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Earth Science

How Climate Scientists Parallel Early Atomic Scientists 440

Posted by Soulskill
from the politicians-see-them-as-tools-to-be-used dept.
Lasrick writes "Kennette Benedict writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about the existential threat of climate change, and how the scientists who study and write about it are similar to the early atomic scientists who created, and then worried about, the threat that nuclear weapons posed to humanity: 'Just as the Manhattan Project participants could foresee the coming arms race, climate scientists today understand the consequences of deploying the technologies that defined the industrial age. They also know that action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will mitigate the worst consequences of climate change, just as the Manhattan Project scientists knew that early action to forestall a deadly arms race could prevent nuclear catastrophe.'"
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How Climate Scientists Parallel Early Atomic Scientists

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  • Honesty? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:53PM (#44337875)
    If they were honest, why are they calling it "Climate Change" now, rather than Global Warming?

    Seems to me they're trying to have it both ways.

    (Note: This is just an observation, nothing more. If you try to argue with me about issues I haven't raised here today, I'm going to ignore you.)
  • by Viol8 (599362) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:57PM (#44337893)

    The knuckle dragging idiots that make up 90% of humanity on this planet can just about grasp that a huge explosion with lots of radioactivity is a very bad thing. However trying to persuade them that climate change that may or may not affect their lives in a few decades time is also a very bad thing is rather an uphill task. Mainly because they don't understand the science but also because a lot of them think its all a conspiracy by The Man (tm) to control what they do. And then of course we have the Ostrich approach to problem solving - just hope it goes away.

  • Science? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sylvandb (308927) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:57PM (#44337895) Homepage Journal

    It is not science if your hypothesis is not falsifiable.

  • Re: Honesty? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:08PM (#44337935)

    Because the weather always changes and that way you'll never be proven wrong.

  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:11PM (#44337957) Homepage

    Why stop at four billion years? Compared to the temperature some ~13.8 billion years ago, it's positively chilly right now!

    I find it fascinating how science is often refered here on slashdot, but when it comes to climate scientists, all of a sudden the vast majority of scientists are stupid, lying, elitists scaremongers.

  • Re:Honesty? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:11PM (#44337959)

    "Because climate change is a more accurate descriptor. The record shows that increased CO2 levels accompany periods of instability (e.g. rapid growth and reduction in glacier size) even if the trend tends toward warming."

    I don't really think that's an adequate answer. Just being honest. It still seems to me that THEY (scientists, followed by the media) are playing self-serving word games.

  • by Snufu (1049644) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:12PM (#44337965)

    Manhattan Project scientists may have foretold the arms race, but could they have foreseen that the advent of nuclear weapons would produce the longest period of peace between industrialized nations in the past several centuries? Considering the countless lives lost in the wars of the 19th and 20th centuries, how many lives have been saved under the haunting specter of nuclear annihilation?

    In this context the analogy to climate science is less clear.

  • Re:Honesty? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:20PM (#44338003)

    I am amazed at how people love to attribute the worst possible motives to scientists (lying for what? to get a 20K-100K grant?) but refuse to see the motives of those who fund climate CHANGE deniers, which would be oil companies, investment fund managers with big stakes in petroleum, etc. with billions at stake.

    For the dim witted I can only assume it is because in the back of their minds they think they can never be a PhD scientist, which feeds resentment, but they think they could possibly be a hedge fund manager or oil boss.

  • Nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Maimun (631984) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:33PM (#44338053)
    The Earth's climate has always been changing and will be changing while the planet is alive. It is uncertain whether humans have measurable influence on those changes at all; the fact that people with clear financial interests claim so does not make it certainty. Even if we suppose there is a measurable influence it is still uncertain whether the human influence is setting the current trends -- there have been warm ages in the past, too. For instance, the Medieval Warm Period.

    When I was growing up, i.e. the 70ies and the 80ies, the climate scare was The Big Bad Global Cooling. At the end of the 90ies and until recently, the climate scare was The Big Bad Global Warming. Then the scare mongers got smarter and now the scare is The Big Bad Climate Change Whatever It Is. Since the climate is always changing it is a perfectly safe bet it is going to change, somehow. To prevent the climate from changing is about as possible as to prevent the Earth from rotating :)

    BTW, we have an unusually cold summer here in the Balkans.

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:40PM (#44338085)

    early atomic scientists:

    - developed sound physical theories that any theoretical theorist could verify from first principles and a few key experiments

    - proved that their theories worked in a series of repeatable experiments

    - implemented their technologies as practical devices

    - worried that the technology they themselves developed might be used for bad

    climate scientists:

    - make extrapolations involving tons of assumptions and unknowns

    - their experiments and data collections cannot be reproduced

    - haven't created any new technologies

    - try to stop people from using other people's technologies

  • Re:Honesty? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:47PM (#44338111)

    Climate scientists have more in common with priests than the sort of people who try to disprove their own hypothesis with experiments. If you had based your whole career on a particular hypothesis how anxious would you be to disprove it? Climate scientists are anything but unbiased observers. Any climate scientist who maintained the sort of dispassionate skepticism which is the hallmark of a real scientist would never be able to graduate in their chosen major. They would not be able to pass even a single class in climate science if they answered exam questions honestly.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @05:01PM (#44338193) Homepage Journal

    It's the difference between a relatively simple and straightforward problem and a very difficult one.

