Saturday, December 05, 2009

Getting the scientific analysis on climate change

Screen shot 2009-12-05 at 7.20.19 PM.pngThis week I started a lunchtime discussion at work to find out what people thought about the failure of our democracy to act on reducing the "man" made impact on climate change.

It was amazing to find that many regard it all as "just another tax", some sort of plot by government to raise revenue. Indeed one of my colleages sent me a brochure full of wild claims presented in bullet form.

Despite having seen An Inconvenient Truth, and listened to a lot of debate in parliament, I realised that the facts are not at my fingertips.

Two sources stand out, The Copenhagen Diagnosis, and the Intergovenmental Panel on Climate Change. The Copenhagen document is rather fluffy and full of pretty pictures while the IPCC reports, available here, are really excellent.

Full of careful language, extensive peer review, and a range of interpretations.

I highly recommend this. I fear, as my friend Jonathan suggests, perhaps democracy is unable to deal with things like this until we are in crisis.

Update: reactions

I've had some interesting direct responses to this little post so far. If I can summarise:

  • Everyone, so far, seems to feel that the evidence is convincing that we are experiencing warming at the moment

  • Having said that, one correspondent claimed that the shipping lane in the arctic that is reported to have opened up in September 2009 has, in fact been open to the Russians for a long time

  • "Man" made climate warming, is a tiny effect compared to the effects of natural processes, such as us coming out of a cyclic ice age

  • The whole push to have developed nations intervene on climate change is a conspiracy by the socialists to re-distribute wealth from rich nations to poor, slow development, or simply gather extra tax revenue for government purposes

  • The whole push to have developed nations intervene on climate change is a conspiracy by the capitalists to make huge profits from carbon credits, which are a derivative that will let them build value out of nothing

  • Many people have said "it's just another tax"

  • All sorts of allegations about reports such as the IPCC report, which, to my reading is very solid, are claimed to be full of holes, deliberate distortion of data, and witheld raw data

  • Finally, there is said to be a media and scientific publication conspiracy to silence doubters and take away their right of argument

Perhaps what is needed is an alternative paper, with the thoroughness of the IPCC paper, then we could weigh one up against the other by comparing their data and analysis. I'd be most grateful if someone can point me to it.

Right now I'm completely boggled by this mix of politics, science, religion and economics - what a weird conjunction!

Update 2

Just noticed this on the "conspiracy of the century"...

Update 3

I've done a lot of reading in the past few days and while there are a few dubious graphs about most of the criticisms are unreferenced or come from dubious organisations.

Science isn't a democracy, but Wikipedia has a great list of well known scientific organisations that have given a view. I do not see any substantial evidence to contradict the statement that "human actions are "very likely" the cause of global warming, meaning a 90% or greater probability". There are limits to scepticism.

If it isn't linked, then I think we should live sustainably any way.


Dave vk3ase said...

And for the other side of the Debate

Tony Stevenson said...

Good work Peter - thanks for sharing. I am passing this along to some of the sceptics.

Anonymous said...

With a blog named Marxy clearly you must be far if this great socialist plot to redistribute wealth based on some hocum cooked up by the proletariat :-)

Christopher said...

You often hear of conspiracy theorists stating, in answer to what will convince them that man went to the moon, "you'd have to take me there before I'd believe that this happened".

What I'm curious to understand from the climate change sceptics is, what will it really take to convince them otherwise.

andyn said...

I'm in the same state as you Peter. I was a firm believer in man made global warming until I started looking deeper at the story of the science. Now I don't know what to think.

The now seemingly confirmed allegations of data destruction, denial of FOI requests and the elimination of alternate view points has nothing to do with the science that I was taught. That some key people need to do this raises serious questions that need to be answered.

I guess I'm going to have to give those IPCC reports a full read, fortunately there's a ebook reader under the christmas tree.

One other thought from reading "1421"; the projected sea level increases from global warming are nothing compared to what we've seen before.

thanks for the great blog btw

lalawawa said...

Andrew, could you elaborate on what "1421" said about sea level variation? There are many coastal cities that have existed since then, and I haven't heard of them generally experiencing wide variations in sea level. I've heard Venice is slowly sinking, but it's only Venice that's doing that. Other coastal cities don't seem to have the same problem.