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Battle Over Climate Change Explained in Three Charts

 

Climate Change is like an asteroid heading in for a direct hit on Earth.

Obama’s Climate Change Warning (& National Climate Assessment) Doesn’t Touch on the Magnitude of the Threat.

 

June 18-19, 2014, AUSTIN, Texas — The recent report on human-enhanced climate change points to the problem. The US National Climate Assessment, released May 6, 2014, represents the most comprehensive attempt yet to assess the current effects of human-enhanced climate change on America’s (and the Earth’s) future. Why does confusion persist about the subject? After all, Global Warming /Climate Change have ranked near the top of our Top Word lists for more than a decade.

Perhaps the major difficulty is overcoming the fact that:

  1. Few news reporters are well-versed in technical and scientific communication.
  2. Few scientists are well-versed in communicating effectively to a large public audience in non-scientific terms.
  3. The public is not trained in deciphering the reams of information that presents the case that is being argued.

Therefore, lack of technical communications skills inhibit true understanding of climate change news. As a former university lecturer on Scientific and Technical Communications, I’ve created a few rules to keep close to heart.

Rule No. 1 When Communicating a Scientific Truth Be Sure to Communicate the Whole Truth — The audience instinctively knows when you are leaving out some of the story that you think might confuse the issue.

Well known Fact: The temperatures are now the highest in 1,000 years.

Larger Reality: The global surface temperature has fluctuated greatly over the last 2100 years. Scientific and Technical writing professionals would, one hopes, clarify the discussion by writing from the audience’s point-of-view. An educated audience would expect a phrase, such as ‘not in a thousand years’ to mean ‘not ever’. They would likely be concerned if they knew an author to be shading the truth that actually obscures the larger truth.

Suffice to say the global temperature has fluctuated greatly over the last 1200 years as shown in the graphic using four different sources. Also note there was the well-known historical fact of the Little Ice Age, with many early New England documents noting various ‘Year(s) Without Summer(s)”.

 

 Temperature Fluctuation Over Preceding 1200 Years

 

Rule No. 2 Just because any particular analysis might be short-sighted, there is no need for you to be short-sighted also.

Well known Fact: PaleoIndians crossed the Bering Land Bridge to first settle the Americas.

Larger Reality: For the Bering Land Bridge to exist, the sea level had to be about 100 meters (290 feet) LOWER than its current level.

 The Bering Land Bridge About 15,000 BCE

 

The US National Climate Assessment is estimating a one-to-two meter rise by the turn of the 22nd century. Add in the human-enhancement factor and climate change will be even more dramatic (and possibly happen more quickly) than anticipated.

Rule No. 3 In 10,000 BCE, (8,000 BC), New York City was also under a mile (1.6 km) of ice. Jericho was a thriving (albeit small) city at this time. Most people who are aware of this fact, place it in the distant past, say, 1,000,000 years BCE.

Well known Fact (though not true): Climate Change began in the late 20th century OR with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century.

Larger Truth: Climate Change began with the advent of the atmosphere as we know it about 600 million years ago. This atmosphere enabled the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ as millions of life forms suddenly appeared on land.

The climate created by this atmosphere began to change at that time and continues to do so some some 600,000,000 years later though we only have specific details of the last half million years or so, as shown below.

 

 

These are a broad outline of temperature changes over the last 400,000 years as recorded by three different methods. Perhaps the most familiar is the Vostok Ice Core (Antarctica), drilled to a depth of 11,887 feet (3623 m) in 1998.

Conclusion: There are well-known facts that pale before a larger reality. Do not trim your arguments (whatever they be) to exclude the larger reality.

Well Known Fact: Climate Change is happening and its profound effect upon humankind is real. Human-influenced climate change is a new scientific reality

Larger Reality: Climate Change has a detailed in the scientific record for about 4oo,ooo years — and it has been ongoing for about 600,000,000 years.

What was the ongoing debate of our paleoindian ancestors as they watched the megafauna (wooly mammoths, sabre tooth tigers, etc.) disappear as the 5,000 ft (1.6 km) ice cap atop Manhattan melted away beneath their feet?

