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back to article Big Climate's strange 'science'

I had to chuckle to myself reading a letter here at The Register, recently. "David Whitehouse - although a respected scientist - is still only one voice and his speciality is astrophysics not climate," wrote a reader. This is one of my greatest concerns about so called climate science. Climate science is a very, very new field …

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Black Helicopters

Here Here

That's the best climate change report I have ever read. This global hysteria has to stop. The science is the ropiest stuff I have ever hear.

As for the economy - carbon trading is the biggest joke ever.

Denying climate change makes you more of a vilain now than evolution.

This world is crazy!

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Anonymous Coward

Thank God.

John Atkinson - although a respected IT professional - is still only one voice and his speciality is IT not climate.

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Paris Hilton

Gotta have optimism

Wishing problems away a bit, assuming we'll always be able to 'fix' things that don't suit us, but I agree with your points about vested interests amongst the greens.

The question I've never had answered is - what is the total non-anthropogenic carbon dioxide output for all systems on the planet, and what is the total anthropogenic output?

Miniscule, I suspect.

PH because it's far far too much to think about for her pretty little head

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Assume they are wrong.

Lets assume for a minute that all the theories linking man's activites to climate change are wrong, and therefore their advice to reduce the CO2 we put into the atmosphere is also wrong. So what? Where is the harm? Mankind is encouraged to use less fossil fuel, and to use it more efficiently. And also to 'think' about energy use in all activities. This is all good. In fact, the only people who would appear to suffer are the shareholders of industries that would have to spend money in the short-term cleaning up their act, which of course reduces their profit.

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Anonymous Coward

Climate science is not new

"Climate science is a very, very new field. So new, in fact, that it has had little chance for its assertions to be tested."

Nah, it's field in meteorology, and it's an old science. The temperature is going up in correlation to our atmospheric CO2, (which is a pisser since our atmospheric CO2 continues to rise). The greenhouse mechanism is well understood and explained, and you have not suggested it is in anyway wrong.

"For the Earth to have survived as long as it has with a stable climate, through major events like ice-ages or volcanic eruptions, there is little doubt that a degree of negative climate feedback is essential."

Nah, it can flip to extremes, nothing says it has to tend towards a balance that happens to suit us. Surely an ice age *is* an extreme. Why do you assume it tends to balance, when history suggests it flips from extreme to extreme causing mass extinctions along the way.

"Of course, astrophysicists and astronomers will happily tell us about global warming on other planets in the solar system, a period of extensive solar activity and the like. But they get poo-pooed just like all the other "real scientists" who have a view."

Yet they do not find a correlation between that activity and the warming, and you do not suggest that there is.

"At the moment, I don't see that the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is strong enough to wreck our economies to try to change it."

False dichotomy, we're planning on building nuclear power stations, renewable technologies, etc. Who said we were shutting up shop and going to live on a Kibbutz? We're not going to wreck our economies, we're going to switch away from expensive depleting, co2 producing, fossil fuels to something different. UK is now a net importer of oil so it makes sense economically too.

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Paris Hilton

Phew, that's set my mind at rest.

It's OK everyone, we can continue to pollute the air and the seas as much as we like, it won't have any effect on the climate at all.

I know because a man on the internet with impeccable scientific credentials told me

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Add your own comment

Not sure that the dinosaurs are a notable exception. There have been at least 5 major extinction events in the last 500 million years or so. Agreed, life does carry on, often with previous bit-players getting to take centre stage. We do need more data to be able to make predictions. However, that does not stop the media making predictions almost every day. Earlier this week, the BBC had 'climate change to save lives', the Guardian has 'climate change to kill lots more'. That speaks volumes about both the media and what we know about climate change.

Shouldn't we all be worrying about replacing fossil fuels anyway? After all they'll run out soon enough.

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Natural fix and Technichal correction possible

I agree that Global Warming is less scary than lots of other things.

The production of dust, and CO2, will probably decline with the increase in the price of oil. And there is a quick-fix possible - using a space-based "something" to reduce the sunlight reaching earth by a smidgen... I just home that its not Bush in control of which country does or doesn't get the light!

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I don't trust this article

This article is heavy on assertion and remarkably light on evidence.

People who write mathematical models of complex systems for a living tend to find the climate models very unconvincing - name them.

Geologists find the arguments very unconvincing - name them.

Engineers find the arguments unconvincing - name them.

