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The Global Warming Debate: Skeptical for the Wrong Reasons

An opinion piece published yesterday at CBS.com reports that when asked last year whether human-caused global warming has been proved beyond reasonable doubt, 23% of responding Republican senators and representatives said yes and 77% said no.

Since then, talk of global warming and climate change has garnered a level of media attention that not long ago would have been considered extraordinary. It is – if you will please, please pardon the pun – a hot topic.

In February the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report, with input from 2000 scientists from all over the world, stating there currently is a 90% probability that any natural cause of global warming is overshadowed and ultimately driven by human activity.

Well, that’s pretty convincing, right?

The same question asked of Republican legislators in the year since tells the story: Now only 13% believe that global warming is a problem for which human society plays a part.

So what gives?

Once a politician, always a politician. At least that is the reaction too many people, and perhaps especially Republicans, have toward Al Gore; lumping Al, Barbara Streisand, and the “Hollywood Left” as the driving force behind the global warming debate; merely a left-wing agenda (or conspiracy) to be opposed vehemently and without question.

In turn, expressing a legitimate concern that media hype might taint the spirit of true scientific theory, inquiry, and skepticism is branded as selfish, greedy, or stupid – perhaps all three at once.

And at this point the debate is governed by ideology instead of science.

There are extremes to each side of this argument, and yet I dare anyone to claim a perfectly balanced middle ground of belief. Some issues require you to make a stand; but that doesn’t mean that stand can’t be thought out, nuanced and reasonable. The only other option is simply not to care or to blindly jump on the bandwagon of your choice and go along for the ride.

There’s a fanatic fringe for every idea under the sun that will never reconcile with any ideas other than those of the fanatic.

With all the noise we lose sight of the greater theme of environmental awareness; of at least considering the notion that there are limits of one sort or another humans will one day face. With each passing generation, and by virtue of humanity’s very success through our cleverness and sheer numbers, we move closer to those limits.

Or do we? It is a question that at least must be asked and asked repeatedly.

One thing that I firmly believe is that climate change and global warming are just such issue that we need to consider – devoid of political, ideological, or religious posturing.

My great concern, as expressed also in the CBSnews.com article, is that we are losing the battle to properly frame the debate.

Or perhaps I’m just spending to much of my time in the blogoshere in all the wrong places.

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