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back to article Top British boffin: Time to ditch the climate consensus

Just two years ago, Mike Hulme would have been about the last person you'd expect to hear criticising conventional climate change wisdom. Back then, he was the founding director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, an organisation so revered by environmentalists that it could be mistaken for the academic wing of …

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Naive vision of science.

@:Max

"This is how you separate the quacks from the real deal. you don't get that from a bullying and well funded"

"If consensus was the primary driver of science it would be little different than the consensus of astrologers, psychics, and the much derided "religious" types."

How you separate the quacks from the real deal can often be more a matter of reputation than good science. Look up all the research that has been done into publication bias. Of course, once you've passed that hurdle, there's peer review. Let's take a moment to consider what that process might entail ...

Would it be ones peers coming to a consensus (or not) as to the validity of one's paper?

Science _is_ consensus-driven and what separates it from religion is its willingness to change its dogma relatively quickly. New theories aren't accepted overnight, even if they appear to have greater explanatory power and data fitness. They are generally accepted when the generation that (was) taught the old theory dies out.

Or did you think that CHI actually was the A and O of Quantum Mechanics?

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Boffin

All this climate change stuff seems corupt to me...

I'm not either accepting nor denying we have anything to do with climate change, I myself I don't know. But I also have the feeling some of these so called scientists have no clue either and it seems like people are chucking money around this "issue" to get results and seems very policical to me.

To me this sounds wrong, I though science was all about proving or disproving a theory using measurable data through observation or experimentation that is also repeatable. To do this you would need to study quite a lot of data over many many many years I don't even want to know how many variables there are for climate, like say for instance how long does it take for the sea to warm and cool, how much C02 is absorbed by plant life on both sea and land, what is the current volcanic activity compared to the past?solar activity, population, animals, and other unknown variables.

I say wait and see how it pans out and deal with the consequences if there are any.

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re: Grozbit

"I checked out the Lomborg case on wikipedia..."

:D

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CTG
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Science must come before politics

The problem is that much of the science coming from the anti-AGW camp is just bollocks.

There are several examples in the comments here. Take the "the world has been cooling for the last 10 years" stuff. The only way you can support that statement is by throwing out all the basic principles of statistics. There is no scientific evidence that the climate has been "cooling for the last decade" - in fact in climate science, that statement just doesn't make sense at all. Climate looks at long term trends, with 30 years being the standard for determining climate trends. The fact that 1998 was exceptionally warm, and 2008 was cool compared to the other years of the last decade is just a coincidence.

If you compare 1995 to 2005, you would say that the rate of warming has actually increased over the last decade - except that climate scientists don't do that, because 10-year comparisons are meaningless when considering climate. What you actually need to do is look at smoothed averages over several decades, and when you do that you can see that there has been a long warming trend that is still going on.

The problem is that there are a lot of people who claim to be doing science, who are actually just responding to a political agenda. Yes, there need to be different views about how we solve the problems, but first of all we need to get rid of the politics from the science.

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IT Angle

The environmentalists are RUINING EVERYTHING

I don't really get what the denialists want.

What do you want, denialists? How does the denial agenda improve your chances of getting it?

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Green is always good right?

A few years ago I stuck a good power meter on a CFL light bulb. It told me a much different story than the one printed on the shiny box that the CFL came in. I've since stuck more than 100 CFLs into the little test lab that has been augmented with with a light meter. So far this magic 80% efficiency I see printed on the boxes isn't even close. The best I've seen is about 46% and that is only for the 1st 10 hours of the CFLs life. LEDs and Halogens both do better on average that the CFLs I have in my lab yet they are considered more "green". The only green they are involved with is money green.

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Yes, data

@dee:

Citing activist rent-a-quotes at the Met Office doesn't help your case. It demonstrates that you don't know the difference between an opinion and a supportable hypothesis.

(The IPCC summary you have quoted the bit written by politicians, bureaucrats, activists and other IPCC hangers on. There's no science here).

Have you figured out why you're losing the argument?

I'll make it easy for you:

The scares aren't coming true. The runaway warming hasn't happened. Every anecodote has a plausible alternative explanation. The models aren't predictive. The "science" looks like junk. And shouting "denier" at everyone who disagrees has just lost you mainstream public opinion.

Man Made Global Warming may well be true, but Joe Sixpack is getting very, very bored with you.

Now go back to school and come back with something convincing.

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Long term trends

@ DTG:

"Climate looks at long term trends, with 30 years being the standard for determining climate trends."

Unless you're the BBC, James Hansen, Al Gore, the Met Office, NASA, NOAA or any other climate quango or activist. Then you just need three consecutive sunny days - and Gaia is melting.

