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Earth Science

Last Bastion For Climate Dissenters Crumbling 963

Posted by Soulskill
from the somehow-i-think-they-would-disagree dept.
Layzej writes "The New York Times reports: 'For decades, a small group of scientific dissenters has been trying to shoot holes in the prevailing science of climate change, offering one reason after another why the outlook simply must be wrong.' Initially they claimed that weather stations exaggerated the warming trend. This was disproven by satellite data which shows a similar warming trend. Next, solar activity was blamed for much of the warming. This looked like a promising theory until the '80s, when solar output started to diverge from global temperatures. Now, climate contrarians are convinced that changes in cloud cover will largely mitigate the warming caused by increased CO2. The New York Times examines how even this last bastion for dissenters is crumbling. Over the past few years, Several papers have shown that rather than being a mitigating factor, changes in cloud cover due to warming may actually enhance further warming."
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Last Bastion For Climate Dissenters Crumbling

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nhojovadle]> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:13AM (#39866449) Journal

    Over time, nearly every one of their arguments has been knocked down by accumulating evidence, and polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk.

    Despite this large consensus in the peer reviewed scientific community, it doesn't take much searching to find comments like this one [slashdot.org] modded up as high as it can go that say crap like:

    Global Warming/Climate Change may or may not be happening.

    Frankly, I avoid these discussions now. There is no reason to try to inform people of what you read like this NY Times article. Ignorance backed by corporations has won. It has won in the mind of the general public, it has even won on the "elite tech site" of Slashdot, even in the minds of those here who hold the moderator points.

  • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:31AM (#39866587) Homepage Journal

    I find it quite interesting to compare this to other historic debates such as

      - whether the universe has always existed or came into existence (steady-state vs big bang)
      - whether the milky way is the only galaxy
      - whether earth is the center / only place with life
      - whether humans are different in any distinctive way compared to (other) animals

    The common theme is "can something come from nothing" and "is this place special". Some resistance in the debates comes from "it has always been like this". There seems to be some attractive simplicity to the idea that things never change and that there is only one of something.

    The world seems to be consistently contradict our intuition on that principle.

  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:41AM (#39866685) Homepage

    Ignorance is bliss.

    Since ecomentalism is indoctrinated in schools now, there can't be many people still ignorant of the issue.

    Perhaps you're conflating ignorant denial with informed apathy?

    In other words, maybe We, the People have decided that we'd rather rise to the challenge of dealing with climate change as it happens than beggar ourselves in a futile and risible effort to preserve the planet in an eternal 1950s best-of-all-possible-worlds ideal state.

    tl;dr version: Climate Change? FUCK YEAH!

  • Re:This is science (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:44AM (#39866703) Homepage

    People should dissent, people should disagree.

    That is how science works: people testing other people's ideas and results. I don't know about your use of the word ''dissent'', since that implies ideological views, these are the very antithesis of the scientific method.

    Climate change isn't understood well enough for there to be a unanimous consensus.

    ''Unanimous'' is a very high bar, one lone odd ball stops uninamity. What we should be looking for is what proportion experts in the field agree on the main points. We now have many more climate scientists who agree that there is a climate warming problem than the number of experts who agreed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. However: great political action and spending was put to bashing Iraq, much more than has been put to addressing climate change -- which is something of far greater danger than Iraq ever was. But that is politics for you.

  • Re:Last bastion (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Shavano (2541114) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:46AM (#39866735)

    No they're not honest scientific dissenters. The evidence is that they shift from one unsupported hypothesis to another as their ideas are disproven by data and careful analysis.

  • by brokeninside (34168) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @09:33AM (#39867167)

    I realize that it was Einstein being discussed. But I think the same point about Einstein can be made about Galileo.

    We see that Galileo's view of the origin of Copernicanism differs markedly from the more familiar historical accounts. He neither points to new facts which offer inductive support to the idea of the moving earth, nor does he mention any observations that would refute the geocentric point of view but be accounted for by Copernicanism. On the contrary, he emphasizes that not only Ptolemy, but Copernicus as well, is refuted by the facts, and he praises Aristarchus and Copernicus for not having given up in the face of such tremendous difficulties. He praises them for having proceeded counterinductively. [Feyerabend, Paul. Against Method. Verso (London and New York): 2010. Pages 77-88]

    Galileo's observations, even the ones with the telescope, were arguments against his own heliocentric theory just as much as they were evidence against some forms of geocentrism (keep in mind that Tycho Brahe created a form of geocentrism that worked quite nicely). It wasn't until Kepler that a form of heliocentrism fit the observed facts any better than geocentrism. Despite the observed facts telling him his theory could not be correct, Galileo continued to pursue his theory. He did so by means of a propaganda campaign that sought to promulgate his (quite wrong) theory of optics, its accompanying technology (his telescopes), and his metaphysics. Eventually, he got other scientists to look at the world from a different point of view and, once he did that, new facts could come to light and enable such men as Kepler to develop theories to account for those facts.

    In the end, I'm not certain that distinguishing between `honest' and `dishonest' dissent is very fruitful. Whether honest or not, dissent is important to prevent falling into a morbid state of what Feyerabend calls ``conceptual conservatism.''

