I have decided it’s past time to stop humouring climate skepticism and denial by allowing their “debate” on my posts. Why? Because tolerating it only helps to perpetuate the myth that climate scientists are divided and there’s a lot of doubt about the cause of global warming. It feeds the trolls.
The AGW menu and submenu lists items related to global warming that are archived here, so I don’t have to keep repeating the same arguments to sceptics who keep repeating the same old arguments. I just updated the AGW tag with the following.
You may have read or heard that the shrinkage of the Arctic sea ice recently smashed the previous 2007 record low. You may not have heard of a new study that says we might, just, still have a chance of keeping global warming below 2°C. You may or may not have heard that some prominent climate scientists, including James Hansen, think 2°C is too high, and we need to keep warming below 1.5°C or even 1°C.
All this means we might still have a chance of avoiding “dangerous” global warming, but the chance is already small, and diminishing very rapidly. It also means we are not doing nearly enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even though there is a great deal more we can do at quite modest cost to our economies.
In a previous article on The Conversation, Stephan Lewandowsky asked, why do people reject science? I’m going to take a slightly different angle and consider how people are able to reject climate science in the face of strong evidence.
[I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time, and the September issue of Scientific American finally provoked me. They talk about exceeding our evolutionary limits, living beyond 1oo, manipulating ourselves to be smarter (but no mention of wiser), and so on. So, another long essay.]
The term appropriate technology was popularised after E. F. Schumacher’s pivotal work Small is Beautiful. Schumacher argued against the modern economic pathology of endless physical growth, which of course cannot continue on our finite planet. He argued further that some technology only promotes endless growth, or it distracts us from more important things in life, and is therefore not beneficial. Technology that supports a fulfilling life and is compatible with a steady-state or slowly shrinking physical economy he called appropriate technology.
As for technology, so for science. A common assumption by scientists is that if a challenge is there then it is fair game to address it. In fact it is commonly presumed that freedom of enquiry, a central ingredient of an open democratic society, justifies such an attitude. However we need to recognise that such freedom comes with responsibility. This seems to be recognised regarding human cloning, for example, where strong legal and social restrictions have commonly been imposed.
When I was a young adult it dawned on me there is such a thing as collective insanity. I was reading about Japan near the end of World War II. The Japanese collectively refused to believe they could lose the war, and continued behaviour that was very destructive for themselves and others (they are not unique in this respect, they were just the example I happened to read about). It took the atomic bombs to shock them out of their state of psychological denial.
One view of insanity is the continuation of behaviour that is detrimental to one’s self, despite ample evidence of harm being done. How sane are we now, those of us who live in the rich countries?
Two good recent discussions of views on climate change are reproduced under the new AGW tab, above.
The main tab preserves the recent post “The productive way to address global warming”. The tab will allow me to avoid the post discussions becoming cluttered with sceptic distractions. Distraction and confusion are, of course, the primary weapons of the professional deniers (those who work for fossil fuel industries).
Climate negotiators in Durban have agreed to a “roadmap” that would leave the world at high risk of severe or catastrophic global warming. They have belatedly agreed to discuss adopting outdated targets that would not come into force until 2020, far too late by current climate criteria.
Recent studies require greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced much faster than previously proposed, to give us even a moderate chance of keeping warming below two degrees Celsius (2°C). Meanwhile the climate science now says the threshold of “dangerous” warming is only 1°C.
[This is a draft. Over the next week or so I will be revising, adding links and making other versions to send to any news outlet that might take them.]
Here is the climate news. The real climate news.
So far the world has warmed about 0.6°C. If currently advised reductions of greenhouse gas emissions were realised there would still be a 90% chance global warming will exceed two degrees Celsius (2°C). 2°C used to be regarded as the threshold of “dangerous” climate change, but new science has shifted that threshold to only 1°C. 2°C is now regarded as the threshold of “extremely dangerous” climate change. At that level, global warming effects would be widespread and severe.
However, somewhere between about 2°C and 4°C lurks a tipping point, beyond which global warming will run beyond human control, driven by natural feedback mechanisms that drive temperatures higher, perhaps to 6°C or 8°C, no-one knows. 4°C would already be “incompatible with an organised global community”. Higher temperatures could result in the extinction half or more of the world’s species and much of the human population.
The way global warming and our efforts to stop it have been discussed in this critical Parliamentary week tells a sorry tale of Australian societys scientific illiteracy, myopia and psychological denial.
According to global warming sceptics and denialists, climate scientists are variously really stupid, prone to irrational herd behaviour, egotists pushing barrows, trying to feather their nests, or all of the above. According to the media they are apparently nerdy pains whose gloomy message is easily trumped by serious, reality-based political dramas. According to politicians they are another interest group to be placated. According to the Prime Minister they are radical greens.