Saturday, 30 June 2012

Cairns Post Letters from the Wingnuts #3 (Climate change)

It was a wingnutty few days in the Cairns Post this week, and Thursday's wingnut of note was John Nielsen from Silkwood:
Much has been said an written about the carbon tax. I heard the prime minister say "I believe climate change is real".
It's nice to know our PM accepts the overwhelming opinion of climate scientists the world over.
Well you could have knocked me over with a feather. Climate change has and always will occur.
Yes, but has it happened as quickly as it is occuring now, and has it occurred during the period during which civilisation as we know it has thrived? The answer to both questions is "No". When we look at historical climate change we can understand the forcings that led to those changes. Natural emissions of greenhouse gases have caused climate change in the past, and we are now pumping greenhouse gases, particularly CO2, into the atmosphere. We should expect warming.

The argument "the climate has changed before and it always will" is what I call the dodo fallacy... Some species went extinct before man appeared, but that doesn't mean we are innocent when it comes to the dodo's demise.
The ice is melting on Greenland. So what? There were once palm trees on Greenland.
I'll first note that right now you can find palm trees in Chile in temperatures as low as -15° celsius. But yes, Greenland has been warmer at some times in the past. Fifty-five million years ago there were indeed palms there. Also, in the Medieval Warm Period some small areas of Greenland warmed to a point that some agriculture was possible, though the vast majority of the ice sheet remained. But just as Greenland experienced a warm period, other areas around the globe experienced a cool period. When a more global view is taken, the Earth was cooler then than now.
Perhaps our planet is on a warming cycle. I don't know, but what I do know is that there is not one person on earth who can prove that our planet is warming due to human interference.
Science often doesn't deal with definitive proof, but with the weight of evidence. Call it proof beyond reasonable doubt, and, unfortunately, many people have unreasonable doubt. The evidence is extremely strong that the recent, rapid warming is caused by our carbon dioxide emissions.

Back to Mr Neilsen's letter:
The statement that we humans are responsible for global warming, if there is such, can only be a hypothesis, and never proved. In science you need a control. and where is such.
This betrays a very simplistic understanding of science, perhaps in part due to thinking of medical trials as the only way to do science. We do not need a separate planet as a control to understand how our planet works. Human responsibility for climate change is a well tested and accepted theory.
Of course we could live the lifestyle of 500 years ago for a period of 100 years or so to test the theory.
Or we could accept the weight of evidence, promote technologies such as third and fourth generation nuclear power, solar energy, and other energy sources that can massively reduce our emissions, and have a sustainable future.
No, I don't think this is more likely to happen than pigs learning to fly backwards upside down, so why the carbon tax?
Because, on the balance of probability, our planet is warming due to our CO2 emissions and it is likely to have a negative impact on our way of life.

Pretty simple I thought.

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