    Once the basic experiments were done for nuclear fission, all you needed to do was give it to the engineer. The problem with climate change is that the experiments would be global and require a long time to give meaningful results.

    However, the mechanisms are perfectly clear. Greenhouse gases make it warmer. People are increasing greenhouse gases at an alarming rate. Both of those statements are supported by experiment and data. Now, it just becomes a math problem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @05:11PM (#44338259)

    Another difference is that physicists are not required to have certain political beliefs. To be a climate scientist, to even consider becoming one, you pretty much have to be a true believer already. No one who didn't believe in AGW would seek a degree in order to study it. An atheist or agnostic does not become a priest for similar reasons. At least religious people do not try to claim that the fact that 99.9% of priests believe in a god is somehow evidence for its existence.

  • by raymorris (2726007) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @05:18PM (#44338293)
    In the sixties and seventies, the climate hucksters were selling us on a man-made ice age. In the eighties, they told us California would be underwater by 2000. It's still there.

    Maybe alot of people twist and exaggerate the evidence for their own reasons when $ billions are on the line. A $100k grant ? Just in the Obama years alone, he's handed hundreds of millions of your money to fake greenies. By fake , I mean ones that took the money and ran, never living up to any of their promises.
  • by stenvar (2789879) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @05:31PM (#44338397)

    However, the mechanisms are perfectly clear. Greenhouse gases make it warmer. People are increasing greenhouse gases at an alarming rate. Both of those statements are supported by experiment and data. Now, it just becomes a math problem.

    You clearly don't understand the first thing about climate change. Positive feedback loops and economic models are an essential part of climate change predictions, and they are mostly guesswork. Furthermore, the potential consequences are also mostly guesswork.

  • by SETIGuy (33768) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @05:40PM (#44338435) Homepage

    The AGW hypothesis may or may not reflect actual reality. That's the problem with an unfalsifiable hypothesis.

    The AGW hypothesis is not unfalsifiable. People with no understanding of science often make that claim. A couple decades of significant cooling (0.05C per decade or so compared to the warming trend of 0.18C/decade warming since 1970. ) while CO2 levels continued to climb would probably be enough to do that.

    The problem for people who like to lie about science is that the science of AGW is very basic and well understood. To pretend it's not going to happen you have to imagine something that could stop it. And so far nobody has been able to invent something that can stop it short of a catastrophic breakdown in global atmospheric and oceanic circulation. Be my guest. Find something that can prevent CO2 from increasing temperatures and prove it. In 1906, Arhennius calculated the climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 when including water vapor feedback was 2.1C. Current estimates are between 2C and 4.5C. Go ahead, find a way to make the climate sensitivity negative and show that it works.

  • Re:Honesty? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by SETIGuy (33768) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:00PM (#44338541) Homepage

    Another well named coward that doesn't understand science. Do you know what disproving global warming would get a scientist? Fame and fortune! Oil companies would have a bidding war to hire him. You know why it hasn't been done? Because global warming is real and it's happening at pretty much the rate Arrhenius predicted 107 years ago. The reasons why it is happening should be obvious to anyone who has studied the subject. The way to stop it is also obvious.

    The big fame in science comes from disproof. The most referenced papers of mine are ones where I disproved theoretical claims. Every scientist wants to be the one who disproves something big.

  • Re:Honesty? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:28PM (#44338685)

    The big fame in science comes from disproof. The most referenced papers of mine are ones where I disproved theoretical claims. Every scientist wants to be the one who disproves something big.

    Watson and Crick disproved that DNA was a double helix. James Maxwell disproved that electricity and magnetism could be described by a single set of equations. Issac Newton disproved that physical phenomena could be reproducibly described by equations rather than by attributing them simply as acts of God. Einstein disproved that electromagnetism and gravity could described by a single set of equations. That's why all those guys are unknown.

    You are either an idiot or someone who knows nothing about science and the way science is funded. It is much, much more difficult to get grant money for generating negative results than for generating results leading to a new theory or the enhancement of an existing theory and money is what allows the research which leads to scientific reknown. Of course, if you work in SETI, then you work in the ultimate "playing in the sandbox" field and, as such, are immune to normal funding pressures.

  • Re: Honesty? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:47PM (#44338769)

    Reference please.

    Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svante_Arrhenius#Greenhouse_effect

    The article says that his formula wes reasonable, but he could not predict industrial growth, so could not predict trends.

