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Skepticism

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Skepticism

Postby M. Henri Day » Tue Feb 15, 2005 8:45 am

I think George Monbiot has a point in his article from today's Guardian, as regards the proper usage of this word. As Miguel de Unamuno informs us,
Skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found. [Miguel de Unamuno, "Essays and Soliloquies," 1924]


Mocking our dreams
The reality of climate change is that the engines of progress have merely accelerated our rush to the brink

George Monbiot
Tuesday February 15, 2005

Guardian

It is now mid-February, and already I have sown 11 species of vegetable. I know, though the seed packets tell me otherwise, that they will flourish. Everything in this country - daffodils, primroses, almond trees, bumblebees, nesting birds - is a month ahead of schedule. And it feels wonderful. Winter is no longer the great grey longing of my childhood. The freezes this country suffered in 1982 and 1963 are, unless the Gulf Stream stops, unlikely to recur. Our summers will be long and warm. Across most of the upper northern hemisphere, climate change, so far, has been kind to us.
And this is surely one of the reasons why we find it so hard to accept what the climatologists are now telling us. In our mythologies, an early spring is a reward for virtue. "For, lo, the winter is past," Solomon, the beloved of God, exults. "The rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come." How can something which feels so good result from something so bad?

Tomorrow, after 13 years of negotiation, the Kyoto protocol on climate change comes into force. No one believes that this treaty alone - which commits 30 developed nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 4.8% - will solve the problem. It expires in 2012 and, thanks to US sabotage, there has so far been no progress towards a replacement. It paroles the worst offenders, the US and Australia, and imposes no limits on the gases produced by developing countries. The cuts it enforces are at least an order of magnitude too small to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at anything approaching a safe level. But even this feeble agreement is threatened by our complacency about the closing of the climatic corridor down which we walk.

Why is this? Why are we transfixed by terrorism, yet relaxed about the collapse of the conditions that make our lives possible? One reason is surely the disjunction between our expectations and our observations. If climate change is to introduce horror into our lives, we would expect - because throughout our evolutionary history we survived by finding patterns in nature - to see that horror beginning to unfold. It is true that a few thousand people in the rich world have died as a result of floods and heatwaves. But the overwhelming sensation, experienced by all of us, almost every day, is that of being blessed by our pollution.

Instead, the consequences of our gluttony are visited on others. The climatologists who met at the government's conference in Exeter this month heard that a rise of just 2.1 degrees, almost certain to happen this century, will confront as many as 3 billion people with water stress. This, in turn, is likely to result in tens of millions of deaths. But the same calm voice that tells us climate change means mild winters and early springs informs us, in countries like the UK, that we will be able to buy our way out of trouble. While the price of food will soar as the world goes into deficit, those who are rich enough to have caused the problem will, for a couple of generations at least, be among the few who can afford to ignore it.

Another reason is that there is a well-funded industry whose purpose is to reassure us, and it is granted constant access to the media. We flatter its practitioners with the label "sceptics". If this is what they were, they would be welcome. Scepticism (the Latin word means "inquiring" or "reflective") is the means by which science advances. Without it we would still be rubbing sticks together. But most of those we call sceptics are nothing of the kind. They are PR people, the loyalists of Exxon Mobil (by whom most of them are paid), commissioned to begin with a conclusion and then devise arguments to justify it. Their presence on outlets such as the BBC's Today programme might be less objectionable if, every time Aids was discussed, someone was asked to argue that it is not caused by HIV, or, every time a rocket goes into orbit, the Flat Earth Society was invited to explain that it could not possibly have happened. As it is, our most respected media outlets give Exxon Mobil what it has paid for: they create the impression that a significant scientific debate exists when it does not.

But there's a much bigger problem here. The denial of climate change, while out of tune with the science, is consistent with, even necessary for, the outlook of almost all the world's economists. Modern economics, whether informed by Marx or Keynes or Hayek, is premised on the notion that the planet has an infinite capacity to supply us with wealth and absorb our pollution. The cure to all ills is endless growth. Yet endless growth, in a finite world, is impossible. Pull this rug from under the economic theories, and the whole system of thought collapses.

And this, of course, is beyond contemplation. It mocks the dreams of both left and right, of every child and parent and worker. It destroys all notions of progress. If the engines of progress - technology and its amplification of human endeavour - have merely accelerated our rush to the brink, then everything we thought was true is false. Brought up to believe that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness, we are now discovering that it is better to curse the darkness than to burn your house down.

