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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 @02:53PM (#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.)
    • Re:Honesty? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @02:59PM (#44337905)
      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. While the overall trend will be toward warming such warming will not be evenly distributed over time or space.
      • Re: Honesty? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:08PM (#44337935)

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

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

          by AmiMoJo (196126) * <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Sunday July 21, 2013 @04:43AM (#44340945) Homepage

          No, it's because people don't understand the difference between the weather and the climate. The weather is what happens day to day, the climate is the long term trend over a wide area.

          The climate is warming up over the entire earth. The problem is that it is on a human scale people see cold periods or one are getting a lot of rain and assume their personal experience is the global trend. This is unfortunately a very common problem and you see people on Slashdot extrapolating anecdotes about people they know into everyone everywhere all the time.

          • by blindseer (891256)

            The climate is warming up over the entire earth.

            No, it's not. We have not seen any warming for 15 years. Even the IPCC admits to this now that the evidence is overwhelming.

      • that's totally wrong (Score:5, Interesting)

        by stenvar (2789879) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:45PM (#44338103)

        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.

        We still have some of the lowest CO2 concentrations in earth's history right now, and our climate has been changing rapidly (in fact, oscillating wildly) for the past 7 million years or so. To stop these oscillations, CO2 concentrations would have to go up substantially.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoclimatology [wikipedia.org]

    • Except ... well, we have politicians in the mix. That was/is as true with the atomic weapons issue as it is with climate change.

      One thing we have today that's different is political correctness. That wasn't such a big thing during the peak of the arms race and the cold war.

      I can see little possible good coming from the politicization of science. Nor can, frankly, I see much good in making science "politically correct."

      Science should just be science, objective and dispassionate. The conclusions are wha

    • You are asking here rather than reading a wikipedia article why?
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      If they were honest, why are they calling it "Climate Change" now, rather than Global Warming?

      Huh? I thought this story was well known.

      The Bush Administration enacted a deliberate policy to change the name in all public discussions. Mr Frank Luntz was responsible for the new one.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Luntz#Global_warming [wikipedia.org]

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

      by SETIGuy (33768) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:03PM (#44338201) Homepage

      The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed in 1988, so where do you get the idea that what it's called has changed?

      The indisputable increase in global average temperature [woodfortrees.org] due to human CO2 emissions is called global warming. The response of the global climate system to that increase is called climate change. The climate changes vary by locale. That distinction has been there for quite some time.

    • Uhm... lots of them do still call it global warming.

      Hard to draw a good conclusion from flawed premises...

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      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.)

      Climate change more accurately describes the effects. Global warming, to the lay person, implied that everything would warm up. So when a record breaking cold snap occurred, invariably we would here "See? It ain't warmin' up!".

      Warmer average global temperatures means one thing; there's more energy in the system. More energy in the system means that the system will destabilize until it reaches a new norm. That is, the climate will change.

      Now how that change actually effects different regions depends on a num

  • When did we stop talking about the threat of nuclear catastrophe in the past tense? Last I checked, there were still at least a few weapons out there. [wikipedia.org]
    • by mellon (7048)

      We stopped talking about it in the present tense when the global mutually assured destruction regime faded in prominence as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nowadays our big existential threat is terrorism, and in that context the kind of humanity-killing nuclear catastrophe we used to talk about isn't so likely. Of course, we could still have a stupid accidental nuclear catastrophe, or a Indo-pakistan nuclear catastrophe, and we shouldn't imagine that there is no longer any existential thr

      • by coma_bug (830669)

        our big existential threat is terrorism

        terrorism is not an existential threat.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Of course, we could still have a stupid accidental nuclear catastrophe

        Oops. You're too late:

        http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/13/07/20/1611211/around-2000-fukushima-workers-at-risk-of-thyroid-cancer [slashdot.org]

    • by PPH (736903)

      We need you to worry about something else now. Fear of a nuclear holocaust was sufficient to control populations and political agendas for a while. But now its time to move on and believe in the new bogeyman.

