Saturday, June 5, 2010

Climate denial?

Previous blog entries related to climate:

More on climate - Jan 31st, 2010
Climate change and doubt - Jan 24th, 2010
Meet Dr. Rajendra Pachuri - Jan 23rd, 2010
We wuz wrong - Jan 23rd, 2010Saving the day... - Dec 20th, 2009
Skimmed milk masquerades as cream - Dec 17, 2009

The article Distinguishing Climate "Deniers" From "Skeptics" discusses "... What factors would distinguish a rational, pro-science "skeptic" - who has honest questions about the HGCC consensus - from members of a Denier Movement who think a winter snowstorm means there's no net-warming of the planet? ..." and does a great job looking how each group responds to factors such as: differing notions of expertise; the presence (or lack of) humility; an understanding of 'Cui bono?'; etc.

The 5 characteristics of scientific denialism is another article that relates to this subject. It "... defines denialism as "the employment of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none, an approach that has the ultimate goal of rejecting a proposition on which a scientific consensus exists". They go on to identify 5 characteristics common to most forms of denialism ..." which are: conspiracy theories, fake experts, cherry-picking, impossible expectations of what research can deliver, and misrepresentation and logical fallacies. A good article, even if it would seem to imply that these are tactics that only are deployed by the one (negative, denialist) side of the argument...

Hmm, what's a layperson to make of all this? The more he reads the more this blogger's head hurts. It’s the Sun, stupid claims that "... solar scientists are increasingly conveying a clear message on the chief cause of climate change: It’s the Sun, Stupid..." (which does not coincide with the IPCC position). Aah, the pain.

Then Huge CO2 `Burps’ from Oceans May Have Contributed to End of Last Ice Age suggests that "... scientists concluded that CO2 would build up over thousands of years in the deep ocean, and then periodically be released into the atmosphere in a large “burp.” These CO2 pulses were massive, roughly equivalent to the amount of CO2 emitted by fossil fuel burning since the industrial revolution..." and "... that the CO2 “burps” — coupled with the warming and cooling of the Earth driven by changes in the planet’s orbit around the sun — may have played an important role in past cycles of glaciation and deglaciation..." So, now we need to factor in planetary orbits and the possibility that the oceans will regurgitate all the carbon dioxide they have stored since the "burp" at the end of the last ice age? Presumably were this to happen this would dwarf current emissions even were the countries of the world to agree upon and implement massive cuts in emissions? What does this do to the calculus?

Next up, Global Warming: How to approach the science which appears to be very skeptical, especially about the forcings and feedbacks that are claimed to account for most warming. "A doubling of CO2, by itself, contributes only about 1C to greenhouse warming. All models project more warming, because, within models, there are positive feedbacks from water vapor and clouds, and these feedbacks are considered by the IPCC to be uncertain... The higher sensitivity of existing models is made consistent with observed warming by invoking unknown additional negative forcings from aerosols and solar variability as arbitrary adjustments..."

It really doesn't help the layperson that most reporting is incredibly shoddy, and that good articles that treat the subject fairly and comprehensively are few and far between. There are a few exceptions, and two are below - Der Spiegel's 8-part account of the recent "crisis", and The Economist's observation that "... There are lots of uncertainties in climate science. But that does not mean it is fundamentally wrong."

Climate Catastrophe: A superstorm for global warming research
The science of climate change: The clouds of unknowing

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