Posted by: Kash Farooq | July 24, 2010

Global warming – so what if it’s not anthropogenic?

Whenever I read or hear something from a climate change denialist, the phrase “it is not anthropogenic” often comes up. Personally, I believe it is (and, yes, I have looked at the raw data), but my question is this: does it matter if it is man-made?

The planet is undoubtedly warming up. The data shows that. The Antarctic ice is melting and glaciers are retreating. Go and look at the data yourself and make up your own mind.

Look at the NASA graphs for the global mean surface temperature (GMST):

Updated version of an image from J. Hansen, Mki. Sato, R. Ruedy, K. Lo, D.W. Lea, M. Medina-Elizade, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 103, 14288-14293, doi:10.1073/pnas.0606291103 (2006)

And have a look at graphs showing how sea-levels have been rising:

Recent Sea Level Rise
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Given all this evidence (I use that word deliberately; it is evidence – these are facts, not speculation), and after ignoring the “anthropogenic vs. not anthropogenic” argument, shouldn’t we be doing something about it?

Here is an analogy. I’m sure there are better analogies out there, but here is mine. If, say, due to natural erosion and weathering, a huge slab of rock is looking like it may crash down from a mountain on to a village, would we just say “we didn’t create the problem, so we’re not going to do anything about it”?

I don’t think it matters whether it is our fault or not – we need to do something to slow down the trend that the data is showing us.

Related post
Why do climate change denialists think it’s all just a hoax?



  1. Hmm, interesting.

    I suppose the problem with this argument is that if its not anthropogenic then there’s no reason to think the warming will continue into the future. So there’s no need to do anything about it.

    Of course, if it isn’t anthropogenic then that raises even more problems because it means that things we thought we knew about thermodynamics, radiation, chemistry and other stuff are all wrong. Does that make sense?

    • Yes it does make sense.
      I hadn’t thought of the that counter argument (‘no reason to think the warming will continue into the future’).

      I guess the point I was trying to make still stands though: the people who don’t think it is man made should at least acknowledge the data. The graphs don’t appear to be levelling off so, currently, we’d have to assume that sea-level and temperature will continue to rise.

      • Sure, but the assumptions you have to make to dismiss the anthropogenic forcing of the recent warming are massive. Compared to that, I’d’ve thought that ignoring a few graphs is easy!


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