I have recently become aware of two camps of thought with regard to global warming/climate change, niether one relating to religion vs science. On one side is the internationally recognized theory of rapid devastating change and on the other a token uncertainty of the actual changes occuring in terms of what effects we may be facing and how quickly they will emerge.

As a "regular sort" I don't really know a lot of the science involved with our changing conditions and so I guess that puts me in between the two in this arguement. They both have very valid points and the answer to this riddle is important- so what do you all think?

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Yes, John, the way CO2 works as a greenhouse gas is well understood, because the physics involved have been understood since 1859. It's really, really not that complicated. As CO2 levels go up, the Earth retains more heat. We know how effective a greenhouse gas CO2 is, how much of it there is, and how much energy is coming into the system from the sun. It's quite straightforward on a global scale, actually. But in order for the models to be complete, they also take into account the properties of other greenhouse gases, the reflectivity of clouds and ice, aerosols, smog, and so on. The models are complex because there are a lot of different factors, but none of them come close to CO2 in contributing to the average temperature of the atmosphere.

Anyhow, the models do work. Of course they are updated as scientists get new data, but the central driving effect of CO2 is understood and the models don't change that much.

I really don't understand why skeptics have such a hard time believing that we're smart enough to understand what's going on in the atmosphere. Scientists have been studying it for decades. How hard is it to believe that they've made enough progress to be confident in their understanding and their predictions? It would be quite surprising if they hadn't, actually.
Emporer penguins dude... this was CNN just straight up being liars.
Or they were confused. I forget who said it, but "never ascribe to malice what can be ascribed to stupidity."
on the radio today there was a story about some climate changy type scientist who has had to resign from some advisory panel because she couldn't back up some claims she made about the rate of melting of glaciers,

Name? Link? Source? What claims? By how much were those claims off? I could be off on my claim that Smoking is the number one killer in America when in fact it's only the number two or three killer. Have I just discredited the notion that smoking is generally bad for you?

Even if true, there are thousands of scientists who contribute to the collective research. As all are human it's reasonable to assume a few make human mistakes.

On what radio show? If it can be found that this radio show/host, at one time, had a fact wrong or spun something a little too out of control, would you never again trust anything that radio station had to say?
Oh well... it was the today program on BBC radio 4 which i think most people would say is fairly reliable.The fact is that I don't think that there are hundreds of thousands of scientists who would be able to support the claims of the more extreme enviromentalists, anyone who says he knows what the climate is going to do x years down the road is just plain deluded.
Last time I looked modelling the climate was still a fluid dynamics problem based on trying to solve some nasty equations called Navier-Stokes equations.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navier%E2%80%93Stokes_equations
Nobody knows what the climate will do on a specific date. That's not the problem to be solved.
erm..... yes it is precisely the problem to be solved if we are to believe the predictions of the climatechangeyologistographers.
Incorrect. We want to understand the trend, not specific data points. Climate includes natural variation. That's not in dispute. But we have identified a process which is pushing the natural variation in a particular direction. That process can be measured, and average change can be predicted. We don't need to know whether 2021 will be warmer than 2022 to know that the 2020s will be warmer than the 2000s, on average.

Furthermore, it's simply not necessary to make specific predictions to know that whenever the ice caps melt, it will be bad for us. We know that they are in the process of melting. We know that we continue to pump planet-warming chemicals into the atmosphere. We don't know of anything that might reverse this process and trend. Prudence dictates that we attempt to limit the amount of change that we cause.

Jez, your argument is something along these lines: The atmosphere is really big. The ice caps are really big. Humans are tiny by comparison. Even if humans are changing things, it would take forever for anything to change significantly, and who's to say something won't come along and counteract the changes that humans are making?

This is nothing more than an argument from incredulity coupled with an argument from ignorance. Be careful what you declare to be impossible.
Noo what I am saying is the icecaps would be melting if we were here or not, there is a trend in the climate change at the moment at it is towards a warmer climate, with some small acceration due to pollution and people who say that they can predict what that trend is going to be in howeverlong you want to look io the future are simply wrong because we simply do not have the ability to accuratly predict what the climate is going to do.The last ice age we had ended about ten thousand years ago the climate is still warming from that, how much warmer it will get.... nobody knows, how much warmer it would be without the pollution..... nobody knows what the climate will be in ten years time nobody knows.
trying to stop something which would have happend if we were here or not is a bit like trying to stop the tides.
Jez, you have no basis for your assertion that the ice caps would be melting right now in the absence of humans, and all the evidence refutes that claim. If you can't back up your wishful thinking with evidence, then you're wasting everybody's time, including yours.

Global temperature has been relatively stable (flat) for around 10,000 years. We are no longer simply warming from the last ice age. All the evidence points to this warming trend being something unprecedented and human-caused. Predicting average global temperature trends is not only possible, but it has been done successfully.
Noo what I am saying is the icecaps would be melting if we were here or not,

Which is again like saying "I'm going to get sick and die someday whether I'm a smoker or not."

Absolutely true. But smoking is likely to accelerate that sickness and death.

Just like we have icecaps and glaciers melting much, much faster than they would be if we humans weren't making our contributions.
erm .... no. Knowing exactly what the climate will do on an exact date is neither possible nor necessary to say, "We're pissing our own bed, and it's only going to lead to ugliness."

If I make oreo cookies my primary food group, no doctor can predict that I'll get X disease on Y date and it will kill me in exactly Z number of years. But the doctors can all agree that it will very likely more so than not lead to no good.

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