Essay Contest V Runnerup

Global Warming

Possibly Logical

Global warming is perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented political topic today. One view sees global warming as the greatest risk to humanity through famine, hurricanes, and the extinction of the great polar bear. Another view sees global warming as a way for socialist academics to punish corporate America while spreading socialism. While these misconceptions represent the some of the worst understandings of global warming, commonly held beliefs are that global warming is either certainly happening or certainly not happening. Naturally policy recommendations are based on the state of the world they believe exists. There is a sufficiently strong scientific basis for greenhouse gas induced global warming. However, the nature of the statistical processes being used prevent any definite conclusion from being reached. As time continues to pass further information is acquired about the dynamic systems that regulate the earths temperature. The nature of the costs and risks suggest that the ideal course of action is to take some action to reduce greenhouse gasses as more information becomes available.  
In attempt to discredit the scientific basis for the study of global warming, many claim that there is no reason for greenhouse gas concentrations to affect the atmospheric temperature. However, greenhouse gasses are a necessary component for maintenance of a livable temperature, greenhouse gasses are known to cause a warming effect. Without greenhouse gasses the earth would be too cold to maintain life. A much higher concentration of greenhouse gasses would also render the earth uninhabitable. In small models the mechanics behind global warming leads to increased temperatures; however, the earth has a number of feedback mechanisms that, over certain concentrations, may reduce or eliminate the warming effect. Since the smaller models do not take into account the complex systems of the earth, we cannot rely on smaller models as an indicator of the effect of increased greenhouse gas emissions on the global temperature.  
No science currently has the capacity to analyze the earth as a deterministic system, nor will they any time soon. Any analysis has to involve statistical methods that estimate the true effect of greenhouse gasses on climate, eliminating the analysis of many of the effects that we do not fully understand. While statistical methods do not provide the exact value, so long as the analysis is done appropriately, it provides the best available estimate of the true result. As time goes on, more information is acquired in terms of both relevant statistical data and an understanding of the complex systems allowing predictions that are more consistent with the state of the world. Current statistical modeling generally shows that there is a warming effect that is induced by greenhouse gasses.  
An appropriate analysis of the issue involves responding to the issue in terms of the statistical realization. If global warming is occurring and is costly the correct course of action is to reduce greenhouse gasses. There are consequences of waiting for more information to become available. Since greenhouse gasses are accumulatory, the gases linger in the atmosphere for many years; deferring action for an additional year means the necessary reduction is much greater and would be done over a shorter period of time. Because large reductions over short periods of time are much more expensive then small reductions over a long period of time, inaction would prove costly. If global warming is not occurring or has little effect the correct response is to do nothing. Reducing greenhouse gases would impose large costs on society without any benefit.
Since we do not know the true state of the world, we can only make estimates based on the current information available. Based on the analysis of the costs of a policy given various states of the world, we are able to determine the cost of each possible policy for each possible outcome. Combining the estimate of the probability of each state of the world and the costs associated with each outcome, it is possible to determine the expected cost imposed by global warming. The current research points to a decent likelihood of a significant increase in the global temperature due to greenhouse gasses. Since inaction is extremely expensive, inaction is not a desirable choice. At the same time the science does not show with certainty that global warming is happening so it is not desirable to proceed as though it is. Emissions should therefore be reduced but not be reduced as though global warming is a certainty. As better information becomes available policies should be altered to take into account the new reality, continuing the same process until the issue is completely understood.  

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