Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Scientists, Global Warming and "Skeptics"

Recently I went to a lecture by Ben Brabson.

He is a physicist and climate scientist. He showed some of the latest data and also addressed the recent media problems. This is from the right wing making a big deal out of a couple of what were essentially typos in the IPCC report plus the content of some hacked emails.

I don't take such attacks by the right wing seriously anyway - but apparently some people do. Some media demigods pound away on these things until some people think that they are speaking the truth.

The IPCC thing was mostly in regards to the melting of the glaciers on the Himalayans. The data showed models where the glaciers may be gone by 2350, but in one place, the number 2035 was used. Apparently if one were to read the context, it would be clear that 2350 was the date - but the 2035 number has been used to discredit the entire 3000 page report.

The emails were the sort of thing where scientists were bantering back and forth - and which pieces were taken out to suggest that the scientists were not being forthright with the public. I can imagine climate scientists discussing some of the right-wing nonsense and it not sounding as scientific as what they would present to the public.

Ben Brabson said that he had worked with Phil Jones, the British climate scientist who had written many of the emails in question. Some of Brabsons emails were also part of the hacked ones. Brabson explained about one email in particular that could sound worse than it was.

From the New York Times: Scientists Taking Steps to Defend Work on Climate
“It’s clear that the climate science community was just not prepared for the scale and ferocity of the attacks and they simply have not responded swiftly and appropriately,” said Peter C. Frumhoff, an ecologist and chief scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “We need to acknowledge the errors and help turn attention from what’s happening in the blogosphere to what’s happening in the atmosphere.”

A number of institutions are beginning efforts to improve the quality of their science and to make their work more transparent. The official British climate agency is undertaking a complete review of its temperature data and will make its records and analysis fully public for the first time, allowing outside scrutiny of methods and conclusions. The United Nations panel on climate change will accept external oversight of its research practices, also for the first time...

Ralph J. Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, the most prestigious scientific body in the United States, said that there was a danger that the distrust of climate science could mushroom into doubts about scientific inquiry more broadly. He said that scientists must do a better job of policing themselves and trying to be heard over the loudest voices on cable news, talk radio and the Internet.

“This is a pursuit that scientists have not had much experience in,” said Dr. Cicerone, a specialist in atmospheric chemistry.

The battle is asymmetric, in the sense that scientists feel compelled to support their findings with careful observation and replicable analysis, while their critics are free to make sweeping statements condemning their work as fraudulent....

“Scientists must continually earn the public’s trust or we risk descending into a new Dark Age where ideology trumps reason,” Dr. Pachauri said in an e-mail message.

But some scientists said that responding to climate change skeptics was a fool’s errand.

“Climate scientists are paid to do climate science,” said Gavin A. Schmidt, a senior climatologist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. “Their job is not persuading the public.”

The facts of the matter are that there are already plenty of actual global warming consequences. The models point to more - but it's not just a matter of looking to the models - it's a matter of seeing what is right in front of us. Sure there are people whose interest it is to pretend that there are no problems (people who profit by the status quo - by ignorance) and some will deny what is happening and try to prevent remedial action for as long as possible.

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