February 01, 2007

Everybody's Talking


Stay tuned: UN's The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release the new Assessment Report, 'Climate Change 2007' on Friday February 2. An advance peak from EN: Two days ago we had a seminar about it, by a paleoclimatologist that is one of the (over 200) lead authors. There will be a new chapter about paleoclimate. He said that there will be more about the past (long timescales) than there has been before. Obviously knowledge about ocean circulation has improved recently, and this could lead to some new conclusions in the report. His general comments were that many formulations regarding climate change will be much stronger, with more evidence, than the 2001 report. But that conclusion I find kind of obvious.

The Primate Brow writes, In Southern Australia the ground is so dry that the soil is contracting and sucking moisture out of homes enough to crack nearly half of those surveyed by an architectural service. Drying lakes and ponds are slowly revealing a wealth of long submerged relics, from houses once drowned by man-made dams to rusty guns tossed away by fleeing criminals. Police are dutifully collecting the weapons and taking a new look at old crime files. Water levels in Lake Corangamite have dropped so much that authorities were astonished last year to spot a missing World War II plane in the lake bed.

(Background information: Global warming leads to intensified Pacific El Nino phenomenon which causes Australian climate change. Farmers driven off the land.)

Annie Dregge writes, On NBC news last night they broke a story about government officials doing things to supress scientific info related to global warming. A survey of professors showed many being pressured to soften wording. I think it would be nice to see a blog with your perspective on this.

OJ sent me this: House Committee Holds Hearing on Political Influence on Government Climate Change Scientists

So, what do I think? Over the years I have been accused of being thick-headed, overly intellectual and a true believer. That's fine. I believe in establishing facts and theories* through the scientific method. Once this has been done the work should be turned over to the public and politicians. We live in a democracy, and whenever possible policy decisions should be based on the best science available.

Yes there has been an atmosphere of extreme caution in the scientific world with regards to climate. I am speaking here of the world of professional scientists, not environmental organizations or lobbyists or the entertainment industry-- they have different norms. Its proper to be careful about what you say and publish and it puts the scientist at a disadvantage in a political debate. But hopefully the great care scientists use translates into credibility. In a preemptive strike scientists have been accused of ostracizing researchers who don't 'tow the party line' on global warming. As I've written before, I have a PhD student who is checking out an alternative theory of global warming, the idea that a fraction of climate changed is caused by clouds affected by atmospheric ions generated by cosmic radiation mediated by the heliosphere. So far the results have been inconclusive but I firmly believe someone should check and double check this mechanism, just to be sure. There has not been any trouble getting funding for the project. But to be fair the scientific climate is a little different in Europe and Scandinavia than in the US. The global warming debate is a good example of why it is a bad idea to try to influence the scientific endeavor with ideology, whether the agenda is neo-con or conservative Christian or Marxist or what have you. Why is it a bad idea? Because eventually the truth will come out, and in my opinion the sooner the better.

*What is a fact and what is a theory? From my letter to Maureen Sheard, Global warming is a fact. If you and I were to look at a thermometer I think we could agree on the temperature. An observation like this is called a fact, and it's a fact that the global average surface temperature has increased by 1 F, give or take a few tenths, over the last hundred years. Theories are used to explain facts, and scientists use the word 'theory' in a special way. A scientific theory is not a guess or a hunch, but something supported by logic and evidence, and something that can be tested by experiment. Examples include the theories of gravitation and thermodynamics, and circuit theory. Current theories do a good job of explaining the global warming that has been observed since the agricultural and industrial revolutions.


At February 02, 2007 11:42 AM , Blogger Matt_J said...

I recommend one key document from the IPCC-- the 20-page 'Summary for Policymakers'. It contains all of the important figures and conclusions, explained in a way that everyone can understand. Here is the link:


At February 04, 2007 11:29 PM , Blogger Felix said...

I enjoy your articles very much. Thanks for keeping such an interesting blog and update it that frequently. I am very interested in the topic but I don't have that much knowledge so far but your articles are written very understandable, so it is nice :)


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