    I agree that CO2 levels are linked to temperature,
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Co2-temperature-plot.svg

    But ... Misrepresenting facts doesn't help.

    Note to all mods (for the second time) : do NOT moderate opinions without FACT. Most highly moderated comments in here have nothing to back their claims. It makes a mockery of Slashdot.

  • Re:Honesty? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:51PM (#44338795)

    And how many oil barons would be oil barons if drilling for oil were illegal.>/quote>

    herba-derpa-do to you too, genius

    Or if they had to pay for the damage their activities does to us?

    The damage their activities do? You mean like every benefit our modern lifestyle gives us? A surplus of high-quality food. A long life. Advanced medical care. Vacation homes. Clean water to drink and bath in. Birkenstocks out the wazoo. Condoms and birth-control pills. Computer games. Arrays of giant radio telescopes. Streaming videos. Nearly instant communication to almost anywhere on the planet. The ability to mold the landscape for esthetic or practical reasons. Enough surplus wealth to allow the luxury of representative government. Enough surplus wealth to support a parasitic class of self-hating fools who do nothing but sit around on their arses looking for transmissions from space aliens while complaining about the society in which they live?

    Spare me your attempt to create a class of bogey-men. The "oil barons" are people just like you and me. There is nothing sinister about them. Our modern society is made possible by access to energy and oil provides much of that energy. If you wage war against the use of petroleum, then you wage war against that which feeds and clothes you. No serious individual would want to deindustrialize the world and no serious thinker believes that our current advanced lifestyle can be maintained without the production and use of oil-based products.

  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:56PM (#44338823)
    That is exactly what I came to post. It turned out that those atomic scientists were as guilty of exaggerating the dire consequences that would result from the arms race as the climate scientists of today are of exaggerating the dire consequences of climate change.

    As you said, good comparison (even though the submitter and the article don't even realize that the comparison they are making should cause one to draw the opposite conclusion to the one they want you to draw).
  • Re:Additionally (Score:2, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @07:20PM (#44339007)
    How about the exaggerations of the effects of global warming? Or just about anything said about "extreme weather" especially when claiming definitive proof of global warming. A recent example was the claim that Hurricane Sandy was a 1 in 700 year event even though we have at best 150 years of records to back that claim (meaning you can't really claim a frequency o f occurrence of less than 1 in 150 years). Even if that is a true statement, we still don't know how many 1 in 700 year trajectories there are that go through New York City (but it's enough that they get a hurricane every five years even in the absence of global warming).
  • Re:Honesty? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by budgenator (254554) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @09:14PM (#44339557) Journal

    Seriously, every statement you made there was an outright lie. Including the "No warming for 17 years" lie. Current temperatures are will withing the 95% confidence limits of the AR4 model assemblage.

    Seems "No warming for 17 years" is pretty solid;

    Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the railroad engineer who for some reason chairs the IPCC’s climate “science” panel, has been compelled to admit there has been no global warming for 17 years.

    The Hadley Centre/CRU records show no warming for 18 years (v.3) or 19 years (v.4), and the RSS satellite dataset shows no warming for 23 years (h/t to Werner Brozek for determining these values).

    IPCC Railroad engineer Pachauri acknowledges ‘No warming for 17 years’ [wattsupwiththat.com]

    AR5 is due out soon, it's likely to be a game changer.

  • Re:Honesty? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @10:26PM (#44339837)

    I am amazed at how people love to attribute the worst possible motives to scientists (lying for what? to get a 20K-100K grant?) but refuse to see the motives of those who fund climate CHANGE deniers, which would be oil companies, investment fund managers with big stakes in petroleum, etc. with billions at stake.

    It's cheap energy that's at stake. Basically, if anthropogenic climate change is true, then the options are:

    • 1. Continue using fossil fuels and suffer the consequences.
    • 2. Switch to nuclear and live with the associated risks, both real and imagined.
    • 3. Reduce energy usage to whatever can be supported by renewables and accept the resulting lower quality of life.

    None of these are good options, so people prefer fantasy to reality. Specifically, they pretend either that climate change is a lie or that windmills can keep the lights on. It isn't, and they can't, but it's not fun admitting that your children will be worse off than you are.

  • Re:Honesty? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by agenaud (538288) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @02:44AM (#44340567) Homepage

    No warming for 17 years

    See 17 years in a 40 year context [guim.co.uk] and in the 130 year temperature record [wikipedia.org].

    Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the railroad engineer who for some reason chairs the IPCC

    The same Dr. Pachauri who was the director of the energy and resource institute of India, chancellor and fellow at several the universities in several countries, chairman of the agriculture foundation, chairman of climate board at Colombia University, senior advisor at Yale, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, advisor to several oil companies, manufacturers and banks?

The only difference between a car salesman and a computer salesman is that the car salesman knows he's lying.

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