Climate change sceptics

On the “World This Weekend on BBC Radio 4“, Sunday 31st January 2010, there was a news article about the recent IPCC report on the melting Himalayan glaciers. A spokes person for climatologists said that 30 – 40 scientists collect all the data. Then there are many more scientists, suggested in their thousands, that model the collected data and produce reports.

There have been many inaccuracies and misinformation of late reported on East Anglia University’s withholding information through to the IPCC not performing proper checks on information released.

The new research comes at a difficult time for climate scientists, who have been forced to defend their predictions in the face of an embarrassing mistake in the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which included false claims that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035. There has also been heavy criticism over the way climate scientists at the University of East Anglia apparently tried to prevent the release of data requested under Freedom of Information laws.

While inaccurate information released does not help the cause of ‘climate science’, it does not detract that temperature is rising globally. Edward Miliband, Secretary of State, suggests that the recent issues of inaccurate information does not undermine the ‘evidence of CO2 on temperature’ rises. However publishing data that is inaccurate or misleading is foolhardy in a political world where a blame culture exists.

If British governments are really serious about funding science and scientific research, why do they only currently fund 0.4 % GDP on all scientific research and development? The current economic crisis which was made by bankers and hedge fund organizations, nurtured and fostered by politicians across the world, is a convenient excuse not to do anything about improving the lives of many people; science and technology can often been seen at the centre of many improvements to quality of life through innovation.

The Guardian also recently reported on scientists underestimating the role water vapour plays in determining global temperature changes:

The research, led by one of the world’s top climate scientists, suggests that almost one-third of the global warming recorded during the 1990s was due to an increase in water vapour in the high atmosphere, not human emissions of greenhouse gases. A subsequent decline in water vapour after 2000 could explain a recent slowdown in global temperature rise, the scientists add.

The collection of scientific data is usually carried out using scientific methodology. However the interpretation of that data through using models, produces a spectrum of possible outcomes. Model making is speculative to a certain degree, because it is difficult to include all data sources for various reasons, such as the ability to collect accurate data, duration spent collecting data, influence of chaotic systems on weather patterns… through to the interpretation of a model produced. We should not forget that a model is just that, a model, a possible outcome and not necessarily factual evidence, but a good indicator.

However I do not want to detract from the gathering evidence that, additional CO² being added to our planet’s atmosphere through human activity, is having an adverse effect on weather patterns. CO² acts like a thermal blanket, reflecting back additional infrared heat which would escape into space and help to regulate the planet’s temperature.

Information on “climate change” seems to come attached with motive language following political idioms. The lack of clarity and the ability of some climatologists to communicate clearly is only performing a disservice to climate science. Climatologists are still finding their feet;  the science behind climate change is still young. Climate change is something that is measured in eons and not decades. Any misinformation being reported in the media, weather by climatologists or journalists, can only breed more mistrust amongst the non-scientific populace.

Scientific methodology tells us that a hypothesis should be formulated, data collected and analysed. A result is worked out that either proves or disproves the hypothesis. If disproved, bin and start again. If proved, submit for “peer review”. There are many tools that can be employed to analyse data within a hypothesis, a model being one of those tools. However with all models that use statistical analysis, when looking at data sets, the interpretation of that data can skew the end result.

Planet Earth is an evolving ecosystem, one that not only has changed dramatically in the past but also is continuing to change today and will do so into the future. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but it is not something that can be afforded if humans want to continue to exist on this planet in 500 years time. If disastrous events occur within the planet’s climate, it is not the planet that will die, as emotive arguments have been put-forward within the last few years would suggest, but rather it is the humans that will most likely (and other higher intelligent species) be wiped out. We are indifferent to the planet’s survival, the planet will continue and new ecosystems will be formed with replacement species existing within those ecosystems.

Climatologists can extract ice cores and look at geological strata to tell us this planet’s geological and climatological past. Geologists can interpret the fossils of long dead creatures to tell us something about this planet’s past ecosystems. What climatologists cannot do is know with absolute certainty what will happen in the future to this planet’s climate and associated ecosystem. Best guesses and approximations can be made, but absolute truths cannot be claimed. Of course there is always an exception to this rule, such as a climatologist possessing a time-machine (not ice cores or counting tree rings, but a machine that is exemplified in SF); none do, to my knowledge.

It is concerning that politicians are having greater involvement (interference) within the climatology debate. I am also concerned with some of the language and behaviour being used by some climatologists, journalists and politicians. Emotive language narrows the broader debate on climate science. This not only leads to doubt about global warming by non-climatologists, but also casts a dark shadow of uncertainty over science within the public arena as a whole.

If the non-scientific populace become disenfranchised at best, or worse still form a doctrine of disbelief, no matter the cause, which is still up for debate, the Human-era could be set to have a much shorter existence than anticipated.