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5.28.2004

Once the sun burns out, our planet is doomed anyway 

The Day After Tomorrow had previously been panned by critics from the libertatian-conservative Cato Institute, but now CNN weighs in with similar sentiments. The movie features some rather outlandish scenarios -- tidal waves that destroy New York, giant hailstones crushing Tokyo, and so forth.

In response to claims that these scenarios are fantastic, the producers say "the movie is fiction, and we'd like to keep it that way". How's that for talking out of both sides of one's mouth?

As with any scientific endeavor, it's important to interpret data correctly. Yes, it's true that eleven of the warmest years on record have occurred after 1990, but also keep in mind that this particular record of temperatures only goes back about a hundred years.

Harvard astrophysicist Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas published an article over a year ago claiming that the 20th century was not the warmest century of the last two millennia. They study tree rings, corals, glacier movements, and other interesting things to infer their temperature measurements. I haven't seen a scientific critique of this claim anywhere.

The greenhouse warming theory posits that greenhouse gases will cause increases in atmospheric temperatures, not just surface temperatures, but NASA data does not support the former prediction.

There are other plausible causes of the last half-century's increase in surface temperatures; among them are sunspots and the infamous brown cloud of pollution that hangs over Asia.

I think that if I were an environmental crusader, I'd focus less on dubious scientific claims and outlandish doomsday scenarios and more on the other reasons why we should conserve energy -- pollution, Middle Eastern geopolitics, and just plain common sense.

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