Saturday, May 11, 2013

A perfectly reasonable question for climate change deniers.

So, in honour of today's news that atmospheric CO2 concentrations have reached 400 parts per million: a bit of a point that's been brewing in my mind for awhile.

I think it's time that climate change deniers tell us all exactly what they would accept as sufficient evidence to justify serious action on global warming. They've never done that.

I mean, obviously they say they don't believe in it. But they must agree that, hypothetically, if it were true, there would be something that would be enough to persuade them. I don't believe Elvis is still alive, but if someone brought me an living, breathing old guy and took his fingerprints and DNA samples, and a body of qualified and disinterested geneticists and fingerprintologists told me they matched confirmed samples taken from the King back in 1957... I'd revise my opinion the the matter.

Just because you don't believe something doesn't mean you can't lay out a set of circumstances that, if met, would change your mind.

From the very beginning, the science and politics of climate change have been met by a series of denials. First, the claim was that there was no warming, indeed the planet was cooling. Then, okay, it was warming after all, but surely not due to human activities. Then, yes, global warming, and indeed we were causing it, but hey--maybe it's a good thing. Plants eat CO2, therefore more CO2 means more plants means more food for us. Then, no, okay, that was kind of a stupid idea, global warming is probably not a good thing, but it's probably too late to do anything about it. (Oh, if only we'd known sooner!)

The point being, at every turn--at every turn--the deniers' fundamental objections were addressed beyond any reasonable doubt to someone who has any respect for the scientific method. Whereupon the objection promptly changed, and science and climate activism said "Oh, okay" and gamely went back to the drawing board, patiently studying the question and gathering the evidence to address the deniers' concerns. Whereupon the goal posts were promptly moved again. Wash, rinse, repeat, for decades.

Of course, the objections were always different, but oddly enough they always, always pointed exactly to the same policy directive:  "We should not do anything to limit carbon emissions." Really quite remarkable; all that study, all that new data, all those fundamentally different conclusions, and yet it always meant, basically, hands off Big Oil and Big Coal. I guess all roads do lead to Rome.

Now, at no time, to my knowledge, has the climate change denial industry stated clearly what evidence would persuade them that climate change is real, caused by humans, and clear and present danger that needs to be addressed now. The best they've ever been able to do is, "No, that's not good enough. No, thanks for trying, but that won't do either. How about this? Hmmm... no, I don't think so."

They're like restaurant patrons who won't say what they want to eat, but keep sending every dish back to the kitchen.

Now, I've been writing this post as if I thought there was some chance the deniers were acting in good faith. I was going to suggest that the deniers should be required to clearly state what they would accept--and then the rest of us can decide if that smoking gun looks too much like a mushroom cloud. The point is to call them out and make them clarify their position.

But let's not kid ourselves. It isn't 1990 anymore and the pretense that there can be any honest disagreement on the subject stopped being tenable a long time ago.

1 comment:

  1. Just as the warble gloamers aren't monolithic in their reasonings, the "deniers" themselves (nice emotive language to imply a similarity to "Holocaust Denial", as well as the "assumptive close" that "this is a fact which they are denying."

    Can we rewind a bit to where the warble gloaming started from?

    Back in those 1990s, a feller by the name of Hansen posted his Hockey Stick graph and said we were all going to be doomed unless we immediately curtailed CO2.

    The scientific community said, "based on what."

    "Based on my simulation and my calculations."

    "Great. Let me see the source code."

    "You don't need to. The results will suffice".

    Now, he's since grudgingly published that, but well after the warble gloaming hysteria became accepted as "fact". But the reason why I find this hysterical is that the SCIENTIFIC METHOD, you know, SCIENCE, dictates that you actually share your experimental method with other researchers so they can independently verify your results. Hansen resisted to the bitter end.

    What's intriguing is that we're now far enough along the path to see that his prediction of a approximately 0.5 degree temp raise is flat out wrong, it rose 0.1, indicating that the earth itself is very probably far more tolerant to greenhouse gases than his computer simulation would suggest.

    I don't remember any of the DIRE predictions coming true either. Cities that were supposed to be underwater were surprisingly still dry. The Emperor penguin, which was supposed to be wiped out, has double the population it previously had. Could be because the ice is thicker than projected. Canada had to buy new icebreakers for precisely that reason.

    Higher temps noticed on other planets, discrepancies in temps actually recorded. Historical records reconstructed from tree rings from a ridiculously small sample, etc.

    In other words, my take on the Warble Gloamers is the same one atheists have with Christians. I'm not "denying your God", you've failed to prove your side is correct. When you say a .45 deg increase and it's .1, or you say HURRICANES WILL BECOME A MASSIVE EEK PROBLEM just after Katrina, and the whole system dies to nothing for the next few years --- at what point do you cling to something even though your predictions are FLAT. OUT. WRONG.

    We are NOT heading, at the current time, into a massive catastrophe of epic warming or tidal hurricanes. Nor is there any proof that we are causing significant climate changes. Do we affect climates? Absolutely. We put down black asphalt and we clear trees. Does that mean "Mother Earth has a fever?" I still can't believe a putative "science program" ever went with that lead-in sentence.

    Is the earth a tenth of a degree warmer? Yes. Is there more CO2 in the environment? Yup. But "repent the end is nigh" is not scientific, and to date, the High Priests of AGW have failed utterly in every prediction.

    And if you're going to delve into religion and hype rather than rationality, take a page from the Bible, and execute your false prophets.