Colourful and confusing

My mother is retired. She surfs the net daily for things to read. Before the advent of the internet she would read from the “dead tree media”. Her favourite magazines were Time and Fortune. While these two magazines had some worthwhile things to say they were somewhat biased and popular in their opinion. And being young and stupid back then (instead of now being old and stupid) I read them and was persuaded by their arguments. We all have a time or an age when we do not question.

Recently she sent me this article. In it the author had wanted to point out that there are other arguments for the cause of global warming. One of these arguments is that the sun’s natural fluctuation is the main cause of our present situation. She had wanted me to read this and be convinced by its argument. But as a son who knows his parents all too well I understood her agenda.

Sure, the IPCC has made some pretty “solid” claims, and that the article I have mentioned here points out its decision making and presentation of the report have been somewhat unorthodox. The article continues by presenting a number of scientists whose views differ from the mainstream sustainability critics.

It has a point, but I do not completely agree.

I have no doubt that the sun’s natural fluctuation can be a cause of global warming. But in all probability it may not be the only cause. This argument again works exactly the same way as in the opponent’s argument. To say that our own actions are the only cause to global warming may be as shortsighted as saying the sun is the only cause. So, to me, both camps are in the wrong.

I can understand why the “blame human activity” camp feel they need to make it so black and white – to make the problem seem more urgent. But also the “it could be the sun” camp may want to highlight that its cause may be elsewhere.

Coming back to my mother’s agenda I mentioned earlier, I have to say that she has never been very green. She brought me up to be also not very green. But as I began to live my own life I realized just what and how exactly the non-green crowd works. In taking up this article my mother had wanted me to believe that it really all the sun’s fault, that the IPCC are lying, hiding an agenda of their own. But need it be this black and white?

Sure the IPCC may have failed in taking into account of the sun, and that they may have deceived us in believing it is all us. But equally people who think they can (mis)quote the article to absolve themselves of responsibility are wrong. That is not to say my mother was irresponsible. She and most of her generation had been persuaded to believe that they were doing right by progress. They use the argument to convince themselves their actions had nothing to do the problem, by becoming sceptical optimists or do-nothing optimists.

Personally, I think the article is a good reminder of the types of hidden agendas each group puts forward to “defend the utter fragility of [their] delicately constituted fiction” as Earnest Becker put it. And because we live in an age of information overload learning to filter and make sense of it all is not quite so easy. And that sometimes living away from loved ones and seeing them or talking to them again after a break may help us see the real picture which may be not be black and white at all but colourful and confusing.

9 thoughts on “Colourful and confusing”

  1. “She and most of her generation had been persuaded to believe that they were doing right by progress. They use the argument to convince themselves their actions had nothing to do the problem”

    I think that’s the key to reactions like your mother’s. It seems to me many people take it as a criticism directed at them when someone points out that humanity’s actions have been destructive. A defensive reaction is understandable. How to prevent that kind of reaction in the first place is a tough question.


  2. There is no such thing as a non-biased view…

    Only in the most abstract sense. Perhaps we can agree that there are more and less biased views, more and less evidence for different views. Otherwise you are left defending the Catholic church for its persecution of Galileo.

    As you say in the post, we live in an age of information overload. That’s all the more reason to very effectively filter what is spin and nonsense from what is not.

    I doubt you believe “the IPCC may have failed in taking into account of the sun.” (Hundreds of climate scientists forgot to account for the very thing that drives the climate?) So I take that as a rhetorical florish in your post.

    I have no doubt that the sun’s natural fluctuation can be a cause of global warming. But in all probability it may not be the only cause.

    What’s important is that it is the sun is not even a major cause, CO2 is. See this at the Stanford University Solar Center for example. It’s important we all do our bit to filter out the noise.

    And enjoy your holidays!


  3. trinifar,
    Yes, it is important to have a scientific based view. But even then all views are biased. There is no such thing as a non-biased view, even this view is biased. By relativity we live. It is the only way we can live.

    So in some way I am close to Magne’s view that we need as many views as we can. But to say we cannot see through them is I think wrong.

    So the IPCC and sun driven global warming crowd both, in my opinion, has agendas. But if you ask me which crowd to listen to I would have to say I will favour IPCC’s view, because I believe we need to be respectful and responsible instead of blaming something else. We all have to make a choice and by having both views I can make an informed choice. The sun-blaming crowd cannot absolve themselves of responsibility. Having said that though the sun could be a factor, we cannot discount it.

    The danger is only in leaning one way or the other too far. That is what I had wanted to say.


  4. Sig, I’m all in favor of having a presentation of differing views. I just want them presented along with the weight of evidence behind them. In the US media these days it is all too common to see all views presented equally even though some of those views are supported only by political agendas with no backing in science.


  5. trinifar,
    I do think it is important to have as many views as possible, even if it is agenda-biased. Our job is to see through these agendas in order to understand why we want to ignore one aspect (in this case, natural occurance) and not the other (human action is the cause).

    Your comment made me think of this wittism:

    “Whenever he thought about the environment he felt absolutely terrible. So he came to a fateful decision. He decided not to think about it.”

    Sure bliss is great but if we are use it to refuse it to see a truth about the self then we are deceiving ourselves. This also is a right we must defend, because otherwise we will have the repeat of history (WWII, Hiroshima, etc). And that type of history I do not want repeated.

    While I understand your view I believe it is necessary to have both these views. Otherwise we are not living life, or it will contradict the laws of life (and death).


  6. Quote: “Recently she sent me this article. In it the author had wanted to point out that there are other arguments for the cause of global warming.”

    You’ve got to ask the question: Why is it so important for so many people to deny the relevance of IPCC’s general findings? Why is it so important to put the blame on all things / forces, except those that relate to human conduct?

    The answer is simple, I think.

    Even i am ready to admit to the fact that people in general are NOT READY to make any positive environmentally-friendly changes to their lifestyles. Oh, not at all. So rather than getting depressed over a simple fact of life, like that, it is probably better to look another way. Yes: let’s blame it on the sun. That’s convenient. And especialyy so, now that we’re all coming to realize that we are probably bound to keep discussing the problem of climate change until our faces turn blue (and our fingers stiff), while nothing of any real use is actually done to alleviate the problem.

    You know: “Ignorance is bliss.”

    Yeeah: “Ignorance is strength.”

    … ignorance gives the society of people the strength to keep doing all the big mistakes that old habit has taught us to keep doing … it’s our way of life, and that we must defend … at all costs, really …

    What a joke?!! Oh. I’m not joking.


  7. This is a beautifully written post.

    As one in the “humans are contributing to global warming” camp, I do understand there may be other causes like a natural sun cycle, however, that’s beyond our control. When the IPCC says over 1000 climate scientists are 90% certain that humans are the main cause (not the only cause) and does this in the face of tremendous pressure to say the opposite, I take that as really good science and wish to do something about the part I can affect.

    The lead in to the linked article says “So why are dissenting explanations of the sun’s influence on our fate being pushed aside….” In my experience in the USA it has been the other way around. The most famous case being the US government attempting to prevent our own government scientists from speaking to the media about their climate work and often succeeding in that attempt. On our 24 hour news channels criticism of any global warming report is very much alive and well — often dominating any other view.

    For me this is very much like creationist/evolution debate in which creationists try to point to gaps in evolution science and say “see it’s just a theory.” Then you get the equal-time reporting of both sides — even though every biologist on the planet supports evolution and our libraries are full of all the support science. The popular media is a poor mechanism to convey mainstream science these days — at least in my country.


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