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Discussion 2 to Meditation 816
Still waiting for valid research

by: Gordon Barker

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The question of global warming is a matter for science. The discussion around global warming is squarely in the realm of politics. As with all political discussions, science takes a back seat (if it has a seat at all) and facts are either ignored, selected to support a particular view or out rightly fabricated.

Most people have only been exposed to science as it was taught in high school, college or undergraduate university courses. In these, fundamental constants were being talked about, things that could be shown in a simple set of experiments; gravity, electricity, light, waves, etc. Global warming (as a scientific question) does not lend itself to a simple reduction. There are no experiments to run that will show global warming. Why is this?

Climate is a non-linear dynamic system that is unpredictable. This unpredictability arises from sensitivity to initial conditions (the so-called butterfly effect). Any model attempting to solve the climate riddle cannot measure the initial state to the accuracy to which is nature and so a few short cycles later the model's output diverges from reality.

Climate is also a system that is driven by thousands of factors (ocean currents, solar radiation, cosmic rays, etc). The integration of these factors into a cohesive model is well beyond our ability to mathematically model and derive in our fastest and largest super-computers.

You can synthesize a view on climate, but since there are so many factors, you have to be prepared to look at a great deal of research. A recent summary I read[1] has a total of 2133 citations.

My background is in geology and as such I have always been aware that climate is not a stable system. Since the Pleistocene ice age there have been 15 periods of warming and cooling (in roughly 14,700 years). Initially, I was 50-50 on the question of anthropomorphic genesis of climate change. It has taken me years to synthesize over 2000 research papers on climate change and paleo-climate change, into a view that sees a 5% probability of anthropomorphic genesis and 95% probability of natural cyclical changes. I actually see absolutely no evidence of human induced warming (or cooling) of the climate, but the scientist in me always leaves room for doubt.

The topic of climate change has attracted such political shrillness only because fabricated facts can be presented and the public has little chance to validate them. In our hyper sensitivity to threats (perceived or real), the threat against the environment can be used to marshal capital and political power and it has become a political tool for those who wish to do just that. Luckily, string theory cannot be morphed into a threat else we would see media coverage of the impending doom from string theory and Mann would probably produce string threat "hockey stick".

Consensus of climate scientists is not relevant. Belief belongs to politics or religion, not science. I apply the same test to climate change that I do to all belief systems (including religious ones). If there is valid research that will stand peer review I will be happy to accept it. I'm still waiting.

Footnote:

  1. Heaven and Earth: global warming and the missing science: Ian Plimer