Happy Boxing Day!

I think every calendar I’ve ever owned has identified December 26 as “Boxing Day.”  We don’t celebrate it — whatever it is — here in the States, but the name of the holiday certainly is evocative.

The internet, of course, lets the us learn about these curiosities with a few taps of the keyboard.  It turns out that Boxing Day is celebrated in former British Commonwealth countries and has nothing to do with Muhammad Ali, sparring partners, or sports.  Instead, it is a day to give presents to tradespeople and those less fortunate — and, more recently, has become a big day for shopping.  Although the origins of the holiday seem to be obscure, it apparently began with presents given by upper-class Brits to their servants.  Whether those gifts were given in boxes, or whether the servants needed to remove the boxes left over from their masters’ Christmas celebrations in order to get the gifts, is anybody’s guess.  In any case, you can read about Boxing Day here and here.

A Hot Topic (Cont.)

One great thing about the holidays is seeing your children and nieces and nephews, fresh from their college campuses, and learning what is on their minds.  We were up in Vermilion to visit with the “Kishman cousins” on Christmas Eve, and I had a chance to chat with our godson Andrew, who is a junior at Grinnell College and recently returned from a semester abroad in Sri Lanka.  He, Kish, Richard, Patty and I talked about Sri Lanka, about politics, and a little bit about global warming, too.

Although Andrew and I come at the global warming issue from different perspectives, I think there is some common ground.  We both recognize that we aren’t scientists, and we both are disappointed that we are now at the point where we question what is the true state of the science surrounding global warming.  I think any fair-minded person who has read about the hacked e-mails and data taken from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University realizes that, at minimum, it raises questions about whether the science that has been portrayed as reflecting an overwhelming consensus view based on undisputed evidence may be, instead, result-oriented and politicized.

I recently heard Al Gore interviewed in connection with the Copenhagen conference.  He dismissed the e-mails as old and meaningless, and then returned to the mantra that global warming due to human activity is the near-unanimous consensus of the knowledgeable scientific community.  And then I read a piece like this — written by a geologist who is an IPCC expert reviewer — and I wonder how Al Gore can say what he says.  Clearly, someone is not being truthful in their depiction of the data.

Obviously, no rational human being would want the environment to be irreparably damaged by human activity, causing sea levels to rise and turning temperate zones into jungle.   Equally obviously, however, no one should want to saddle our economy with crushing and enormously disruptive regulations, costs and taxes if doing so is not a scientific imperative.  The decision on how to proceed could have huge consequences, and making that decision therefore should be based on actual data and real science.  For that reason, I am relieved that the Copenhagen conference did not produce any binding agreement.  My sense is that allowing time to pass, observing the fallout from the East Anglia University incident, and seeing whether there are fractures in the claimed scientific consensus may help to clarify things and put our eventual decision on sounder scientific footing.