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Global Climate: Blind Leading the Blind

Well, folks, I know you're all as confused about this whole "global warming" thing, so let's get edumacated together, umm, k? Heh. Yeah, right. First a quote, courtesy Shawn:

"The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all. I like a little rebellion now and then." --Thomas Jefferson

In keeping with the themes of "hey, we have no idea, but we know how to sound like we do" and "JUST IGNORE THE DATA AND LISTEN TO US SCREAM!!!!", New Scientist has published Climate change: A guide for the perplexed. In it, they attempt to debunk all the so-called myths about global climate change (or is it global warming? I get confused and they mix-n-match). There are a few problems, of course...

First and foremost, I greatly enjoy the constant mixing of time periods. In one place, they talk about "half a million years" and in another they look at change over the past 30-50-100 years and in other places they start talking about hundreds of millions of years. Which is it going to be? Any statistician worth their salt will tell you that you can't mix numbers of this scale without throwing things off completely. Even Einstein was wrong about Relativity when it came to really, really big numbers.

A lot of the assertions are self-referential, meaning that they state a theory, then find data that agrees with that theory, discarding non-agreeing data is being anomalous. This is another case of bad statistics. For example, in the myth "the oceans are cooling" they are self-referential about models and temperature measurement errors and inconsistency. Oops.

In the myth "It was warmer during the Medieval period, with vineyards in England", they try to pick and choose what is the most reliable source for data. They're willing to accept historical temperature readings from 1659, but they aren't willing to accept historical anecdotal evidence. They then go to tree rings, which I suppose is more reliable, but again, they start playing the numbers game, with much speculation. And, let's be honest, all this conjecture amounts to mass speculation.

My favorite allegedly debunked myth, however, is "Warming will cause an ice age in Europe." This is another perfect case where they jump around with numbers and, more importantly, reach a conclusion first and then work back from it. What I love is that they look at the 400,000 year "hockey stick" chart and say "CO2/temp spike, mini ice age, CO2/temp spike, mini ice age, CO2/temp spike, mini ice age, major CO2/temp spike - end of the world!"

First off, what are they talking about? I've never heard any theory that only Europe and North America would be affected by an ice age. An ice age would affect both hemispheres. Second, anybody who thinks the science of movies is accurate needs to just stop thinking right now -- or, rather, admit that they already have. Anyway, again note the self-referential arguments. Note that they explain away that there won't be any such rapid slowing of the currents, and that we'll all fry from global warming anyway before any such ice age could occur.

Well, let me offer an alternative speculation: an ice age will occur, it will happen over a few years, it will be tied to desalinization that slows the ocean currents, and it will impact both hemispheres. The data seems to suggest that this is as much a possibility as frying.

Let me end with one last so-called myth: "We can't do anything about climate change." Key phrase: "Political issue". Yes, it is. We're not sure yet what the agenda is behind all this hype over global climate change, but a few things are certain.

First, much of this so-called research is self-referential. Second, it uses a wide range of numbers (large and small) in the same models, most likely causing errors in the calculations. Third, oftentimes conclusions are stated first, and then data is found to match it. Fourth, many reasonable scientists are in fact drawing different conclusions from the data (despite their arguments against it). Yes, temps are increasing. Yes, the climate is changing. Yes, some, if not all, of that change is irrevocable. But how much of that impact is actually from mankind?

The fact of the matter is that we don't know, because we haven't been here all that long. Based off a few hundred years of recorded data, starting in time from least to most accurate, then factoring in supposition based on tree rings and ice cores, we then try to extrapolate from a few hundred years to a few hundred thousand years. But we seem to lack evidence farther back than that. Remember, these are the same people who believe the planet has been around 100s of MILLIONS of years. Yet they think we humans, in a few hundred years, have managed to push the planet onto the path to ultimate destruction. I don't know about you, but that just seems unlikely.

What seems far more likely is that this planet has been going through cycles for millions of years of warm-hot-cold of varying degrees of severity. It does not seem a far jump at all, based on the 400,000 year data, that we're looking a new ice age square in the face -- and quite possibly a major one at that.

Now, some will argue that it could go either way, and that's probably true. However, there's one other aspect here that I haven't mentioned. And that is the psychological aspects. Humans are, by nature, selfish creatures. We all believe that we're special, that we're each smarter than everyone else, and that we're unique. But guess what? Variations across the entire population of 6+ billing is not as much as we've led ourselves to believe. It turns out that we greatly overestimate our significance and importance on a regular basis. Need proof? Look at people who cut others off in lines, those who are always looking for that extra edge, those drivers who get out of the backed-up lane to advance 2 car lengths at a merge zone, and so on.

Now, this is not to say that we shouldn't adopt alternative energy sources, reduce our environmental footprint, and in general become better global citizens. Just the opposite. Under my theory, we humans are going to be around for a long time to come, and we're going to need to adapt. This global climate change thing should force adaptation. You should invest in CFL and LED bulbs. You should invest in hybrid or electric vehicles. You should support renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal. You should stay away from consuming foods full of strange chemicals. This is just common sense and good stewardship.

Expect the Spanish Inquisition.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 16, 2007 8:24 PM.

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