Tuesday, 10 May 2011

DK's shades of grey

An excellent piece from DK:
The main problem is that there is a certain amount of polarisation in the positions—how else can one possibly describe the "climate deniers" label (without using a goodly number of swearwords)?

So, let me try to explain some very fundamental points about this particular debate...
  • Climate change

    No one really believes that the climate is entirely static; it quite obviously isn't, or we wouldn't have seasons or ice ages. Or, for that matter, the Mediaeval Warm Period and Little Ice Age.

    The climate changes, that is a fact: the question is, what makes it change?

  • Anthropogenic

    Are these changes—indeed, can these changes—be triggered by human activity? If so, to what extent and, if these changes are significant, are they good or bad?

  • Catastrophic

    If these changes are both significant and bad—for given definitions of "bad"—then how catastrophic are they? Do they threaten the existence of our species (or others)? or are they just mildly inconvenient?

    And how catastrophic are these changes, in terms of allocating our scarce resources? Is it better to mitigate or to adapt?
He concludes:
We do think that the increase in CO2 emissions by humans over the last century has the potential to increase global temperatures through, for instance, well-understood theories such as the Greenhouse Effect. But we don't know to what extent CO2 actually affects the climate through that mechanism.

Nor do we know what feedbacks are inherent in the system: or whether they are positive or negative.

In short, we don't know much—except that we are spending billions of pounds a year on trying to fund a mitigation solution to something that we don't even know is a problem.
That's pretty much my view.

In a recent article for The Register, Tim Worstall began with the assumption that climate change is real, anthropogenic, and catastrophic:

To start with I'm entirely happy to accept the output from the IPCC: the globe is warming, it's all us doing it. Perhaps I shouldn't be happy to do so but that's a very different argument. Similarly I'm happy to accept that the possible outcomes are sufficiently terrible that we really ought to do something about it.

Again, perhaps I shouldn't be but just, if you don't accept either of those two, bear with me anyway. For what really confuses me about what's going on is that even if we do accept those two points, what we're actually trying to do about it all doesn't seem to solve the problems identified.

He concludes:
I really cannot understand why we're doing what we are doing on a public policy level. I just don't get why we're pumping tens, possibly hundreds, of billions into technologies like windmills, which we know won't work, to solar which doesn't need subsidies any more, but not willing to put money into other interesting things which might work, like thorium just as one example. Unless, of course, I'm right in that what we should do about this problem has been hijacked by those who don't in fact want to solve this single, particular, problem of requiring low carbon energy generation but who want to use this agreed upon problem as a means of imposing their vision of the desirable lifestyle upon the rest of us.

Which is all rather depressing really: rather the end of the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution.

Another, even more depressing, way of putting it is that the greatest barrier to our being able to solve climate change is in fact the Green movement.

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