Our economists are exposed by climatologists as utopian fantasists, the leaders of a millenarian cult as mad as, and far more dangerous than, any religious fundamentalism. But their theories govern our lives, so those who insist that physics and biology still apply are ridiculed by a global consensus founded on wishful thinking.

And this leads us, I think, to a further reason for turning our eyes away. When terrorists threaten us, it shows that we must count for something, that we are important enough to kill. They confirm the grand narrative of our lives, in which we strive through thickets of good and evil towards an ultimate purpose. But there is no glory in the threat of climate change. The story it tells us is of yeast in a barrel, feeding and farting until it is poisoned by its own waste. It is too squalid an ending for our anthropocentric conceit to accept.

The challenge of climate change is not, primarily, a technical one. It is possible greatly to reduce our environmental impact by investing in energy efficiency, though as the Exeter conference concluded, "energy efficiency improvements under the present market system are not enough to offset increases in demand caused by economic growth". It is possible to generate far more of the energy we consume by benign means. But if our political leaders are to save the people rather than the people's fantasies, then the way we see ourselves must begin to shift. We will succeed in tackling climate change only when we accept that we belong to the material world.


www.monbiot.com

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
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here we go aain

Postby KatyBr » Tue Feb 15, 2005 1:53 pm

interesting choice of definition. It does ignore the truth of climatic cycles! And of course the normal waxing and waning of the ozone layer I wish I could find the article that told of a probe sent up to measure chlorofluorocarbons and the findings were never published (hmmmmmm), but it eludes me. here however I offer a different view:
http://www.fathersforlife.org/REA/warming.htm

Katy
but it is proved, neh?
Last edited by KatyBr on Sat Feb 19, 2005 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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space chlorofluoracarbon checker

Postby KatyBr » Tue Feb 15, 2005 2:11 pm

Aura spacecraft, built for NASA by Northrop Grumman Corp., was launched aboard a Boeing Co. Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base at 6:02 a.m. (July 16,2004)EDT. ....
Aura is focused on trace gasses and aerosols that make up about one percent of the atmosphere, but are almost as important as oxygen itself to life on Earth," said Phil DeCola, another mission scientist....
Scientists said they expect their first findings to be made public in December.

that is December of 2004...
we shall see if limiting the chlorofluorocarbons has made any difference.

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Postby M. Henri Day » Tue Feb 15, 2005 3:37 pm

That there exist «natural» - i e, not man-made - climatic changes and climatic cycles is accepted, as far as I know, by all who have studied the matter. The question at issue among climatologists is rather, whether H sap sap is inadvertantly modifying the climate, due to the its release of amounts of certain gases that exceed the homeostatic capacity of the planet. The next question is the effects such changes will have on the environment, including those of our own lives as a species. Mr Monbiot suggests that the answer to the first question is affirmative, and to the second, «dire». He then, on the basis of these assumptions proceeds to examine why these, as he believes them to be, facts are ignored by most of us. To my mind, the argumentation of such sources as the Bruderheim Rural Electrification Association Ltd. show that this latter is an issue that requires investigation and discussion....

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Postby Apoclima » Tue Feb 15, 2005 5:27 pm

The global warming scam

'"Global warming" was invented in 1988, when it replaced two earlier myths of an imminent plunge into another Ice Age and the threat of a nuclear winter. The new myth was seen to encapsulate a whole range of other myths and attitudes that had developed in the 1960s and 1970s, including "limits to growth," sustainability, neo-Malthusian fears of a population time bomb, pollution, anticorporate anti-Americanism, and an Al Gore-like analysis of human greed disturbing the ecological harmony and balance of the earth.


Just for color and contrast!

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'Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.' -Max Planck
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contrasting views

Postby KatyBr » Tue Feb 15, 2005 7:44 pm

I'm not so sure discussions do all that much, It's much like the difference between theraputic and diagnostic. Often one thinks that taking a temperature will help one who is running a fever. It doesn't, by the way.

OK, we've banned the chlorofluorocarbons, if the holes in the ozone don't get smaller, and btw ozone is basically oxygen, and there is no permanent distruction of the ozone, maybe it is a natural flux in the sizes of the hole.

We will always have Chicken Littles among us, as Apo has pointed out, but we need to evaluate our dangers accordingly, before we just go nutty and ban breathing and other fun stuff.

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Postby M. Henri Day » Wed Feb 16, 2005 12:16 pm

Unlike the source Apo cites, I don't think global warming is a scam or that the problem is going to go away, but this is not to say that dealing with it is going to be easy or that hard choices, concerning both our life styles and the manner in which we deal with our living space, can be avoided. Professor McKibben's article, taken from today's New York Times illustrates some of the difficult decisions that will have to be made. For my part, I think that both the Danes, and Professor McKibben are right about windpower....

