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Does partial scientific knowledge mean we shouldn't act?

Posted on 14 July 2010 by Stephan Lewandowsky

Guest post by Stephan Lewandowsky

If your Doctor presented you with the choice between laser surgery and likely blindness, would you have surgery to re-attach your retina? Probably yes.

Would you jump out of an airplane without a parachute? Hopefully not.

Those examples may sound trivial, but they are philosophically challenging and raise some deep questions about the nature of human knowledge.

Of course we all know that gravity exists. We know that if we jump without a parachute, gravity will swiftly and mercilessly determine our fate. Likewise, we know that laser surgery can prevent blindness, even if we don’t personally understand the details of how a laser actually does its magic.

But how complete is this knowledge? Does science know all there is to know about gravity? Does science fully understand the physics underlying lasers? No.

Science has a good understanding of gravity but it is only partial. In fact, there is much about gravity that eludes us! For example, our theories of gravity predict the existence of gravity waves, analogous to the electromagnetic waves that allow you to listen to the radio right now. However, despite hunting them for about a decade, we have yet to observe gravity waves.

We simply don’t know for sure how gravity works. Nonetheless we don’t jump out of airplanes.

Likewise, we don’t understand all aspects of the quantum mechanics that underlie laser technology. We nonetheless use lasers in daily life, ranging from laser pointers to laser surgery.

The message is clear: All scientific knowledge is partial.

But that doesn’t mean we are ignorant.

Far from it; our partial scientific knowledge is vastly preferable to ignorance because even with partial knowledge of retroviruses we can control AIDS, and with partial knowledge of nanotechnology we can develop cheaper solar cells to deliver more clean energy at an affordable price.

And for precisely the same reason, the fact that our knowledge of climate change is partial must not deter us from acting on that knowledge.

Although our knowledge of climate change may be partial, we can be certain that our climate is changing and that human CO2 emissions are responsible. The US National Academy of Sciences issued a clear statement just a month ago which reads: “Some scientific conclusions ... have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations ... that their likelihood of ... being ... wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions ... are ... regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusion that the Earth ... is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

So anyone who says that we shouldn’t act on climate change because our knowledge is partial or uncertain isn’t saying that for scientific reasons. They either don’t understand how science works or they are being deliberately misleading.

Acknowledgements: I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of two of my colleagues in Physics, Dr. Thomas Stemler and Dr. Ralph James of the University of Western Australia, who suggested and then fact-checked the statements about partial knowledge of gravity and quantum mechanics.

NOTE: this post is also being "climatecast" by Stephan Lewandowsky on RTR -FM 92.1 at 11.30 AM WAST today. It should air shortly after this post goes live so if you're reading this immediately (eg - you've subscribed to the SkS mailing list and just got this email), you can listen online via http://www.rtrfm.com.au/listen.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 54:

