Or maybe it isn’t. I bet this will get me some hate mail.
I am going to use this topic to tackle critical thinking, statistics, and asking good questions. Warning, this post is huge.
First is to tackle asking good questions. The key questions out there regarding global warming are: is the world getting warmer? and if so how much impact does man have on it? Many people are arguing many things on this topic but some are getting their arguments mixed up since they do not realize what the question is.
There is a much information available for both sides of global warming. My opinion is that it is difficult for a lay person to understand what is really happening (I fall in that camp).
It is important to understand when someone is sharing their opinion and not a fact. When someone says I think, I feel, etc. they are sharing an opinion. If you get your information from the news then you are getting an opinion. Many bloggers also are only sharing opinions (me included). Be aware of that.
We all have biases. It is hard to eliminate bias. The news is not supposed to be biased, but it is. Especially now considering they are struggling to keep their audience. Bloggers are in the same boat (me too) in being biased. To combat this it is important to get information from many sources. So if you watch Fox News then you should also watch CNN. You will get a more complete picture. Plus this will help you identify the opinions.
If you get all of your information from the news or bloggers then you probably don’t know enough to argue global warming.
Another bias is the time you grew up in and your peer group. For instance, in the 1970s they were claiming we were heading to a new ice age. Part of this could be that some areas of the US received more snow in the 1960s then they did before. Many of the people who were children in the 1960s grew up with a lot of snow and now wonder why we don’t get that kind of snow fall. Some of these people are the scientists studying global warming. Thus adding to their biases.
Whenever data is gathered for testing you need to understand where it came from. A lot of information is based on statistics, and a core concept that to be adhered to in sampling (taking measurements) is statistical significance. In my simplified explanation it means that the data has to represent the total picture and the more data you gather the more accurate. For instance, if you were trying to figure out what percentage of people have red hair and you counted 100 people in Scotland you might count 1-7 (1%-7%)people with red hair leading you to conclude that 1%-7% of people have red hair.
Now lets count a total of 100 people, 10 in the U.S, 10 in Scotland, 10 in China, 10 in Mexico, 10 in England, 10 in Russia, 10 in Lithuania, 10 in Canada, 10 in Brazil, and 10 in France. You might count 1-4 (1%-4%) people with red hair. This sample takes into account larger diversity of the population. 1%-4% is a lot closer to the actual percent of people with red hair.
But we only counted 100 people. What if we counted 1,000 or 1,000,000 people (each count would be called a data point)? The more people you count the “tighter” the numbers get. In statistical terms the variance goes down. The more people that are counted the closer the number gets to the stated 1%-2% of people have red hair. Notice it is a range and not a clear number. If we were able to count everybody in the world the number would be a single number not a range. We use statistics because it allows us to estimate things close enough to make decisions.
If someone is doing a crappy job of measuring they will not take enough measurements.
If someone is studying global warming they need to look at a lot of data. They should be considering data over 100 years and they should be considering data of multiple locations in the world not just 1 or 2.
Lets look at individual data points. What was the location like where the temperatures have been taken over the years. What if the thermometer was placed in an area with trees and grass about 50 years ago and 20 years ago a Walmart was built and the thermometer was now located on a black top. They temperature would be higher and that data point may not be valid. This is another reason to take a lot of data points in measuring.
Also in statistics there is a concept called outliers. These are data points that do not fit with the other data points. Many times these are removed from the data since they do not fit and have a negative affect on the conclusion drawn from the data. Many of the people who are studying global warming were children in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. During that time there was an unseasonably cool climate pattern which produced more snow and lower temperatures. These people compare there childhoods with what is occurring now which creates a bias.
Do you know how carbon dioxide (CO2) heats up the world? When sunlight contacts CO2 it starts to vibrate. This vibration causes friction which creates heat. Try it, rub your hands together, they heat up from friction.
The world is huge and the atmosphere is also huge. This makes it a great heat sink. In simplified terms a heat sink is large thing that can absorb external temperature increases with negligible temperate increases in itself. Though a heat sink will increase in temperature if it exposed to enough outside heat. Your computer has a heat sink in it so your processor does not melt.
So how much CO2 in the atmosphere is needed to increase the global temperature? I don’t know but it is a good question considering CO2 vibration and the atmospheric heat sink.
Some people are not arguing if global warming exists but if it is man-made. Yes burning things does make more CO2, but there is CO2 trapped in the ocean which is released when the temperature goes up naturally and trees consume CO2. In other words, there are many man-made and natural sources of CO2 and there are ways CO2 is naturally consumed.
A few years ago there was the issue of people manipulating data to make global warming look real or worse than it is. There are a lot of people studying global warming. Even though some people were doing the wrong thing not all of them were. This does not mean that it is a hoax it only means there is some bad info out there.
So if you are planning on arguing global warming with me I will be asking you about your level of knowledge and your source of information.
No matter the topic, you need to understand the information and not take it for face value. Ask questions, go to other sources, look at the facts and from all sides of the topic.