And astrophysicists find the arguments unconvincing - name them.

and while we're naming them blokes you met down the pub don't count. I'd like to see people publishing peer reviewed criticism and putting their reputations on the line; which is what is supposed to happen every time a scientist puts forward a theory.

After all, when a climate model is put up for peer review the reviews include mathematicians, physicists, geologists, engineers and astrophysicists as applicable. If you want to advance a conspiracy that peer review forces out science that people find uncomfortable then that should be easy enough to prove and evidence of it should be plentiful.

Incidentally David Whitehouse is not as far as I can see an Astrophysicist. He has a doctorate in Astrophysics, but has been a practicing full time journalist for 20 years. I'd say that makes him - a journalist.

The real question seems to be not would you trust a software engineer to build a bridge, but would you trust an IT professional to review science?

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Boffin

I wuz a climate modeller

I can only say that I agree with the overall concept of limited data, limited prediction.

My experience has been writing a number of computer models of climate. In my experience at least we used relatively small data sets and the metric for the model quality was how well it matched observations.

The problem of course was that most observations were 'now' and relatively recent earlier observations. If my model didn't match now (and my source data set) it was rejected. My models worked well for now (and then), but as every day passed, not so good for future.

The applies to present day global climate models. If a model matches what happens right now it is good. If not it is obviously deficient. The problem is that many models are developed and all are tweaked to produce results that match 'now'. The effect is that we have a very large set of models that appear good but only today (or in past time if they are working hard). We have no metric as to how well they work in the future.

As an analogy, I could produce a model of financial market and economic behavior (in fact I have done just that for a range of governments - it seems computer modeling of climates is a good way to get into financial/economic modeling. Or at least it pays more.) The effect is the same. I can hindcast just about any financial or economic data. What I can't do is forecast what will happen in any reasonable time scale. This is not through want of data. It is through total lack of ability to determine what are the true underlying factors in a seemingly random progression.

In both cases, financial and climate, there are a lot of first principles models. In all cases these are

1. Wrong on any future time scale.

2. Continuously revised to match ground truth.

3. Effectively useless.

Jerry

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Stop

Why is the reg letting people who have not had their opinions peer reviewed spout ****

Really, what are this guy's credentials? Where are his numbers, his maths, his falsifiable testable hypothesis? His published papers? Who does he work for? Who funded his research? Or is he just another opinionated Muppet spouting about things of which he know little?

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Dead Vulture

Nice to see someone whose specialism is climate science covering the topic.

I was anxious about the effects of our actions on the climate, but hearing from an IT Professional that there is no imaginable way there could be any possible problem and that things will work out because they usually do has set my mind at ease.

If you want articles on climate science how about getting some climate scientists to write them? And if you can't find any climate scientists who want to support your growing denial-industry agenda ( I liked the Reg better when it took a sceptical but balanced approach ) how about not posting any articles on the matter?

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Nice article

Global warming is inevitable, whether or not we are speeding it up, it will happen, maybe just sooner than later.

Every one always talks about there having been multiple ice ages, but at the same time seem to forget that it is global warming that brings the planet out of its ice age!!!! WE ARE COMING OUT OF AN ICE AGE.

Great to see a bit of sense written about this topic for a change.

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New science?

Arrhenius first postulated Greenhouse Gasses affecting temperature.

That's 19th century.

And Chris, the reason is that denying evolution isn't really believed (else why would people worry about Bird Flu? We're not birds!) and in any case rarely affects other people.

If AGW is correct, is still possible to stop or reverse and people don't do it because of numbnuts going "ecofacist!!!" then that DOES affect people.

Also, most of the explicable reasons for denying AGW are basically selfish: some don't want to have to risk being "poorer". Especially if it's

a) not them

b) not their family

c) someone else's family

d) in the future

Which isn't really thinking like a human. It's more thinking like an animal. Our range of perception into possible futures and our strong abilities to empathise and place ourselves in the position of another is why this skinny, weak and unarmed ape has managed to become the dominant species on the planet.

And throw that away because you like your air fare to Mallorca to be cheap???

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Anonymous Coward

"A new science"??

"Climate science is a very, very new field."

That'd be news to Arrhenius (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svante_Arrhenius), who first predicted that fossil fuel-induced CO2 would cause a warming of the climate in 1896.

