Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Global warming

[Cc'ed some brainy friends]


This is an interesting scientific opportunity. As you well know, climate scientists say that CO2 drives temperature changes, and that solar radiation is a minor factor (accounts for about 25% of the temperature change in their models). Others, like meteorologists and physicists, are very skeptical of these claims because the models aren't well-validated and because they make unphysical assumptions.

So what happens when sunspot activity shuts down and CO2 levels keep rising? Well, now we get to test the climate models. That's what's happening right now. The sun has been basically inactive since 2005, and all four major temperature tracking outlets report that global temperature[1] has dropped by 0.65 Celsius or more, wiping out a century of warming.

This is actually not a good thing. Human society deals with heat better than cold. Cold freezes water and bursts cells, which is why early frost kills crops. Warmer climates mean the agricultural belt moves north by something like 100 miles per degree Celsius, closer to Canada with its vast tracts of empty land. Colder climates bring that frozen tundra further south. Poor people die from exposure to cold more readily than heat stroke. I'm afraid I don't have the numbers to back these claims up, sorry, and if I'm wrong you can correct me--but I'm not gleeful about proving the global warming fanatics "wrong" because this cold will cost us.

On the other hand, it's also the price of public education. Americans have the opportunity to realize that a purported "consensus" of scientists from a single discipline all agreeing with each other does not constitute peer review, let alone guarantee truth. (There's too much opportunity there for inbred science, whereby you can't get funding to investigate anything that rocks the boat. Once a consensus gets established there's no way to challenge it within the discipline.) So what can you do? Be humble, and listen to "wrong" opinions until you know what makes them wrong or you change your mind. That's how real science operates, and the really good scientists like Richard Feynman and Freeman Dyson have been doing that all along.


[1] Whatever that means. It's actually very difficult to give a point-estimate of temperature for a planet. It is the average temperature of all stations at the equator? The poles? The average of the two? The total heat energy of the planet, divided by planetary mass and converted to temperature units? Not that you could measure the latter in any case.

"The presentation or 'gift' of the Holy Ghost simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment." --Joseph F. Smith (manual, p. 69)

Be pretty if you are,
Be witty if you can,
But be cheerful if it kills you.

No comments: