Thursday, April 07, 2005

Global warming - bringing a little sanity to the debate

Here's a great quote from a conference on climate change:

Garth Paltridge, an emeritus Professor at the University of Tasmania, says he does not accept the doomsday scenario painted by many in the climate change debate.

"I personally don't believe that climate change, even significant climate change, will necessarily be a doomsday outcome," he said.

"It's just as likely to be beneficial for a lot of people, and the thing that worries me about the whole IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] process is that they simply assume that climate change will be dreadful and disastrous and therefore we should spend as much effort and money as we can lay our hands on to stop it happening, and I just don't think that's the way to look at it.

"One hundred years ago when greenhouse warming was first mooted, the people at that time thought a bit of greenhouse warming of the world would be good for everybody. The only thing that's changed in the interim is that society seems to have become very fearful of any change whatsoever."

He says the other issue is that many governments are distrustful of the computer models on which much of the climate change debate is based.

"Because the modern numerical climate models are so incredibly complex it's very difficult for an outside scientist or someone who's not fully familiar with them to criticize them," he said.

"All that one can do is operate on intuition and so all you can do is take cheap, unqualified shots at the climate modeling community, and the trouble is that the climate modeling community sort of withdraws into its shell and says, 'Well you can't make any negative comments because you don't know anything about the subject', and this isn't the way to run science.

"You've got to have people from different disciplines being able to question what others have done."

Part of the problem is the amazing complexity of conditions that affect weather and climate. This article at TechCentralStation points out that the load of biological aerosols from flaking skin, fur, and pollen can make up between 25% and 80% of the aerosols in the atmosphere.

The latest report from the German scientists about dandruff, fur, and pollen is a reminder that our knowledge of controls on the climate system is far from complete, and as we see in the IPCC reports, new "forcings" of climate are added in each major assessment. Even if we had perfect temperature records of the Earth and numerical models that accurately simulated the climate system, we do not know enough about how the various "forcings" will impact the climate system over the next 50 to 100 years.
Given the scope of these unknowns, assuming that we know enough about climate to detect human-induced global warming and that we can do anything about it seems outlandish. That doesn't stop Tony Blair from pledging to reduce carbon emissions by 80% in the next 45 years.

Just for fun, read this FAQ about the difficulties of measuring surface air temperature.

And just to really confuse things, Follow this line of reasoning: warming alarmists want more use of wind power, Greenpeace is one of the alarmist groups worried about global warming. So what is Greenpeace's policy on a planned wind farm? They're against it.

The environmental campaign group, Greenpeace, is opposing a giant wind farm planned for the Western Isles.

It is concerned about the size of the scheme which will see 234 turbines sited across 30 miles of Lewis.

Greenpeace said that it backed the use of wind energy as a way of reducing global warming. But it said the cost of laying an undersea cable to the mainland had determined the scheme's size. It also fears for the impact on bird numbers.

Half-hearted support like this will never get 80% reduction in carbon emissions.

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