Sunday, August 10, 2003

Global warming has gone down on my list of worries.

Not because of this:

At the risk of fuelling up John Quiggin and UnAustralian Ken Miles (though only with renewable energy resources), here's a fascinating post on Aaron Oakley's Bizarre Science summarising new research suggesting that much of the observed 20th century global warming is actually caused by variations in the activity of supernovae (rather than carbon dioxide generated by evil western capitalists).

The author of the study (and Oakley's post) is Tim Patterson, a professor in the department of earth sciences at Ottawa's Carleton University, who specializes in paleoclimatology (whatever that is). The paper is published by the Geological Society of America, and appears to be refereed.

The quote links to the post, which has live links to serious analysis and more fun stuff.

Certainly not because of this:

You may not believe this — the ideological propaganda on this topic is little short of overwhelming — but there is no consensus of scientists in the field that global warming threatens a disaster immediately or even over the next 100 years and more, or that the present emission of greenhouse gases is something especially to worry about. Empirical data fail to support the dire predictions of what those gases could do, and the theory of some researchers is that any warming that does take place could be beneficial.

Note the weasel words. Even though pretty much all real scientists in the relevant fields (including those funded by the oil industry) agree we are contributing to global warming with the greenhouse gases we produce, real scientists don't predict an exact amount of warming because of the number of factors involved. They predict a range. If we assume the amount of warming will be at the lowest possible part of that range, it wouldn't be a disaster.

A couple of years ago I would have found this and this and this quite disturbing. I guess I still do, but I don't think any of the carbon emmission scenarios were based on a global depression. Nobody knows what's going to happen after that, but between AIDS and terrorism and dangers of war which often follow a global depression I no longer put it near the top of the list of dangers to civilization.

I guess I sound pretty gloomy, and I'm not sure it's justified. There have always been people gloomily convinced that the problems of their era would not be solved, and often humanity has muddled through. Yet there have been catastrophes ending civilization too, such as the collapse of the Roman empire. I think if we're going to muddle through, one of the things we need to change is the conviction we're going to muddle through without any need for serious thinking.

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