  1. Hmmm, I always thought that gravity existed as both a particle & a wave-much like light. Though that might just be too many years of Star Trek talking ;)!
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  2. Marcus, you are correct, the graviton is the carrier particle of gravity. All that Star Trek obviously paid off. Pity it doesn't mesh at all with the General Theory of Relativity, which posits that gravity is the curvature in space-time caused by mass/energy within it . Don't tell the skeptics though.
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  3. The problem I see here is that you assume all the partial knowledge suggests we should act. In fact within the body of partial knowledge some data says maybe we don't need to act. If these few papers suggest we don't need to re-organise society should we ignore that?
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  4. If these few papers suggest we don't need to re-organise society should we ignore that? The few papers that I've seen like that would earn a freshman a grade somewhere south of a C- at any respectable university. So, should we ignore the few papers with freshman C-student errors that somehow managed to get through (half asleep) peer-review? Absolutely!
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  5. I think all the Relativity skeptics (who are cruelly and unkindly usually bundled together under the general term "nutter") should get their act together and start insisting that the Global Positioning System stop using Relativity to keep the satellite clocks accurate, because Relativity is "flawed", and Einstein was wrong. Seriously, HumanityRules, I believe we should act prudently and now. If the evidence that there is no need to act improves a bit, then we can reconsider the need to act. Right now, the evidence for inaction is insufficient.
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  6. Actually, the parallels to Relativity and the Nazi's attacks on "Jewish Science" are extremely strong. Einstein himself said in 1920: This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.
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  7. "Hi I'm Doctor Fred, I'm a consultant cancer specialist." "I am sorry to have to tell you that my colleagues and I believe your mother has cancer... however because we can't be sure, and because we can't yet cure cancer, and because the science is not settled, and because it might cause disruption and change your family life style and because it will cost money, we have decided to do nothing for say oh... thirty years until we are really sure we have got the science right..." "What!, but she will die a horrible death, I want a second opinion and I want medical intervention now not in 30 years, you sir are an idiot!" -------------- "Hi I'm Dr Fred I have a PhD in Climate Science." "My Colleagues and I have determined that the planet Earth has the equivalent of climate cancer, however it is still treatable if we act now..." "Na, don't be silly, we can't be sure, and because we can't yet cure climate cancer, and because the science is not settled, and because it might cause disruption and change your family life style and because it will cost money, and because it will upset big business and because we have loads of fossil fuel to sell you suckers yet, we have decided to do nothing for say oh... thirty years until we are really sure we have got the science right, oh and I need a second opinion!..." "What!, we have given you hundreds of independent opinions and data sets and you are ignoring all of them, you sir are an idiot!" Sigh.
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  8. I'm not sure this is a good analogy. Newtonian mechanics (plus Maxwell's EMT) is exact and rigorous when dealing with virtually everything we have to deal with in our lives here on Earth (excluding all of our fancy electronic devices). We only need quantum mechanics when dealing with small particals and Einstein's general theory of relativity only comes into play if one is interested in a very precise description of the orbit of Mercury. But Newtonian mechanics is sufficiently accurate to getting a man on the moon. The force of gravity is 40 orders of magnitude smaller than the electromagnetic force so gravitrons will likely elude discovery for another few years. I think this is Kip Thorne's view. We need to build a sufficiently sensitive device and be able to cancel out lots of noise. The uncertainty associated with climate physics is of a somewhat different nature. I think suitable analogies might be what caused dinosaurs to go extinct, did snowball Earth events happen? plate tectonics? ice ages? evolution? I suggest you might say that we are as certain about anthropogenic global warming as we are about plate tectonics and evolution. Which is to say there isn't really much room for uncertainty. :+) We can freely discuss and embrace plate tectonics, today, because it doesn't threaten anything (though it did threaten cherished scientific opinion back in the 20's and up until the 60's). Many folks find evolution to be very threatening to their entire belief system. And this is true of climate change as well. Tony
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  9. It's clear from the ellipsis that The US National Academy of Sciences' statement has been heavily edited. Is it possible for us to have a link to the original? Otherwise these guest posts are little better than the sceptic's blogs that we rail about.
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    Response: Here's the full quote:
    Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.
    The National Academy report comes from America's Climate Choices which is behind a pay wall.

