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A Formal Argument for Halting Global Warming, if Possible

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An e-mailer challenged me to state my position on global warming in a formal argument, and so I offer the following premises and conclusions:

1. The planet is heating up. (Science magazine, Dec. 2004, surveyed 928 articles from peer-reviewed journals on the subject of climate change and showed no disagreement on this point.)

2. It is, at least in part, caused by human activity. (See 700-plus peer-reviewed articles cited in the Science magazine article, statements by five former and present Republican Environmental Protection Agency chiefs, quoted in the Washington Post, statements issued by The American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Union of Concerned Scientists and more).

3. The consequences could be dire. Global warming might have killed many thousands already--in European heat waves, increased hurricane activity, flooding, African droughts and tribal warfare and disease brought on by drought. Moreover, glaciers are melting, coral reefs are dying, ocean temperatures are increasing. These very probably will influence future food production, quality of water and air, geopolitics, etc. (See sources cited in Points 1 and 2.)

4. Such ill effects are growing exponentially, due to the phenomenon of feedback loops. Global warming releases trapped methane, for instance, which accelerates the greenhouse effect, causing more methane release". (Science Daily, May 22).

5. A growing body of world leaders, including 90-plus signers of the Kyoto Accords, presidential candidates John McCain, Al Gore, Joe Lieberman, Lamar Alexander and Bill Clinton, etc., have acknowledged the findings of scientists and urged action to curb pollution that contributes to global warming. (Email me for voluminous citations).

6. It is impossible to demonstrate that benefits of anthropogenic global warming (that portion attributable to us) will out-weigh the dire consequences. (Given).

7. One should ere on the side of caution. (Given).

8. Millions or billions of people and other creatures with whom we share this planet could suffer if we don't. (See Point 3.)

9. It is immoral and perhaps suicidal to permit this to happen. (Given).

* Conclusion: We must act to counter the dire consequences of global warming.

Now, a few observations: If you look at the above syllogism as a scale for measuring public opinion, I'd wager a majority of Americans would more or less agree all the way through to the conclusion. Where the syllogism breaks down among more conservative critics is at Points Three and Seven, and even then it's a matter of interpretation. Many on the right still deny that global warming is bad news even when presented with video of drowned and starving polar bears, migrating Eskimos, widespread droughts, fires, the drowning of New Orleans, Hurricane Rita, famine in the Sudan and so on (Point Three).

And while my critics might agree that it's a given one should ere on the side of caution (Point Seven), many interpret old saying to suggest we should take no action that might dampen the economy, which could also result in bad effects. They suggest, rather, that we put our faith in the free market to solve all our problems, or else gamble that the benefits of global warming will outweigh the bad effects.

To me, that's akin to standing on the deck of the Titanic and shouting, "Full speed ahead, crashing into an iceberg might have unexpected benefits." Apparently, before acting, they need 100 percent ironclad proof that the Earth will die if we don't change our ways. No one can offer that kind of certainty. I can show you that many of our competitors-such as China and Brazil--are reaping economic rewards from investing in Green technologies, conservation and more. And I can show you that many solutions also save on gas and make for a cleaner world.

Finally, each of us must address these issues in our own hearts and minds. As for me, I'm on the side of saving Mother Earth. This is not silly or alarmist. It's a response to state-of-the-art science as near as I can determine from consulting a broad spectrum of sources. I have a duty to tell my version of the truth to anyone who will listen, because the stakes couldn't possibly be higher. Everything we know and love could be at risk of dying.

Yes, I believe the threat of global warming could be many times worse than the Nazi Holocaust in its eventual results-billions could die because we're in denial, just as Nazi Germany was in denial--but you must decide for yourself. I wish you Godspeed in your quest for the truth.

Thanks for listening.
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Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, short story writer, freelancer, and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the (more...)
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