Climate Science Glossary

Term Lookup

Enter a term in the search box to find its definition.

Settings

Use the controls in the far right panel to increase or decrease the number of terms automatically displayed (or to completely turn that feature off).

Term Lookup

Settings


All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

Home Arguments Software Resources Comments The Consensus Project Translations About Donate

Twitter Facebook YouTube Pinterest

RSS Posts RSS Comments Email Subscribe


Climate's changed before
It's the sun
It's not bad
There is no consensus
It's cooling
Models are unreliable
Temp record is unreliable
Animals and plants can adapt
It hasn't warmed since 1998
Antarctica is gaining ice
View All Arguments...



Username
Password
New? Register here
Forgot your password?

Latest Posts

Archives

Why I care about climate change

Posted on 3 August 2010 by John Cook

There was a recent comment posted on Skeptical Science that questioned my motives, accused me of being politically leftist and wondered where my funding came from. The comment broke several rules in our Comments Policy so was deleted. However, I emailed the commenter, and answered all his questions. Through subsequent discussion, I think we came to understand each other a little better. So while I always try to keep the discussion focussed on science, I'm going to make a brief exception here and share my own personal reasons why I spend so much time reading and writing about climate science. I will note in advance that my motives are personal ones - I'm sure many of you come at this from completely different directions. This is just for the sake of anyone wondering what drives Skeptical Science.

Let me first say what doesn't drive Skeptical Science. For starters, it's not for this reason:

Ironically as I worked on this post approaching 1am, my wife woke up and came into the room, wondering what I was doing still up.

Secondly, it's not about money. There's no organisation or group sending me money. The sum of Skeptical Science's funding is a couple of Paypal donations per week. So I can assure you financial reward or even earning a basic livelihood is not a motivating factor. On the contrary, Skeptical Science comes at a personal financial cost as every hour spent on climate is an hour less to spend on paid work (flexibility of work hours is the blessing and curse of the self-employed). The realities of providing an income to support my family puts some limit on the time I can spend on Skeptical Science, but I always make some time.

It's not about politics. I'm not affiliated with any group or organisation, nor am I a member of a political party. I don't hold any particular political ideology (I'd categorise myself as a swing voter, voting both sides in the last two elections). I've never actually considered myself an environmentalist. I have to confess I don't send sleepless nights fretting about the plight of the spotted owl. I do think we should look after our environment like any concerned citizen but I just don't have a fire in the belly about it.

So what does give me that fire in the belly? I care about climate change for two reasons. One reason is my ten year old daughter, Gaby. She's the fiery kind of personality that never lets me get away with anything. So I have no trouble visualising a conversation we might have 50 years down the track (if I make it that far). At that point, surveying the rising sea levels, collapsed ice sheets, disappearing glaciers, increased drought, etc, I imagine her asking, "what the hell was your generation thinking? All your climate experts told you what was going on, why didn't your generation act?!" At the least, I want to be able to look her in the eye when she asks that question and say I did my best to communicate the scientific reality to people.

The second reason is my faith. I'm a Christian and find myself strongly challenged by passages in the Bible like Amos 5 and Matthew 25. I believe in a God who has a heart for the poor and expects Christians to feel the same way. And as I read the peer-reviewed science, I see more and more evidence that the poorest, most vulnerable countries will be (and currently are) those hardest hit by global warming. Drought will devastate low-latitude countries. Rising sea levels will create havoc on low lying countries like Bangladesh.

Extreme weather events are happening now. Thousands died in record heat waves in Pakistan and India in recent months. Over a thousand died in floods in Pakistan this week. I know its difficult to blame specific extreme weather events on climate change. But as the NOAA's Deke Arndt puts it, "Climate trains the boxer but weather throws the punches". We're training our climate to throw harder and harder punches at these defenceless countries. The irony is the countries hit hardest are those least equipped to adapt.

So that's why I care about climate change. I care about the world my daughter grows up in. I care about the same things that the God I believe in cares about - the plight of the poor and vulnerable. To me, personally, it's not an environmental issue - it's a social justice issue. It's about how climate change affects people. I'm not explaining this because I expect anyone to share my motivations - my faith and my situation are my own. But hopefully for those curious, you understand more clearly the driving force behind Skeptical Science.

