Climate change

For the science in depth see the excellent Real Climate. I accept the evidence for global warming due to human activity. I have been in quantitative science all my working life and although there are uncertainties in detail I don’t find any uncertainly in the overall conclusion. The difficulty for most people (including me) is that climate models are immensely complex. If any new affecter of climate is found it goes into the models.

The critical thing for us is not that the climate is changing as it has for several billion years but that it is changing faster than most life can adapt to. One of the ways of dismissing global warming is to refer to past changes but omit to mention that periods of rapid change have been periods of mass extinction.

I am pessimistic about being able to find solutions that will keep life roughly as it is now but just like using a seat belt in a car to minimize injury we should be implementing whatever mitigating solutions we have now for the same reason. Research on new solutions should continue too, but the bulk of the effort will be in doing what we know works now. The act of doing this will in itself stimulate improvements in technologies as well as totally new ideas.

I have thought a lot about why people say they don’t accept global warming (I am not going to use ‘believe’ as that suggests faith rather than fact based assessment). The main reason is expectation from past experience. Most of us have not felt any rapid change and we are creatures who respond best to immediate crises. We live in a competitive world where survival and progress means responding fast to threats and opportunities. Once we commit to a world view we can find it hard to change; our brain has made pathways that will cause us to have a blinkered view unless we force ourselves to think differently as we might by using de Bono lateral thinking.

I have thought about why I accept that fast global warming is happening instead of the work of those who don’t accept it. The main issue is that I accept that most people usually have good intention and work honestly so that I accept that the science is mostly correctly done and analyzed. I don’t have the evidence myself in this very complex global process; I have to take something on trust. Secondly, although I don’t have the specialist background to do any of the work, I do have a theoretical background to enable me to assess the reasonableness of the work done. I do find a consensus in scientists working on global warming. I then look at those who are suggesting that it is not happening or that is it nothing to worry about and find that they are either presenting some single line of evidence or that there is no argument that can be assessed, there is just assertion.

More to come.