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Scientific backlash for warming theorists
March 6, 2001 5:40 AM   Subscribe

Scientific backlash for warming theorists -- High clouds over the western tropical Pacific Ocean could significantly reduce the estimates of future global warming now being put forward by IPCC's computer models of the Earth's climate. And, in a newly published interview, MIT's Dr. Richard S. Lindzen describes the Kyoto Treaty on climate change as "absurd". Backlash begun?
posted by frednorman (7 comments total)

 
If global warming isn't going to be as severe as predicted, that's great. But the danger is that this will be taken as an invitation to burn more gas. Unless it becomes scientifically accepted that the effects of raising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are truly negligable, emission controls are still needed.
posted by Loudmax at 5:53 AM on March 6, 2001


Of course, the IPCC models have also left out the effects of black carbon particulates, or soot. Mark Jacobson, a Stanford professor who works on computer modelling of atmospheric pollution, predicts that soot could be responsible for 15-30% of global warming. That's pretty freaky, considering the current changes in patterns of worldwide fossil fuel use.
(Global warming, BTW, isn't necessarily global. It could mean cooling for some of us, which is why climate change is a much better (although fuzzier) term. Climate change is much more complex (summarized in #13) than we (and the policy makers we elect) often care to believe.)
As for Lindzen, he's hit the nail right on the head. Statistically, these models are lousy. The media reporting of this models is even worse, given that few people (in both the producer and consumer ends of the media) realize when statistics are involved in the outputs of climate models, and even fewer realize how easy it is to lie with statistics. I think Lindzen is taking a very rational approach to this, in a sense: the IPCC models are outputting numbers that, even with single standard deviation confidence intervals (= 68% confident that the actual value is between the lower bound and the upper bound; most scientists, from physicists to cognitive scientists, require 3 SD CIs in their experiments and models = 95% confident that the actual value is between the lower and upper bounds - most fields would reject climate model data as not rejecting the null hypothesis), are so variable that they mean very, very little. Does that mean that we don't need to address human influence on climate? I don't think so: the uncertainty is in the model, that is, in our prediction of what will happen. That there will be change is certain. The trouble is that we have such uncertain models to figure out what the change will be, and so anybody can spin the climate model output to support their pet policy: thus, we don't react to the worst case scenario (e.g. a catastrophic 4° rise in temperature); instead, we hedge our bets and hope for the best.
posted by iceberg273 at 6:45 AM on March 6, 2001


There was this thing, called an ice age, that happened what seems like a long time ago. Really it wasn't, the world is still thawing.

Environmental decisions must be based on quality of life instead of the crack-pot greenhouse effect science it's been using for a crutch.
posted by Mick at 6:57 AM on March 6, 2001


There was this thing, called the Flood, that happened what seems like a long time ago. Really it wasn't, the water is still receding.

Environmental decisions must be based on my inalienable right to drive an SUV and not pay any tax on gas instead of the crack-pot greenhouse effect science it's been using for a crutch.
posted by Mocata at 7:07 AM on March 6, 2001


Environmental decisions must be based on quality of life

Exactly, which is why we should enforce strict emissions requirements on power plants and automobiles. The air quality in our cities is abysmal, and contributes to a number of respiratory diseases, most notably asthma, the incidences of which have been rising exponentially in recent years, especially in (get this!) inner cities, which are most exposed to air pollution from automobiles.

I'd say that public health is most definitely a quality of life issue.
posted by daveadams at 9:34 AM on March 6, 2001


I agree that we should use your examples dave, not the green-house hypothesis. You can not build a stable movement on a foundation of sand.
posted by Mick at 9:56 AM on March 6, 2001


I want to see the end of all the "news" stories about how human-induced climate change will drown islands and low level areas, spread diseases, and cause massive crop failures. The science isn't there yet to determine whether Man has or is causing climate change or whether any alterations in human behavior will have any affect.

As for the quality of life issue, the marketplace is fixing that. Cars and trucks burn much cleaner than they did years ago. People are donating their undeveloped lands to legal trusts for future protection. Organizations like The Nature Conservancy buy land and protect it from development. Then there's the thriving business of eco-tourism.
posted by shackbar at 12:12 AM on March 7, 2001


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