1 0

Printable Version  |  Link to this page

Comments

Prev  1  2  3  4  Next

Comments 51 to 100 out of 152:

  1. John, it surprises me that anyone should need clarification of your reasons for writing on climate change - your passion, sincerity and integrity shine through in your posts and in your moderation and speak clearly of your underlying humanity. I'm an atheist and many years ago I'd have held your religion against you, but over the past couple of decades the growing realisation of the impacts of climate change has led me to re-evaluate my world view. I remember one particular epiphany came for me in the consumerist frenzy of pre-Christmas shopping in our city centre. I saw a bloke standing in the midst of the heaving hoards with a placard "God is Love" and realised I had more respect for him than anyone else around me. There is an undeniable connection between climate denialism and the religious right, particulalry in the US, but I believe this has little to do with religion. It is not their religion that informs their politics, but perhaps their politics that informs their religion? I am disturbed when I see someone arguing that we should not worry about climate change because God has given us the rainbow, but I have come to see that this is not the argument of religion, but using religion to make an argument. Climate change has also turned me away from being an environmentalist. When I was in my teens I was aware of climate change but had equal concerns for protection of individual species and forest environments. Now all these concerns are peripheral at best and it is the overwhelming human suffering that concerns me. I used to be staunchly, and probably ideologically, anti-nuclear, but now am only so on balance. My over-riding ethos now is sustainability. My children are of course a focus for this, but sustainability itself is the goal. I discover this in myself through a phenomenological approach.
    0 0
  2. Poptech #52 Seldom have so many laughable ironies been condensed into so few words. I salute you sir.
    0 0
  3. I'm not a big environmentalist either, but I do take an interest and I have my share of concerns. That said, for me the reason for getting into this is mostly just my general interest in science, with a particular interest in topics where there are public controversies that don't reflect the state of science. In other words, I love learning new things and enjoy applying my skepticism. It's addictive. I've moved around between different topics in skepticism and my main focus until recently had been on evolution theory, but climate change is an especially interesting case because it's one where you really do have to engage with the material to see through the more sophisticated arguments. It highlights a general problem in skepticism, that it's not always clear to a layman where to draw the line between genuine skepticism and contrarianism. And the debate is so highly politicized that you don't always know who to believe, or whether you can believe anyone at all. But figuring out things like that is what skeptics do best, after all. Plus, as I started reading up on the material, I realized I had been mislead about both the reality and the potential severity of the problem myself. I have to admit, that kinda pissed me off. I don't like being bamboozled, so now I'm trying to learn as much as I can, get a solid foundation, and perhaps push back just a little bit when appropriate. I'm still trying to determine where exactly that line should be drawn, but I'm learning a lot of interesting things about climate science, so at least I'm enjoying myself.
    0 0
  4. John Cook wrote at 08:49 AM: Thousands died in record heat waves in Pakistan and India in recent months And tens of thousands in England because of the cold, each winter. Have a look at the Excess Winter Mortality page of the UK Office for National Statistics, please.
    0 0
  5. Werecow In what way have you felt bamboozled by climate science? Interesting BP...but I imagine its not necessarily the cold that leads to higher winter mortality rates. Darkness must play a role in automotive related mortalities, for instance. What were the sources of mortality behind those excess rates? It not immediately clear from the link.
    0 0
  6. Berényi Péter at 00:24 AM on 4 August, 2010 That's a little illogical Peter. Unanticipated extreme events for which societies are unprepared result in excess deaths. Occasionally these are heat-related (e.g. the Pakistan/India heat waves or the heatwave in Europe in 2003 etc.). In a warming world we expect these latter events to increase. Your graphic shows the normal background excess of winter deaths in the UK. It's a fact of life that people die (especially the elderly and infirm) and another fact of life that (in the UK) deaths are more numerous in the winter. Note that this is a little anomalous since winters in the UK are not that cold. Unlike countries with very severe winters (where anti-intuitively perhaps, there are fewer excess winter deaths), elderly people in countries with mild winters are more likely to allow themselves to be taken unawares by the effects of cold..
    0 0
  7. #57 chris at 00:42 AM on 4 August, 2010 It's a fact of life that people die (especially the elderly and infirm) and another fact of life that (in the UK) deaths are more numerous in the winter It's also a fact of life it can get hot in Pakistan and India. So what? And yes, excess winter deaths occur because of the cold, poverty and poor housing. J Epidemiol Community Health 2003;57:784–789 Excess winter mortality in Europe: a cross country analysis identifying key risk factors J D Healy
