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Science and Skepticism

Author/DatePost
Bill and Ted
Nov 14 2010
climate change: an allegory

Last January, a woman noticed it seemed a bit too warm in her house. So, she called the heat pump repairman to look at it.

He told her he was pretty sure he'd found the problem: the XYZ circuit was fuzed and needed replacing, and that it would cost a lot of money. Although the acknowledged that it was expensive, he told her that she would have to fix it otherwise it would just keep getting hotter and hotter in her house. Aside from being really uncomfortable, it would lead to problems, like her refrigerator being unable to keep food cold enough. "Residential warming" he called it.

The woman, wisely, called for a second opinion. The other repairman told her not to worry. "There are lots of reasons your house might be getting hot. Maybe it was just very sunny outside. Maybe you just feel hot because you've got a fever. I think you should just relax and leave things the way they are."

As it turns out, the first repairman was working in the yard next door at this time and he heard what the second repairman had to say. He came running over to explain his viewpoint. He had temperature readings taken inside the house to show that her house really was getting warmer. He had charts showing that the temperatures outside were actually quite cold, and so would not have lead to her house being warm. He showed them the XYZ circuit and that it was not working properly. He explained to them why a malfunctioning XYZ circuit would lead to exactly the kind of overheating she experienced in her house recently. He warned that if they did not fix it, eventually the whole heat pump would break and then it would get really cold in her house. He...

"WAIT A MINUTE!" said the second repairman. "I thought you said that her house was going to get too hot. Now you're saying it will get too cold?"

"It will get hotter as long as the heat pump is working, but if it gets so hot that the heat pump itself breaks, then it will get cold...that's right! And then she'll have to replace the whole heat pump which will be even more expensive."

The second repairman gave the homeowner a look, as if to tell her that he thought the first repairman was crazy. "How can he call it `residential warming' if it will make your house colder? Come on!" he said.

Now, it was up to the woman to decide what to do. Should she listen to the first repairman's evidence and warnings of impending trouble, or just go on believing that there must be some other explanation for the slight overheating of her home, one which will resolve itself without her having to worry about it.

I'm afraid I cannot finish this story by telling you what she decided, because I don't know yet. I'm waiting myself to see whether the people of the world take action against what I believe is a credible and serious threat, or whether they hope (contrary to all of the best evidence) that there is some other explanation which will allow us to just ignore it without any horrible consequences.

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