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Engaging With Climate Skeptics 822

Posted by kdawson
from the fighting-polarization dept.
In the wake of the CRU "climategate" leak, reader Geoffrey.landis sends along a New York Times blog profile of Judith Curry, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech. "Curry — unlike many climate scientists — does not simply dismiss the arguments of 'climate skeptics,' but attempts to engage them in dialogue. She can, as well, be rather pointed in criticizing her colleagues, as in a post on the skeptic site climateaudit where she argues for greater transparency for climate data and calculations (mirrored here). In this post she makes a point that tribalism in science is the main culprit here —- that when scientists 'circle the wagons' to defend against what they perceive to be unfair (and unscientific) attacks, the result can be damaging to the actual science being defended. Is it still possible to conduct a dialogue, or is there no possible common ground?"
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Engaging With Climate Skeptics

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  • by bheer (633842) <[rbheer] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:06PM (#30248296)

    Open-sourcing the Global Warming Debate [ibiblio.org]:

    AGW true believers and "denialists" should be able to agree on this: the data get the last word, because without them theory is groundless. The only way for the CRU researchers to clear themselves of the imputation of serious error or fraud is full disclosure of the measurement techniques, the raw primary data sets, the code used to reduce them, and of their decisions during the process of interpretation. They should have nothing to hide; let them so demonstrate by hiding nothing.

    In short, if computer models are the primary tool in making all sorts of climate predictions, then let's have transparency in building the models and getting conclusions from them.

    • by slashkitty (21637) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:17PM (#30248402) Homepage
      Yes, thank you. I really hope that ClimateGate and Open Source can convince those publishing to open up.

      While I do think there is climate change, I think that many of the "disaster scenarios" are over hyped.. and I think that Gore and his "it is all already completely decided everything I is fact and no reasonable scientist can argue with me" is bullcrap.

      • by qmaqdk (522323) on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:42PM (#30249328)

        While I do think there is climate change, I think that many of the "disaster scenarios" are over hyped..

        What possible motivation would the climate scientists have to do so? What do they gain from over hyping the possible scenarios? To promote renewable energy? Again, what do they gain from this?

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @05:20PM (#30249782)

          Millions of pounds in research money is a pretty motivating factor to anyone, including scientists, politicians and whoever has a stake in carbon credit companies.

        • by FallLine (12211) * <fallline@opMENCK ... com minus author> on Friday November 27, 2009 @06:23PM (#30250496)

          What possible motivation would the climate scientists have to do so? What do they gain from over hyping the possible scenarios? To promote renewable energy? Again, what do they gain from this?

          Here are just a few reasons:

          1) Further their own careers. Big (positive) claims about AGW are important if you want to get published in the high impact journals.

          2) To get grant Money to stay publish and stay employed.

          3) Face time with the media

          4) Genuine-belief in AGW--even if not well supported by the actual evidence.

          5) Insider politics -- why criticize a peer's research that largely agrees with your own? The incentives are reversed.

          6) Other environmental motives, e.g., "even if AGW is wrong, reducing pollution, sprawl, cars, oil dependency, etc is good" (I have heard this argument a lot)

          7) (Mistaken) belief in the precautionary principle, i.e., AGW is a risk and refusal to see it in cost vs benefit terms.

          • by narcolepticjim (310789) on Friday November 27, 2009 @07:28PM (#30251168)

            But don't an equal number of opportunities exist for the contrary side? Wouldn't Exxon be willing to sponsor a whole scad of research grants if it disproved climate worries? Wouldn't a researcher who proved AGW was a hoax be bathed in media attention, career opportunities, etc.? With good enough research, couldn't journals be shamed into publishing?

            Anyone foolish enough to think they'll advance their careers with false science will be caught out soon enough.

        • by SleepingWaterBear (1152169) on Friday November 27, 2009 @06:47PM (#30250754)

          While I do think there is climate change, I think that many of the "disaster scenarios" are over hyped..

          What possible motivation would the climate scientists have to do so? What do they gain from over hyping the possible scenarios? To promote renewable energy? Again, what do they gain from this?

          I hope you were being sarcastic and aiming for funny (I laughed!) but since you've been modded to insightful, I fear this needs an answer.

