Monday, May 05, 2008

Global warming is coming... well, not right away

Lord, please save us from well-meaning, partially-informed experts.

That's one prayer that comes to mind reading this article in the May 1 edition of Britain's Daily Mail.

I don't recall seeing this anywhere in the American press.

Anyway, the article acknowledges that global warming isn't happening nearly as fast as the doom-sayers have predicted.

A study by Dr. Noel Keenlyside, of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Germany, published May 1 in the journal Nature, "predicts the temperature of the North Atlantic around Europe and North America may cool slightly" over the next decade because of a natural 80-year cycle of ocean currents, a "giant 'conveyor belt' of warm water from the south called the meridional overturning circulation."

Of course, the scientists don't contend that this disproves the global warming theory. They posit that "rising carbon dioxide levels caused by man will send temperatures up again after the natural trends peak and will continue to rise in following decades."

The actual Nature article is not available except to subscribers. However, a page has been set up on the Nature blog "The Great Beyond" to assure readers that the orthodox prediction of certain carbon dioxide doom remains intact. The post states, "What this new paper by Noel Keenlyside... sets out to do is incorporate data on short term variations in climate into our models of climate change. By doing this they push us into the arena of creating shorter term predictions, in this case of the next decade."

See? Nothing to worry about. Your cherished beliefs that all coastal areas will be flooded out may remain intact. Doom and gloom remains safely certain.

Now let me add my take: Good science demands making predictive models and testing them against experience -- and revising the predictive models in accord with experience. There is nothing wrong with predicting climate change -- the climate of this planet has been in flux since it was formed -- nor is there anything wrong with positing that mankind contributes to climate change.

The problem is in taking every gloomy prediction as Gospel truth -- and in fashioning draconian policies on the basis of the most awful predicted scenarios -- and, worst of all, in insisting that inconsistent findings be stretched or chopped in a procrustean bed to make them conform to the received wisdom.

Some scientists snicker at religion and chuckle at simpletons who believe blindly whatever they are told by their priests. I've always thought this a rather ignorant view. There are places where science can't take us; to visit these places we must rely on faith. The areas where science can go, the questions that science can answer, change over time... and you could see the boundaries of faith as retreating before advancing science. But I think they are parallel planes, science and religion. Through misunderstanding and ignorance, we have injected religion into places were science should be sovereign.

But it is just as ignorant to imbue science with the trappings of orthodoxy, and theories with the trappings of dogma.

I can't take global warming on faith.

I can accept the need for energy conservation and pollution control without embracing that pseudo-religion. Why isn't that enough?

When scientists can predict whether it will rain next Saturday with 100% accuracy, then and only then will I imagine that science can hope to predict with any great degree of accuracy what may happen a year or a decade or a century hence.

Please don't burn me at the stake.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

GREAT post curmie! wonder how al gore 'splains the ice age and stuff.

smiles, bee

Sarge Charlie said...

stop it, stop it I say, Mr Gore can not make money from this, rewrite it.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

There seem to be way too many gloomy forecasts.

TroyBoy said...

Curmie, my post today over at my blog includes some facts about your favorite gal running for President - be sure to check it out!

Kacey said...

When I fly over this country and see endless amounts of open space, it makes me feel so insignificant. How can I --- one little dot, like a grain of sand on the beach make much difference in the atmosphere? There are many scientific findings that say Al Gore is nuts. I will recycle, because it seems right to do so, but I'm not going to go crazy over his "global warming" thing. And, what is with the carbon footprint ripoff? I keep thinking he is waiting for Obama and Hillary to kill each other off and then he can accept the nomination for president.

Patti said...

I recycle, like Kacey said, because I believe it is the right thing to do..but global warming is a questionable theory