Saturday, April 08, 2006

A little climate change debate

[As mentioned in the post above, from Small Dead Animals]

Conservatives just pretend to be confused by this stuff, right? I mean, after all, Albertans would be on welfare if not for Petrodollars, so its in their narrow self-interest to go around saying that the science is confused and the best bet is to keep pumping.

The idea that the effects of global warming might be counteracted by pumping certain kinds of (light reflective) particulates into the atmosphere is hardly new, nor the idea that as air pollution lessened the effects of global warming might be exacerbated. These are more like predictions of climatologists being born out by actual research than any "refutation" of the notion of global warming.

It isn't really that hard to understand. Neither is the idea that an increase in temperatures might, through various mechanisms, cause changes to the Gulf Stream that might bring colder weather to Europe and North America. In fact, there are historical precedents for just this occuring.

It's significant that Republican Pollster Frank Luntz claimed that the "science was closing the book" on the global warming issue as a political issue for Republicans. Basically, arguing against the reality of global warming is becoming alot like arguing for Intelligent Design. In fact, if you look at alot of the Conservative Think Tanks (in the U.S., they) "do" both Global Warming as myth and Intelligent design as science.

Posted by bigcitylib at April 8, 2006 11:54 AM

Bigcitylib,
There's a theory that milk causes health problems. Just in case it does, but without being really sure whether milk or something else is the cause, we should all stop drinking milk and eating dairy products. Dairy herds should be destroyed. Cheese should be disposed of safely.

Those who disagree with this strategy must be reviled for acting in their narrow self-interest, and accused of being in the pockets of the dairy industry if they point to any evidence countering the arguments of the true believers. And those whose health might suffer because they can no longer have dairy products should be grateful that they have the opportunity to sacrifice themselves to such a noble cause.

Please understand three truths about climate change. First, climate has always changed; it is a system of remarkable complexity. Second, according to IPCC scientists, nothing in the Kyoto accord will have any measurable effect on the rate of warming. Third, if you imagine a world in which CO2 is not emitted from human sources, you have just described a planet without people.

What is 'hard to understand' about climate - at least for me - is that facile theories which reduce its genuine complexity down to a sound bite or two are taken so seriously by so many otherwise intelligent people. I can only conclude that Mother Nature is replacing God as an object of societal worship. And why not? We can feel as if we are appeasing this new god by actions we can take individually, and we can feel superior to non-believers without actually sacrificing very much. She doesn't demand much from us in terms of intrusive commandments that limit our rights to self-expression.

The environment deserves to be treated with respect. Please do not confuse CO2 with actual pollutants. It is a sad irony that the Kyoto Accord has served to divert so much attention and funding from genuine environmental problems, the solution of which would change lives today.

Posted by Halfwise at April 8, 2006 02:07 PM

The one certainty is that no one can be 100% sure that:

1. global warming is a long-term trend

2. That it is caused by man-made factors.

Those who assert pro or con to be absolute fact (suzuki et al) are not scientists but preachers of intolerant political dogma.

Posted by Gord Tulk at April 8, 2006 02:09 PM

Dear Halfwise,

Produce for me some theory that says milk causes health problems. Otherwise admit that the first half of your post is bullshit.

As for the otherwise intelligent people, well most of us have some scientific training, or are at least willing to defer to those who have scientific training. The leader of the anti-global warming forces right now happens to be a bad sci fi writer, who in the past has argued that feminists secretly rule the workforce and that the Japanese are coming to take over America.

Your point about CO2 and pollutants is well taken. Global warming is not our only environmental problem.

Posted by bigcitylib at April 8, 2006 02:24 PM

Bigcitylib,
I don't believe the dairy-is-bad argument, but lots of people seem to. Check out http://www.notmilk.com/milkatoz.html for a list of afflictions (A to Z) blamed on milk, and the various papers cited for the causality.

I studied climatology in the 1970s when the big deal in all the refereed journals was anthropogenic global cooling, and I paid enough attention to graduate in a related field. I know that Crichton gets press, for being as media savvy as some of the global warming types, but he is hardly the 'leader' of any research - this is about science not politics, or at least it should be. Research should just happen; my suspicion is that research IS being led, but sadly, led by funding which is conditional on reporting a preconceived 'right' answer that aligns with the ideology of the funding source.

Here is a quote that provides a different perspective:
"Global warming is not equivalent to climate change. Significant, societally important climate change, due to both natural- and human- climate forcings, can occur without any global warming or cooling."

You can find reasoned non-Crichtonian research all over the place, performed by people who set aside the dogma of the global warming alarmists and get down to the real science. May I suggest http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/, the source of the quotation above.

Bigcitylib, let me say thank you for at least taking the time to engage in a discussion about this. I wish more people would.

Dear Halfwise,

Let me just focus on one thing, your claims re
"anthropogenic global cooling". You're quite right, in the '70s there were a number of scientists who felt that the planet might be getting colder, perhaps because of an increase in industrially emitted particulates. This was advanced as a hypothesis, and was fairly quickly disproven. That's how science often works. There was an interesting article in the New Scientist about a month ago where one of the scientists who advanced this hypothesis back in the 70s(Sorry, don't have a link and can't remember the name)complained that this was now taken to be evidence against global warming. He long ago changed his views and has now joined the concensus view.

On the other hand, I myself first heard the term "Global Warming" in one of Ursula K. Le Guin's novels (maybe "The Left Hand of Darkness")from the 1970s. It entered the Global conciousness in the late 80s, and since that time the ranks of legitimate dissenters like your Pielke has diminished. That's also how science works.

Can't write more today. Am currently working on a post about the Best Rock Band on the Planet back at my Blog. Come see for more details.

Posted by bigcitylib at April 8, 2006 08:23 PM

Bigcitylib,
I'm in favor of debate, and don't mind being on the 'minority' side on this one, since climate doesn't respond to polls regardless of their outcome.

In this debate I'm not even so sure about the minority vs majority numbers - in the late 1990s over 19,000 scientists signed the Oregon Petition challenging the so-called consensus that you refer to.

We could debate the cause of global warming based on examining its rate. The rate of arctic warming over the last three decades is virtually the same as the rate of arctic warming over the first 4 decades of the 20th century, before that 30 year cooling period whose cause remains troublesomely elusive. If increased anthro CO2 is the driver of warming, I would expect that rate to have accelerated not remained the same. This is the kind of evidence that makes me doubt the self-assured conclusions about the cause of warming.

But my real problem with the Kyoto machine is the fact that WHATEVER we do about 'global warming', it will amount to nothing more than a symbolic gesture. The claimed benefit of full compliance with Kyoto won't even be measurable.

I can't help but conclude that something other than objective reality is driving this mass movement. Hence my thoughts about the new religion of Mother Earth worship. Mankind seems hardwired to feel guilty about stuff, and offer sacrifices while seeking forgiveness, all the while looking around to see whether we are being more holy than our fellow sinners. For me, those instincts ought to be directed towards Someone with a better track record than a bunch of climate scientists and their models.

Posted by Halfwise at April 8, 2006 08:55 PM


2 comments:

DJeffery said...

Check out Jonathan's posting titled: Global warming or global cooling? on April 2, 2006 @ http://www.potentpew.com/

Halfwise said...

It reminds me of the tycoon JP Morgan who was asked for his prediction for the stock market. His answer: "It will fluctuate".