As the author has made such an enormous blunder in the first couple of lines, I decline to waste my time reading more of this nonsense. Please, please, dear Register, stick to subjects you know something about rather than making fools of yourselves peddling this third-rate tripe.

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This is from a physicist ? bull.

"Somehow we survive".

Nope. we've been around 10,000 -- 1 million years or so. _Life_ survives.

In some of the climate catastrophies you've mentioned 3/4 of all species were

wiped out.

Models have their weaknesses - they always have, and they are well known. But Global warming does not depend on the models, but observations.

We know how greenhouse gases work, you can do it in the lab. We know they're rising, and we see the temperature rising.

We've millions of years of climate data, of differing quality, in lots of proxies: isotopic analysis, gas histories in ice, etc.

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Go

Timescale

The geologists are right -there are negative feedback elements to the climate cycle. In a few million years carbon released now will be trapped and stored again. The oceans may be highly acidic and the surface temperature may have raised/lowered markedly, but so what? Life will go on as it has for millions of years.

This is only an issue if you have an interest in the future of the human race and more specifically the maintenance and improvement of the western way of life.

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"Finally, why can't we trust human ingenuity?"

Human ingenuity will only be placed where it is thought to be needed.

If AGW is denied generally, there will be no ingenuity placed in combating it.

And the IPCC reports depend on human ingenuity. The major assumption is that we can do something to reverse it. It may be too late and all we can do is slow the rate at which we will be kicked back by resource limitations into the stone age, but we assume that if we start now, we will be able to avoid that.

Or was that just a euphemism for "let's not do anything about it because we're always going to be able to be smart enough to change it"?

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Alert

The problem

If John and others are right, the climate change folks look like tools, if they are wrong we might be in deep trouble.

That's the problem.

That said, I agree that we can overcome difficulties with technology and ingenuity, and the Green fascist types (who want at least 60% of the human race dead and the rest living on cardboard) tend to see the world as static and unchanging don't get this. But then the whole racist Malthusian project always becomes fashionable when the economy's in trouble. It's quite likely that global warming will become another one of their arguments for sterilising people who happen to have a skin colour they don't like.

I was sent a "reasons to go veggie" leaflet by someone who seemed to think that forcing subsistence farmers to grow and eat what vegetarians think is a good idea is ok. Another complacent fat westerner telling people what to do and what they can and can't eat. It was sickening, and the author of the pamphlet didn't even realise how racist it was. I think the global warming thing is going the same way - there's a lot of anti-Chinese and Indian sub currents when you read the articles. Interesting, eh?

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Anonymous Coward

Would you trust a software engineer to build a bridge?

Yep...

My grandfather was a civil engineer/draftsman, I'm a software engineer, although confident enough to build a bridge after his excellent tuition...

Here's a question though, would you trust a civil engineer from london to build a bridge on time that doesn't make people feel sick, being a geordie I'm quite proud of the fact we've not built failures of bridges :)

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Anonymous Coward

Feedback systems, and stability.

Anyone who considers there might possibly be any worthwhile content in the feedback-related sections of this article might want to go read about Daisyworld, either in James Lovelock's books, or some of the subsequent analyses (some of which are on t'Internerd).

Unlike pseudo-science like economics (and IT?), climate change has sound maths and physics behind it. Economics is the one which tries to justify itself based on correlation without actual evidence of causation. (Economist-class example of correlation without causation: AIDS has increased since satellite TV was introduced, therefore satellite TV causes AIDS).

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extinctions

"Ice ages and volcanic eruptions are all things that will unarguably change the climate. Yet, with the notable exception of the extinction of the dinosaurs, it seems life has happily trundled along through it all. We're the living proof."

Um, no. Permian extinctions?

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Boffin

The answer to life the universe and carbon footprints

John Anderson may have unwittingly highlighted the answer.

He mentioned the proportion of carbon in limestones dwarfing that in the atmospher and locke up in fossil fuels. Well does he understand how the carbon got into the limestone? The answer in the most part is as the remains of some form of life. In the case of one of the better known limestone, chalk, the responosible organism is a coccolith, a single celled algae with calcite shell.

All we have to do is go down to Beach Head, scrape out a bit DNA from our mineral clad seaweed from the Cretaceous period, and grow them in the worlds warm shallow seas.

If it works in Jurassic Park it could work here!

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Coat

Climate change is a myth

Climate change is a big money-spinner for the vested interests... and it's balls.