    0 0
  8. Dear John, Thank you for sharing. Thank you too for standing up for science and what is right.
    0 0
  9. John, Probably unnecessary, but I'll add my thanks for your efforts on this site. You're doing important work, and making a difference in the world. I hope your daughter comes to admire that and learns from the example you set.
    0 0
  10. John, Your website (and motive) is commendable, and I am grateful to you. The cartoon above is perfect! Commenting... under Soviet domination, countries in Eastern Europe relied more on public transportaion and used horses for farming in great numbers before the fall of the Berlin Wall. They didnt realize that they were ahead of the times with their "backward" psuedo-ecological farming methods. The same may apply still in parts of India, etc., but things are changing fast, unfortunately... or?? Economic growth is tied to method, and method obviously makes a difference for global warming. For now, reducing poverty appears to be at odds with global warming. (Try to imagine getting emergency food supplies today in Africa without fossil fuels.) The problem is not simple, and regardless of whether global warming it is due to GHG emissions, waste heat, or something else, the expectations for sustained economic expansion remains and needs to be seriously addressed. (Greener, slower lifestyle issues might be a good future topic... or how much is too much???) And can this be discussed without getting political?
    0 0
  11. [first time user -apologies if this is a double post] just wanted to add my thanks for this well informed site which I've used in my battles with deniers within the community of believing Christians. Quoting the prophet Amos is so apt as he faced the same sort of denial of responsibility in his time as we see and hear today among right wing Christians. Believing themselves to be chosen and special while adopting alien ideologies which excused their lack of concern for the poor, Amos rightly tore into them no holds barred.
    0 0
  12. In spite of what the deniers would like the general public to think, concern for the effects of AGW seems not to be linked to religious, political, monetary or other influence or belief. I know sceptics, deniers and 'warmists' (ugly word -- but short) from the both the left and right, religious and otherwise. I'll accept that there is perhaps a tendency for environmentalists to be concerned about AGW, but that's hardly surprising is it? And anyway, what's to be despised about concern for the environment? I suggest that what divides the two sides is more likely to be something psychological; something perhaps related to fear. One of these days some scientist will work it out. In the meantime, John, keep up the good work. It's very much appreciated.
    0 0
  13. #63 John Russell - I am sure you are right. Speculation - when global warming is discussed, what are the things that have to be done about it? 1. Your car is bad. People LOVE their cars. They wrap their identity in their cars. They like big cars that go fast. 2. The suburban lifestyle is bad. I.e., the very yardstick for measuring the American dream. The way we hope to advance in society, to show we are better than the Joneses - that's bad? 3. Consumption is bad. I.e., another yardstick of the American dream. There may be others. But we are telling people they have to give up that upon which they have built their hopes and dreams. AND, if they should take the scientists' advice, they'd fall behind. What if the scientists are then wrong? I can imagine how such an anxiety would make people vulnerable to someone stating emphatically that the scientists are wrong, there's nothing wrong with CO2 and all the worry is a product of deluded liberals who are out to get research money.
    0 0
  14. Not much new to add here, but I'll take the opportunity to wax philosophically, and I have a few thoughts: I liked the analogy of balanced weights and adding just a little bit to one side. When we are talking about climate science and climate change, we are not talking about forces that have not existed before; we're just debating effects of changing the balance point. RSVP, John explicitly said the cartoon did not apply; though, even as I write this I find myself drawn into that trap. More energy in the earth system shifts the distribution of rain, regions than were marginally sustainable agriculturally become unsustainable. Regions that had been unsustainable may become so, but there are no farmers living there and the transition will not be without hardship. Think of the effects on crops and people when the temperature reaches the hottest week of the year. Now expand that time out to either side by 2-4 C and raise the temperature in the middle time by the same amount. In case you don't know anything about agriculture, that is really bad for yields. Wheat prices are higher globally now and that could be a result of the heat waves in the Moscow region. Fortunately, the US has had a really good year for wheat. What happens if/when the weather dice become loaded to the point when it is not uncommon for them to give us a bad year in both or more regions? I'm puzzled why there is controversy between religion and science. Surely there is more to this universe than we understand, and likely may be capable of understanding. Stimulate a neuron and it fires more. There doesn't appear to be much cognition or awareness there; so, how do you tie a whole bunch of non-aware neurons together and end up with "I think; therefore, I am."