However you slice it, there is nothing in the temperature record today that is outside the bounds of natural variability: whether you start at 1200 or 1850.

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Bad 'tash, interesting pov

Good reminder that science isn't religion and scientists are people too!

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Basic physics

The surface of the Sun is at a temperature of 6,000 degrees. So it is glowing hot. Earth is much cooler. So the Sun radiates heat into space as light and short-wave infrared radiation, and Earth radiates heat into space as much longer-wave infrared radiation. Carbon dioxide absorbs, and is warmed by, the latter to a much greater extent than the former. The proportion of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is much higher than it used to be.

That should be enough to tell us that the world will get warmer and warmer, until it reaches what would be an equilibrium temperature under the new conditions. That it may not yet have reached temperatures that are unprecedented since 1850 or 1200 is not the point. The proportion of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is still rising due to present energy practises.

It isn't an extremist Green position at all to say that the only safe choice is to get carbon dioxide levels down to their natural value, prior to any appreciable, noticeable, or detectable effect due to human activity. That is the circumstance under which we could rely on the Earth to behave normally, according to nature.

If, someday, the threat of an ice age does come along, it will be a good thing then if we haven't used up the fossil fuels, since then global warming would be useful. Right now, for all we know, global warming might upset the Gulf Stream, and trigger an ice age.

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Good piece thank you

Really good piece, thank you. I am a social scientist and you cannot even ask why envirnonmental thinking has become so influential without being called a denier. Madness. Some critical thinking and rigour would help for goodness sake. You know there is a problem when you cannot ask any questions

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Conscensus??

If conscensus is important can someone explain how the AGW fans with a 'conscensus' of about 2,500 climate 'scientists' are right when a 'conscensus' of 33,000 leading scientists have signed a petition saying that mankind is not responsible for GW? Even the select committee of the House of Lords, investigating the situation, stated that there was a "healthy majority" of scientists that did not agree with the AGW.

The AGW fans are very selective about their evidence. They ignore anything that does not co-incide with their beliefs, for example, that there have been periods if ice covered earth with far higher Co2 levels than now. Found in ice cores.

The only way of testing programs for accuracy is to 'predict ' a known period from the past and compare it with what happpened. So far the best accuracies have been 35%! Even for the best of computers, the GIGO rule still applies.

If you are going to propose some form of action that is going to cost vast sums of money and degrade a future then you need far more evidence than that supplied by a bunch of political adventurerers.

Dave.

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@Paul M

See, there's your mistake right there. The BBC does not do science. If you listen to the actual scientists, you will find that they don't actually say that three warm days equals global warming. It's the denialists who do that - one slightly cool year in 2008 and suddenly we're heading for an ice age. Yeah right.

Look at the data. In the last thirty years, global temperatures have been higher than at any time during recorded human history. The last decade is the warmest decade on record - a long way from the global cooling the oil industry wants us to believe.

Oh, and David R, please do tell me how a dead person manages to sign a petition? Have you actually looked at who signed the Oregon petition? M. Mouse, D. Duck, etc etc. Yeah, those are the kind of scientists we should be listening to.

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Stop

Codswallop.

Fuck me look at all the armchair environmental scientists we have here. Bloody fantastic isn't it!

A few basics that seem to be constantly ignored.

1] Science is not Consensus. Science is reproducible results. No ifs no buts that's it.

2] Correlation does not equal Causation. This applies to both sides of the argument and is non-negotiable.

3] No matter what we do the climate will continue to change one way or the other as it has done for millions of years.

Anyway AGW... ....oh look a bottle of Gin brilliant!

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Black Helicopters

1970s

....wasnt the eco consensus of the '70s that we were all going to freeze to death in the new ice age.... no one mentioned global warming?

...the grey goo, kill bots, bio hazards, hoodies, communism, peadoes, psychopaths, immigrants and other Daily Mail headliners will get us first

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@Tim Hogard

I've just put a CFL 9W bulb on a power meter and it draws 8.5W, not an exhaustive test, I admit. Maybe I'm mistaken, are you cliaming that the amount of light output is lower than claimed?

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@1970s

"....wasnt the eco consensus of the '70s that we were all going to freeze to death in the new ice age.... "

No.

A researcher at the U. of Albuquerque actually checked out the scientific journals for the period. There were a few 'global cooling' articles, but they were vastly outnumbered by the 'global warming' articles (and even more that were neutral).

This dog won't hunt.

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Paris Hilton

last time

Last time we had a significantly higher temperature average globally we had a "smaller ice-age" in Europe... because the Golf stream had changed course...

