Why it makes sense to believe in global warming

This week’s Dustinland isn’t very funny (as usual), nor is it intended to be. It’s simply an argument I feel compelled to illustrate in the face of such frustrating debate around a very important issue.

When I look at a majority of the back and forth on the issue of global warming, I see a big mess of people getting caught up on the results of studies, with skeptics trying to define what qualifies as “scientific proof,” and it just seems to go round and round. While I believe there to clearly be more evidence on the side of global warming being a very real and man-made threat, I still feel that merely piling up scientific facts is not enough to convince skeptics. That is why I present this approach (which is ironically based on Pascal’s Wager in a sense). When it comes down to it, all decisions are based on risk/reward considerations, yet for some reason, I rarely see the global warming debate phrased in this manner. And personally, it seems like a pretty solid argument when you put it this way:

If global warming is real and we do something to stop it, we save our future.

If global warming is not real and we do something to stop it, we still create a better world to live in.


14 responses to “Why it makes sense to believe in global warming

  1. Good job stating your point very clearly. I think it’s a great message. Also, I like the colors of the panels. 🙂

  2. But scientists admit that it was probably hotter in the middle ages than it is now, and that there has been no global warming since 1995.


    If anything, it’s probable that sun flares or the sun getting hotter (and brighter) is to blame for climate change.

    Even other celestial bodies have been affected… Mar’s ice is melting, Jupiter has a second red spot, Pluto is 3 degrees Celsius warmer…


    The idea of man-made global warming, like the H1N1 hysteria and 9/11, bring to mind a quotation from Adolph Hitler: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

    Good thing our government banned incandescent lightbulbs in the name of climate change and mandates a mercury-fueled replacement. Brilliant!

  3. Great comic, great points.

    Harper’s had a GREAT article about how a historian has uncovered that when human numbers declined quickly and broadly, in the past (think Bubonic Plague), the earth cooled down, causing shorter summers, major crop loss, etc. Basically, the idea that human behavior affects the environment — proven time and time again.

  4. See, anonymous comment #1, you are not paying attention to my argument. This is the problem with the climate change debate. It becomes a contest – who can go online and quote the most “facts.” My point — which I will now rephrase for the third time — is this:
    It is undeniable that at least half of all climate scientists believe global warming is a very real threat. Maybe they are wrong, but is it worth taking that risk — especially when doing something about it can have positive effects either way?

  5. What you are talking about is the ‘precautionary principle’ argument/approach (although it’s rare to hear someone who know’s about Pascal’s Wager argument- kudos to you).

    What is stopping the current approach to radically re-engineering our society and degrade our standard of living is that the problem hasn’t been proved to any acceptable level of certainty.

    If smaller, incremental solutions were used, this approach might fly. If the problem could be proven more objectively, it might fly. What does not prove it is a consensus. Politics is consensus driven, science is not. It only takes one scientist to disprove a scientific hypothesis believed by 1500 other scientists. We are clearly still in a hypothetical/upproven stage as proved by no consistent abililty to predict weather (beyond 24 hours) or climate (especially the multiple warmings and coolings we’ve gone through in just the last 100 years).

    When you get married, have a family, and the responsibility to provide for them, you demand a certain level of surety on any issue before you are willing to up-end your life to address it. I would say that we are not even close to that level with the flawed theory of man-driven global warming . Until scientists can even some degree of understanding of what drives our climate, this issue will never get anywhere.

  6. Philosopher, I think where we agree most is that change needs to happen in incremental phases, and I think that is sort of happening now, but perhaps on a much smaller scale than some people would like to see.
    What I mainly take issue with is your claim of being forced to “up-end your life to address” global warming claims. Would it require up-ending your life to ask for car companies to build vehicles that give off lower emissions, (especially considering that they’ve had the technology to do so for some time and chose not to)? Would it require up-ending your life to give the same sort of government funding to alternative energy development that has been funneled to coal and oil industries through tax breaks and wars waged on their behalf? Would it require up-ending your life to purchase locally grown produce when possible?
    There are a million changes we can make as a society that would not involve life-altering sacrifice. I can understand the unwillingness to drop a hundred grand on solar panels for your roof, but if you take the possibility of global warming being a real, man-made phenomenon and combine that with other factors such as potential dwindling oil supplies and the increasing ocean acidification, isn’t it worth it to make as many small changes as you can?
    Additionally, do you ever think, well, what if they’re right? How would you feel in 50 years? You can’t go back in time and do things right. We only get one chance, and I for one would like to err on the side of caution.

  7. D-Man,

    This comic says everything about the situation in a clear, concise way. And the stupid comments will continue to come from people who ignore the simplicity therein.

    To those people: go the other way. Assume that global warming is total bunk. Then ask yourself whether or not it still makes sense to clean up the air you’re breathing every day. If you answered “no” there’s no point in further discussion.

  8. Actually, there is a huge downside to “going green” which I was going to get into earlier.

    Under the guise of ‘going green,’ energy prices will more than double acting as a regressive tax (disproportionately affecting the poor) if Obama’s energy reforms plans are implemented. And, for every ‘green’ job comes at the expense of 2.2 other jobs.