? There are modern models of reality that require somewhere between 6 and 11 dimensions to work; I have some doubt that the human brain is capable of conceptualizing 11 orthogonal dimensions. Symbol manipulation - sure, even I can do that, but actually conceptualizing them all at the same time; I doubt it. Just a couple of illustrations that leave a lot of room for there to exist things we really don't understand, physical and metaphysical, and may even make the boundary a little fuzzy. When I was in 7th grade my science class grew bacteria in a petri dish. We watched as our colonies grew from tiny specs to flourishing, multi-colored conglomerates. But, then the population appeared to enter an unhealthy phase and eventually decay set in and a wasteland was created. I was saddened when my colony collapsed; either the microbes had made their environment toxic through their own waste or they had consumed all the available resources. I thought, if only they had regulated themselves, they could have sustained their glory days indefinitely. Then it occurred to me that biological organisms without thought are only regulated by predation. The end result of no regulation is always bloom and collapse. This was quickly followed by the recognition that humans have no predation; in remains to be seen if, as a species, we have more thought than a microbe.
    0 0
  15. BP @58, Is this really the post where you choose to argue? I would prefer not to, but you make some pretty misleading comments in your post that cannot go unchallenged. Of course it gets hot almost every spring in south Asia before the Monsoon starts. No-one here, incl. John, is to my knowledge disputing that fact. What we are talking about are extreme heat records being broken. And yes, cold can kill too....got it. As for your misleading British graphic, you are assuming that b/c it is for winter that all those deaths are attributed to the cold, but that is not true. They say: “During the winter months, mortality in England and Wales reaches higher levels than during the summer months. A measure of this increase is provided, on an annual basis, in the form of the excess winter mortality figure. This figure is a simple way to assess mortality levels over the winter as a whole. Excess winter mortality is calculated as winter deaths (deaths occurring in December to March) minus the average of non-winter deaths (April to July of the current year and August to November of the previous year).” So those deaths are on account of a multitude of factors, and are not all attributed to deaths because of unusually cold temperatures. Now, the UK Met office does clarify and states that “In the UK there are, on average, 25,000 extra deaths in winter compared to other months of the year — 80% are thought to be due to the cold. Hardly a clear or quantitative picture. Interestingly, in the USA (between 2000 and 2009) average annual deaths from heat (162) far outnumber those from cold (21), as do deaths from flooding (65). So it seems that people in the UK are not well equipped or educated on how to deal with unusually cold weather. So you citing the UK data (which is misleading) looks like an example of cherry-picked to me. Anyhow, the warmth being experienced now is on a global scale, as suggested by the satellite, radiosonde and surface data. According to the RSS MSU data, July 2010 is now the warmest for July on the satellite record. When did we last have a record cold year (or month) globally?, or when was the last year when the global mean temperature was below the long-term mean? According to NASA GISS, the answer to the latter is 1976—34 years ago. Not surprisingly, 2010 is currently tied with 2007 for the number of national all-time (i.e., on record) highs for nations around the globe: National all-time record high temperatures around the globe in 2010 (including Pakistan which you seem to object to) = 15. National all-time record low temperatures around the globe in 2010 = 1. In 2003 there were twelve and in 2003 eleven and in 1998 nine, all-time record highs. For more go here
    0 0
  16. Albatross #66 wrote: "When did we last have a record cold year (or month) globally?" According to GISS the years 1890, 1907, and 1917 are tied for the lowest global temperate anomaly at -0.39 C. The global monthly lows are; Jan: -0.82 C in 1893 Feb: -0.58 C in 1893 Mar: -0.49 C in 1911 Apr: -0.48 C in 1911 May: -0.55 C in 1917 Jun: -0.43 C in 1907 Jul: -0.39 C in 1912 Aug: -0.52 C in 1912 Sep: -0.45 C in 1912 Oct: -0.52 C in 1912 Nov: -0.51 C in 1890 Dec: -0.69 C in 1917 So the most recent global record lows (for May, December, and the entire year) were in 1917. Not quite a century ago.
    0 0
  17. Thanks CBDunkerson @67. Wow, that is some time ago.... I see that my final hyperlink @ 66 did not work. Here it is
    0 0
  18. dcwarrior #64 If anyone is in a position to retool (materially), it is the rich.
    0 0
  19. Albatross @ 66 - in the absence of any kind of analysis of the winter deaths, and I can't be bothered researching it myself, I'd have thought the spike in deaths would mainly be due to cold and flu viruses being more prevalent in winter. That's the case down here in the Southern Hemisphere anyway.
    0 0
  20. Dappledwater @70, You may be right. Either way, the citing that graph as evidence as BP is, IMHO, very misleading.
    0 0