All the evidence is against global warming - not least because I ran out of heating oil in January and the house got really cold before the man arrived with the tanker.

-- Jon

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Pirate

Nice critique of scientific analysis...

from an IT professional

No climate change scientists dispute that geology has an influence on climate change or that the earth has been through cycles of climate before. The Issue we are facing is that the cycle we are in at the moment is completly out of the norm.

Even if you can't stand Al Gore (or All Bored as my dad calls him) there are plenty of other commentators out there making very compelling arguements about the very interesting correlations between development and expansion of human activities and CC.

BTW science is built upon the premise of guessing and then looking at how to prove it, that scientists are guessing 50 years into the future is not a fundamental issue; it's whether or not we get the info in years to come to prove if the guess was a good one or not

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Gold badge

We don't have to speculate

There used to be a standard retort against anyone doing computer modelling along the lines of "I'll consider your predictions for the next century once you've shown me your predictions for the last one."

To be specific, you feed in the available data for global climate in 1900. If this isn't known terribly accurately, that doesn't matter because you just get larger error bars on the final predictions. You add in your assumptions about solar behaviour. As the model evolves, you add in your data on the actual growth of industrial activity, but you *don't* add in any new climate data. (That would be cheating.) After your model has run, you review the envelope of predictions that it produced. Does what actually happened lie within the envelope?

If it does, then we look at the size of the envelope. If it is so large as to be useless, then we just can't tell what will happen in the next century. We need to keep working on the model. Other research activity is, frankly, pointless.

If the envelope is small, you can use the model as a tool, and see which of the data you added in later (solar model and industrial activity) really mattered. If it's mainly down to the solar model, there's nothing we can do in the next century. If it's mainly down to industrial activity, then we're in the land of anthropogenic warming.

This test is simple enough that you don't need a PhD in climate science to evaluate whether it has been passed or not. Indeed, questions of the form "does my model fit my data" are the stock in trade of experimental science and there are widely practised and understood mathematical tests for quantifying the level of agreement.

Twenty years ago, the models failed the test. That means that twenty years ago, talk of global warming *was* just unsupportable scare-mongering, whether it was true or not. (That's perhaps too subtle for many, but a sensible government *shouldn't* commit trillions of dollars to your pet project if you can't prove there is anything happening.)

In the last few years, I've heard claims that the models now pass the test, so their predictions are worth the paper they're printed on. This being science, presumably the evidence for those claims has been peer-reviewed and is in the public domain somewhere. Unless you know otherwise, I think the default position of the lay audience should be that there *has* been significant progress in climate science in recent years, and that the sceptics in other disciplines simply haven't paid attention to recent improvements in modelling.

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Unhappy

To paraphrase...

At the moment, I don't see that the evidence for [the bloke I picked up in the bar having a lethal sexually transmitted infection] is strong enough to wreck [my night out]. But if, over the next 10 or 20 years, [if I show the symptoms of a lethal sexually transmitted disease], then I have faith in our ability to solve the problem. Just like we have successfully dealt with smog in London, rivers flooding, or acid rain. We always have.

Thus spake Freddie Mercury.

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Oscillations are dangerous

The only difference between the oscillations of the climate and those of climate change debate is that the latter occur much faster. What is needed is negative feedback to damp the latter.

Here's a small attempt:

There are indeed feedback mechanisms, positive and negative, some known, some to be discovered. An obvious positive one is the effect of temparature on albedo. Anyone who's seen the effect of exposed dark rocks on melting snow will know this. The reverse effect (cold = more snow = more reflection = more snow) is also a simple one.

However, there are also "destabilising events" that push the system. It is strongly speculated that the rise of the Himalyan plateau, with attendant jetsream disturbance and limestone weathering (which sequesters CO2) may be at least partially responsible for the Ice Ages. The Chixulub meterorite (or the Deccan Traps eruptions) may well have disturbed the climate sufficiently to do the dinosaurs in.

Eventually a new equilibrium is acheived.

But notice the timescales. If faced with storm, flood, and heatwave I, for one, am not inclined to say "oh well. it'll settle down in a couple of million years".

The Ephesus harbour was no doubt isolated from the sea by a long (centuries?) reduction in sea level. But what happened to the people who relied on the harbour? Did they wait??

