This week has been climate change week for me. I live within a 10 minute walk of an Ivy league university and often attend public lectures they hold quite regularly. This week I attended two panels on climate change, one on corporate responsibility and one on emerging economies. Coincidently, while researching one of the panel speakers who particularly impressed me, I came across this video produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC).
The video made me think so much that I had to research some of the "experts" within and came across this:
I read each of the 27 short articles therein.
Now I have been somewhat torn on climate change for some time now. On the one hand is my natural skeptic nature and the slightly nauseous feeling I get whenever I am asked to jump on a bandwagon whose roots I either don't understand or seem nonsensical (i.e. Y2K, 90's tech boom, China economy, etc.). On the other hand, there is "An Inconvenient Truth", constant media attention, and even presidential candidates talking about man-made climate change.
About a year ago, I decided that man-made climate change is in fact real and a present threat. I did not, at the time, do much research other than watching the movie and reading the mass media reports. I believe I also downloaded and read the executive summary of the 2007 IPCC Climate Change Report as well.
Now after reading and watching the above and attending the panel discussions, I just don't know what to think. My skeptic nature has again reared its head. These scientists are not peripheral figures. In many cases they work at top institutions (i.e. Harvard, MIT, CERN) and in several cases were actually involved in the initial IPCC processes. None are denying that the climate is probably warming. They are however uncertain as to the cause(s). The panel discussions I attended at the University were also an eye opener in two ways. First, while the professors did not come right out and say it, they were definitely very conservative in their opinions and outlook. I don't think they would dare to say they were actual skeptics in a crowd that was 90% college students. Which brings me to the second point. The students attending reminded me an awful lot of evangelicals, or nazis, or red guards (pick your metaphor). Based on their questions they were so sure of man's (and particularly corporations) evil agendas and rabidly eager to burn them at the stake (well, maybe not "burn" given the carbon that would emit). They were clearly not so pleased with the reticence of their professors. I can quite easily imagine these students graduating and joining the political side at the IPCC as alleged in one of the articles linked above.
So now I am again in my uncertain state. Right now I guess my position is that green technology is a good thing whether or not mankind is causing climate change. After living in China I think that I am more sensitive to air quality than most Americans. It is definitely better to live in clean air and with clean water than not to. It is definitely better to not rely on foreign oil and natural gas if possible. As a result I would still encourage governments to incentivize R&D, increase efficiency, and the like. I would, however, not agree with radical policy changes that might have significant adverse economic effect on a wide range of people until the science is a lot clearer than it appears to be today.