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I Am Not “Denying” Anything

Posted in JREF by Skepdude on December 17, 2009

Randi Responds


Well, my piece on AGW — Anthropogenic Global Warming — has elicited a huge response, both positive and negative. The subject, dealing with the influence of our species on the observed increase in overall temperatures around the globe — said to be about 0.7º Celsius — is apparently a matter of great contention, and I almost regret having entered into it. Almost…

I must say that much of the commentary I see refers to “about one degree” without specifying Celsius or Fahrenheit scales. I’m so old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy that I sometimes refer to the Celsius scale as Centigrade, though it was Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius — almost two centuries ago — who came up with the plan to divide the span between the temperature at which water ice melted, and water boiled, into 100 parts. Only at -40º do the Fahrenheit and Celsius thermometers agree, but life is complicated, and we have to deal with such facts. Since about 1980, Celsius has become fashionable. For some perverse reason, and at risk of another storm of comments, I rather think that the USA should drop Fahrenheit — a German/Dutch scientist even more dead than Celsius — along with inches, pounds, quarts, miles, yards, furlongs, and other cute but incompatible units we inherited from the UK. But then, I’m a confirmed fuddy-duddy, as you know.

Back to business. Somehow, my AGW commentary was seriously misunderstood by some. Part of the reason for that is probably due to the fact that I took a much longer, 5,000-word piece, and cut it down to about 1,400 words to better fit Swift‘s needs. Along the way, some clarity was lost. For that, I apologize. But here are a couple of the typical negative comments I received, which are unfounded:

“Randi just came out against the science that indicates that Global Warming is happening, that it is man made, and that it will harm our biosphere (and is currently doing so).”

“I was also saddened by Randi siding with the GW denialists. He seems to have fallen for a number of logical fallacies, and apparently prefers self-deception and ignorance when it comes to this issue. Very, very sad.”

Sad? Yes, if it were true. But it’s not. There were a good number of other, similar comments, all quite wrong. I do not, and did not, deny the established fact — arrived at by extensive scientific research — that average global temperatures have increased by a bit less than one Celsius degree. My commentary was concerned with my amateur confusion about the myriad of natural phenomena that obviously bring about worldwide climate changes and whether we can properly assign the cause to anthropogenic influences. Yes, I’m aware of the massive release of energy — mostly heat — that we’ve produced by exhuming and burning oil, natural gas, and coal. We’ve also attacked forests and turned them into fuel by converting them into paper at further energy expense, paper that is also burned, in turn. My remarks, again, are directed at the complexity of determining whether this GW is anthropogenic or not. I do not deny that possibility. In fact, I accept it as quite probable. I remain respectful of science and its participants. I stand outside the walls of academe, in awe.


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