Sunday, October 11, 2009

Global Warming and Rational Discourse

The BBC (the BBC!) has an article titled "What Happened to Global Warming".
This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998. But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.
So what on Earth is going on?
The answer is that no-one really knows what's going on, as the article admits. Some say this, others say that, and many of them aren't troubled by any doubts. Which is about what you'd expect when dealing with complex matters such as predicting the course of human history or economic trends, next week's weather or the winner of a horse race, the box office success of a movie or the destiny of the globe. Forecasting has always been tricky, expecially forecasting the future, as they say.

Which doesn't mean one shouldn't try, nor that there's no possible benefit in trying. Yet a modicum of modesty usually won't hurt, either. Even the things we're really convinced of, really really convinced, either will or won't prove true; most likely, something quite unforseen will happen.

Before you lambast me for being a reactionary Neanderthal, allow me to repeat what I've said on this matter in the past. Pouring chemicals into the atmosphere is a bad idea for what it does, even if it isn't cooking the poor polar bears. Doing something about it should be by inventing better ways, not wagging fingers. If it's cheaper and more convenient not to pollute, no-one will.


Anonymous said...

my reading goes as follows

"Doing something about it should be by inventing better ways, not wagging fingers."

research needs funds - tax incentives (rewards or punishments do likewise)
- in order to reconcile the public to this you have to have a banner to follow
also a bit of considerate use of resources by the public doesn't hurt
- as you can't say openly that it is about fossile fuels because then Saudi-Arabia et al would balk, an easily comprehensible mantra like global warming had to be invented - a very dangerous course of action in my book but todate I see no better

Lydia McGrew said...

In other words, it's okay to lie to the public to get them to do what they "should be doing anyway" in the view of the Anointed? (I refer not to your post, Yaacov, which of course isn't saying that, but to the previous commentator's comment.)