164: Playing Devil's Advocate to Win

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Playing Devil's Advocate to Win
There are so many well-meaning conservatives around here who just assume global warming is only presented as a moral issue for political reasons.
Title text: There are so many well-meaning conservatives around here who just assume global warming is only presented as a moral issue for political reasons.


Global warming is the rise of the average temperature of the Earth's atmosphere and oceans since the late 19th century and its projected continuation. More than 97% of scientists are sure that it's caused by an increase in greenhouse gases caused by humanity's industrialization and activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. Losses of human food security and habitat; melting of glaciers leading to a rise in sea temperatures; and more frequent heat waves, droughts, and species extinctions are just some of the many likely effects of global warming.

Yet, despite the unequivocal nature of climate change, it's a hot-button political topic in the United States, with many conservatives denying its existence, arguing that it has natural causes, or claiming that global warming could be a good thing. Liberals counter by saying that conservatives are claiming these things because they're in bed with the oil companies, and by denying the existence of global warming, they're saved from having to do anything about it. It's such a controversial topic in the U.S. that, in this comic, Cueball says he's decided to keep his mouth shut about the whole thing. He has withdrawn from the debate because it doesn't matter if he wins the debate or not — science doesn't care about who got the last word. If humanity reaches the tipping point and one day can't do anything to stop global warming, Cueball will find it interesting to watch exactly what happens. And if it turns out that the scientists are wrong, he won't feel embarrassed that he's been making a big deal about it this whole time.

In the title text, he touches on the political side of global warming, saying that there are many well-meaning conservatives out here who honestly believe that global warming doesn't happen, and that liberals only bring it up to have a moral issue to attack conservatives with.

This was the first direct reference to global warming in xkcd, but since then, climate change, with an emphasis on global warming, has become a recurring theme in xkcd. Seems Randall would no longer like to be on this ride, especially with the comic 1732: Earth Temperature Timeline released almost 10 years after this one.


[Cueball is standing under a large amount of text said in one go.]
Cueball: Yes, from the evidence it looks pretty likely to me that we're causing global warming on a horrific scale. But with science you don't need to argue. It doesn't matter who wins the debate — it's about reality. By just waiting a little longer, we'll get to see who was right. It feels unethical but I find myself wanting to keep quiet about the science just to know for sure. As terrible as it sounds, the state of the world isn't really my responsibility. I'm just thrilled to get to watch. If the scientists are right — and if we keep people from understanding just a little longer — we'll enjoy quite a ride. And pragmatically, on the outside chance that they're all wrong, I get saved the embarrassment of having spoken up.

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Troll.png As this is a controversial topic, there may be several denialist trolls lurking below. Beware of feeding them.

I'm sure that no matter what scientific evidence about global warming is, the political issue lost contact with science long ago. I mean, do we really need global warming to prove that burning all fossil fuels and deforesting most of planet is bad? Also, our ability to endanger species doesn't seem limited to global warming. And the so-called solutions to global warming? This is not about science. It's a fight between people who are getting rich on oil and people who are getting rich on projects labelled as ecological. And both sides are manipulating science data - one to deny the global warming, one to make it even worse that it is. ... I don't believe anyone have working solution to global warming which doesn't involve at least 3 billions dead humans. -- Hkmaly (talk) 23:14, 23 May 2013 (UTC)

We have a global warming since the last twenty thousand years. And we are still at a cold period (on long term meanings). A real global warming would bring us back to the conditions of the dinosaur ages.--Dgbrt (talk) 21:15, 28 July 2013 (UTC)

Correct. And it would be catastrophic on a global scale. 17:48, 24 January 2014 (UTC)
"Long term meanings" aren't important here. Humans couldn't have survived at the "long term average" - we evolved to live in the "cold period," and dinosaur age conditions would likely kill us and many other species. DownGoer (talk) 15:20, 30 June 2023 (UTC)

They have totally messed with old temperature data. They "adjust" old thermometers to make them fit the data they want. 03:30, 27 August 2013 (UTC)

Why exactly do you think that? It's a pretty bold claim to suggest that every source of temperature data is fudged, especially because many people in powerful positions don't believe in climate changes and thus have no motivation to keep the secret. That being said, if you have definitive evidence of these alterations, I might change my mind. DownGoer (talk) 06:26, 26 June 2023 (UTC)

You don't want to hear this, but my take is: 1. Global warming is probably real. 2. Global warming is probably exacerbated by human activity. 3. There is no possible way of averting global warming by reducing the output of greenhouse gases from human activity. WILL NOT HAPPEN. Oh well! As Cueball says, it should be a wild ride. 01:13, 17 January 2014 (UTC)

Note: "if we keep people from understanding just a little longer" ... as if someone need to actively do something to prevent majority of people of understanding hard to explain scientific topic. Most people still didn't accepted the fact that debts are supposed to be paid, and that's simple arithmetics. -- Hkmaly (talk) 10:11, 24 January 2014 (UTC)

Actually, debt owed by entities that emit currency is very different from debts owed by other economic entities. It's very far from "simple arithmetics" (and that's the reason there is such a thing as a central bank). (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Thanks for your fix on my bad HTML mishap here. If you would have an account here I could talk to you directly. --Dgbrt (talk) 00:19, 25 January 2014 (UTC)

It's been eight years since this comic, so I guess it ended up being the latter. Except I don't think anyone is embarrassed for the inaccuracies in the climate models. No warming for 17 years 5 months108.162.219.15 15:12, 5 March 2014 (UTC)

  • The idea that there has been a "pause" in global warming has LONG since been debunked as completely false. And you're citing a website that is based on science denial and deliberately false claims about climate change.
  • Whoa, that was some tricky axis manipulating. Look at the difference in scale between the positive and negative y-axis: it makes it look like temperature changes balances out by exaggerating the decreases. Also to note, it shows the change in temperature, not actual temperature. A better source: https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/global-temperature/
  • is right, though the axis manipulation might not be important (assuming they actual did the regression). What is really important is what the chart was actually graphing. It's graph the trend in temperatures changes. The regression line is constant at ~0.24 degrees Celsius per year. That means that on average, the world has been warming a quarter of a degree Celsius. That may seem small, but even small changes can be dangerous. (Source: [1] WHO). Also, that's only one source made by one person, who doesn't even have a degree in math or science. That doesn't make everything he says automatically false, but it does suggest that he may not know how to properly analyze a graph or take a regression. DownGoer (talk) 06:26, 26 June 2023 (UTC)
The science of global warming is irrelevant. Every posed ecological disaster hasn't been an effort to advert it, but a political ploy to shift money from earners to consumers. Why did plans like putting windmills everywhere (which requires a lot of oil and oil burning, and uses up natural water supplies) get all the government funding, while actual solutions like fuel cells and nuclear got shut down (which CAN solve our dependency on oil if they only had the same funding as the wind/solar groups)? Because the top liberals were heavily invested in wind/solar, and were using politics as a way to give that group more financial success than the market would naturally allow. Why did they invest in such failures? Because they didn't understand the technology and science of the problem. If liberals had invested in fuel cell and nuclear, they would have won.Cflare (talk) 15:48, 19 May 2014 (UTC)
             Perhaps because they were scared of nuclear because of meltdowns. As for fuel cells, I have no idea why they did                                                 that. Transuranium (talk) 10:31, 27 May 2016 (UTC)Transuranium
Might want to look at the last 17 years and 6 months or maybe even 7 months. -- Flewk (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

I suspect that this is the ONLY scientific question referenced in this comment that cites a percentage of people who agree with your position as a scientific argument. Just sayin'. Signed, 15:36, 27 January 2020 (UTC)