  21. As a UK citizen, I have to comment on the discussion on the excess winter mortality figures, although I'm afraid I can't claim any specific expertese ! Certainly UK winter are relatively warm for the latitude - Edinburgh is the same latitude as Moscow, but has much warmer winter temperatures. UK winters are usually milder than the European Continent. Reasons for the high figures: I would suggest that poor thermal insulation of our (relatively old) housing stock could be significant and I wonder whether a relatively high degree of homelessness (usually accompanied by alcohol/drug problems) might also contribute. I would also note that the graph in #55 does not, to my recollection, correlate well with cold UK winters, in particular 1999/2000 was not a cold winter.
    0 0
  22. Further to my last post, it appears that UK has similar excess winter mortality to Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain, all of which are much higher than those for Germany, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. This would suggest an inverse relationship between cold winter temperatures and the EWM ?
    0 0
  23. Oh, no matter, but I would take a different outlook at John's response at #22. Time and space don't require matter to exist, but matter does require time and space.
    0 0
  24. Phil @ 72, "I would also note that the graph in #55 does not, to my recollection, correlate well with cold UK winters, in particular 1999/2000 was not a cold winter." You are correct, the 1999-2000 winter in the UK was mild, with an anomaly for Dec-February of about +1C (from GISS). The temperature in March 200 was also above average, with an anomaly of +1 C. All anomalies wrt to the 1961-2000 mean. Intriguing then that the "excess winter mortality" for 1999-2000 was the highest of all the winters shown-- factors other than temperature are definitely at play and this statistic is, IMHO, not worth much, except to be used by contrarians to misinform and confuse.
    0 0
  25. John Cook>Thanks for the personal declaration! I think that this is one of the most usuful places on the net for learning about what science can say about climate change. I've come here here from a different direction from you. I'm a mathematician, and I would like to make up my mind on whether things are really as bad as they seem, and on whether mathematics could be of any help in supporting climate research. Some people actually seem to think that it might be: MSRI , Azimuth.
    0 0
  26. Albatross @76 Yes, it has occurred to me since my last post that since EWM only measures the difference between winter and summer mortality, then a low EWM is not necessarily a good thing, since it would rise with a very low summer mortality! Clearly the EWM for 1999-2000 was due to excess alcohol consumption over the millenium celebrations :-)
    0 0
  27. John @63, Coincidentally, there is a psychological term for refusing to accept unpleasant information. It is classified as a defense mechanism and is called denial. RSVP @69 and DCWarrior @64, Another avenue to consider is that it isn't necessarily the scientists telling rich people they have to give up their treasures. I suspect that is at least in part a ploy by the very rich, (I read somewhere that the fossil fuels industry controls around 20% of the world's wealth.), to convince other people to pursue a strategy that contributes to the wealth of the very wealthy for as long as possible. A fair number of the studies that report that doing something to reduce carbon emissions will wreck the economy have been funded by those making a great deal of money from the sale and use of fossil fuels. ("If you do what they tell you, you'll have to give up your toys! They are evil and wrong!") Be skeptical, be very skeptical, but consider both sides when you are asking why is this person telling you what they are telling you. Also, rich is relative. If you are sitting on an air-conditioned building while reading this, you are richer than 75% of the world's population.
    0 0
  28. John C may not be here because someone's wrong on the Internet, but I definitely am. :D I don't have kids. I'm not a Christian. (If anything, I would be a Jedi.) I just really really really abhor deliberate misinformation and the way teh interwebs is being used for speading it. Fortunately, John gave me my own little corner @ SkS to do something about it. (Click any Dutch flag on SkS, and you'll find werecow & me there. Hey, maybe we could do a Who's Who page one day, so you can meet all the people working on SkS whose stuff you'll never read because, well, you can't?) ;) Yes, someone's wrong on the internet, but thanks to John, someone's less wrong today too. Excelsior! (Or was that too Stan Lee-ish?) :D
    0 0
  29. John refers to his faith in explaining his motivation to perform an act of charity manifesting itself in a purely secular fashion and he's to be excoriated for that? I don't believe there's a higher power other than the cosmological constant or something to that effect but I -think- I can see from where John's motivation derives, it's not that complicated. His instinct is toward giving for the betterment of others, this inclination is strengthened by the -good- examples to be taken from scripture. Such an impulse should not be so threatening as to unleash a stream of venomous generalizations having nothing to do with what goes on between John's ears. There's a calibration problem here. Get a grip.
    0 0
