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On the Edge of Common Sense: Timber and global warming

Baxter Black Published on 06 June 2007

Oh, no, just when they were beginning to wear me down, a new study concludes that by 2100, forests in the mid and high latitudes will make some places up to 10 degrees warmer than they would be if the forests did not exist!

 

Does this bode ill for the salesmen offering to sell you carbon offsets by planting a tree in honor of the luxury appliance in your home? Alas, it merely points out the problem of scientists guessing, speculating, hoping, wishing, and/or projecting answers to questions that remain unproven.

The backbone of accumulating scientific knowledge is the requirement that one must prove his hypothesis. This ‘body of scientific opinion’ is not proof of anything. Over the years it (the body) has held that the Earth was flat, that Bubonic plague was caused by lepers, that the Earth would soon be in an ice age, that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, that the Alaskan oil pipeline would be an environmental disaster, that the Atkins diet was bad for you, and now, that the Atkins diet is good for you!

On the face of it, watching glaciers diminish in size indicates a warmer local environment. Is it a trend that will last? What is causing the temperature increase? The ‘body of opinion’ among meteorological scientists support global warming, and many blame it on air pollution from industrialized nations. In other words, they think, suspect, believe, surmise and/or deduce that this last 20 years of global warming (+1?) is man-made.

It is proper for a champion of the cause to be a non-scientist. Former Vice President Al Gore can exhort us to action because he does not require scientific proof to make his conclusion. If he’s wrong, he’s wrong. So what.

However, there is another, deeper question; even if the ‘body of opinion’ is wrong, will the Earth be better off for reducing air pollution? After we’ve eliminated industrial pollutants, i.e., cars, oil and coal burning power plants, cows, Los Angeles, Beijing, Jakarta and all the forests between 5,000 feet and the timberline, will the Earth’s skies return to their pre-industrial, medieval state?

Or, in spite of all our efforts, will it simply continue through the cyclical periods of heating and cooling that have marked its existence to date?

I’m glad I’m only a veterinarian and not a meteorological scientist, that the burden of proof is not on my shoulders. I can say whatever I want and it doesn’t carry any weight, like, well, like most of us.  end_mark

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