          Scientists are under immense pressure to publish, and, as long as an article can pass peer review, the more sensational the claims you make, the better the odds of being published. Once you have published, more sensational claims make it more likely you'll be cited, and generally lead to your article getting more attention, which is purely to the scientist's benefit so long as his claims aren't so outrageous that the scientific community responds with ridicule. Scientists have every incentive to make the most dramatic claims they can get away with, and the peer review process seems to let them get away with an awful lot. Publication in major journals is one of the primary determining factors in employment and promotion in academics, yet hiring is usually done by people with expertise in a different subfield (schools like a range of researchers) who won't necessarily look too carefully at the articles themselves relying instead on number of publications, the reputation of the journals, and number of citations.

          So, short answer: scientists have every reason to exaggerate and overstate.

    • Let's have some light shone on the temperature data and how it is collected:
      From Surfacestations.org [wordpress.com][pdf], a project to survey all 1221 of the climate-monitoring stations in the U.S.:

      During the past few years I recruited a team of more than 650 volunteers to visually inspect and photographically document more than 860 of these temperature stations. We were shocked by what we found.

      We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops, and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat. We found 68 stations located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas.

      In fact, we found that 89 percent of the stations – nearly 9 of every 10 – fail to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating or radiating/reflecting heat source.

      And let's not forget the international methods [wattsupwiththat.com] of survey.

      • You linked to a Hartland Institute report and got modded up? Seriously?
         
        Apparently the mods don't realize who that group is....or you've got some help trolling.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Xyrus (755017)

        How did this get modded up? Two links to a discredited climate blogger?

        On July 6, 2009 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a preliminary report that charted data from 70 stations that SurfaceStations.org identified as 'good' or 'best' against the rest of the dataset surveyed at that time, and concluded, "clearly there is no indication from this analysis that poor station exposure has imparted a bias in the U.S. temperature trends."

        When the NOAA slapped him down, he suddenly became the

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xyrus (755017)

      Source and data to one of the models: http://www.giss.nasa.gov/tools/modelE/ [nasa.gov]

      This has been available for some time. And despite all the whining and yelling about closed source models and the like, over the years there have been no submissions from the open source community for fixes to bugs, aside from the occasion tweak for the makefile to compile on yet another platform.

      There are also several books, multiple papers, etc. on how to write your own. There are several public sites that contain data you can use

  • A question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:08PM (#30248310)

    Where do all the scientists who are skeptics fit in?

    • Re:A question (Score:4, Informative)

      by MrEd (60684) <tonedog @ h ailmail.net> on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:59PM (#30248824)

      Well, of the 54 prominent skeptics [sourcewatch.org] on the record, only eight of them have any relevant scientific qualification: Tim Ball, Robert C Balling, Bill Gray, Richard Lindzen, Patrick Michaels, Garth Paltridge, Roy Spencer and Wolfgang Thune. So I guess they could fit in one New York Yankees box seat.

  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:10PM (#30248332) Journal

    "...tribalism in science is the main culprit here..."

    Funny, the old word used to be 'fraud'.

  • What's the point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yerktoader (413167) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:13PM (#30248370) Homepage
    Both sides are entrenched and doing what is probably irreparable damage to this debate with their quaint little antics. Unless they are replaced we'll continue to have to deal with a public that is either educated by CNN or Fox News.
  • Common Ground? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:14PM (#30248372)
    There very much is a common ground. Truth. Because people disagree doesn't mean that both aren't seeking to know the truth; really, both might have reasonable positions, given everything that individual has experienced and learned to date. Reality will be the ultimate arbitrator which decides who is correct.

    There may be people on either side of the debate that aren't interested in the truth... in fact, there clearly are, in both camps. Those aren't scientists, though, and they aren't doing science. They're just people interfering with science. Best to publish all data, and keep discussion reasonable and non-accusatory. The amount of political and activist cruft attaching to the believers and deniers are harming the TRUE cause, which is to find out the truth.

    Even the common labels, "believers" and "deniers", are ridiculous; they have more of a place in religious debate.
  • This way when the debate finally is over, the statements about such can be true.

    Of course, this does overshadow the real debate, which is whether or not Governments are the right organizations to correct any issues, which, if we look at similar historic pollution agreements, they have failed miserably.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TheCarp (96830)

      Now there is a question that is often glossed over.

      I am inclined to think that they are the only ones with the power to do anything. They have set themselves up as the requirers. They set regulations, and everyone else either abides by them or risks punishment. Nobody else can rightly claim that position (lest THEY find themselves on the receiving end of an assload of "justice")

      That said, I would like to think that there are other ways, I just wonder if they can happen fast enough or thoroughly enough.