    I know, it annoys me too.
  10. The cancer example is very pertinent. We have excellent remission rates for some cancers and very poor remission rates for most. Much depends on early detection - however, once a cancer has metastasised, remission rates (measured as five year survival rates) are poor save for some of the leukaemias and lymphomas. Cancer chemotherapy/radiotherapy once a cancer has metastasised essentially buys time and relieves discomfort. However, most cancer therapies act by killing fast growing cells (malignant tumour cells are the fastest growing) whilst trying to avoid damaging other fast growing cells (which include out immune system which is part of our defence against infection and cancer cells). Chemotherapy/radiotherapy can thus cause major discomfort or even kill for example through infection following immune suppression. So really, much chemotherapy and radiotherapy may prolong life a bit and palliate some of the discomfort at the end often at a heavy price. Your best bet as an individual lies in avoiding cancer (lifestyle choices - eg quit smoking) and early detection. However, governments face questions as to resource allocation. Paradoxically, far more is spent on chemotherapy/radiotherapy than prevention and early detection (the former two are very expensive. However, if you're unfortunate enbough to develop a nasty cancer, you're likely to curse a government that won't fund cutting edge therapies for you. At the same time, much early detection involves difficult decisions around determining the true significance of screening measures at both population and individual levels. An equivocal biopsy result represent hard choices in the face of, say, surgical risks, for the individual, and for governments looking at resource allocation (surgery is expensive and for those without health insurance subject to waiting lists). So, coming back on topic, our current state of knowledge about climate may equate to early detection of malignancy calling for imnmediate action, a grey area in which the costs of intervention may or may not exceed benefits, or metastatic cancer in which we face likely catastrophic outcomes at best partially responsive to costly and burdensome mitigation strategies. The choices aren't straightforward. All I know as an outsider to climate science is that seemingly intelligent, honest, and articulate people espouse variants of all three positions.
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  11. John Russell, the nearest I could find to what you are looking for, is this - Open letter: Climate change and the integrity of science, in THE GUARDIAN. Supposedly the original is behind a paywall in SCIENCE. Doesn't seem to be exactly related, though.
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  12. Tony Noerpel @8, relativity is not so esoteric. The GPS satellites actually do have to correct for the time effects of special and general relativity. Without this correction, positions measured by GPS would drift by about 12km per day. The clocks are synchronised regularly as well.
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  13. John Russell, the full report is not free but the Report in brief is. It starts with: "A strong, credible body of scientifc evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses signifcant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems." You could have found it yourself before saying that "hese guest posts are little better than the sceptic's blogs that we rail about."
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  14. I think the issue of foundation of political action is more of a decision problem than a purely scientific issue. It can be extremely dangerous, at the very least counterproductive to accept the ordinary rules underlying scientific consensus as the basic rules in cases like AGW. There is an asymmetry built into science, in that we are much more afraid of accepting wrong hypotheses than rejecting correct ones. For building a corpus of secured knowledge, this is nesessary, but for the managment of a global civilization, it can be dangerous. Because the "alternative" hypotheses will always get the benefit of doubt, and that doubt may, in effect, paralyze us. The basic phenomenon, is that when we start large-scale irreversible experiments (they constitute a big part of our civilzation enterprise), we will, very often, not have enough knowledge and data for precise assessment of the consequences before it is too late to avoid them. This applies to a large number of environmental issues, AGW is a prominent one. We may, for example, be well past the point of no return for the melting of Greenland's ice cap, for considerable ocean acidification etc. And still, it is only during the recent years we have accumulated knowledge about these processes to such a degree that we should have a broad scientific consensus on them. And still, we don't have really narrow estimates for climate sensitivity, maybe the most important environmental parameter of all. This has little to do with lack of basic understanding, it is mostly mere real-world complexity. In such situations, the basic issue is not one of precise estimation and scientific penetration, but of risk assessment and management. Expected benefit/loss is the main parameter in the first place. It is a decision problem, and rather than producing precise predictions, workable prabability estimations are needed for handling them. For example, because the cost to society of a Greenland meltdown will be huge, it is enough to have a rather small probability for that in order to warrant drastic measures. Og course, some denialists will say that the probability is about nil, and here is where the game gets interesting. They must provide reasons for that, which not only implies that they must argue their case, but that they must argue against other explanations. And this agrumentation must be held within the observable and predictable. Now, we have a case where we handle everything symmetrically, in probability assessments nothing, in principle, gets the benefit of doubt. And wrong predictions and assessments invariably leads to the probability estimates based thereupon get weighted down. In adequate risk management, lack of precise knowledge directly results in larger safety limits, while in the AGW political debate, it results in NO safety limits. Think about it: There may still be quite a few unknowns, after more invstigation, the Greenland ice loss may seem to be partly periodic, with a larger time frame for complete meltdown, the climate sensitivity may turn out to be closer to 1 than expected etc. Which means that we may have some more time to fix things, but they still have to be fixed. But presenting this as solely a scientific problem, less drastic estimates are almost bount to result in less efficient measures - the result being that we lose life-saving time.
