusion you reach about global warming, understanding that the Earth will change in the future will be a new perspective for some people. There is no chance that the Earth as it is today, will stay as it is today. The ocean levels will be different, the temperature will be different and how we interact with the Earth will be different. The Earth does not stay the same. The only thing that mankind controls is how prepared we are for the changes that will happen.
The real debate about global warming isn’t even about the Earth changing because the Earth is always changing. The real debate is about how much influence the level of CO2 in the atmosphere will have on the natural changes that will take place in the Earth’s climate regardless of what mankind does.
People already accept that January is always different from July. That is true regardless of where you live in the world. The new perspective is that the July that we experience today is different than the July that happened 9,000 years ago (warmer than today) and that was different from July 20,000 years ago (much, much colder than today). It should be no surprise that in 5,000 years July will be different from what it is today.
Simply accepting that such changes have always happened and are natural requires a different view of the world. If a person expects things to stay the same, then they will always be surprised when change happens. If one understands that the Earth will change, then they are prepared when the inevitable changes do take place.
It is being able to predict how the Earth will change in the future that is actually important in the climate debate. There are only two options. If the theory of global warming is correct, then the Earth will warm up in the manner predicted by warmists (those that believe in global warming). The other option is that the Earth will not be significantly influenced by the level of CO2 and as a result the Earth will change solely based on the natural factors that have always regulated the Earth’s climate.
The global warming debate will eventually end. The Earth will not stop changing. In the end, humanity will have to adapt to an Earth that does not care where our cities are or where we plant our crops. Eventually the planning that humanity considers will have to take into account periods of time that are far longer than our individual lifetimes. That is one very important point that the warmists and I agree upon.
We should agree on many more, but unfortunately that is not the case. Science should not be like politics. Galileo was a victim of politics when he supported Copernicus against the politically correct view of the day that the Sun rotated around the Earth. Since his view was contrary to what was acceptable, he was told to be silent on the issue. Scientists should never seek to silence others. That this is done today to those that disagree is the saddest part of the global warming debate.
These are extraordinary claims and such claims always require extraordinary evidence. When I reached the conclusion that I did about global warming, I was more than a little surprised myself. That is why I wrote this book, to present the evidence to support my claims. I leave it up to you to reach your own conclusion.
You will find that this book you are about to read contains the history of the Earth’s climate and presents the theories about what causes the climate of the Earth to change over time. Most of the theories are already in use by scientists around the world today. What this book does is put all of this information together in a single place.
That is what science is all about. Increasing humanity’s knowledge of the world we live in. Using that knowledge and applying it in the real world is what engineers do. Mostly I hope that I have made it simple enough to understand, interesting enough to enjoy and accurate enough to hold up to the inevitable criticism.
In the semiconductor R&D world, one of the most common phrases is “Show me the Data.” That is what this book is intended to do. I will show you the data and you are free to agree with my conclusions or not.