      • I'm only glad that the fear of nuclear holocaust has hitherto prevented the weapons' use (with two notable and regrettable exceptions). But the importance of this fear (indeed, also for the purposes you mention) does not negate the reality of the threat.
  • Science? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sylvandb (308927)

    It is not science if your hypothesis is not falsifiable.

    • by mellon (7048)

      Fortunately, the global climate change is falsifiable, and we are in the process of demonstrating that it is correct. Yay science. :]

      • by mellon (7048)

        Global climate change hypothesis. Sigh. Maybe someday Slashdot will add the ability to edit our posts...

    • Since falsifying in this case is effectively proving a negative - ie demonstrate its NOT going to happen.

      Obviously the person who modded you up is as clueless as you are.

    • It is more falsifiable than evolution. "Micro" evolution can be demonstrated in a lab, so can the fact that carbon dioxide insulates heat, evolution and climate change are scaled up versions of that. More to the point, climate change itself is falsifiable. We're doing the experiment right now. If we had a few control earths, we could do the experiment proper and not worry about destroying the only one we have, but as we only have the one test tube to test the experiment, it strikes me as utterly fucking
    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      It is not science if your hypothesis is not falsifiable.

      If there are any scientists in the room, perhaps you can address this misconception for sylvandb.

      It appears he learned how science works from reading the pop skeptics and the Discovery Institute.

    • (A) It is falsifiable. All you need to do is to prove that the Moon's climate is the same as the Earths. If it is, then the notion that an atmosphere leads to a more regulated and somewhat warmer environment of the surface of a planet is bunk.

      (B) Plenty of science is "not falsifiable".

    • It is not science if your hypothesis is not falsifiable.

      Bullshit. Popper's philosophy is not that which defines science.

    • by sylvandb (308927)

      For all of you with the exceeding strong faith in your global climate change religion, whom have felt the need to attack the facts, please post your definition of the scientific method so that rational people will know how to converse with you.

      For those who think a "provable" hypothesis is somehow different from a "falsifiable" hypothesis, I encourage you to keep studying the language. English is demonstrably difficult even for native speakers.

    • It is not science if your hypothesis is not falsifiable.

      I'm guessing that in your reality geologists, biologists, and astronomers aren't scientists, since they work with theories about things that can't be reproduced in their laboratories.

  • by Snufu (1049644) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:12PM (#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.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      the advent of nuclear weapons would produce the longest period of peace between industrialized nations in the past several centuries?

      What makes you think it was nuclear weapons that "produced" this era of world peace? One could just as well say it was the invention of television or the integrated circuit.

      Why is it that any Slashdot story with the words "climate change" brings out the sillies?

    • by mvdwege (243851)

      [...] how many lives have been saved under the haunting specter of nuclear annihilation?

      I don't know, but I have a fair inkling that one must provide some good justification for numbers significantly higher than the victims of the various proxy wars during the Cold War era.

      To say nothing of all those that died as victims of the nasty dictatorships that both sides were propping up to wage those dirty wars for them.

    • 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?

      Logical fallacy: Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

  • Selective Memory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MellowBob (2933537) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:28PM (#44338027)

    The arms race happened. It wasn't deadly. There was no nuclear catastrophe.

    Carbon's increasing. We're still here. The polar ice caps are still here.

    Good comparison.

    • Carbon's increasing. We're still here. The polar ice caps are still here.

      But getting smaller. The one to the north looks like it is going to be winter-only before too long.

    • The polar ice caps are still here.

      And I suspect that when the north one does disappear in a summer not so far in the future, that will be an inflection point in denialism. The lack of a north point is hard to deny. Even to oneself.

      • The polar ice caps are still here.

        And I suspect that when the north one does disappear in a summer not so far in the future, that will be an inflection point in denialism. The lack of a north point is hard to deny. Even to oneself.