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  15. 4.caerbannog at 15:16 PM on 14 July, 2010 You should tell GRL and the like because they are the journals publishing the C- papers. Your comment suggest you do wish to simply ignore anything that questions AGW.
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  16. 6.Chemware at 16:33 PM on 14 July, 2010 Chemware gets the prize for first to mention the Nazi's. Congratulations!
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  17. HR writes: The problem I see here is that you assume all the partial knowledge suggests we should act. This is one of my pet peeves, although it's hard to use the word "peeve" for something that is potentially of vast importance to future generations. The situation is not one where we're deciding whether to act or not. We are going to act, one way or another. We either take one action (cutting back emissions to avoid doubling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere) or we take a different action (burning lots of fossil fuels and doubling the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere). There is no way to "not act" here. We have to choose among possible actions A, B, C, etc. each of which involves some expected changes to our technological infrastructure and/or the climate. The right way to make this choice isn't to pretend that action A (doubling the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere) is some kind of non-action "default" choice that we can safely take for granted right up until the point where the need for "action" becomes obvious to everyone. The right way is to weigh the expected costs and benefits of each potential action, including the uncertainties associated with each. Unfortunately, there's no straightforward universally accepted way to do this -- it's going to be messy, and the uncertainties create lots of opportunity for disagreement. But it's better than just fatalistically pretending that the choice we're making (burn lots of carbon and ignore the climate) is not itself a deliberate choice!
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  18. HR @ 16 I almost mentioned the Nazis but thought it would be too off topic :-). The Nazis were the first government to run a serious anti-smoking public health campaign highlighting its links to all the nasty diseases we recognise today. It helped that Adolf was a fanatic anti-smoker (by the standards of his time) and a vegetarian to boot. Pity the rest of their ideology had some shortfalls!
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  19. Regarding the response to my comment above (#9); it's important to include the link, even if it is behind an annoying paywall. At least it is there, should someone really want to pursue it. If I want to check a quote I usually find that googling the first half dozen words will find the original and perhaps several instances of it being used -- often cited -- which at least helps to establish its credibility. On other occasions, of course, a quote proves to have been taken out of context -- though not in this case!
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  20. I've forgotten most of my Philsophy 101 class from college, but one of the things I do remember is that not choosing is itself a choice. There well be many options to choose from, but refraining from choosing any of the options inherently defaults to one of those options (or to another option that should have been included in the options in the first place). In the case of addressing climate disruption, we have two main choices: we either choose act to address climate disruption or we choose to not address climate disruption. Refusing to choose defaults to choosing NOT to address climate disruption.
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  21. HR @3, The situation comes back to the precautionary principle (or the prudence principle); if the prediction is for a global warming of 4C +/- 5C, should we act on the assumption (or hope) that a -1C cooling is what it going to happen in practice? Besides, the irrevocable events are all on the temperature upside. If actions taken prove to be unwarranted by events, they can be undone. Not many people retrospectively complain about the obvious overkill in nuclear defences, missile arsenals and star wars alternatives in the Cold War, though the trillions spent on them would have had better uses.
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  22. 17.Ned at 00:28 AM on 15 July, 2010 Good point, nicely made. As you say there are consequences to both 'choices'. People need to take ownership of these consequences.
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  23. regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusion that the Earth ... is warming and that much of this warming is "very likely due to human activities.” 1. I love the circular logic here, regarded as settled fact, the consensus, the science is settled..... very likely... Picture a Doctor... We are absolutely sure that you have a health issue... We are relatively sure it's your male reproductive system that's causing it so we'll have to remove it. It will take 33 years to remove your reproductive system piece by piece and there's only .06% change in your situation by removing your reproductive organs, but we're very likely sure that is the issue. Who's gonna sign up for that doctor?
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  24. skepticstudent, if you construct an imaginary scenario that's not a good analogy for climate change, then of course that scenario might be one where it's appropriate to say the costs of action X vastly outweigh the benefits. So? Picture another doctor, one who says that she's found a small but malignant tumor in your body. Operating soon, before it metastasizes, will be relatively easy and will probably save your life. If you wait too long, the operation would become much more difficult and expensive. If you don't get the operation at all, you'll probably die. Slightly different analogy, opposite conclusion. Neither one really helps us decide what to do about climate change.