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Happy

Erm - anthropomorphic CO2??

We produce about 3.5% of the total carbon that's produced *anyway*. It doesn't even qualify as noise. The meedja report it like it's all down to human activity. Nope. It is a staggering amount of CO2, but compared with the rest of the processes on the Earth it's nothing.

There's also a mystery where they can't work out where a lot of it goes, either, that never gets mentioned....

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Anonymous Coward

Good points raised in posts

Interesting comments/debate. One point I take from this is that the challenges we face (points below) will be assessed and responded to in a political context, representing the views/choices of the populations of nation states.

Working in IT I have experienced the "resource action" situations and have seen first hand the very visceral human response of "how does this affect me". If I have an opinion in any of this debate, it is that these states/populations/individuals will act largely in their own self interest. To put it bluntly, if this means more dead 3rd world babies to (indirectly) avoid a significant reduction in standards of living in the first world economies I think we already have that answer (but accept this may be a flawed conclusion - its not big on the nobility of the human condition).

1) Climate change is occurring (rates of change and maximum limits are of concern? ) - possible positive and negative effects on human population dependant of geographic location. Current models suggest majority of first world countries to be of those least negatively affected (relative to maximum limits of warming)

2) Current rates of population growth are not sustainable - likely impact on mortality rates (with most severely affected being developing/third world?)

3) Current reliance on finite energy resources not sustainable - alternatives being to reduce energy use (through efficiency/ lifestyle changes) or a move to alternative supplies. Near term these appear to be nuclear fission / renewables. Possible restrictive pressures on adoption of nuclear by developing nations due to concerns of weapons proliferation

This excludes other possibly challenges such as super volcano eruptions, pandemic, meteor strikes, magnetic pole inversions, gamma ray bursts, LHC black hole (ok that one is a joke). At the very least the next 50 years should be "interesting"

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Go

Here we go again...

Global warming is crock. It is not scientifically supported. The dust in the air has more effect on climate than CO2. Its only a "possibility" that no person would want to be wrong about. Especially a politician. So they go ahead and back it.

However, the efforts to curb our so-called influence are positive. Renewable energy, more efficiency, less crap in the air, etc. So while I don't believe in this politically driven pseudoscience, I do support the intended projects developed to "combat" it. If the mindless masses need to believe the world is going to end if they don't support this stuff we should have implemented years ago, then by all means.

We must save the world from ManBearPig.

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CTG

@Here we go again...

"The dust in the air has more effect on climate than CO2."

I assume you are referring to Lewis Page's rather imaginative interpretation of some recent papers on the effects of aerosols on regional warming? You do realise that Lewis was completely 100% wrong in his interpretation that aerosols are causing warming *instead* of CO2? What both papers actually said was that some aerosols may be *adding* to the warming caused by CO2, at least regionally.

See, that's the problem when you judge the science by what the media is saying, rather than by what the scientists themselves are saying. Especially when the media has a particular agenda to pursue.

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cows causing global warming, oh well

The right is so wrong and never lets facts get in the way of bullying ideology. Still the greenies can suck my balls if they think I am going to give up delicious red meat. Evil perhaps, immoral probably but goddamn does steak rule. Its better to be full of animal protein than right imho.

http://www.earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm

>The conclusion is simple: arguably the best way to reduce global warming in our lifetimes is to reduce or eliminate our consumption of animal products. Simply by going vegetarian (or, strictly speaking, vegan), , , we can eliminate one of the major sources of emissions of methane, the greenhouse gas responsible for almost half of the global warming impacting the planet today.

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IT Angle

y'all got Wayy to much time on your hands..

and yes, i know it was posted on a sunday..

still. to quote Mr Long.. " science isn't about discovering knowledge, it';s about discovering funding" or thereabouts..

canny move on the part of this eco-publicist.. wind everyone up anothere notch and throw it to the winds with an open invite. not that he's wrong to do so mind, but still, you gotta admire the brass cojones to tell one that size.

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Settled science?

"We produce about 3.5% of the total carbon that's produced"

Indeed. And the proportion of the atmosphere that is CO2 is about 0.035%, so our contribution is about 0.001%, and yet this is somehow regarded as the major driver of a climate that has previously seen levels ten times as high, long before industrialisation!

Temperatures are dropping (now down to nearly 1979 levels) and sea levels are pretty static, the arctic ice is melting more slowly than expected (ask the Catlin expedition) and we carbon-based life-forms actually need CO2 to live (it's pumped into greenhouses to encourage plant growth, where the human occupants happily breathe levels 3 times that outside).

Not much to base punitive taxes and energy policy reversals on, is it?

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I think it's telling ...