In reverse, a rise in sea levels of a metre or two would have little effect on us over a period of centuries, but over a shorter period the human and economic cost of readjusting (IE moving and rebuilding all those shoreline cities) would be immense. Our civilisation is not equipped to plan over multi-century timescales.

It is undeniable that there has been recent warming (IE iover the last few decades). I can see it and feel it myself. It is likely, but not 100% proven, that this is due to human activity. But the effects over the coming decades are likely to be so severe (and expensive) that we have no alternative but to act on the partial information we have, and change what we can. When faced with a huge and immediate threat, you cannot afford to wait until you know exactly what the cause is, because by the time you do know, it'll be too late. "Oh shit, that's an angry grizzly heading for me. Now, what exactly is the current state of Ursine behavioural research, and should I call for further investigations?"

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> We always have

mmm, but sometimes a lot of people die or have very unpleasant lives whilst its being sorted...

There does seem to be an awful lot of very speculative bad science about this whole issue, but at the same time if there is a problem something needs to happen... But one needs to know what the problem is! Maybe [flippant joke] the right solution would be to paint every roof and road between the tropics of capricorn and cancer white in order to reflect more solar radiation.

On the other hand reducing the amount of coal and oil being burnt - especially oil - burning such a useful chemical feedstock is just stupidity - and increasing efficiency can surely only be a good thing. Things like that, switching to Nuclear power and also researching fusion are good things to do whether or not they affect global warming, so lets do them...

As far alternative energy - most forms of it seem to me to be gross ecological vandalism - tidal barrages, wind turbines - arrrghhhh. A tidal barrage in the Severn would destroy more ecology than sinking a fully ladn supertanker off Avonmouth... And biofuel doesn't seem much better. The world needs less land used for agriculture rather than more...

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Anonymous Coward

Flat-out wrong, as usual

Someone seems to be on Inhofe's mailing list. "Ignoring the biggest effect on global warming - water vapour" - utterly untrue. "The small sample set - at most 30 years of accurate data" - is going to surprise a lot of people who are separately inferring prehistoric data which correlate with each other just fine. "Positive feedback in engineering invariably results in unstable systems" - there are positive feedbacks in the climate system - would you rather they were ignored? "But they get poo-pooed just like all the other "real scientists" who have a view" - again nonsense. Nobody's disputing temperature changes on other planets. Just the ludicrous argument that other planets warming (and other planets are also cooling) proves that our warming can't porribly be anthropic. "Climate scientists have to disagree with real scientists or they would lose their funding" - another classic lie that completely misrepresents the funding process. Climate scientists have to produce original research with data that anyone can pick over and disprove, or they don't get funding. As for "wreck our economies" - clearly the Stern Report is the misguided scribblings of unqualified hippies. Thank goodness the experienced scientists and economists of El Reg are here to set us straight.

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Anonymous Coward

Ephesus

"The importance of the city as a commercial centre declined as the harbour slowly filled with silt from the river (today, Küçük Menderes) despite repeated dredges during the city's history.[16] (Today, the harbor is 5 kilometers inland)."

I am quoting wikipedia here, as I'm not directly familiar with ephesus.

Silting up isn't a sea level change.

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Silver badge
Alien

Dumb Animals ..... and SMARTer Virtual Machines.

If we looked after and Nurtured Natural Resources rather than Exploiting them for Gain, I wonder what sort of a World we would then being Living In/Creating.

This seems a Real Weird Idea ..... http://cryptome.org/weather-war.pdf ... http://cryptome.org/weather-war2.htm ..... and for all the Wrong Reasons?

"This world is crazy!" ...as In Sane, Chris. Managed Full Psychosis though Permits Perceptions Mentoring in a Novel Innovative Therapy/Treatment/Regimen/Role Play.

AIdDeadhead WhiteGum Tangent for those who would Dare 42 Win Win..

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Anonymous Coward

I luv climate change...

....why? Because it is the only thing I can see that will see the western world weened off the oil addiciton it has.

The most unstable thing that is happening on the planet today is this massive pouring of money into some of the most vile, unstable regimes in the world.

Climate change will ensure that in 20 years we will not need a drop of oil ever again (if we do we can get it from our own reserves) and so the nasty dicators can all go hang!

Thanks,

B

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Umm, life doesn't go on "happily"

I mean unless you consider 95%+ of life on earth getting wiped out during the Permian extinction as a happy thing. Life barely made it; odds are good that we would be a casualty of such an event, so there may be a vested interest in getting to the bottom of things and trying to minimise our own impact. I mean the biggest issue here seems to be money and convenience. I don't see what the problem is with erring on the side of caution until we can confirm the sums...