  30. 50.adelady at 20:36 PM on 3 August, 2010 These societies are resourse poor, it seems strange that you imagine that power generation can stand outside that general truth. It's the problem of thinking small or thinking local, you ignore the bigger picture. What's driving society today is not what happened in the 19th century but the needs of the market now and the specifics of international relations today. Climate science politics/policy is just another tool to resolve those issues, look how in Copenhagen it was used to fight a proxy war between the BRIC nations and the industrialized West. I see climate politics moving in a similar way to the Israel/Palastine or the N.Ireland peace processes. These processes are/were not really about changing anything but about redefining what is acceptable behaviour. Outcomes don't really matter, and are in fact problematic, the most important aspect is to continue to talk, talk, talk. It's on this basis that climate change politics has been embraced by some politicians and the media not for any scientific reasons. The odd thing is that it appears on the surface that environmantalism and the response to AGW are both radical positions but they fit much better into deeply conservative ideas that view humans as a problem that needs controlling rather than agents for change. With those ideas driving the process there is no real hope for any of us to expect greater control over our lives.
    0 0
  31. 61.RSVP at 02:14 AM on 4 August, 2010 "Commenting... under Soviet domination, countries in Eastern Europe relied more on public transportaion and used horses for farming in great numbers before the fall of the Berlin Wall. They didnt realize that they were ahead of the times with their "backward" psuedo-ecological farming methods. The same may apply still in parts of India, etc., but things are changing fast, unfortunately... or??" I'm shocked, all I can think is you don't really take responsibility for your own ideas. You need to snap out of your fantasy of pastoral idylls and embrace the reality of the sitations you describe. Over the years I've seen some junk written in the name of environmentalism, this is up near the top. I'm trying to recall an article I read in The Ecologist magazine that celebrated 'communities' living off rubbish dumps in Brazil, blind to the degraded lives these people were living. Your comment falls into this category.
    0 0
  32. #61 RSVP at 02:14 AM on 4 August, 2010 under Soviet domination, countries in Eastern Europe relied more on public transportaion and used horses for farming in great numbers before the fall of the Berlin Wall. They didnt realize that they were ahead of the times with their "backward" psuedo-ecological farming methods. Unfortunately this comment is flawed in multiple ways. I have first hand experience of those times and I can tell you that system was in no way ahead of the times. Or if it was, that is, if there is still anyone out there working on a return, you may have very bad times in store indeed. On the other hand, your idea of "backward" psuedo-ecological farming methods of communist countries has no relation to reality whatsoever. At least in Hungary it was pretty cutting edge with machines, chemicals, advanced research, high yields and untold damage to the environment. The horses were actually slaughtered en masse after the 1956 revolution to prevent reprivatization of small farms once and for all. And instead of advanced public transportation one had this: (Yes, girls as well)
    0 0
  33. Why I care about climate change... I am in the physics education business, and I really don't like the honourable hardwork that my colleagues do be belittled, undermined, and tainted by others.
    0 0
  34. ChrisG @ 74 Oh, no matter, but I would take a different outlook at John's response at #22. Time and space don't require matter to exist, but matter does require time and space. I kind of got what John was saying @22, but I think you're both right to some extent. Time and space don't require matter to exist, since both of those things exist in a perfect vacuum. But then so does a teeming broth of virtual particles doing something or other with zero-point energy (I've read all about this but it's conceptually so wierd I don't understand it). Do these virtual particles count as matter? Anyway, what John said in its entirety was "As is my understanding, there is no time before the big bang and no space outside the universe - time and space require matter to exist" and the premise is correct in my book, even if the conclusion may not be. I am also a Christian, and this is why I understand God to be eternal and unchanging. He is not part of the universe, and hence is unbound by time, which is a property of the universe. But yes, sadly, some of my motivation for coming here is that there is always someone wrong on the internet. I would prefer us not to feck up the planet any more too.
    0 0
  35. You don't need a religious foundation to motivate one to pursue social values. But what strikes a scientist like me, is that if one can't perceive the natural underpinnings of a faith/religion like Christianity, it's no wonder one can't tell the natural underpinnings in something like climate change. I like, Doug Bostrom above, go as far as the Cosmological Constant, but believe religion is entirely a social construction, which has evolved in the human condition, and which has both positives and negatives. I recommend the book by Daniel Dennet "Breaking the Spell, Relgion as a Natural Phenomenon", in which he examines religion's natural, rather, than supernatural underpinnings, and humankind's evolved predisposition to certain kinds of religious faith in general.