    Simply put, many negative things are being done in the name of climate change. These changes include higher taxes on the poor, devaluing the currency of industrialized countries, moving capital – the means of production – to developing countries, less advancement and progression of developed countries, government control of industry, the collapse of the free market, and government-sponsored population reduction through disease, abortion, and, by Bill Gates’ own words… vaccinations.

    Bill Gates, yes that Bill Gates, at TED talking about how to lower the world population (cuz humans are the #1 source of CO2 emissions) though vaccines… vaccines against what? Pregnancy? He’s big into ‘health services’ (abortion) too. I agree with him, though. Wanna help the planet – don’t have kids.

    Man made global warming is a hoax. It is a way for the government to tax you more, control free enterprise, poison you, and eventually kill you.

  9. Don’t forget your swine flu shot too, Birdy Fan. Maybe you should get two, ya know, just be safe. It’s a vaccine – something that’s good for you – so what’s the downside?? 😉

  10. I am going to save the world by buying locally grown fruit! What about cruise ships and oceanliners? A single large cruise ship (3,000 passengers and crew) generates an estimated 55,000 to 110,000 liters per day of blackwater (toilet) waste that is dumped untreated into the ocean.

    Nutrients in sewage, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, promote excessive algal blooms, which consumes oxygen in the water and can lead to fish kills and destruction of other aquatic life. No cruise for you!

    And what about airplanes? Do you have any idea how much carbon was sent into the environment during your roundtrip flight from NYC to Hawaii? But it’s ok, you’re gonna buy a locally grown carrot to compensate for it. Typical liberal anti-logic and hypocrisy. Man, I’ve moved on from this comic. Was funny when I was 19 and in college, but now, I feel embarrassed for it.

  11. Responding to this last post here: What does consuming locally grown produce have to do with going on an airplane? Those are two different things.

    1. It is better to eat locally grown produce because you are supporting local businesses (often times small businesses, especially if you purchase them from farmers’ markets) and there is less transportation involved, aka less emissions.

    2. I agree that planes are bad for the environment and that people should use them as little as possible. However, sometimes you have to fly, let’s say for business purposes or for a family vacation to Hawaii planned by your wonderful in-laws.

    3. Yes, cruise ships are awful. I hate cruises, I would never go on one. They are awful for many reasons, their environmental impact just being one of them. It seems that just because I mentioned eating locally grown produce, I now have to list every single thing a person could possibly do to benefit the environment.

    Lastly, why the virulent tone? Why the hate? We both want the same thing, don’t we? A better future. We may disagree about how to get there, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discuss it like adults instead of raging and name calling. Whoever wrote this last post, I really hope you come back here and comment again because I’d like to think there is a chance for dialog, not just angry hit and run anonymous posting.

  12. lets also start believing in god; (more than) half of the world believes in him too. If they are right, you’ll go to haven, if they are wrong, you dont lose anything…

    *this post IS sarcastic; your logic is flawed

  13. Necrowizard, as I mentioned before, my position is derived from Pascal’s Wager, which is basically your satiric argument about believing God. However, you’re comparing religion (something that can never be proven – that’s why it’s called faith) to science (which is based upon acquiring knowledge based on trial and error). Yes, global warming has not be proven. However, like I said, many climate scientists do believe there is a great deal of evidence supporting the theory of man-made global warming, and considering the risk involved, I would prefer to play it safe.

  14. The thing is, you’d think the country was benefiting enormously from having to buy oil from a bunch of unstable countries in the Middle East or something.

    Look, we WILL run out of oil one day. I’m not sure when- no one else is, either. But it WILL happen. When it does happen, the countries that have strong alternative energy industries will end up on top.

    Of course, oil isn’t the only fossil fuel. We will also run out of natural gas.

    Unfortunately, we won’t run out of coal anytime soon. God help us if we attempt to burn all of the coal in the world. I’ve seen coal mines in Wales and Pennsylvania, and they are apocalyptic. In Wales, I climbed up on top of a slag heap and looked out… I could see for a long distance, and could not see a single plant or animal. The streams ran red. It’s an interesting chemical process that made the streams red- and one that is incredibly toxic. In Pennsylvania, I went to this place called Centralia. It used to be a town, now it is like hell. The ground is warm underfoot, the air smells like sulfur, and smoke puffs out of holes in the ground. A coal fire has been burning since 1962. Sure, the coal fire was an accident, and that doesn’t usually happen- but the slag heaps in Wales were no accident. Even in industrialized, regulated countries, coal mining is incredibly ugly.

    Getting the stuff out of the ground isn’t the only downside of coal. The emissions aren’t so great, either. You want your kids to grow up healthy? Well, mercury in their systems won’t promote that. And guess what? Burning coal is a major source of environmental mercury, not to mention all sorts of lovely NOX and SOX gasses.

    So to people who suggest that moving away from fossil fuels might involve sacrifice, I say Yes, it will almost certainly involve sacrifice. I would argue, strongly, that big houses and frequent travel are not sustainable. I would also argue that those things aren’t what make people happy.

    On the other hand, the alternative to moving away from fossil fuels does not appear to be pretty. And frankly, I would prefer if America led the world in alternative energy technology.

    Is man-made global warming real? I believe it is. I also believe that is only one of many reasons that we need to vigorously invest in alternative energy and reduce our overall energy consumption.

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