I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

At what point in a discussion do you give up attempting to make your opinion clear because the other side has given up the logical framework necessary for debate? I may not be there, yet, but when the other side begins to make simple claims that are clearly non sequiturs, I have to think about it.

My near-exasperation is triggered by a Reuters article with the headline “Global warming seen worse than predicted”. In reading such an article, you would expect to hear some scientific claim that new evidence has shown how the planet is warming faster than originally thought. You would expect to see some charts and data that explain how recent temperature data has been wrong. The  first paragraph even leads you to this expectation.

The climate is heating up far faster than scientists had predicted, spurred by sharp increases in greenhouse gas emissions from developing countries like China and India, a top climate scientist said on Saturday.

But, it’s not until the end of the article that you realize that there is no new data about temperatures. There are no new techniques showing that we’ve calculated global averages wrong. No, what is new is a larger-than-expected amount of greenhouse gas being pumped into the atmosphere by the rapidly growing industrial sectors of China and India.

So, if there is more greenhouse gas and, yet, the temperatures haven’t changed or corrected, how exactly does that show that global warming is worse? In fact, it seems pretty clear that, over the last decade, global temperatures have cooled. Not that you’d read that widely. Therefore, I come to the following conclusion (and, maybe this is too convoluted for those scientists mentioned above): Greenhouse gas generation by human enterprise is increasing faster than we thought. Global temperatures are cooling, or at least, leveling off. Therefore, greenhouse gas generated by human activity has little or no effect on global temperatures. Did I lose you?

Greenhouse gas: I do not think it means what you think it means.

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