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  25. @scepticstudent #23. This topic is about appropriate action to mitigate a risk. A doctor may, for example, suggest a different lifestyle to reduce risk of cancer or heart disease, but your example does not make sense. A doctor who is "absolutely sure" is not an appropriate counter-example to scenarios given above. The IPCC wording regarding APW is "very likely". "Relatively sure" is not a commonly used term for risk, and has no meaning in that respect. The rest of your scenario does not make sense. How suggested mitigations like reducing carbon in the atmosphere (of which the earth has sufficient to maintain life) somehow equates with "remov[ing] your reproductive system piece by piece" over 33 years, completely escapes me. If you are somehow suggesting that ideas for mitigating climate change are "a cure worse than the disease", you are a long way from stating your case, let alone proving it.
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  26. skepticstudent, the argument is not circular at all. Maybe you need to read the whole thing in a more legible form : Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities. (MY EMPHASIS) What, exactly, is circular about that ? You may not agree or believe in the scientific conclusion (just as some can't accept evolution) but that doesn't mean the conclusion is wrong or circular in any way.
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  27. Another great text to the "unititiated" level. Very easy to grasp and accurate analogies.
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  28. #23: "the case for the conclusion that the Earth ... is warming and that much of this warming is "very likely due to human activities." Bass-ackwards. Suspend your disbelief for a second and actually look at the multiple lines of evidence (extremely well-documented in these pages) that demonstrate that warming is real and ongoing (perhaps even accelerating). Then ask the obvious question: what mechanism makes this happen? -- If you cling to some combination of 'who knows?' and 'natural causes', in which case you find that you have trouble explaining all the observations without invoking something new each time. -- If you accept that human activity is a cause, pieces fall quickly into place. -- If you rule out human activity, what's your explanation? Scientific methods apply here as well. "Just say no" is no more a proof than is "a preponderance of the evidence; but it sure makes more sense when you actually have a preponderance of the evidence.
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  29. Here's what happens when you wait until all the science is settled before acting: Disputed isle in Bay of Bengal disappears into sea by Nirmala George, Associated Press Writer Wednesday, March 24, 2010 For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued over control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal. Now, it's gone. Rising sea levels in the bay have plunged New Moore Island in the Sunderbans completely underwater, said oceanographer Sugata Hazra, a professor at Jadavpur University in Calcutta. Its disappearance has been confirmed by satellite imagery and sea patrols, he said. "What these two countries could not achieve from years of talking, has been resolved by global warming," said Hazra.
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  30. muoncounter at 07:50 AM Ummmm, are you aware that, that "island" was a sand bar(not a rock island).... and only existed for 30 years... I dunno if i would be using it as an example, without having a long hard look at its history. Maybe more an example of storm erosion/change in currents, than anything else. Humans have been effecting climate im sure since we first started clear felling land for agriculture. And no doubt co2 will cause a rise in radiative forcing... But attribution of individual effects, is a bit more o a messy business.
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  31. #30: I note Wikipedia mentions that the island was a "sandbar"; I have no firsthand knowledge of the geology of the area. Google Earth shows a circular patch, part of a more extensive submerged shoal. Maybe the delta is sinking due to subsidence, as in Louisiana. Don't know if there are any COE levees on the Hariabhanga River. Here are additional quotes from the Sunday Times Online. He noted that temperatures in the region had been rising at an annual rate of 0.4C (0.8F). Until 2000, the sea level rose about 3mm (0.12 inches) a year, but over the last decade it had been rising about 5mm annually, he said. He warned that another ten islands could be at risk. A nearby island, Lohachara, was submerged in 1996, forcing its inhabitants to move to the mainland, while almost half of another island, called Ghoramara, was now under water. “We will have ever larger numbers of people displaced… as more island areas come under water,” Professor Hazra said. One island, two islands, three islands ... pretty soon you've got a trend.
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  32. muoncounter at 10:45 That quote on the T's is a bit disconcerting.... 4C a decade? In the tropics?(i think i dislocated an eye brow) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lohachara_Island This wiki on Lohachara i think is relevant. But this is getting a bit away from the topic at hand. There is unquestionably a trend in rising sea levels.
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  33. Chemware @6: "Einstein himself said in 1920: This world is a strange madhouse. Currently, every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity theory is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation." I tutored 1st year uni physics students about 25 years ago. Special Relativity used to really bother them. Many of them were convinced it was wrong. There seemed to be two reasons for this: 1) It didn't fit with their common sense (which is hardly surprising because it only matters at speeds thousands of times faster than those of everyday life). 2) They hated the idea that they couldn't travel faster than the speed of light. They wanted to believe that they could quickly pop over to Alpha Centauri for lunch, and be back for dinner, and here was this silly theory telling them that it was simply not possible (or even if it was, everyone back on earth would have aged 8 years in a day). Both these reasons apply to the desire to ignore global warming. Firstly, CO2 is a colourless, odourless gas, present in the atmosphere in minute quantities - how can that do anything? Secondly, the cure is to stop pumping CO2 into the air - limiting our personal freedom and our right to do whatever we like. So battles over issues like this have been fought in the past, relativity, smoking etc. I wonder if there were people in London at the time of cholera who fought for the Thames not to be cleaned up, and who argued that water wasn't the cause? Did anyone rail against the huge expense and change in lifestyle involved in fixing the drinking water problem? It would be interesting to know.