... that this whole movement took off on college campuses after the Berlin Wall came down. When Communism collapsed like a Cubs fan's World Series hope, people were walking around like ideologically lost lambs. (I was in graduate school at a very lefty campus at the time.) As soon as things like "ozone hole" and "warming" showed up, these folks jumped on how Evil Corporations and Taxpayers were the source of all evil in the world. The government institutions started throwing money at such research and where there's money, people go. Thus those who were professing in Feminist Dance Therapy suddenly were applying for large research grants tenuously associated with global warming. That sounds ridiculous ... and it is ... but people have applied for grants this way. If you are interested in studying, say, ravens, the easiest way to get money is to study how global warming affects the beahvior of ravens.

In the earliest part of the 20th century, most American universities were funded by private and corporate donations of money and stocks; the universities were largely pro-capitalism. As education became more available to the masses, they became either more egalitarian or more elitist as best suited their funding. When government funding became the main source of revenue, they became actively leftist. When massive amounts of money were pumped into global warming research, ... you guessed it.

This may be sound economics, but is it sound science?

Personally, I think the earth is warming; it's been doing so for many many years, before humans were widespread. Yes, human activity does affect the global temperature, but so do algae, the main net source of oxygen on the planet.

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Stop

Global Warming is NOT caused by Greenhouse Gasses

It happens on MARS, it has nothing to do with CO or CO2.

The entire "Green" movement was created to give scientists and boffins a job, nice big

backhanders from Governments and private corporations and inject funds into already

wealthy oil producers to look at expensive, never to be released bio alternatives.

I agree entirely, ditch the consensus. Open your eyes, just look at what happens in our own Solar System. Al Gore's film should have been titled "A Convinient Lie" and contained nothing more than buzzword facts and evidence-lacking scientific dribble.

FACT: After WWII , CO and CO2 were at the highest ever recorded levels, did Global Temperatures rise? NO. They dropped!

FACT: Global warming occurs on MARS, where there are no Cars.... or cows

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Paris Hilton

@Chris Adams ... WTF?

"We, also, get some from our nuclear core"

WTF science class did you go to? Are you one of the *giggle* hollow-earthers who thinks at the centre of the earth there is a giant nuclear reactor run by morlocks or something ???

What makes you think we have a "nuclear core" at the centre of the earth where all that liquid magma is ? Not any science lesson I ever heard.

Paris, because im sure her science skills are equally controversial.

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@ AA 11th May 2009 15:53 GMT

Chris Adams is quite correct.

The primary reason the Earth still has an active molten core IS in fact down to the fissioning radioactive decay processes of heavy elements. If it were not so then the earth's core would now be solid and we would most likely have no active magnetic field (or at best only a very weak residual one).

Earth is the only rocky world in the solar system which still has a strong magnetic field (lucky for us) and this appears to be down to the active liquid core, which neither Mars nor Venus appear to have.

I am not an astrophysicist but I have a degree in physics and this was always presented to us as the main reason for Earth's still-molten core. I could be out of date now, of course.

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To clarify further ...

Please look at: http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/2002-01/1011552033.Es.r.html

This describes the process in clear terms by an accredited scientist.

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@James Pickett

Wow, that's impressive. I don't think I've seen anyone pack more mistruths, distortions and misconceptions into such a short space before.

Have you even *looked* at the science, or do you just accept everything the oil industry tells you as gospel truth?

Okay, then, let's look at what you said:

Human contribution to atmospheric CO2 is 0.001%: Pre-industrial CO2 was 285ppmv, it is now 380ppmv. That means that humans have put an extra 95ppmv into the atmosphere, or 33% of the pre-industrial level. Not really that insignificant, is it?

"We produce 3.5% of total carbon": There is this thing called the carbon cycle - animals breathe out CO2, and plants and algae breathe it in. The vast majority of the CO2 produces gets consumed, but not all of it. What's left over is the concentration that can be measured in the atmosphere. Before the industrial revolution, this bit left over was about 285ppmv. Guess what, that 285ppmv deficit is still there! It didn't go away! The little bit extra we are producing from fossil fuel is enough that it can't all get consumed, so the concentration goes up, and will keep going up as long as we keep burning fossil fuels. We know this, because the CO2 from fossil fuels has a different isotope signature to the CO2 produced by animals.

"climate that has previously seen levels ten times as high": ten times as high what? Temperature? I'd love to know where you got that data from - I must have missed the bit in the ice core data where all the earth's water boiled away into space. Yes, climate has varied in the past - both hotter and colder - but so did the sea levels. When it was hot, the sea was much higher. When it was cold, the sea was much lower. Now, genius, tell me, where was London the last time the earth's temperature was 4 degrees higher than today? Oh that's right - London didn't exist then. What are we going to do, pick up London and move it somewhere higher up?

