Tuesday, June 5, 2007

10 More for Consensus - Fortunately, great ideas often find their purchase in more than one mind at any given time. As much appears to be the case when one considers the duo of interrogatory decalogues recently served up for global warming zealots, to wit: a recent post from this page, and a similar commentary rendered on March 30, 2007 by John Hawkins at TownHall.com. I mention this convergence of thought more to assuage my own sensibilities than out of a genuine concern about plagiarism on my part. Nevertheless, a reader of both posts would be forgiven for suspecting that the apparent similarities are beyond chance, as both address the melting ice caps on Mars, the period of global cooling between the 1940's and 1970's and the ice age of the Ordovician Period.

To be sure, conservative critiques of global warming theory - however they are formulated - share a common axis of doubt: that is, the earth's climate is far beyond man's ability to predict, let alone control.
Both posts generated considerable, ahem - heat, particularly from progressive quarters, and both pieces also engendered feeble attempts to answer some of the questions posed to those who embrace the idea of anthropogenic climate change. In any event, Brother John is best left on his own to deal with his detractors; I suspect he is more than up to the task. And in as much as great minds seem to be alike, I will tend to my (lone) critic.

In response to my question about global warming theory predicting
"that temperatures in the upper atmosphere would be higher than lower atmospheric temperatures," while temperature observations have recorded exactly the opposite, austinwiltshire - as seen on MySpace and OKCupid (get 'em while he's hot ladies) - wrote that "global warming theory predicts slightly lower temperatures in the upper stratosphere." While my question may have been imprecisely worded, it is easily verifiable that there have been significant "discrepancies between observed and simulated surface and lower atmospheric temperatures since 1979," as discussed elsewhere.

In the Spring of 2006, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) published the first in a series of 21 reports "aimed at providing current evaluations of climate change science to inform public debate, policy, and operational decisions." The April 2006 report entitled "Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere: Steps for Understanding and Reconciling Differences" scrutinized discrepancies between observed and simulated surface and lower atmospheric temperatures since 1979. The 21 authors, who included global warming believers and skeptics, were able to reexamine previously recorded temperature observations and compare them with simulations from climate models.

Although they were able to conclude that correcting errors in the observed data allowed for a reduction in the divergence between observed and predicted temperatures, the models showed a significant lack of predictive value for warming in tropical areas. According to the report, "[i]n the tropics, most observational data sets show more warming at the surface than in the troposphere, while almost all model simulations have larger warming aloft than at the surface."

Similarly, when replying to my query about global warming theory's inability to predict cooling oceans, austinwiltshire - let's just call him John, shall we - glibly replied that "[m]elting ice caps will do that to an ocean." This comment is more than sufficient evidence of the rampant confusion and double-speak that emanates from the climate change community. While describing himself as "a pretty big skeptic," he credulously accepts the idea that melting ice caps explain why the oceans are cooling. If melting ice caps were known to be a primary cause of decreases in the ocean's temperature, surely this would have been incorporated in the models used to predict climate change from the get-go. In any event, the ocean is far too dynamic a system to have its temperature influenced solely, or even largely, by melting ice.

Not to border on gratuitous nitpicking, but when John set out to expound on the ideal global climate for human habitation, he conceded that as far as the historical record for Europe, "
warmer weather tends to be better." He then went on to comment that "it'd be much safer to speculate and look for evidence in the historical record as to the 'ideal' temperature for human existance [sic]." This attitude is best understood as borne of a sense that man can decide an ideal climate that will suit the planet's diversity of populations and locations, and can implement steps to establish said climate. Given the Earth's history of warming and cooling, even if we were miraculously able to sufficiently manage our CO2 output such that greenhouse gases were no longer a concern, what would stop some other poorly-understood factor (such as
cosmic radiation, water vapor, precipitation, airborne aerosols, land use and clouds) from causing the newly perfected climate to change again?

In the end, it is indeed interesting (to put it charitably) that a belief in an incompletely understood higher power or a supernatural entity is considered to be a sign of a deficit of reason (as discussed elsewhere), but belief in a theory that espouses man's ability to affect something equally incomprehensible - such as the climate of the entire planet - is understood to be an unmistakable sign of intellectual heft. Perhaps the truest sign that there is some sort of "intelligent designer" at work in the universe is the fact that He lights our benighted corner of the cosmos with a glint of wisdom.

1 comment:

Amit Gawande said...

Quite True and indeed perfectly striking the cord with ambiguity faced today. I guess "He", talked about in the concluding para, is the only protagonist :)