      Then

  • by Airdorn (1094879) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:16PM (#30248388)
    ... require extraordinary evidence. The global-warmists, or climate change proponents need to pony-up some real evidence for all the wild, alarmist claims about doomsday they've been making for the past 20 years... not just anecdotal bunk like misc. ice sleets falling off Antarctica, etc.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:28PM (#30248496)

      How about

      "Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press."
      http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/12/13/tech/main3613698.shtml

      Or is that to anecdotal for you?

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:41PM (#30248640) Journal

      ... require extraordinary evidence. The global-warmists, or climate change proponents need to pony-up some real evidence for all the wild, alarmist claims about doomsday they've been making for the past 20 years... not just anecdotal bunk like misc. ice sleets falling off Antarctica, etc.

      I agree with your subject statement but I disagree with that very last part. Apparently the West antarctic ice sheet was the part with "ice sheets falling off it" while the East side remained relatively stable. That's recently changed [time.com]. I don't think this proves anything but I admit it's alarming to me that we might just be sitting on our hands while Antarctica breaks apart. Hell, we're already opening up shipping lanes through the north pole [nationalgeographic.com]. It's true, I am just another internet moron but I would really prefer we don't have to find out what results from Antarctica breaking apart or melting. At this point, I'm open to suggestions and theories ... although for any of them to be unquestionably valid, I refer to your first statement.

      No one seemed to refute our decision to stop using CFCs. We all seemed to agree as a planet that they were bad. And so on and so forth you can look back historically at man negatively altering his environment to varying degrees. I think more than sufficient evidence has been provided to prove that we need to get a better grip on what emissions and carbon proliferation mean for the Earth and -- most importantly -- us. I'm a small government kind of guy but if that means more government funding being dumped into unbiased investigations than so be it. I don't want Earth to end up like Easter Island.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LanMan04 (790429)

      I would say the position of:

      "we can pour as much greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere as we want and it will affect nothing"

      is the extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence. It flies in the face of reason. It's like saying "When you add 1+1, it equals 2, expect when one of the 1s is anthropogenic, then 1+1=1."

  • by Rollgunner (630808) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:17PM (#30248398)
    It is the job of scientists to observe impartially, test, and provide us with facts and data.

    It is up to the politicians to use (or misuse) those facts and data.

    But once the scientist sees himself as a politician, it is far too easy for ego and self-interest to blind them to what they should be observing, instead of what they wish to observe.
  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Selfbain (624722) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:33PM (#30248566)
    I have to go with the way Dawkins approaches this type of situation. Giving them a seat at the table gives them credibility.
    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bersl2 (689221) on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:13PM (#30249002) Journal

      How about no.

      I'm going with Sagan on this one: "The suppression of uncomfortable ideas may be common in religion or in politics, but it is not the path to knowledge and there is no place for it in the endeavor of science."

      Not enough people in charge of public policy will be convinced as long as the appearance of secrecy and misconduct are present. If we do not listen to the criticism of skeptics, politicians will, and they already do, and this sets back the efforts of the scientific community to contribute to proper, well-reasoned decisions of public policy. The rush to stop the damage being done to the environment which has supported us is, ironically, the very thing slowing us down.

  • by TheCodeFoundry (246594) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:40PM (#30248636)

    Interestingly, ESR has gotten in on the discussion and is a little more damning in his condemnation of the entire Climategate ordeal

    http://rebootcongress.blogspot.com/2009/11/eric-s-raymond-on-east-anglia-crus.html [blogspot.com]

    There is only one way to cut through all of the conflicting claims and agendas about the CRU's research: open-source it all. Publish the primary data sets, publish the programs used to interpret them and create graphs like the well-known global-temperature "hockey stick", publish everything. Let the code and the data speak for itself; let the facts trump speculation and interpretation.

    We know, from experience with software, that secrecy is the enemy of quality -- that software bugs, like cockroaches, shun light and flourish in darkness. So, too. with mistakes in the interpretation of scientific data; neither deliberate fraud nor inadvertent error can long survive the skeptical scrutiny of millions. The same remedy we have found in the open-source community applies - unsurprisingly, since we learned it from science in the first place. Abolish the secrecy, let in the sunlight.

  • by west (39918) on Friday November 27, 2009 @03:44PM (#30248660)

    Unfortunately, while we'd all feel better if science was going to determine the policy outcome, I think we're all aware here that the truth about global warming is only a secondary factor in the success or failure of enacting policy to prevent it.