Henri

February 16, 2005

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Tilting at Windmills

By Bill McKibben


Johnsburg, N.Y.

FINALLY, American environmentalists have a chance to get it right about wind power.

News broke this week of plans for the first big wind energy installation in the Adirondack Park. Ten towering turbines would sprout on the site of an old garnet mine in this tiny town. They'd be visible from the ski slopes at nearby Gore Mountain, and they'd be visible too from the deep wild of the Siamese Ponds Wilderness, one of the loneliest and most beautiful parts of New York's "forever wild" Adirondack Forest Preserve, the model for a century of American conservation. In fact, it would be hard to imagine a place better suited to illustrate the controversy that wind power is causing in this country.

I know the area well; I've lived most of my adult life in this part of the world, and I've skied and backpacked through the old mine and the woods around it, searched for (and found) lost hunters, encountered its bears and coyotes and fisher, sat on its anonymous peaks and knolls and watched the hawks circle beneath. In fact, this very wilderness - these yellow birches, the bear that left that berry-filled pile of scat, those particular loons laughing on that particular lake - led me to fall in love with the world outdoors.

Which is precisely why I hope those wind turbines rise on the skyline, and as soon as possible.

The planet faces many environmental challenges, but none of them come close to global warming. In the past month new studies have shown that the trigger point for severe climate change may be closer than previously thought, and the possible consequences even more severe. Just to slow the pace of this rapid warming will require every possible response, from more efficient cars to fewer sprawling suburbs to more trains to - well, the list is pretty well endless.

But wind power is one key component. Around the world it's the fastest growing source of electric generation, mostly because the technology, unlike solar power, has evolved to the point where it's cost-competitive with fossil fuels. The Danes already generate nearly a quarter of their power from the breeze; the Germans and the Spaniards and the British are rapidly heading in the same direction.

In America, however, the growth of wind power has been slower. Partly that's because the Bush administration's stance on climate change has meant scant government support for renewable energy. But partly, too, it's because environmentalists, particularly in the crowded East, haven't come to terms with this technology. In fights in Cape Cod, the mountains of Vermont, and the ridgelines of Maryland, they've divided into bitter factions over almost every turbine proposal. On one side, national environmental groups like Greenpeace have backed many installations, arguing that the dangers of global warming far outweigh any local effects. On the other side, neighbors of proposed wind farms have joined with local chapters of big conservation groups to fight the Statue-of-Liberty-size windmills on environmental grounds, chiefly arguing that they'll destroy the scenic beauty of their areas.

That may be provincial, but it's not entirely inaccurate. These newer, more efficient turbines are enormous; part of me doesn't want to gaze out from the summit of Peaked Mountain or the marsh at Thirteenth Lake and see an industrial project in the distance. In the best of all possible worlds, we'd do without them.

But it's not the best of all possible worlds. Right now, the choice is between burning fossil fuels and making the transition, as quickly as possible, to renewable power. There are more than 100 coal-fired power plants on the drawing board in this country right now; if they are built we will spew ever more carbon into the atmosphere. And that will endanger not only the residents of low-lying tropical nations that will be swamped by rising oceans, but also the residents of the Siamese Pond Wilderness. The birch and beech and maple that turn this place glorious in the fall won't survive a rapid warming; the computer modeling for this part of the country, conducted at the University of New Hampshire, shows that if we continue with business as usual there won't even be winter as we've known it here by century's end, just one long chilly mud season.

That is not to say that every Adirondack ridgeline should be turned into a wind farm. Most are unsuitable - they're on constitutionally protected state forest preserve, they have no roads or power lines nearby, it would be criminal to wreck them in the name of clean energy. But this site is precisely the sort of place environmentalists should applaud, and insist on: it's privately owned, and there's already a road and a high-voltage line. Because of the mine, much of the land was even zoned industrial, a rarity in the park.

So here environmentalists should step back and say, especially in this cradle of American wilderness, that the price is worth paying. To see that blade turning in the blue Adirondack sky - to see the breeze made visible - should be a sign of real hope for the future.


Bill McKibben, a visiting scholar at Middlebury College, is the author of the forthcoming "Wandering Home: A Long Walk Through America's Most Hopeful Region, Vermont's Champlain Valley and New York's Adirondacks."

