Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Climatology: the key question

From http://reason.com/archives/2013/03/15/why-do-people-believe-scientifically-unt

Climate change: The majority of climate scientists believe that human activity is causing the earth's temperatures to increase. A recent Pew Research poll found that two-thirds of Americans also believe that the earth is warming. But a deep partisan divide yawns between conservatives and liberals on the cause of the warming: Only 16 percent of conservative Republicans believe that human activity is responsible, whereas 77 percent of liberal Democrats do. Moderate Republicans and Democrats accept human responsibility by 38 and 51 percent, respectively. Advantage: Democrats.

This is a strange way of framing the debate. The question of interest is not whether human activity is "responsible" for the temperature rise between the 18th and 21st centuries. The key question is whether claims of impending calamity due to CO2-induced positive feedback temperature loops are well-founded.

To illustrate the difference, consider a case where the warming that predates the Industrial Revolution was solar-driven, but which moved the temperature equilibrium into a delicate position where increases in CO2 would raise the photosphere and trigger a phase change into a new, drier and warmer, equilibrium. In this hypothetical scenario, humans are not responsible for most past warming but will be responsible for large amounts of future warming.

The scientific debate is over whether claims that we are on that cusp are justified given the available evidence. I acknowledge that the political debate is a lot more simplistic, to the extent that there probably are people who believe that the United States ISN'T warmer than it was in 1776, which is empirically false.

Hahahahaaaa!!! That is ME laughing at YOU, cruel world.
    -Jordan Rixon

I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.

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