    This does not mean that one can't make the argument that most climate change deniers aren't kooks. It just means that when making policy decisions, it can be profitable to look at their analysis and examine what has to hold for it to be an accurate analysis and what would be the end result if it is accurate. This can be compared to the consensus view and a reasonable decision arrived at. And it will be a stronger, more reasoned decision than if the kooks were just ignored.

  • by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @10:15AM (#39867611) Homepage Journal

    it was not that long ago that smoking was not considered bad.

    Really? When was that? The 18th century, maybe? Probably not even then. In fact, as far back as the 17th century Dutch painters had used tobacco and smoking to symbolise human folly. In the opinion of King James I of England, tobacco was "loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain" and "dangerous to the lungs" [luminarium.org]. That was 1609.

    I know, I know, they don't teach history in school anymore. It's all about indoctrination, propaganda, and conformity instead of critical thinking.

  • by ckaminski (82854) <ckaminski@nOspAm.pobox.com> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @10:15AM (#39867617) Homepage
    Oh gee, could it have anything to do with recent findings that data has been skewed by the "scientists" to support the AGW theory? That temperatures in certain locales have seen DROPS over the past twenty years?

    That the runaway greenhouse predicted for the past 30 years has failed to manifest itself?
  • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mikael (484) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @10:22AM (#39867685)

    I always wondered how insects in prehistoric times grew so large. As they have no lungs, they depend entirdly on Brownian motion for the exchange of O2 and CO2. During those times the percentage of oxygen in the air was even higher as well. Even fo the point that any dry wood would burst into flame, unless the air was extremely humid.

  • by hackula (2596247) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @10:43AM (#39867919)
    Seriously. I got a truck a couple years ago, mostly because it was great deal and well taken care of by a family friend. I do use it a good bit for "truck stuff", since we have some land in the country, which pretty much requires a truck to maintain the land. I never could have imagined, however, how many damn weekends I would spend moving people's stuff around. I pretty much know by now what will be asked when I see a call from someone I have not talked to in awhile.
  • by Pieroxy (222434) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @10:59AM (#39868097) Homepage

    If we're not the reason for the climate change, with all the crap we're releasing in the atmosphere, there is little chance we can have any effect on the climate change in a reasonable and timely fashion.

    So I'd say yes, it matters if it is anthropogenic or not.

  • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hoggoth (414195) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @12:09PM (#39869073) Journal

    > Americans still believe that life was created by God 6000 years ago

    heh-heh.

    I met one of those. Nice family. They an incredibly detailed history chart on butchers paper running all around the walls of their house. I was walking along it reading all of the diverging lines of societies, wars, inventions, etc. It was fascinating. Then I reached "the end". I said, 'where is the rest?'. "What rest?" they replied, "that is when God made the Earth."

    The hairs went up on the back of my neck in an involuntary reflex inherited from my Ape-like ancestors... or was it?

  • by J Story (30227) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @01:11PM (#39870053) Homepage

    [M]ost people I talk to about climate change have based their entire belief on a logical fallacy ( in this case Appeal to Authority). True or not this isn't science, it is religion.

    This is evidenced by the vitrio directed at the sceptics. Where real science is concerned, on the other hand, for example if someone questions the existence of gravity, the common reaction is puzzlement: "are we talking about the same thing?" No one wants to burn down the questioner's house.

  • by hkmwbz (531650) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @02:00PM (#39870663) Journal

    What sides? The science and the anti-science sides? Do you also doubt that neither the scientists nor the creationists are entirely correct? That you are biologically agnostic?

    It is a fallacy to assume that there must be a middle ground between scientific facts and dogmatic claims.

  • Re:Last bastion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @05:10PM (#39872857) Homepage Journal

    True, but it took millions of years to reach that point and millions more to change to a more hospitable environment. This time, it has taken around a century to do what would normally have taken hundreds of millennia to achieve. That's a huge difference. Atmospheric oxygen was also much, much higher during periods like the Cretaceous (the figures I've seen have been in the vicinity of 35%) but no such rise has occurred here. It is this rise in oxygen that allowed for massive insects.

    The current imbalanced rise in CO2 is much more troubling because studies show that plants do NOT like massive levels of CO2 unless they come combined with massive levels of O2. CO2 rises alone, without any other alteration to the environment, will cause plant growth to decline and is eventually toxic. As such, it is very unlike the majority of historic events, which have tended to be balanced in some way. (PETM, for example, is linked to a massive increase in vulcanism. Volcanic ash contains superb nutrients for plants and algae, which meant that once the volcanoes stopped, things were ideally positioned for the CO2 released to be locked away on a much shorter order than it would have otherwise taken.)

    This means that the potential exists for the end result to be far worse than for PETM. There's no introduction of a compensating variable, so even if industry stopped tomorrow, you would NOT see a rapid recovery as happened with PETM. Instead, things would worsen for a long time and - since chaotic systems leap from one orbit to another in dramatic and unpredictable shifts - a catastrophic switch could still occur at any time. The reason we've not seen the originally predicted shifts is that climate ISN'T linear, it's chaotic and Strange Attractors act in a manner analogous to quantum states -- systems don't change much until they leap from one state to another (the "quantum leap").

    Natural climate shifts have built-in mechanisms that prevent quantum leaps, but this shift does not. If we want such mechanisms, we'll have to add them via geo-engineering of some kind.

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