This I Believe

Jonathan - Brookline, Massachusetts
Entered on November 27, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: environment
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We stand by our convictions. That is why we have them: to define who we are and how we see the world around us.

Convictions are often grouped into 2 categories: religious and secular, though not all convictions are so easily categorized.

Despite growing evidence to the contrary, our president and others hold to the conviction that current global warming is not a predominantly man-made phenomenon.

They tell us that volcanoes, sun spots and other natural events which are beyond human influence are to blame for the dramatic sea change rocking our planet’s weather systems.

As an engineer who took to taking everything apart from a very young age to understand how and why things worked, I have not been an absolute believer in man’s modeling of the world around him, but rather a cautious user of those models in the development of man-made tools. Engineering advanced tools requires the knowledge that all models are but crude approximations of reality, and that the building and testing of prototypes cannot be generally replaced by simulations with complete confidence. As a result, simulations of our planet are by definition questionable, and so are open to debate.

Despite this, I believe that our current meterological tumult cannot be explained by any combination of “natural” events, and the vast majority of climate experts concur with this opinion.

The unfortunate thing about this opinion is that to be on one side or other of this debate is not just a matter of personal impact. By shunning the Kyoto Accord and other global warming agreements, the US is not just altering its own weather for decades to come, but dooming the whole planet to a near instantaneous extinction (on a planetary or 5 billion year time scale) of life as we know it.

This is why we can no longer afford to agree to disagree on this issue. It is a crisis that requires a high level of cooperation on a global scale. And given the tremendously long response time of our planetary systems, one that requires immediate action.