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Climate Change Reality

Entry 1165, on 2010-02-24 at 21:26:45 (Rating 3, Science)

There are a lot of extremely ignorant and biased people criticising climate change science at the moment. They have been very effective recently because their cause has been helped by some stupid mistakes made by climate scientists and bureaucrats.

But if you look at any subject critically enough and inflate the negative evidence and small anomalies while ignoring the vast amount of real data you can make the case for anything look good. Creationists do this very effectively. Go to a creationist web site and I'm sure a person who is ignorant of the real science will find it very convincing. In fact over half of the people in the US believe creationism in preference to evolution even though there is absolutely no reasonable doubt at all that evolution is true.

The same applies to climate science. I do agree that the case for anthropogenic climate change is nowhere near as strong as the case for evolution but its still strong enough that the only reasonable conclusion is that climate change is happening and that human influences are the most important factor. If I had to put a number on it I would say evolution is over 99% certain and climate change is about 80%

Is 80% certainty enough to act on? If I told you that you were 80% likely to be killed in a traffic accident today would you stay off the road? I know I would. I wouldn't insist that I needed 100% or even 99% accuracy. I would act, even if staying at home meant a significant personal disadvantage to me.

Maybe its because the really serious effects won't be obvious for so long that people don't want to act. If the sea level was going to rise by a meter in a year instead of a century I think there would be more of a call for action.

So people are really just being greedy, self centered, and short sighted by refusing to act (add that to the ignorant and biased I have already mentioned and the deniers aren't looking too good). Unfortunately long term planning is not a strength of modern, capitalist societies. Most businesses only plan a year ahead (for their next profit report or shareholder meeting) and most governments are only looking at the next election (in roughly 3 years). So why would a government or business want to plan up to 50 to 100 years in the future for something that is only 80% certain anyway?

In past blog posts I have indicated a bit of despair regarding the future of climate change issues (Battle Lost? on 2010-01-26) and even the experts agree the public opinion battle has gone against them. That doesn't mean their case is any weaker. Quite the contrary is true: just about every day more evidence is uncovered supporting the consensus. The contrary information (it isn't evidence) is generally political, an opinion, or a simple lie.

I look at a constant stream of news on the issue (on both sides) and here's what I've seen for about the last week...

An article titled "Climate scientists withdraw journal claims of rising sea levels". Sounds serious but this is just one study. Errors are found in individual studies all the time. Sea levels are rising and I haven't seen if the original papers conclusions were too low or too high. Maybe they were correct but for the wrong reasons. Either way this makes no real difference to the consensus.

An article, "Implications of recent climate science controversies" discussed how misleading propaganda against climate change was affecting political decisions. At no time was the overall data questioned.

In the Guardian an article "Climate sceptics are recycled critics of controls on tobacco and acid rain" talked about how the so-called "skeptics" were aggressive but ignorant as well as being dangerous.

In the Telegraph "Penguins in Antarctica to be replaced by jellyfish due to global warming" discussed real changes which are caused by climate change.

A politically oriented article "Legal Challenges Pile Up Against EPA Climate Regulation" mentioned how the EPA is being challenged. But not on factual or scientific grounds - this is a legal and business challenge and in no way contradicts the facts.

The USA Today article "Global warming likely cause of Australia's drought" described another real event based on evidence from Antarctic ice core data. Note the honesty shown by the use of the word "likely".

An article called "Global warming skeptics increase ranks in wake of IPCC reports" discussed how public opinion was winning against climate change. But this wasn't because of new facts or evidence. It was because of political pressure from deniers.

In "NASA Finds Warmer Ocean Speeding Greenland Glacier Melt" there was evidence from another, well respected, organisation (NASA) based on another information source. Again more independent data confirms the consensus.

An opinion piece "No, IPCC Climatologists Did NOT Make Sloppy Errors" defended the errors in judgement of the IPCC because they were made by administrators and other people on the periphery of the real science. Again, the data itself is conclusive.

An opinion criticising climate change "They're finally admitting the science isn't settled" was full of straw men and misinformation. Science is never settled. Complex phenomena like climate always involve a degree of uncertainty. Again, its only the presentation and not the real science which suggests otherwise. This is a typical denialist anomaly hunting piece.

The Washington Post had the headline "Washington's snowstorms, brought to you by global warming". Increased snow has been predicted by global warming theory for years. Now when it happens the skeptics claim it disproves warming. A brief explanation: there is 4% more water vapour in the atmosphere now than 30 years ago because of climate change. More snow in some areas is the inevitable result.

The Guardian had "Global warming: Sceptics are putting words in my mouth" where Sir John Houghton denied he had said what the deniers claimed he had ("Unless we announce disasters no one will listen"). That is another lie that is in the public domain now and being used by deniers.

So really the evidence for climate change consists of science from organisations like NASA and the evidence against consists of opinions, lies, and carefully cherry picked factoids from various politically oriented individuals and organisations. Anyone who believes the deniers is just being deliberately ignorant... and biased and greedy and self centered and short sighted!

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