November 5, 2007

An unappealing hunch

Predicting global weather patterns over the next five days is hard enough, never mind the next 100 years, argues John Christy, who shared 0.0001% of the Nobel Peace Price, along with thousands of other scientists this year.
"I'm sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never proof) and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.

There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are sceptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don't find the alarmist theory matching observations.

It is my turn to cringe when I hear overstated confidence from those who describe the projected evolution of global weather patterns over the next 100 years, especially when I consider how difficult it is to accurately predict that system's behaviour over the next five days.

Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us.

Some of us scratch our heads and try to understand the real causes behind what we see. We discount the possibility that everything is caused by human actions, because everything we've seen the climate do has happened before.

Sea levels rise and fall continually. The Arctic icecap has shrunk before. One millennium there are hippos swimming in the Thames, and a geological blink later there is an ice bridge linking Asia and North America.

California and some northeastern US states have decided to force their residents within the next decade to buy cars that average 18km a litre. Even if you applied this law to the entire world, the net effect would reduce projected warming by about 0.03C by 2100, an amount so minuscule as to be undetectable. Global temperatures vary more than that from day to day.

Suppose you ... could replace about 10 per cent of the world's energy sources with non-CO2-emitting nuclear power by 2020: roughly equivalent to halving US emissions. Based on IPCC-like projections, the required 1000 new nuclear power plants would slow the warming by about 0.11C a century. It's a dent.

But what is the economic and human price, and what is it worth, given the scientific uncertainty?

My experience as a missionary teacher in Africa opened my eyes to this simple fact. Without access to energy, life is brutal and short. The uncertain effects of global warming far in the future must be weighed against disasters at our doorsteps today.

Bjorn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus 2004, a cost-benefit analysis of health issues by leading economists (including three Nobel laureates), calculated that spending on health issues such as micronutrients for children, HIV-AIDS and water purification has benefits 50 to 200 times those of attempting to marginally limit "global warming".

Given the scientific uncertainty and our relative impotence regarding climate change, the moral imperative here seems clear to me."
It's clear to me too, but it would seem that the first-world is determined to be dumb together, and anyone not willing to be dumb will be offered a lobotomy and retrained in how to be stupid.

Mother nature's inconvenient truths ...


  1. Anonymous11:04 PM

    Common sense has flown out the window Caz.
    I totally agree with you!
    Let's help those who are really in need.Especially when the benefits are 50 to 200 times those of attempting to marginally limit "global warming."

    "dumb together"

    Ain't it the truth!

  2. Anonymous9:39 PM


    I just had one; I'm feeling much better now.

  3. Did the saying, "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy" make it down your way?

  4. I expect we coined it.

    If not, we should have.