        If evidence had any influence, there wouldn't be any denialism now.

    • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @05:56PM (#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).
  • by Hentes (2461350) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:30PM (#44338043)

    The biggest similarity between the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and climate alarmists is that they both have predicted the end of the world like a dozen times by now.

  • Nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Maimun (631984)
    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.

    • by jkflying (2190798)

      Earth didn't always have life on it either. Sounds like a great plan!

    • In fact, it is true that regional climate change has been happening here and there all through human history.

      Unfortunately, it has tended to bring down entire civilizations.

      So if there's a change in climate that we're causing, may we should stop.

    • 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;

      Scientists say that the hypothesis that humans have a measurable influence on the climate is proven with P > 0.95.

      What is uncertain about it?

      the fact that people with clear financial interests claim so does not make it certainty.

      So we only believe scientists who work for free? Better rip out all the wires in your house then. Better set your car aflame, since it is entirely a product of scientists who were remunerated for their work. But don't use petrol or any substance cracked from crude oil. Wood only.

      And I hope you don't get sick, since modern medicine is entirely a product of scie

    • The Earth's climate has always been changing and will be changing while the planet is alive.

      Correct.

      It is uncertain whether humans have measurable influence on those changes at all

      Incorrect. CO2 emissions are very measurable, as are the resulting temperature changes.

      Even if we suppose there is a measurable influence it is still uncertain whether the human influence is setting the current trends

      No, it's beyond reasonable doubt.

      there have been warm ages in the past, too. For instance, the Medieval Warm Period.

      The fact that there have been natural variations in the past and present does nothing to take away the fact that there are current changes in climate as a result of CO2 emissions.

      When I was growing up, i.e. the 70ies and the 80ies, the climate scare was The Big Bad Global Cooling.

      No it wasn't. That's a myth. It is known that ice ages are cyclic and in thousands of years one will likely turn up. This is not a "climate scare". AGW is happening over the lifespans of individual people,

    • by Xyrus (755017)

      The Earth's climate has always been changing and will be changing while the planet is alive.

      And you won't find a single climate scientist who would disagree with you. However, that in no way should imply that climate change NOW is a good thing. In fact, sudden climate changes often were a BAD thing to the existing life forms of the time.

      It is uncertain whether humans have measurable influence on those changes at all;

      No, it's pretty certain at this point. Fourier himself proposed greenhouse theory back in the 1820's, so it's been around for quite some time. Since then, mountains of research and data have been collected on the subject.

      the fact that people with clear financial interests claim so does not make it certainty.

      Oh stop with this tired bullshit, ok? Exxon

  • by stenvar (2789879) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:40PM (#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

    • My mind was stuck in a 'Is she a total idiot to not see the difference?", followed by, "How arrogant to even make the comparison!", indignation loop.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:01PM (#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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by stenvar (2789879)

        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 PopeRatzo (965947)

          You clearly don't understand the first thing about climate change

          Stenvar, you turn up in every discussion here about climate change and bring the same right-wing dismissal to every single conversation. Whether it's George Zimmerman, or climate change, or your desire to see an entirely privatized school system, the phrase, "You know nothing of what you speak" or "You are babbling incoherently" seems to appear in almost all of your exchanges.

          And yet, from a perusal of your very short history commenting on th

      • by Raenex (947668) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @04:35PM (#44338417)

        Now, it just becomes a math problem.

        The Earth is a complicated, dynamic system with many factors. It's not a "math problem". The models failed in their predictions for recent warming, which has remained flat. There's also the question of "forcings" vs "feedbacks".

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

  • Right or wrong, it's hard to take this article seriously when thebulletin.org doesn't exactly look like an objective and balanced source of information on climate change.

"'Tis true, 'tis pity, and pity 'tis 'tis true." -- Poloniouius, in Willie the Shake's _Hamlet, Prince of Darkness_

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