    0 0
  36. BP #83 Thanks for the picture. Obviously more than just CO2 is coming out of the tail pipe given the "cutting edge" fuel and emission standards back then, which goes back to my "flawed" view. Emission standards are only a problem when everyone and their grandmother owns a motor vehicle. This was not the case in Hungary in 1956. If "horses were actually slaughtered en masse " as you say, it was done precisely to centralize dependencies (a bad thing). So I dont think my comment was so off. HumanityRules #82 Judging from your comment, there is no common ground, so I wont even bother.
    0 0
  37. macoles #18 "I choose to be an Atheist, not because of my understanding of science, but because I believe God is unnecessary" Is there a reason you capitalize the word atheist? This question aside, for most people belief in a deity is tantamount to having a sense of purpose, one that transcends our survival instinct. Perhaps the inability of science to explain this is proof enough for most.
    0 0
  38. I don't have a faith, but it is people like you, John, that help me realise how valuable it can be to have one.
    0 0
  39. Why I care about climate change I am an environmentalist both by choice and career. My driver is similar to John's in that I have children who will have to live in a changing world. I also have 'faith' that humanity has the potential and the intelligence to live sustainably. If I didn't, I'd find it increasingly difficult to have a positive attitude about anything.
    0 0
  40. #86 thingadonta at 15:04 PM on 4 August, 2010 You don't need a religious foundation to motivate one to pursue social values. Those social values come from Christianity. As long as you are truly motivated by them, like it or not, you are a crypto-Christian. And if you happen to deny mentioning the Name, that's still in line with the commandment. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. As I was taught by a catholic priest, there is a formless void in the human soul made to the shape of God. You should be aware that all the false gods and demigods of the world fight for getting in and it is next to impossible to keep it clear if you do not let its true master take it. You may be able to live a righteous life in theory with that void wide open, but very few get the grace of God to actually accomplish such a quest. Trying to get rid of Christian faith is like the attempt of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King to win over the Buddha. He leaped to the very End of the World in seconds, found huge columns there, marked one with arrogant script and piddling, got back in a whirlwind just to find a root of finger on the Buddha's palm smelling of urine and showing a tiny inscription. But what strikes a scientist like me, is that if one can't perceive the natural underpinnings of a faith/religion like Christianity, it's no wonder one can't tell the natural underpinnings in something like climate change. What strikes a Christian like me, is that if one can't perceive the supernatural underpinnings of Natural Philosophy, especially its roots in Christianity.
    0 0
  41. BP, if you actually put some thought to it I think you'll find that 'social values', like say 'not killing people' and 'not stealing', were around for a LONG time before Christianity. Thus, no... pursuing such social values does not make you "a crypto-Christian". Setting aside that you could as easily have argued that circumcision makes someone 'crypto-Jewish' or not drinking 'crypto-muslim' or any number of other equally ridiculous associations. Human culture is both informed by and informs the various religions. For instance, Christianity did not decide that abortion was a sin until science proved that a genetically unique life form comes into being at conception. Originally Christians held that the soul entered the body with the first breath and thus ending a pregnancy before that was ok. Most Christian groups now argue that killing a fetus is the same as killing an adult, but Exodus 21 had very different punishments for the two (i.e. death for killing an adult, pay a fine for killing a fetus). Religions change just like every other aspect of our culture. They are not the underlying determinant of the human condition which you claim.
    0 0
  42. Thank you for what you do. We share a reason for caring about climate change, and that is our children. I have a question for you, though. You say you voted "both sides" in the last elections. I also don't consider myself of any particular political stripe, but, that said, I have a hard time understanding how anyone who understands the calamity of climate change could vote for a republican. They seem to vote in a bloc against any prudent response to climate change. If you don't mind my asking, who did you vote for any why? And if you prefer to keep your vote private (as is certainly your right) can you discuss in general terms why anyone concerned about climate change should be a swing voter?
    0 0
    Response: Well, firstly, I'm Australian so I didn't vote Republican or Democrat :-) Secondly, two federal elections ago, climate change wasn't really on my radar and I don't recall it being much of an issue at the time. If I'd been more aware at the time, I might have voted differently but I honestly can't remember what either party's policy was at the time.

