Monday, November 30, 2009

Global warming: The Hamlet approach

Someone on the Daily Mail debate has asked

The world did not melt during the Mediaeval warm Period, so why do you think it will now?

No-one is talking about the world melting.

We are talking about weather changing, which we are seeing now, with a 3-year drought in East Africa, rain patterns changing, low islands flooding, glaciers receding, Arctic ice receding for sure, Antarctic sea ice breaking up, (though Antarctic inland ice is thickening, possibly because of increased precipitation through warmer sea temperatures around Antarctica, see review of Antarctica here), bush fires in Australia.

You might be interested to think of what all of this means in terms of immigration. We already have asylum seekers on the run form dictators, and economic migrants on the run from poverty. Do you really want a new wave of environmental migrants on the run from flooding and drought?

None of this proves anything. There is nothing to be deduced from this, except that this it is all consistent with global warming. But we can make an induction, if we choose to, or will allow ourselves.

Induction is about pattern recognition.

If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and flies like a duck, then it probably is a duck, That's induction. It is not as certain as deduction. It might be a very good decoy duck. If you are a very hungry hunter, with a gun, you might as well take a pot shot. You might miss, or you might get a broken decoy duck, in which case you might have wasted a round of ammunition. On the other hand, you might get a meal that will enable you to survive.

If CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and CO2 has increased significantly since the Industrial Revolution, and temperature is going up, then it looks as if we have man made climate change.

From my reading on AGW blogs this afternoon, I am inclined to accept that the Medieval Warm Period was indeed warm, almost as warm as modern times. And as you know, it was followed by the Little Ice Age. We all agree that climate changes. What we do not agree on is the significance of the boost to greenhouse gases that we humans have added since the Industrial Revolution. We have released carbon that was locked up in the earth over a period of hundreds of thousands of years in a period of one hundred and fifty years. That is one hell of an experiment to carry out on a highly complex planetary system which we do not fully understand.

To decarbonise or not to decarbonise? That is the question.

Whether tis nobler in the mind to carry on with business as usual,
And meet whatever slings and arrows that outrageous fortune
will throw at us (Peak Oil and all the rest)
or to take up arms against the fossil fuels,
and by opposing, end them.

ahem. sorry bout that.

The Precautionary Principle says that if you don't fully know what you are doing, don't do it. The denial lobby view applies argument to decarbonisation. We apply it to the Big Carbon Experiment.

The thing is, that decarbnoisation is the safer way to go, because it solves the other problems that we face - dependence on Norwegian, and later, Russian, gas, and dwindling oil resources which are more polluting (Tar shales) and more energy intensive to extract. And it avoids acid rain, and acidification of the oceans.
And it creates jobs.

If we decarbonise and AGW should turn out to be wrong, unlikely as that may be, what would we have lost?
You would answer, "Our freedom - we would be submitting to a World Government".

To me, that is a piece of Republican Party exaggeration, on a par with their hysteria over an American NHS.
It is true that the global carbon cleanup would have to be regulated at UN level, and so the power of the UN would increase, but that would be no bad thing, providing that it is done rightly and done well. The world definitely needs a Global Human Rights Index.

But I digress. Climate Change is a planetary crisis, and the UN is the right body to organise our response to it.

However, as well as being internationalists, Greens are also localists. Our vision is of small communities with a strong community spirit working together to produce as much basic needs as they can locally, then trading fairly and peaceably for the rest.


J. Albert said...

More like the AGW 'CRU' have secretly murdered science - i.e. playing the role of Claudius. The honest scientists - in the role of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - find this out and are silenced.

DocRichard said...

CRU have murdered science? By using an ill designed computer programme, you mean? Or by adjusting data that needs to be adjusted because recently laid down tree rings are thinner, and give an illusion that recent years are cooler?

Surely, this is arguing from the a small particularity to a massive generality.