My story from believer to skeptic – part 1
Only about four years ago I was a believer in anthropogenic carbon dioxide as the driver of catastrophic global warming. I heard the carbon dioxide story all over the media and most people around me had the same belief. But on the other hand, I always had the impression the claims were probably exaggerated – it most likely was less worse than the media/scientists said it was. But in general, I did believe it.
For example, the winters of 2004 and 2005 were very soft and there was a heatwave in 2006. The media was full of it. They said that this was a clear sign of global warming, that hot summers with heat waves were more common than in the past and soft winters were the new normal (by the way, they now say snowy winters are a sign of global warming too, but that’s another story).
I heard this all around me and I had no doubt that, maybe somewhat exaggerated, in essence it was true.
Looking for answers
Fast forward to 2008 when we had a lousy summer and a cool autumn. I had some time on my hand and I had the question if something was changed in the global warming story. I wondered if the last warmer winters were from anthropogenic origin, maybe this cool summer and colder (normal) autumn reflected some improvement. Maybe even because of less emissions, who knows we learned something from our mistakes…
Okay, I admit it, I was really naive at that time.
I started googling and very soon came across a site called RealClimate. I found a similar question and most importantly, it was answered. I found the answer a bit harsh, something in the line of: global warming is still here, everything was still in line with global warming and it was not really smart to think otherwise. So, here I found my answer, global warming was still here, nothing changed and heat would soon resurface. That was it. I ended my search because the answer fitted my belief perfectly.
But not for long. In a way, I was not satisfied with this answer. I had a problems with the tone in which the answer was given. I was very surprised that a scientist would need to give a sneer to anyone who has a different opinion. At that time I believed there was a overwhelming consensus among scientists and only a few Big Oil-ers denied the truth. But if that was true, there was no reason why anyone from the “proper” side of the debate had to defend himself against someone with an honest question!?!?
Back to square one
Normally I would have stopped there, but I had some time and I really wanted to know. In no time I found myself googling on my question again. At first it was hard, I still believed in catastrophic anthropogenic global warming and without even thinking I categorized everyone who doubted global warming as chills of Big Oil or at least people with an hidden agenda. Needless to say I got nowhere, I only looked at one side of the story and ignored the other side completely, this because my belief that “non-believers” couldn’t be right didn’t allow for considering their views or arguments.
Then I had an idea. I knew that the movie An The Inconvenient Truth of Al Gore was about global warming. I didn’t see this movie in 2006, but I knew it had quite some impact on people around me. I wanted to know the real story of global warming and the science behind it, so I assumed this would be a good start for my search. Picture my surprise when I found more sites handling the mistakes of the film than the merits! Bit by bit I saw most of the movie online. I was prepared that there would be some exaggerations in the film to give it more impact, but it was more than I could handle.
This made me more determined to dig even deeper. Slowly I started to look at skeptical sites. The more I did, the more I really got confused. Skeptical sites said temperatures are cyclical in nature and they had proof of this. But pro global warming sites said it was warming at an unprecedented rate because of us humans and they also had proof of it. It seemed both reasonable and I didn’t know what to believe.
Interesting…it is funny how emotionally charged this debate is. From what you mentioned, and of course from everything I see in the debate as a whole, both sides seem very angry towards each other, or belittle each other. I mean, it isn’t like this is Abortion or Racism, here.
I read a NY Times article yesterday (sorry don’t have the link–was on my FB feed) that mentioned cycles in global temperature–talked about the Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age, and something called the Heocene (spelling?) Era, a several-thousand year period of temperatures as warm as what we see today. The article said that according to the best understanding, we should be entering another cooling trend, but b/c of greenhouse gases, etc, the earth is being warmed.
Perhaps when I read part II of your series, I’ll have more questions, but for the time being I favor the anthropogenic explanation. Let’s see where the data leads us–is cutting down all the trees combined with loads of fossil fuel emissions warming us, or is it part of a larger, natural warming trend that we don’t understand yet?
Thanks for commenting and your feedback, eSell.
I also found your blog a couple days ago. Although we seem to start from a different perspective, I had the impression our motivation for blogging about skepticism was rather similar.
Part II of my story is already online: it is called “The first turning point”. Maybe it was better to put part I, II,.. in the title of those post, maybe this would make it more clear. The other parts are still in different stages of progress.
My history as I wrote it down, consists only of the big turning points as I remember them from a few years ago. These are certainly not all the arguments pro or contra, but are the things that struck me most and made me change my previous position as a believer. At that time I didn’t realize what the importance of this was, so I didn’t documented it and only the biggest turning points were described from memory. Part I en II describe the situation of about 4 years ago.
I agree with you that we definitely have an impact on our environment. We emit carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and this will increase greenhouse gases. Everything else being equal, this will lead to an increase in temperature. Key words here are “everything else being equal”. The more I was digging into the matter, the more I started to doubt the C in CAGW (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming) and got to see the A in a different light. I am basically still a “green” person and this gives me a more balanced understanding of both sides. My blog started because I noticed the one sidedness and the heat of the debate, which doesn’t really help in understanding the issue. That was also the inspiration for the title of this blog. I have no problem with trust (everybody have to trust others, it is not possible to examine everything yourself), but verifying things is important to find one’s own way.
I also agree with you that the debate is emotionally charged. I come from the opposite site of the debate and experienced the emotions from both sides first hand. The intention for this blog was to document my own switch and also the current position, in which I try not to just automatically accept on faith, but examine the ideas on their merits or how they can fit into a bigger picture. I try to investigate both sides and then decide my position. I am not saying I know it all, far from it, but try to look into the matter from both sides and find my position on this basis.
I like what you have to say and I’m following your blog now, also.
That, however, brings up a side question: I have been a contributor to a multi-author blog before (a very deep Niche blog countering the claims of a particular family of Cultish churches I used to be a member of…before I discovered MY skepticism), but I’ve never run one before…I haven’t shared my blog yet on any social networking/social media site (wanted to wait until I got some content up) and am just curious how you found it so quick?
When I started my blog I also wanted to have some content on it before sharing and also was very surprised how quickly others found my blog. Later I found the answer. WordPress has something they call the Reader:
When you are logged in, you can find new posts of the blogs you follow here. In the right menu bar you will see “Topics”. Here you can find blogs by topic via “Explore Topics” or you can enter a search expression in “Enter a topic”. You will find all recent posts of public WordPress blogs that have this topic as a category or as a tag.
I found your blog by entering the search expression “global warming”. Because you had a post with a tag with that name you were in the result list.
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