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Anonymous Coward

Of course you're right...

...But the door swings both ways. The arguments against anthropogenic climate change are based on the same narrow view of a climate system we barely understand and in place of rising seas and melting ice caps the shock imagery the opposition employ are crumbling societies and impoverished millions strangled by privileged political correctness. Then theres the whole plummet to oblivion versus "if it breaks we'll just fix it".

Both sides are terrifying in their capability to evoke a whirlwind of invective and polarise any debate into paralysis.

As an IT professional I will entertain the idea that I dont know all there is to know about climate change and avoid pontificating, but straw men and stalking horses arent going to do anyone any good. Somewhere between the alarmists and the deniers is the place where risks are mitigated - not overreacted to, and not completely ignored. The place where we start thinking about the TCO of some of our current behaviours. "Cheap" and "Convenient" have not-so-hidden costs that we should stop ignoring, and addressing some of our more frivolous behaviours may well reveal benefits beyond the climate.

Alternatively we could just do what we usually do - line up, either side of the schoolyard, and cuss the air blue trying to shout each other down and rail and recoil at any idea or opinion that isnt already ours, and a privileged few will scribble their mental meanderings, weakly justified by "the reliable people wot fink like wot I do" and "the ludicrous freaks wot fink different" and those barely thought thoughts will find themselves on the appropriate pile - yay or nay, armageddon or apathy and the battle will go on to no-ones benefit except, maybe, the IT Professionals - whose opinions on climate change have, up until now, been noticeably underrepresented...

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Silver badge

There have been other mass extinctions

Though I agree that climate science has some shaky foundations, and astronomers have rightly suggested that solar variability has a strong influence, but the extinction at the end of the Cretaceous is not the only one (the Permian mass extinction was evidently no picnic for life on earth). I doubt that anyone blames that on CO2 though. CLimate may well be changing (it is never stable in a mathematical sense). Reducing our use of fossil fuels does however make economic sense, oil has so many uses beyond burning it. However, we must do the science right before declaring anything the perfect solution to our problems.

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People only listen to Armageddon

John Atkinson is perhaps right to point to faults in the science of the longer term predictions in climate science. But the shorter term observed trends (not predictions reliant on some energy intensive super-computer) should make us worried because they will have an effect on the lives of the poorest and least powerful in our world, as coastlines and eco-systems change.

There is also the never to be forgotten fact that we cannot rely on fossil fuels because they are running out and all over the world extractive industries are finding it more and more difficult to retrieve the reserves there are.

The problem is that these very real dangers do not make the public sit up and listen to messianic politicians as much as images of boiling seas. We are all programmed by millenia of religions to listen to shouts of Armageddon and not to listen to predictions of increasing economic crisis and resulting conflict and suffering.

We should act as more responsible environmental citizens not because of predictions coming out of computers but because of observable environmental effects and the human suffering it causes.

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Linux

AKA

Climate science? Could this possibly be the same as meteorology? Which, judging by Bill Giles, has been around for a while. The climate models used in this field have been developed over a a number of decades. The reason for their inaccuracies are mainly down to the sheer amount of data needed and those ruddy butterflies in the Brazilian rain forest.

Either way, I agree with your point that climate change bandwagoning is simply a self interest situation and the statistics being produced are merely fear oriented. Fingers crossed someone will try and silence the idiots at the helm... oh, did someone already try that?

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Flame

Drink someone else's medicine.

The first 90% of the article is common sense, so good to hear though hardly fresh. The valid point that the researchers financial survival depends on *interest* in the topic (not as the article claims on *one type of results* --- the more contradictory results, the more funding for "further research is needed" type clarification) holds for all research --- you cannot get a grant if it's not sufficiently sexy as a topic, regardless of the outcome.

Actually, there are far more incestuous funder/researcher relationships; the cigarette-safety researcher you mentioned is one, and clinical trials companies are another (basically, if your company, hired for "independent testing", shows that the new pharmaceutical hope doesn't really work, you will not be rehired). Note that most climate research is funded by governments, who prefer a "we're innocent and can't do anything anyways" answer, as that's cheaper. And doesn't force them to interfere with the lives of the whining public. [Actually, being too clear on the man-made factor has been a bad career choice, as Bush has insisted on crushing a few for just doing that.]

