What People are Saying— Climate change is a concern: yes or no?

For some time I have been wrestling with the culture wars. I hear a Tower of Babel mentality run rampant over attempts to address climate change. Many arguments seem legitimate to me, because they are based in established sources I trust. Others seem to come out of nowhere and I wonder if we are speaking different languages. These are the arguments I am learning to understand as being part of the culture wars—they can be essentially unintelligible to those who don’t share our cultural assumptions.

I’ve posted already on Cultural Theory of Risk and will say more about it later. Now though, I am simply posting the kinds of arguments I have heard on climate change, and invite you to share the arguments you hear. I’d like your evaluation of these argument—where do they come from? Facts? Trustworthy sources? Cultural Assumptions?

If the latter, stay tuned for which cultural attitudes or groups are most likely to make the arguments you hear below. Meantime, how often have you heard these? (You haven’t heard this argument so it isn’t being made? Consider the most seen movie of all time, Jesus (pdf), seen by 1.5 billion people. Lots happens that isn’t covered in the newspapers.)

— Climate change is a concern: yes or no?
Overheard in public discussions:

• We are in danger of dying out as a species, if we are not totally greenhouse gas free within the next ten years.

• Climate change is serious, and we’ll begin to see evidence of that in the next 20-150 years. Our children or their children will suffer from the effects.

• Climate change isn’t actually happening, or if it is, it can’t be anthropogenic, and either way, the dangers are grossly exaggerated, if they even exist.

• The United Nations is not an organization I would trust to tell me anything true, including scientific findings (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] was created by the UN and World Meteorological Organization).

• “[G]lobal-warming theories give the government more control of the economy”. (Ed Crane, Cato Institute’s founder)

• Climate change is just one way that we are hastening Armageddon; our actions make God’s punishment more certain and swifter.

• Armageddon, in the form of climate change or anything else, does not arise from man’s actions, but from God’s own purposes.

• Genesis 9:13-15: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth…and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. Therefore, no matter what we do, God won’t allow it to destroy the earth.

Read in IPCC and other major reports from peer-reviewed community:
Climate change has been a major concern for some time, with overwhelming evidence of its effects including human deaths (World Health Organization estimates 150,000 dead from climate change in 2000, and presumably more today), as well as dramatic changes in precipitation and heat waves, with serious impacts and local extinctions for a number of species. Human beings are expected to be strongly affected in terms of health, comfort, life-expectancy, and violent conflict over resources, but the species is not expected to die out. (See IPCC) At the same time, scientists emphasize it is important to not overstate the case: our species is not likely to die out (however, many or most of us will be pretty unhappy). While it would be better for us to stop emitting greenhouse gases last week, solutions a decade from now are important, not all solutions need to be in place by 2011.

OK, what have you been hearing, and is it rational discussion, or the culture wars?

What people are saying
Part 2—Cap and trade for greenhouse gas: yes or no?
Part 3—Choosing technologies/changing behavior
Part 4—Population reduction has to happen first
second part—What People are Saying—Population reduction has to happen first, part 2

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