"Temperatures are dropping (now down to nearly 1979 levels)": Again, have you actually looked at the data? Here they are: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata/GLB.Ts.txt

In 1979, the temperature anomaly (compared to 1951-1980 baseline) was 0.10 degrees. Last year, which was a bit cooler than the two previous years, it was 0.55 degrees. Now, call me old-fashioned, but I think that 0.55 is bigger than 0.10, so that makes me think that it is actually getting hotter, not cooler. But please do tell me about the amazing new maths you've discovered that says temperatures going up means the world is getting cooler.

"sea levels are pretty static": Significant sea level changes are only expected once the temperature anomaly gets well over 1 degree. It is still only around 0.6 degrees. Your point?

"arctic ice is melting more slowly than expected (ask the Catlin expedition)": Okay, I asked the Catlin expedition, and they said that in fact the Arctic ice is much thinner than they had expected, and multi-year ice is at an all-time low. Again, I'm not quite sure how you arrive at this deduction - less ice than expected suggests to me that it is melting quicker than expected.

"Not much to base punitive taxes and energy policy reversals on, is it?" Ah, now we come to the heart of the matter. Think about it for a minute - who exactly would be paying the taxes for CO2 production. And who exactly would be losing out if energy production moves away from fossil fuels? Oh, the fossil fuel industry.

And who put those factoids into your head? Oh, the fossil fuel industry.

Makes you think, doesn't it? Well, probably a bit late for that in your case...

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n
Happy

wooooooOOOO

"...and the windmills, trams, and rickshaws shall rise from their graves to inherit the earth, and the powerful will pay thousands for simple bags of manure"

...pirates will be celebrating toooooOOOOOOO !

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Paris Hilton

I don't know much about climate change but...

can it really be true that what this issue needs is more sociologists working on it? What next? Homeopaths? Media studies graduates?

Heck, why don't we ask Paris what she thinks?

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Science? Yes please!

I wish people would distinguish between scientific deniers (of which there are about 3) and other deniers (of which there are loads, and they all read the Reg).

Also, if you're worried about large industries lobbying Governments, I would worry about the oil industry. They have got money - fecking loads of it - and they're spending it with the same PR companies that for years quietly used FUD to say that there was no proven link between smoking and lung cancer.

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My 2p worth...

Is the global climate warming? Probably. (I certainly don't recall us getting the amount of snowfall we had back in the early '80s)

Is it warming faster that any time in recorded history? Possibly. I'd imagine estimates of global temperature rises and falls from several thousand years ago can only be resolved down to a few hundred years, so we'll need to wait and see.

Can we stop it? Probably not. I remember reading somewhere that even if global pollutant emissions halted overnight (admittedly a daft scenario), the effects would still be felt for decades as they tend to 'hang around' in the atmosphere that long. So it might be worth researching what's likely to happen over the next few decades / centuries, and start developing techniques to enable as much biodiversity as possible to survive. By that, I mean not just humans - we just happen to be at the top of a rather complex food chain / web. Cut out anything below us and it could have potentially serious effects.

But what can we do? By all means invest in renewables and reduce your energy usage. It won't have much of an impact upon the climate, but it may eventually have an impact on global resource usage. The human population continues to expand, so the amount of earth's resources available per capita reduces. So reducing your usage of resources before you're forced to makes good sense...

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Coat

Common Sense Please

Surely there are temperature sensors on the moon since the 1970s that could give temperature trend data without atmospheric effect ?

As to global warming, it may or may not be real. The period of examination is IMHO too short by far, and we know too little about our own complex environment. The politicians will jump on the bandwagon and use it to justify tax increases reagrdless. Nice of them !

Now we have a pretty nice environment, and it makes sense to keep it that way. I fully support that. But that is a long way from conceding that global warming is happening. We need to take care of our environment in basic ways : not littering, not felling tress, particularly the rainforest, maintaining wildlife habitat, etc. Keep the environment as now.

Now for me, the common sense part of this article is the consideration that whatever happens *WE* have to live with it. By analogy, in the bible, Noah built an ark. That was the way of dealing with what happened in that biblical scenario. What is the modern day equivalent ? Worrying about how to stop the massive flood is pointless. Worrying about how to build the boat to stay afloat is practical and achievable. Take note politicians, when you're not too busy lining your pockets with taxpayers money !

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Anonymous Coward

oh my...

Catlin Expedition, GISS temperatures, oh my...

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Someone mentioned the Oregon petition

lol.

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