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Earth Science

How Climate Scientists Parallel Early Atomic Scientists 440

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

    by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @03:59PM (#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, Informative)

    by SETIGuy ( 33768 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @05:03PM (#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 [] 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.

  • by Raenex ( 947668 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @05:35PM (#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:Honesty? (Score:5, Informative)

    by FriendlyPrimate ( 461389 ) on Saturday July 20, 2013 @06:04PM (#44338557)

    That's not how I remember it. Climate change was put forward by the greenies because the results were not agreeing with the predictions.

    Then you're remembering it wrong.... []

  • by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @12:16AM (#44340161) Journal

    In the sixties and seventies, the climate hucksters were selling us on a man-made ice age.

    Bullshit. The media sensationalized a couple of crackpots claiming a new ice age was coming. Check the peer-reviewed scientific literature during that time period. Just about every paper discussing the subject was in regards to warming. []

    In the eighties, they told us California would be underwater by 2000. It's still there.

    Bullshit. No credible peer-reviewed research ever stated anything REMOTELY close to that possibility either during the 80's or anytime before or after. I'm pretty sure this is a crock that you just made up as there is no physically possible way for California to go "underwater" short of a massive asteroid impact. Even if all of Greenland and Antarctica melted, most of California would still be above sea level

    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.

    Oh, you're one of the conspiracy nutters. Ok, you want to play the money game? The National Science Foundation (NSF) has a yearly budget at the moment of $5 billion, and that covers all the sciences. Exxon has a QUARTERLY profit of $9.5 billion. So in a given year just Exxon by itself is making nearly 8 TIMES the entire budget for the NSF. And that is just one fossil fuel company.

    The fossil fuel industry profits dwarfs climate research budgets by orders of magnitude. If climate scientists wanted money, they would drop this "conspiracy" in a heartbeat and go work for Exxon and the like saying how everything is just peachy.

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

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Sunday July 21, 2013 @05:43AM (#44340945) Homepage Journal

    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.

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

    by Cytotoxic ( 245301 ) on Sunday July 21, 2013 @11:42AM (#44342521)

    I can fully back up BM on this.

    When I was a grad student the most valuable training happened in lab meetings, journal clubs and at the Burly Earl Pub around the corner. Everyone was allowed to express their ideas and then prodded to back them up. Even a lowly grad student like me. At one of my first big journal club meetings a big-shot professor was presenting a paper on T-helper cell subgroups. Everyone in the room was very impressed by the implications and off and running on discussions about what the results mean. But I pointed out that the data looked funky to me. Nobody bought it. So I dug in further and pointed out that their controls were off by more than double the measured results that they were comparing. It seemed that their assay was very unpredictable. Within 10 minutes the entire group swung my way and we ripped the article apart. One of the other groups took on the task of replicating the results - just like science is supposed to work.

    My first chance to meet a real big-shot was at the Burly Earl. Our department had drinks with Linus Pauling, just a couple of years before he died - still brilliant and curious. He was sharing a back-of-the-napkin idea with the group and I started arguing with him. Wrap your head around that - a 20 year old grad student arguing with a 2-time Nobel Laureate. I got a couple of incredulous looks from some of the others, but Dr. Pauling was very engaged and seemed to enjoy the discussion. He ended up jumping to my side and arguing with some of the other professors. It was just an amazing afternoon. And you know what he never said? "Shut up you idiot, I have 2 Nobel Prizes and you haven't even passed your qualifying exam." (Which, as argument from authority goes is a pretty effective rejoinder, you've gotta admit.)

    Imagine either of those scenarios happening in the halls of power.... You think an intern at the State Department gets to call out Hillary Clinton? Imagine Dick Cheney taking a couple of hours to argue big policy decisions with Donald Rumsfeld's assistant's intern. Right.. that might have happened!

    Not only is "testability" built into the mechanisms of science, it is also part-and-parcel of the culture of science. (That doesn't mean that there aren't a lot of opinionated pricks running around who think they can declare something so by the weight of their credentials - they do. It's just that you don't have to listen to them if you can back it up.)

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