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?
Jez, you're confusing weather with climate. It's not possible to predict whether it will rain on the third Thursday eight months from now, or whether it will be a cooler spring than usual five years from now. But the physics are not that complicated when it comes to the whole planet retaining more heat than it is shedding. We are continually increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The size of the planet isn't changing. Solar energy input isn't changing outside of its normal cycles. But we're increasing the insulation. We can confidently predict that it will continue to get warmer, and by estimating the amount of energy coming in to the system and the amount of greenhouse gas we are adding, we can make reasonable predictions. We don't have to take normal cyclical changes into account because it's the trend line we're concerned with. You only think the task is impossible.
The point is that nobody denies the fact that the climate changes it always will wether we like it or not, but trying to determine how much mankind influences it is proving to be impossible.
Using one of my favorite analogies, smoking:
If an 18 year old starts smoking, even with all the 'models' (past smokers) we can look at, there is zero way to determine what exactly will kill that person.
Like the climate is certain to change, we are all certain to get sick now and then in our lifetimes. There's the smoker's favorite excuse; "I could die of anything. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow." Just like saying the climate always changes; there could be a supervolcano eruption tomorrow that kills us all, having nothing to do with AGW.
Even if that 18 year old gets lung cancer or heart disease, there is no way to know 100%, absolutely, for sure, that it was the smoking that caused it.
But we can be reasonably certain it was the probable cause. We do know for sure that smoking is harmful and greatly increases one's chance for lung cancer, heart disease, and any number of other nasties.
Plus, it's a totally unnecessary habit with zero redeeming factors.
- We are collectively 'smoking' into the planet: Pumping out CO2, pollution, methane, at alarming rates that anyone with eyes enough to see the clouds of smog over every major city can deduce can't be good for the planet.
- These are things we don't need to be doing. We have the technology to recycle, to wean off fossil fuels and start using clean renewables.
Climate deniers are the equivalent of smokers saying "But I know a smoker who lived into his 90's ... it doesn't bother me so it can't possibly be bothering the people I smoke around ... I could get hit by a bus tomorrow ... you don't know for sure that I'm going to get lung cancer ... there's this doctor who works for Marlboro who says smoking isn't nearly as bad as they say..."
John, death was not the point of Jo's analogy. Her analogy was about using statistics to make valid predictions where the causal mechanisms include natural variation. Her analogy works.
Climate can be predicted in the same way that population cancer rates can be predicted. We may not know precisely how smoking causes cancer, but the epidemiological evidence is clear that it does a certain percentage of the time. Given the demonstrated causal relationship, the statistical predictions are valid, though it's not possible to know which specific individuals will end up with cancer.
With climate, the causal mechanism is actually understood fairly well, but even if we only knew that CO2 causes warming and how much, without knowing why (to make the smoking analogy even closer), we could still make valid climate predictions. To say that we can't predict this is pretty much a rejection of the validity of statistical methods, if not physics and chemistry also.
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.
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
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.