    This is true for both sides, and *both* sides know it. Simply put, the issue is way too important to be left to mere science.

    AGW is only a secondary issue to many of the non-scientists in the game. The pro-AGW crowd has many people who would like to see Western society's materialistic, high-energy-use lifestyle forcibly curbed, and AGW provides a convenient club.

    Likewise, many of the anti-AGW would be willing to sacrifice hundreds of millions of poor people in geographically challenged areas if the only alternative was strict curbs on their lifestyle, but would prefer not to have to actually say it. So they'd deny the science rather than admit the underlying sentiment.

    I strongly suspect that among the voters, there's only a small minority for whom the science is the principal factor in determining the preferred policy.

    Proof? For all those who hold a strong opinion on AGW in one direction or the other, ask yourself this. What proof would it take for you to accept that the opposite position was actually the correct one? Exactly.

  • by MoellerPlesset2 (1419023) on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:00PM (#30248840)
    Being a scientist but not of the climate variety, I've got to say 'No'.
    In a lot of cases, if not most, dialogue on the merits of your scientific work is simply impossible with a layperson.

    I work with this stuff. Every day. 40 (well more like 50-60) hours a week. It took years of study for me (and everyone else)
    just to get to the level where you can properly understand what it is, exactly, that I do. That's what being an expert at something entails.
    Now when I get into a dispute with someone, they typically have the same level of expertise. They know more or less everything I do. I know what they're saying, and they usually know what I'm saying.

    Now you bring into that situation some layperson with their religious reasons or ideological reasons or crank personality, who wants to dispute the results of my work. So they pore over it, and they simply don't understand it. (And ignorance breeds arrogance more often than humility, as Lincoln said) But they think they do. And then they formulate their criticism. Even if that criticism makes sense (often not), it's typically wrong at the most basic level. And that will practically always be the case - because there's virtually *nothing* in the way of criticism that a beginner would be able to think of that an expert hadn't thought about already. You're just not going to find a professor of physics having made a mistake of forgetting the first law of thermodynamics.

    Now I'm happy to defend my science against legitimate, good, criticism. But a scientific debate is *NOT* where anybody should be TEACHING anybody science. What kind of 'debate' is it if every answer amounts to "That's not what that word means, read a damn textbook." It's not the scientists who are being arrogant then. Hell, since when didn't scientists bend over backwards to educate the public? We write textbooks, and popular-scientific accounts. Research gets published in journals for everyone to see, etc. It's not like we're keeping it a big secret - The problem is that some people are simply unwilling to learn, yet arrogant enough to believe they should be entitled to 'debate' with me, and that I should be personally burdened with educating them in the name of 'open debate'!

    (Just to pick one out of the climate bag. How often haven't you seen someone say "Yeah but climate change is cyclical!" - What? As if _climate scientists_ didn't know that?! Refuting someone's research with arguments from an introductory textbook)

    The fact that these climate-skeptics were prepared to take these e-mails, pore over them for some choice quotes (which didn't even look incriminating to me out of context), blatantly misinterpret them without making any kind of good-faith effort to understand the context or the science behind it, and trumpet it all out as some kind of 'disproval' of global warming (which wouldn't have been the case even if they were right), just goes to show that they're simply not interested in either learning the science, or engaging in a real debate. And it's in itself pseudo-scientific behavior in action: Decide there's a big conspiracy of fraud behind climate change, and go look for evidence to support your theory, and ignore all other explanations.
    • MOD PARENT UP (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LanMan04 (790429)

      Seriously. They're called experts for a reason.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rho (6063)

      Now I'm happy to defend my science against legitimate, good, criticism.

      Good, legitimate criticism is difficult when you find out that one side has been manipulating data, deleting data, strong-arming publications and otherwise engaging in questionable behavior in order to sabotage the opposing side.

      The fact that these climate-skeptics were prepared to take these e-mails, pore over them for some choice quotes (which didn't even look incriminating to me out of context), blatantly misinterpret them without mak

  • by Kohath (38547) on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:15PM (#30249036)

    The real AGW arguments (and the motivation of all the parties involved) seem to be about the remedies rather than the climate. The AGW believers want to use governments to force people to lead objectively poorer lives. Many of them have wanted this since before Global Warming was even theorized.