The paleoindians had it within their power to preserve the megafauna if they had known the consequences of their overhunting.  However, the retreating glacier, a consequence of global cooling, was beyond their control.

Today humankind faces the same two problems. And this time we have a bigger stake in the game. If the will is there, we can stop or at least alter the course of the Fourth Great Extinction. And if the will is there, we can curb at least the human-enhancement portion of climate change, whether or not the planet is subject to the larger, longer-term climatic cycles.

ThoughtTopper Institute: The Scientific Method and Settled Science

The Scientific Method and Settled Science

 

As thoughtful readers have learned since the launch of the Global Language Monitor in the fall of 2003, all objectivity in media is suspect, and for good reason.  The non-bias claimed on all sides of the political equation is itself, biased, since all media have come to see their particular viewpoint as objective and true, right and just, supported by the facts, scientific or otherwise, and agreed to by all learned people (who happen to agree with their particular beliefs).The fact that their audiences steadfastly agree with their positions only serves to re-enforce their particular biases. We all think so, so it must be true!  ( and it is logically consistent, is a frequent addition.)

One of the most dangerous of these biases is the concept of settled science.
Science, by definition, can never be settled.

The Scientific Method has been adhered to since the Enlightenment.   It is composed of five or six steps

  1. Observation
  2. Hypothesis
  3. Experiment
  4. Record and analyze data
  5. Compare the results to the hypothesis.
  6. If necessary, either modify the hypothesis or the experiment

There is always more complete data to be found and always room for another test of the hypothesis, to ensure completeness.

Another time-honored tradition is the custom of employing Occam’s Razor in the decision-making process.   Occam’s Razor is stated in Latin as  Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem (Do not multiply things without necessity).  The principle is essential for model building because, for a given set of data, there is always an infinite number of models explaining the data.

The principle is essential for model building because, for a given set of data, there is always an infinite number of models explaining the data.

In other words, if you have two choices 1) a snowball moves because invisible, alien drones take it and deliver it to its target, or 2) angular momentum you must choose No. 2 because that is the simplest.

If there is any fact in science that cannot be debated, its Einsteins Theory of Relativity.  Yet nonetheless, every year there are numerous well-publicized challenges to differing aspects of the Theory. How can this be if the Theory of Relativity is settled?

The answer is because this is part of the scientific method!

Lest this be seen as an argument against human-enhanced Global Warming, please allow me to point out that this is not the case.  We consider Global Warming as close to settled science you can get but not for the reasons you might think.

Settled Science is not a new term, in fact, its use stretches back some 150 years, although the settled science that it described would seem a Hall of Infamy in the early 21st century.

Settled Science in the late 1800s:

  • The division of Humankind into races differentiated by alleged Intellectual Potential (or limitations), Color of Skin, Shape of the head, and Geographic Location.
  • Segregation of women and girls from higher education.  Alleged reasons:  women’s brains could not deal with rigorous thinking and men would become physically and psychologically unhinged in their presence.  
  • Excluding women from voting for much the same issues.

Settled Science in the early 1900s:

  • Space flight is not possible because there is nothing in space for an engine to push against.
  • Since space cannot be empty, there needs to be a substance and name it ether.
  • The Universe cannot be infinite, so we live in an island universe that we call the Milky Way.  

Settled Science later in the 20th century

  • There are so many safeguards built into nuclear power plants that the odds of an accident are 50,000,000,000 to 1.
  • A population bomb would wipe out millions or billion of humans before the end of the century.
  • An impending Ice Age would settle upon Northern climes before the end of the century with great death and destruction in its wake.
  • Being gay or lesbian was classified as abnormal and a psychiatric condition by the experts in the field.

Settled Science early in the 21st century

  • That nothing can exceed the speed of light was a given until it was recently proven that the Inflationary Stage of the first moments of the Big Bang expanded thousands or millions of light-years in less than a millionth of a second.

With Occams Razor in mind we must come to the conclusion that settled science is a term that often contradicts the Scientific Method, itself and,therefore, must be used with great caution.

 



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