The first few commenters take the suggested suspicious motives as a "phew, I nearly had to think about how I spend my life, but here I have a blanket excuse to do f*ck all! I just think what I want to think!", not as what it is --- a factor to be taken into the account. I think a weak factor, an always-present-in-any-science factor, but nonetheless a factor.

But then, at the last paragraph why would I take the opinion of an IT specialist on the relation between economics, ingenuity, science and climate change? Because you're NOT paid for the results? Also your career will not suffer from stupid conclusions like a scientist's would?

Weak!

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*Life* will continue

...but not necessarily humanity. While I agree that the solution to global warming can only come from improved technology and not from somehow persuading everyone to huddle in caves eating locally-grown lentils, I'm a bit wary over the author's optimism.

Its a classic game theory square - Global Warming Catastrophe True / False versus Prepared True / False. The four cases are True / True, in which case we've got a chance of fixing the problems before they become too severe, False / True, in which case we've wasted a good amount of money, True / False, in which case we have to do panic research and implementation in a very short time (which is usually ruinously expensive and not very good) and False / False, in which case most people are happy. For me, the risk of massive numbers of lives lost in the True / False situation (eg coastal cities flooding) outweighs the concern about money possibly spent needlessly.

Of course, the long term solution of getting into space via elevator / active structures like fountains / bolas) and performing most of the really nasty industries (metal refining and smelting, energy generation, some forms of manufacturing) helpfully above the atmosphere would be nice. A man can dream!

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Stop

let's look at the four possibilites.

there are four logical possibilites here: man made climate change is real, and we do something; man made climate change is not real, but we do something; man made climate change is real, and we do nothing, and man made climate change is not real, and we do nothing:

Possibility 1: the world is saved

Possibility 2: there is a boom in the tech sector as new energy sources are developed, hardly a wrecked economy.

Possibility 3: not just a wrecked economy, a wrecked planet

Possibility 4: we run out of oil.

Seems pretty clear which way to up.

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Dead Vulture

this is in the Reg?

This article is just wrong on so many levels that it's disappointing to find it in the Reg.

You seem to start from the belief that we shouldn't control carbon emmissions then work back from that to find any argument no matter how tenuous that could conceivably fit this.

To address just a few

- given the tectonic activity of Turkey I'd be surprised if the movement of the coastline near Ephesus (orTroy for that matter) isn't due to local geological uplift - in much the same way as Alexandria has sunk and south-east england is slowly dipping. This is utterly different to a general sea level change.

- I really struggle to think of an engineering profession other than CFD remotely similar to climate modelling - certainly control systems engineering is nothing like it (I'm not a CFD engineer but interestingly those I've worked with are quite 'comfortable' with the climate change predictions).

- there have been many mass extinctions, of which the K-T event was only the most recent (and not the worst).

- the idea of a global conspiracy of climate changes scientists to defraud us by manipulating their models is frankly stupid. There will always be those who're willing to be unethical but by and large scientists work for the satisfaction of extending human (and their own) knowledge. To put it bluntly, they don't do it for the money...

You're right that climate change is a new field and that given the importance of its results it needs to be subject to extreme close review. But this isn't achieved by deluding ourselves that the whole field is fabricated simply because we don't like the alternative.

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@zeedee

The answer to your question is loaded by that question.

Total CO2 production is HUGE. Mostly natural. Like, say, rotting leaves in autumn.

But you never asked what NET contribution there is, and the answer to that is very different.

You see, each leaf that falls in autumn and decays releasing CO2 is countered by another leaf growing in the summer, taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

Net difference: nil

Human production: ~19Gt a year.

Volcanoes: ~0.6Gt a year.

and so on.

It's mostly in the IPCC (where there's missing, we don't know whether the item is a net contributor, e.g. permafrost melt).

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Re: Nice article

So how long does it take to get out of an ice age? 100.000 years?

Since the average time before a flip is less than the time since the end of the last ice age (though there's a large variability, IIRC, 50,000 - 200,000 years), aren't we about to go back in to one?

Oh, and if someone says "see! we should be grateful!" please tell Chris he's dead wrong too first.

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risk of extrodinary danger = zero?