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company
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Climatic vs. climactic

Postby Brazilian dude » Sat Feb 19, 2005 8:52 pm

climactic, climatic When nine or ten handbooks make haste to tell you that climactic refers to climax and climatic to climate and you should not confuse the two, you might suppose that there is some insidious tendency for the words to be muddled in somewhat similar contexts. Not so. This is a simple matter of spelling, and from what we can find in our files the error is more often mentioned in handbooks than it occurs in edited prose. Climactic is the rather more frequent word; it is useful to book and movie reviewers, among others. Climatic is used mostly in technical contexts, but occasionally creeps into ordinary public view in articles on ice ages, global warming, and such. Our scanty evidence suggests that when the spelling or the typesetting goes wrong, it is climatic that turns up in the place of climactic.

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Languages rule!
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Postby KatyBr » Sat Feb 19, 2005 9:02 pm

oops

Katy
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Postby Brazilian dude » Sat Feb 19, 2005 9:05 pm

:)

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Postby tcward » Sun Feb 20, 2005 1:48 am

And one is far more likely to encounter anti-clamactic than climactic...

-Tim
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clamactic?

Postby KatyBr » Sun Feb 20, 2005 1:53 am

is that sexual release for a geoduck?

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Postby M. Henri Day » Sun Feb 20, 2005 1:09 pm

Apropos The global warming scam, I can't but find the following comment by Tony Auth apt....

Henri
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby M. Henri Day » Mon Feb 21, 2005 5:35 am

The evidence for global warming caused by human activities, as seen in Tim Radford's article from the on-going AAAS congress published in Saturday's Guardian, keeps mounting....

Henri

American Association for the Advancement of Science

Oceans of evidence for global warming

Tim Radford in Washington

Saturday February 19, 2005

Guardian


The first evidence of human-produced global warming in the oceans has been found, thanks to computer analysis of seven million temperature readings taken over 40 years to depths of 700 metres (2,300ft).
Tim Barnett, of the Scripps Institution in San Diego, told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington yesterday he was "stunned" by the findings, which have yet to be published in the scientific press.
"The statistical significance of these results is far too strong to be merely dismissed and should wipe out much of the uncertainty about the reality of global warning," he said.
In effect, US scientists financed by the government have once again told the Bush administration that global warming is real, and that humans were responsible.
America pulled out of the Kyoto agreement, which came into force on Wednesday, under which many nations have agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"Over the past 40 years there has been considerable warming of the planetary system and approximately 90% of that warming has gone directly into the oceans," Dr Barnett said. "So if you want to go and find out what's causing it, that's the place to look. We did look.
"We defined a fingerprint, if you wish, of ocean warming ... We had several computer simulations, for instance, one for natural variability. Could the climate system just do this on its own? The answer was clearly no."
The climate shift that affected the oceans would have other consequences. A dramatic acceleration of glacier melting in the Andes, and in western China, could leave millions of people without enough water each summer.
Climate warming would alter snow levels in the American mountains and precipitate a water crisis in the western US within 20 years. In the past four decades, other scientists told the conference, an extra 20,000 cubic kilometres of glacial ice had flowed into the sea, changing salinity levels and threatening to alter ocean flow patterns, with unpredictable consequences.
The warming of the Arctic could have a big impact on seals, polar bears and walruses, which depend on winter ice for hunting. In 1997, hundreds of thousands of short-tailed shearwaters died because a bloom of plankton changed the colour of the water in the Bering Strait and masked the birds' food supply.
There was evidence of a build-up of melt water below the Greenland ice sheet. If the ice cap melted, sea levels could rise by seven metres.
"We've got a serious problem ahead of us. The debate is no longer: is there a global warming signal? The debate now is: what are we going to do about it?" Dr Barnett asked.
"Global warming is going on and you can see it in the oceans. The evidence really is overwhelming and it's a good time for nations that are not part of Kyoto to re-evaluate their positions and see if it would be to their advantage to join."
The levels of warming were seemingly small: 0.5C (0.9F) at the surface, 0.15C at greater depths.
But oceans cover 70% of the Earth, to depths of two or three miles. What mattered was not the temperature, but the volume of heat submerged.
"If we could mine the energy that has gone in over the past 40 years we could run the state of California for over 200,000 years," Dr Barnett said.
"It's an amazing amount of energy that's gone in. Where did it come from? Not the sun, satellites would have picked that up. It's come from greenhouse warming."
曾记否,到中流击水,浪遏飞舟?
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Postby KatyBr » Mon Feb 21, 2005 11:55 am

I do believe it was just as August authorites who insisted we were entering an ice-age just a few decades ago. But hmmmm, they may have been mistaken, Remember in the Academic world it's publish or perish, and btw it's the 'out therre' articles that get published.

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