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    Response: LOL re the rejection of special relativity. Re point 2, you could always tell them that the sequel to special relativity, general relativity, may still give them a loophole (or should that be wormhole) to get them to Alpha Centauri quickly by warping the space-time continuum. Of course you run again into point 1.
  34. Did anyone argue? Yes, about how to fix it - but the *nature* of the problem had been recognised for hundreds of years earlier. It took from 1848 to 1865, with 6 commissions of enquiry involved, before a proper sewage system was implemented. But it wasn't enough, took nearly a hundred years and WW2 bombing damage before they fixed it properly. Unfortunately we're back to the problems of invisible, odourless gas again. And the speed of light problem. People generally do not comprehend large numbers. If your undergraduate physics students had problems, how do you think someone who starts out thinking that 400 is the largest possible number will get on? (No! no laughing, we actually had a student who believed this.)
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  35. Apparently even gravity theory has its contrarians. This brand new in the New York Times: A scientist takes on gravity
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  36. Oh goody. "Hard-core string theory" , "new perspectives". And here was I thinking I had nothing to occupy myself with over the weekend.
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  37. To post #35. Your reaction to the story on Erik Verlinde paper is interesting and has a bearing on the public's perception of science and therefore climate change. His paper “On the Origin of Gravity and the Laws of Newton” is interesting and not contrarian, it is simply a different way at looking at the origin of gravity - it also may be completely wrong as he says himself. To someone not well versed on the subject matter and how it is reported by the media can lead people to think there is a bunch of physicists who don't believe Einstein's theory. Sounds familiar? If Erik Verlinde approach gives the same predictions as Einstein's then science won't really care which one is correct. The question is do they match experiment? Lookup "Interpretation of quantum mechanics" to see a similar debate. Which one is correct is more philosophically interesting then it is scientifically important.
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  38. Riccardo #13 You miss my point. Of course I could look up the source of the quote myself -- in fact I did -- but if we are to win the argument that AGW is happening and the world should act on it, it's important to ensure that there is a real difference in the way the argument is presented on sites such as SkSc, as compared with the way the counter argument is presented on sites such as WUWT. I raised the point to highlight this. Total PERCEIVED transparency is the only option.
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  39. John Russell at 07:29 AM on 17 July, 2010 Total PERCEIVED transparency is the only option. Slightly skew but ..... surely one of the things people need to learn is that information, especially technical information doesn't come cheap. Not so long ago, if we wanted this stuff we'd have to either wait for a very expensive text to be published or pay heaps for photocopying or similar. You do genealogy research for your family, you pay for the copies of birth, death, estate documents. Nowadays the websites of some govt agencies offer some of this for free. If you really get into it, you *pay* to join a genealogy society. Research documents were not cost free when produced, archiving, librarians, websites, journals, seminar proceedings - every single thing costs money. I don't know about your political ideology, so this may be completely irrelevant. I'm often bemused by the advocates of money-is-god type politics, that they reel in horror if someone tells them that something they want (but don't personally value) costs real, actual cash.
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  40. The Climate is changing, but what is changing it? MANY things and NOT overwealmingly Co2. The political Fraudsters would snowball you into thinking it's only Co2 and the only plan of action is to cap and trade without any responsible solutions, and open up the gammet on wasted money bureacracy, yet do NOTHING about the ozone layer, significant change to vehicle emissions and production emissions, orbital shades, re-forestation, ocean re-breeding and changes in fisheries, and chemical 'inertion' of Co2, or other alternatives. This just highlights the widespread fraud going on. Acting in the wrong way, or an irresponsible way is worse than not acting. You give the example of lasik eye surgery, but your comparison is dead wrong. with lasik this is a well research specific and exact tangible science with millions of tests and results, whereas the climate is still an almost immeasurable science many are still trying to understand. A more proper comparison in your example would be trying out lasik for the first time by going into massive public and private debt while knowing much of the money will not be spent on lasik research or development whatsover, and your eyes will be fired with an unproven idea that has not been used, tested to any significant degree, with no results documentation (ie sequestration) Maybe you might want to present a point that is actually relevant or even possibly level unlike this garbage point of should we not act and trying to falsely claim this has any similarity to a lasik procedure concept. Wow.