A good rational article, thank you. But i do question the evaluation of down side risk. There are no guarantees that the downside will be manageable. The system which may be most sensitive to any climate change is the human economy, the impact on which will be complex with many possible scary scenarios and with the population predicted to be over 10 thousand million by mid century, economic impact could be devastating and beyond control. In other words, the possibility of sever damage to large numbers of people (e.g., wars of dwindling resources) is, even if a low probability, worrisome enough to make us attend to climate change risk now.

One more word, it is in some ways irrelevant whether climate change is anthropogenic. Even if global heating is actually caused by nature, the risk of negative consequences still remains and the question becomes, can humans initiate any planet cooling technology?

In 1798 the dismal economist, Thomas Malthus, ask how long humankind could keep expanding. The answer he arrived at was proved wrong by developing technology. The question remains, will he be wrong forever?

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Happy

climate change is natural, and there ain't shit you can do.

As someone else said, we are just coming to the end of an ice age *right now*.

Yes, a lot of people/animals/other are likely to die, and much upheaval/chaos shall ensue. may I be permitted to introduce..Mother Nature- the gnarliest old bitch you ever had the misfortune to tangle with. Deal with it.

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Big Denial

"Yet, with the notable exception of the extinction of the dinosaurs, it seems life has happily trundled along through it all. We're the living proof."

The chimpanzees would probably be telling each other exactly the same thing if humankind had already taken the opportunity to do away with itself. They'd probably have their own neo-creationist movements, too, but that's a different part of the anti-science peanut gallery.

"At the moment, I don't see that the evidence for anthropogenic climate change is strong enough to wreck our economies to try to change it. But if, over the next 10 or 20 years, the evidence really does come out in favour of these theories, then I have faith in our ability to solve the problem."

Ah yes, we must have "faith" in someone or something - this would presumably be the Bush administration's response to climate change if it were allowed to continue in power for another 10 or 20 years - and while we're procrastinating, let's not stand in the way of that time-honoured City tradition of vibrant trading with ourselves and everyone looking really busy (and making money!), regarding the whole climate vs. economy thing like the zero-sum game it isn't.

"Just like we have successfully dealt with smog in London, rivers flooding, or acid rain."

Yes, we're dealing really well with rivers flooding: consider the relatively minor (on a global scale) mess in various parts of England last summer and the infrastructure issues that brought up. Still, everyone gets their insurance claims in, the floorboards get dried out, and the new kitchens get put in. Problem solved!

And that's only the developed world, but I imagine that Sky News was too busy beaming you live pictures of nothing happening in some flooded housing estate in small town Britain for you to notice that whether or not human activity causes climate change (I'd take the scientific consensus over your conspiracy theories any day), there's plenty of scope for minimising its impact.

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This article is nonsense

The basic physics underlying the creation of the climate we enjoy on Earth is actually fairly well understood. Making predictions based on that understanding is very very hard, and climate models that attempt to do this are of necessity imperfect. But imperfect as they are they represent our best guess at what is going to happen. And they represent our best guess at the likely effects of various actions we might choose to take. What alternative method do you suggest for evaluiating alternative strategies?

It is true that there has been climate change in the past and that life and humans have survived. I also have no doubt that humans will survive any climate change even in a worst conceivable scenario. But that doesn't mean that we should just continue to act as we have. The consequences of Climate change >could< be genuinely catastrophic.

Incidentally, David Whitehouse's recent statements about there being no rising trend in Global Temperature are just balderdash, plain and simple. And I cannot imagine what kind of impairment woul dlead him to make such statements.

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The science is irrelevant

I remain unconvinced by the science but I also think it is irrelevant.

So what if the climate changes? The climate has always changed and always will. How do the climate change zealots know what the 'right' temperature of the earth is? How do you know climate change would be bad and not good? During human history it has been both hotter and colder than now and we managed because we did what human beings always do - adapt.

The climate change advocates are proposing something that is utterly crazy - to wage an unwinnable war against nature and somehow stabilize the temperature of the earth itself. Al Gore and his lot are insane. Whether it is man made or not, the earth's climate will change and there's only one thing we can do about it - adapt.

And that means making life better for poor people around the world who are forced to live in environmentally hazardous locations. The one true fact in this whole debate is that climate change will not effect rich people. This is a story of poverty and exploitation not science. And the climate change aristocracy have a lot to answer for on that.

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@Paul Fleetwood

CO2 is not a pollutant. In fact, life on this planet depends on it.

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