    They demand the power to do this, but they refuse to release their data. They refuse to publish the code for their computer models. They refuse to rationally refute skepticism. They refuse to understand human behavior as described by the discipline of Economics. They refuse to address the question of whether warmer may be better than colder. They refuse to identify the "correct" temperature, let alone describe how they arrived at that temperature. They refuse to close the loop on their proposed remedies to objectively weigh the benefits against the cost.

    If Global Warming was simply an academic question rather than a life-or-death political struggle for power (or against power and for freedom), then it could be discussed as such.

    AGW is going to lose the political struggle because of Climategate. It was already reeling from the fact that it hasn't warmed in the last decade. And it faced an uphill battle due to the depression: rich people can afford to pay for environmental spirituality, poor people can't. If the political struggle ends, this can go back to being about whether carbon release causes warming, and how much, and what it really means.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pnot (96038)

      The AGW believers want to use governments to force people to lead objectively poorer lives. Many of them have wanted this since before Global Warming was even theorized.

      And the great thing about the leaked CRU emails is that you should now be able to provide evidence for this otherwise unbelievable claim! Surely, from that enormous heap, you will be able to pull out many internal communications along the lines of "our evil plan to make people lead poorer lives is advancing apace".

      So, er, go on then. Where's

  • To the believers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:45PM (#30249368) Homepage

    I am unfortunately forced to put most "believers" in Human-Caused Global Climate Change into the same group that believe in the "not a sparrow shall fall" form of biblical fundamentalism. Beliving that humans are fully in control of the Earth's climate and can change it at will is just as dangerous as those that believe in a personally involved God that oversees every event on Earth.

    Right now, we have at our disposal enough information that we can see most of the inputs to the Earth's climate. We do not yet understand all of these inputs and their relative weightings. Nobody has any real knowledge of how much energy is stored in oceans or how much effect solar variance has on oceans.

    Sure, we know there is a lot more CO2 than there was 100 years ago. And some fairly obvious conclusions can be drawn from there being more CO2, but we have real information for only an extremely short period for the Earth. We might know some things about the climate 1000 years ago, but the information is very incomplete.

    Could the climate be changing? Sure it could. Can we materially change this, given what we know today? Almost certainly not, at least not without huge inputs of energy or removal of what energy we are putting into the climate system. Neither of which is proposed. The Earth's climate engine is something that is measured in gigajoules. So far, the proposals on the table are not even rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. They are like dusting off the tower that held the Trinity device.

    It is obvious that nobody in any position of power really believes there is some onrushing global catastrophe. Most of the rather weak carbon emissions reductions that have been proposed will have zero effect on emissions for a decade and even then it is a decrease in growth, not a real decrease in emissions. Of course, the costs for this decrease in growth will affect everyone in US and Europe in some pretty unpleasant ways. But still, regardless of the cost, the net effect is so close to zero as to be meaningless. And there is nobody saying that if these steps were taken immediately there would be any net change.

    So what else could be done? Well, for starters we could eliminate passenger air travel. The reduction in emissions might only be 20% of the total but it would be a 20% decrease in emissions rather than a reduction in growth. We could require special permits to enter a large city by car. You can't outlaw cars in the US because of the way cities have been built for the last 70 years or so. By requiring such a permit it could eliminate much of the commutting by car that is happening. Might not cut emissions by more than 5%, but again it would be a 5% decrease rather than a decrease in growth. This might take years to be able to implement, but it could be done.

    The problem is, if we did this what would happen? Nobody really knows. There is a theory that it might change the climate, or stop a change that we don't seem to like much. But the ugly truth is that we simply do not know what would happen. Clearly, the leaders of the world today do not believe (as some do) that it would save thousands if not millions of lives.

    Instead, in the US we are looking at utterly pointless plans to implement some sort of point trading system that will enrich a few at the cost of all consumer goods going up in price. Oh the price for manufacturing them will stay the same, but transport will cost more. You can't bring manufacturing back to high-labor-cost US from cheap-labor-cost Mexico and China, but the traders can get rich. Net effect of this will be somewhat lower sales and the three or four manufacturers still in the US will be forced to move out. But little else will really change. Except the growth of emissions will slow just from economic changes.

    If you believe that humans can change the climate in a few years with minor energy inputs you are almost certainly wrong. It is extremely arrogant to believe that the energies commanded by humans today could do any suc

  • by sp3d2orbit (81173) on Friday November 27, 2009 @04:56PM (#30249504)

    "Global warming is caused by CO2 and the CO2 comes from human sources. "

    Most intelligent people who have researched the issue have come to this conclusion.