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  41. More to my post: We SHOULD act. we should act on scrapping the Co2 focus and actually fixing the ozone layer, fixing deforestation and start re-forestation, mandating hybrids and electrics and sugar beet ethanol for global fuel sources, and chemistry based change of Co2 gas into a harmless chemical or something that can be used. Thats right, REAL CHANGE, something the Co2 scammers aren't interested in. Remember in Gore's self-glorification project how he spoke of the cause of polar ice cap melting? Was it Co2? Nope. Even HE outlined the real cause. More solar "radiation" hitting the ice, melting it, pooling the water due to natural gravity, and erosion based effects. Bottom line, more solar radiation hitting caps due to weakened ozone layer. Then he says nothing about it ever again for years now. I would not be surprised if he has since deleted this from his new videos in production. What a fraud. Have any of you guys researched into the factual and real possibility chemistry based approach of 'inerting' Co2 by changing it through chemical process into something else? Quite easy. What about deforestation law changes, reforestation laws, mandating backburning, or emmissions on vehicles? California emits less pollution from all cars on the road than one forest fire causes yet the Ignoramous Sierra club causes 30+ additional fires each year due to their ignorant conservation laws. Yosemite national park was ruined, burnt to the ground by the Sierra Club's incompetance, and 10+years of emissions cause by their ignorance. They will never be regarded again as a reputable source of information.
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  42. This topics question is = Does partial scientific knowledge mean we shouldn't act? Well according to the "Climate-changers" and Al Gore. It is perfectly fine to never act on fixing the ozone layer, or re-forestation, or vehicle emmissions mandating, hybrids, electrics, or inerting Co2 into a harmless chemical, orbital shades, or any other reaistic long term solution. They only want to destroy economies by cap and trading with no effect on emissions nor solutions whatsoever. Acting irresponsibly is disasterous, and not acting, which is what the current "Climate-change" frauds insist on, is horrific.
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  43. The ozone hole? Surely this is an example of the difficulties encountered when we delay action on anthropogenic introduction of any superfluous stuff into the atmosphere. We've stopped, or as good as, releasing the nasties into the atmosphere and it will *still* take decades more to recover. The 30+ additional forest fires in California have as much to do with excessive drying of the landscape as anything else. Just as the increasing severity of bushfires in Australia is related to long term drying of the forests - not forgetting the astonishing frequency and severity of heatwaves.
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  44. adelady at 17:51 PM, the increasing severity of bushfires in Australia? The worst fires in Victoria's settled history occurred in 1851. Perhaps you are confusing impact on humans and infrastructure which is dependant on population distribution. Or perhaps of those fires that are uncontrollable, essentially due to man's tendency to put out fires that ignite naturally, as he must do to protect life and assets, allowing fuel loads to build up to the extent it inevitably leads to fires that are uncontrollable, rather than any changed climate related factors. High fuel loads result from periods of prolific growth due to higher moisture levels which then burns when punctuated by periods of drier conditions. Missing fuel reduction burn targets is often blamed on conditions not being suitable for long enough to get targetted areas burnt.
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  45. johnd wrote : The worst fires in Victoria's settled history occurred in 1851. So, why does the State Library of Victoria state : "On 7 February 2009, Victoria was devastated by the worst bushfires in Australia’s history when 173 people lost their lives." Perhaps you'd better reveal your own source ? Perhaps your definition of 'worst' is different from theirs ?
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  46. Futurepol, you seem to have been ignored so far. Perhaps that is to do with your obsession with Al Gore, and the way you fling around accusations of 'fraud' and 'scam' so easily (and so baselessly). Just a thought...
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  47. JohnD Being from Adelaide I'm not familiar with this concept you mention of "prolific growth". Any growth in this area is hard won. Parts of the Adelaide Hills are a good growing environment,but we don't have anything like the forests of the east coast. What we do have, like all wooded areas Australia wide, is a total absence of the small native critters that used to manage the undergrowth for us. Our imported foxes, rabbits, cats and dogs have destroyed the natural ecological mechanisms that previously limited the severity and impact of fire.
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  48. JMurphy at 22:44 PM, information about the fires of 1851 are available from newspaper and government archives where it is all well documented. There are many ways to quantify the severity of a fire, however area burnt is the most appropriate when comparing fires, especially between times of low population distribution and density, and times of higher distribution and density. This is especially so if trying to correlate climate and fires. Perhaps you could compare the area burnt in the Feb 2009 fires and the Feb 1851 fires and comment. "The largest Australian bushfire in European-recorded history that burnt an area of approximately 5 million ha. which covered a quarter of Victoria." Source: 1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004. .......... "Damage incurred during the four days of the Black Thursday bushfire. Fires covered a quarter of what is now Victoria. This spans approximately 5 million hectares.The areas affected include Portland, Plenty Ranges, Westernport, the Wimmera and Dandenong districts. Approximately 12 lives, one million sheep and thousands of cattle were lost. After five weeks of hot northerly winds, on the 6th of February,1851 known as Black Thursday, probably Victoria's most extensive bushfires, apparently started in the Plenty Ranges when two bullock drivers left some logs burning which set fire to long, drought-parched