Thursday, February 15, 2007

Hot Under the Collar

Since jra doesn't allow comments on his blog, I'm using this post to respond to his "Another theory of climate change" post. Blogwar!

Actually, this is not so much a rebuttal as an encouragement to read the original Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report attackedreferenced in the Times Online article which prompted jra's post. Unless you failed high school science, the Summary for Policymakers (1.3MB PDF) shouldn't take you more than half an hour to get through. (Thanks to The Science Creative Quarterly for providing an actual link, which Times Online cleverly omitted.) The complete report will be published this summer by Cambridge University Press.

And, just to be fair, here's a link to the dissenter's publications: Henrik Svensmark has written several papers on his cloud-cover-and-cosmic-rays theory since 1997. I'll also point out that Svensmark's own 1997 article references the 1992 IPCC report, and even he does not deny the role of human activity in global climate change--he merely questions whether other, natural factors have a greater effect, and if so, how much greater?

There's no question that the discussion of global warming has become politicized and polarized, and that is unfortunate as well as inconvenient. While it's true that our best science is still lacking--the IPCC itself admits that their understanding of solar irradiance and how it affects global climate is low (see figure SPM-2 on page 4 of the Summary for Policymakers)--it's still science.

I have no problem with "considering all the possibilities," as jra says, but that should include all the possibilities--including the prevailing view that greenhouse gases are a major cause of global warming--and should mean judging each hypothesis on its scientific merits, and not whether or not you think people have been brainwashed into believing it.

If you don't buy the science behind how to determine the causes of radiative forcing, fine. Just make sure you're questioning the science, not the politics.

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