    "Curtailing carbon emissions is the only way to prevent further global warming."

    Intelligent people should immediately recognize the fallacy in this statement. Curtailing carbon emissions is but ONE possible response, it is not the only response and it is not necessarily the best response. The debate, at this point in time, should focus on the response. "Believing" in global warming does not need to translate into "believing" politicians can fix it with more power.

    What is wrong with giving the government(s) power to curtail carbon emissions?

    For one, it gives the government control of every faculty of human life. Almost everything we do, from eating, to breathing, breeding, and working has a carbon footprint. Giving the government control of carbon emissions gives the government control of everything. Students of history should recognize this pattern very well. An external force will harm us all unless the government is given enough power to protect us. Governments don't protect, they repress. What happens if the government decides large dogs have too much of a carbon footprint. Or horses? Or more than one child?

    Secondly, cutting emissions in the US will do nothing about China and India. In fact, cutting oil consumption in the US will make oil cheaper for third world factories. It is supply and demand. Personally, I would rather see the fossil fuels burnt in the US, under EPA standards, creating American jobs than to have it sent to China or India where it will be used in a much less efficient manner.

    Third, it is unclear that cutting carbon emissions drastically in the near future will save us from tragedy. Global warming proponents admit this, but still advocate cutting emissions for lack of a better alternative.

    What is the alternative?

    While it isn't my preferred approach, one alternative is to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Oceans will rise, the world will get hotter, and people will adapt. All of the carbon we are pumping out of the ground and burning once existed in the atmosphere anyways. Plants and animals consumed it, fell to the ocean floor, and were buried under ground. The world survived with extra carbon in the past and could again. The Earth is not going to turn into Venus, no matter how much oil we burn.

    Of course there will be costs for doing nothing. For one, a lot of very wealthy people are going to lose their expensive beach front properties. Many bailed out bankers will see their mansions succumb to the tides. Tough shit.

    A lot of poor people, mostly in third world countries will have to move. Even in the US we may have to move certain cities like New Orleans instead of spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to wall them off from the seas. This will be expensive, but probably less expensive than curtailing global emissions enough to have an effect.

    Arable farming land will lost. Some will be gained, but overall there will probably be a decrease in the amount of land available for agriculture. Farmers may have to stop selling their prime lots to housing developments. People may have to stop bitching about genetically modified food and learn to adapt. But most people will not starve to death, we will adapt.

    Is there a better solution than doing nothing?

    Like I said, I am not a proponent of doing nothing. I think we should do something that actually stands a chance of working. The best way (notice how I didn't use the word "only" here) to curtail carbon emissions is to give people cheaper options. I don't mean solar or wind, or osmosis generators or tide machines or biofuel or nuclear fission.

    Perhaps I have read one to many sci-fi novels, but I think we should take the hundreds of billions being spent on cutting emissions and put it into nuclear fusion research. If nuclear fusion can be perfected in the next decade or two then there will be no reason to burn fossil fuels, conserve energy, or give the government a fascist grip on the economy.

  • What Debate? (Score:3, Informative)

    by solanum (80810) on Friday November 27, 2009 @05:07PM (#30249656)

    First off I don't think there is any serious debate, if you took the proportion of people who have some understanding of climatology and are climate change sceptics I would be surprised if it is as high as 1:1000. When you go over those published signatures on various websites, basically none of them are practising climatologists, and the ones that are are generally private consultants, which like it or not taints them. As has been said before, the debate is political not scientific. By some understanding above, I mean at the very least a PhD or equivalent experience, I'm afraid an undergrad course simply doesn't cut it.

    Secondly, whilst the idea of "open-sourcing" the data/models is a nice one and I am not against it, look at the practicalities. How many of you have the capacity to deal with hundreds of terabytes of data and run models that take days on a supercomputer? Anyway, the models are actually out there, they are peer reviewed and published. Not the source code (what would you run it on?), but the maths. Although, the peer review process means you tend to be a year or two behind the latests updates I'll admit.

    The Slashdot crowd like to be against "authority", but that doesn't mean we should simply be against anything we don't like. On this front page is a story about the LHC. How many people here would claim to understand all the maths and science behind that? Of those that don't (the vast majority of us) how many think it's a load of old hokum? It's far more ridiculous and unbelievable than climate change (CO2 and methane absorb infra-red radiation - it's an indisputable fact and can be proven in any high school), but we don't have a massive crowd here talking about what a waste of money the LHC is and denying that entire area of research do we?

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.

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