    In the last election, I had to choose between a party whose leader was a climate skeptic and a party whose policy was to put a price on carbon. A bit of a no-brainer really. Sadly, however, the party I voted for has now abandoned their attempt to put a price on carbon.
  43. John Harrington writes: You say you voted "both sides" in the last elections. I also don't consider myself of any particular political stripe, but, that said, I have a hard time understanding how anyone who understands the calamity of climate change could vote for a republican. I doubt John voted Republican, since that party doesn't exist in Australia! :-)
    0 0
    Response: We do have a 'Climate Sceptics Party' (seriously, that's an actual political party) - that's probably the closest thing :-)
  44. @Ned, thanks. I feel dumb now.
    0 0
  45. #93, 94, 95 Interesting point though. Here in the UK you'd have to vote for one of two very small and very unpleasant minority parties if you wanted to vote against carbon reduction. In the US its a 50 - 50 decision - and the democrats can't get the climate bill through. What are your choices in Australia?
    0 0
  46. Cornelius #96 Basically we have the choice of two divided (on climate policy) parties, both in thrall to a rather toxic energy lobby, with the right wing party slightly more delusional than the left wing one. Then there's the biggest minor party, the Greens, who are the only sane voice in climate change policy, and look to get the balance of power in the upper house in the middle of next year. We also have fairly powerful state legislatures, but they're largely in thrall to the coal lobby at the moment, although interesting noises are coming out of Victoria. But in many ways we're lagging behind the USA on a lot of climate action right now.
    0 0
  47. #91 Berenyi "Those social values come from Christianity. As long as you are truly motivated by them, like it or not, you are a crypto-Christian". This is an interesting question. I have often wondered where ethics actually, and ultimately, comes from. The universe seems to be completely neutral/capricious. I know the Western tradition is Christian, but you get much the same values in non-Western nations/culutures, so your view can't be entirely correct. Derived values to solve common problems is likely, however any look into human history and one can see that these values are easily and often suspended. So neither nature, nor tradition, doesnt seem to exert much of a leash, either way. As an aside, I like your comments on the 1956 Hungarian revolution. My mother and her family fled the coming Soviets on the gold train in 1945 from Budapest, apparently the day before the russians blew up the train station. A visit in the 1970s where barely anyone had anything for breakfast is consistent with farming methods there under Soviet rule.
    0 0
  48. Those social values come from Christianity. As long as you are truly motivated by them, like it or not, you are a crypto-Christian Or an animal. In nature we see a continuum from what appears to be mindless cooperation all the way to something resembling what we call altruism. We're coming out of a period of hypnosis practiced on us by economists, awakening from some strange conceits about human exceptionalism. It's a bit premature (or possibly too late) to ascribe all acts of charity to hidden proclivities toward religion.
    0 0
  49. If you're thinking about values and you've got a science bias, try Sam Harris. Michael Tobis has put up a link to his talk on the 'scientific basis for values'. Really interesting stuff - I watched the whole 23 mins. Apparently his anti-religious stuff would *not* be recommended for John or other christians. I might track some down. I find Hitchens intolerably superior and creepy or something unappealing, and Dawkins is just plain irritating. This bloke could be better.
    0 0
  50. John, I'm grateful for your honesty and transparency in making clear some of your underlying motivations. As a Christian and Anglican priest, I resonate deeply with your reflections. As a parent of two teenagers, your comments as a parent also resonate deeply - in fact it was the '50 year' question posed by Al Gore, which really provoked my passion for action on Climate Change. Whilst your site rightfully continues to be 'science based' and that is it's powerful contribution to the world, it adds a lovely humanity to hear some of the 'story' behind it. Science and Theology need not, in fact, should not be in conflict.
    0 0

Prev  1  2  3  4  Next

You need to be logged in to post a comment. Login via the left margin or if you're new, register here.



The Consensus Project Website

THE ESCALATOR

(free to republish)


© Copyright 2020 John Cook
Home | Links | Translations | About Us | Privacy | Contact Us