Monday, October 30, 2006

Climate Change and "The truth": The search continues

After reading Matt's post below which raises a number of interesting points I believe it is useful to link to two related Gristmill posts:

Where can you find the "truth" about global warming?


The scientists aren't even sure.

From the second post:
Objection: Even the scientists don't know that the climate is changing more than normal and if its our fault or not. If you read what they write it is full of "probably," "likely," "evidence of" and all kinds of qualifiers. If they don't know for sure, why should we worry yet?

Answer: Probability is the language of science. There is no proof; there are no absolute certainties. Scientists are always aware that new data may overturn old theories and that human knowledge is constantly evolving. Consequently, it is viewed as unjustifiable hubris to ever claim one's findings as unassailable.

When we consider Greenhouse gases specifically:
Greenhouse effect theory is over 100 years old. The first predictions of anthropogenic global warming came in 1896. Time has only strengthened and refined those groundbreaking conclusions. We now have decades of very detailed and sophisticated climate observations, and super computers crunching numbers in one second it would have taken a million 19th century scientists years with a slide rule to match. Even so, you will never ever get a purely scientific source saying "the future is certain."

But what certainty there is about the basic issue is close enough to 100% that for all practical purposes it should be taken as 100%. Don't wait any longer for scientific certainty; we are there. Every major institute that deals with climate related science is saying AGW is here and real and dangerous, even though they will not remove the "very likely" and "strongly indicated" qualifiers. The translation of what the science is saying into the language of the public is this: Global warming is definitely happening and it is definitely because of human activities and it will definitely continue as long as CO2 keeps rising in the atmosphere.

The rest of the issue -- how high will the temperature go, how fast will it get there, and how bad will this be -- is much less certain. But no rational human being rushes headlong into an unknown when there is even a 10% chance of death or serious injury. Why should we demand 100% certainty before avoiding this danger? Science has given the human race a dire warning with all the urgency and certainty we should need to prompt action.

We don't have time or reason to wait any longer.

As economists uncertainty plays a key role - 10% chance of death and serious injury? Is that a high risk? How much would it cost to reduce that risk? Could the money be spent elsewhere to reduce other "risks"?

The bottom line is that it will all come down to "costs" and "benefits" of reducing greenhouse gases. What price the earth's future?

1 comment:

Stump said...

You know ive heard so much crap about global warming you think it would even phase me anymore.
This link should explain everything to all the peeps who think they know something about global warming

please dont reply to this post until you have watched the whole documentary
i always thought it was funny when Al Gore showed his graph and for 400 years co2 emmisions were going way down and yet the climate was still getting hotter hmmmm sounds to me like crap i think the real culprit will be shown in the documentary