grass. From an early hour in the morning a hot wind blew from the NNW, accompanied by 47C temperatures in Melbourne. There was extensive damage in Victoria's Port Phillip district. Huge areas of southern and NE Vic were burnt out. Fires burnt from Mt Gambier in South Australia to Portland in Victoria as well as the Wimmera in the north and central and southern areas including Semour, the Plenty Ranges and much of Gippsland , Westernport, Geelong, Heidelberg and east to Diamond Creek and Dandenong where a number of settlements were destroyed. There were 1.5m ha of forest burnt out plus vast areas of scrub and grasslands (total land burnt - approx 5m ha [DNRE,Vic]). Farmers at Barrabool Hills were burnt out or ruined; three men perished at Mt Macedon and wholesale destruction of the Dandenong districts was accompanied by similar widespread razings from Gippsland to the Murray (River). Other scorched areas included Omeo, Mansfield, Dromana, Yarra Glen, Warburton and Erica." Source: EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AUSTRALIA.
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  49. Well, johnd, the difference again is that you do not provide accessible links and wish to believe something different than what has actually occurred. I will therefore just provide more evidence that 2009 was in fact 'worst' as most people would recognise it : In February 2009 the whole of south‐east Australia was experiencing a severe and protracted drought — a drought without precedent. During January 2009 many locations in Victoria experienced no rain at all. Most other locations were at near record lows. The drought continues. In late January 2009 exceptional heatwave conditions developed across Victoria, the most severe and prolonged in the history of south‐east Australia. On 7 February many all-time temperature records were set. In Melbourne the temperature reached 46.4°C. The previous record was 45.6°C, set on Black Friday, 13 January 1939. The duration of the heatwave was exceptional, with Melbourne setting a record for the most consecutive days above 43°C (three days). The countryside was parched. The heat and drought desiccated the vegetation of the forest floor. The fuel loads were extremely high. Those responsible for managing and fighting fires in Victoria compared the conditions with 1939 — prior to 7 February 2009 the most catastrophic bushfire season in Victorian history. They held a foreboding. There was an understanding that the landscape of Victoria was predisposed to ‘a catastrophic event’. (MY EMPHASIS) Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission Interim Report I think I'll stick with the evidence, the facts and the experts. You stick with your opinion, if you prefer.
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  50. JMurphy at 08:31 AM, the trap many people such as yourself fall into when comparisons are being made between natural disaster events, fires and droughts for example, is that often the comparison is very subjective, led by media coverage and politicians who both focus on the emotional impact of such events for their own purposes. There is no single criteria to which such events can be simply reduced to as a means of making an objective comparison, duration, extent, magnitude, human cost, infrastructure loss, economic impact etc. all are highly variable and not easy to weight accordingly. Terms such as 1 in 1000 year drought is such a subjective description seized upon by politicians and etched into peoples minds to serve a purpose, but under closer scrutiny the data is simply not available to justify such a label. Bushfires, because of the emotional impact, are even more prone to the same subjective analysis, even amongst the authorities who often have their own barrows to push in a politically charged landscape. As with any comparisons, it is essential to compare apples with apples. Only some things can be compared in absolute terms, most have to be compared pro-rata due to changing circumstances, especially when dealing with the impact upon the population as a whole. When comparing the fires of 1851 to later fires, only the area burnt, the impact on the landscape, can be compared in absolute terms. Thus the 5 million hectares, one quarter of Victoria, is without doubt the greatest area burnt in Victoria's settled history. I challenge to to show otherwise. Impacts upon the population, including the number of people who perished have to be compared pro-rata. In 1851, Victoria's population was about 97,489, and 12 people perished in the February fires, or one person for every 8124 residents. In 2009, the population was 5,340,000 and 173 people perished, or one person for every 30,867 residents. Similar comparisons can be found for dwellings, stock losses, economic impact, etc., however it is clear, that for the population at the time, not only was the area burnt by far the greatest, but the impact upon the average person whether measured in human terms or economic terms, was far greater than any more recent fires. Many people interested in climate change seem to have a fascination with extrapolating data, perhaps you might like to extrapolate the 1851 statistics to 2009. The problem is that many people are not even aware of such events in our earlier history until it is bought to their attention. Many appear to believe the world only began when official records also began. Even though complete statistics were compiled at the time, they are are all but forgotten about, even by the authorities whose collective memories are determined by what has been recorded since the formal beginnings of their particular institution. Heaven forbid also that their views may be biased, not only by the media attention, but also by their ongoing need to secure funding such that the bureaucracy they are building can be further extended, the CFA being one such example. I referenced the sources of the information I posted previously, sufficient for anyone to with a bit of nouse to follow up. Here is a link that might make it even easier for you. The 'Black Thursday' fires of 6 February 1851 in Victoria, burnt the largest area (approximately 5 million ha) in European-recorded history and killed more than one million sheep and thousands of cattle as well as taking the lives of 12 people (CFA 2003a; DSE 2003b). For more detailed research you will have to visit the State Library and search the archives of the day available.
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