Views on Climate Change

From what I’m reading, there are at least three ways to approach the issue of climate change.

1, The scientific approach–used mainly by boring people with degrees that require a lot of math proficiency. They use their math skills to produce factual, cross-referenced data. Typically, they hesitate to provide dramatic statements or prognostications lest they be wrong, for other such people with math skills are out there waiting for them to draw an unsupported conclusion. It’s nerd-eat-nerd in science.

This approach leads to the publication of studies with sexy titles such as this from the December 2008 issue of Journal of Climate: “Springtime Intensification of the Great Plains Low-Level Jet and Midwest Precipitation in GCM Simulations of the Twenty-First Century.”

In case you’re still waiting for your copy to arrive, here’s the abstract:

Simulations from 18 coupled atmosphere–ocean GCMs are analyzed to predict changes in the climatological Great Plains low-level jet (GPLLJ) and Midwest U.S. hydrology resulting from greenhouse gas increases during the twenty-first century. To build confidence in the prediction, models are selected for analysis based on their twentieth-century simulations, and their simulations of the future are diagnosed to ensure that the response is reasonable. Confidence in the model projections is also bolstered by agreement among models, in a so-called multimodel ensemble, and by analogy with present-day interannual variability. The GCMs agree that the GPLLJ will be more intense in April, May, and June in the future. The selected models even agree on the reason for this intensification, namely, a westward extension and strengthening of the North Atlantic subtropical high (the Bermuda high) that occurs when greenhouse gas–induced warming over the continental United States exceeds that of the subtropical Atlantic in the spring. Accompanying the changes in the GPLLJ are springtime precipitation increases of 20%–40% in the upper Mississippi Valley, which are closely associated with intensified meridional moisture convergence by the jet, with decreases to the south, which results in reduced moist static stability in the region. The simulated differences in the Midwest circulation and hydrology in the spring for the twenty-first century are similar to the observed moisture balance and circulation anomalies for May and, especially, June of 1993, a year of devastating floods throughout the Mississippi Valley. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]

Scintillating stuff, huh? But SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE wades through this stuff in order to use it, inflate it, twist it, or deny it for ideological purposes. And this is where the whole issue becomes interesting.

I know just enough, which is actually extremely little, about science to go with the nerds. The scientific method is self-correcting and eventually reaches some sort of conclusion, usually a tentative conclusion, e.g. gravity is just a theory.

But others are not so interested in tentative conclusions since they already have the answer. They just need to support that conclusion with whatever they can scavenge from the true nerds. And this leads to the second viewpoint.

2. The ideological approach–used mainly by people with agendas be they right, left, religious, or whatever.

Would you suspect that an outfit named the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) might have an agenda?

Would you suspect someone who constantly refers to a former Vice President as Algore might have an agenda?

Those who frequent CEI and the Hoover Institute will say that sites such as RealClimate obviously have an agenda too. True. But the RealClimate agenda is to support science not politics or economics or religion. They get into some pretty nasty and obscure arguments. It’s actually quite rare for them to just say, “Amen.” So this bounces them back to advocates of the scientific approach. But, of course, some will say that science is just godlessness, and man should BELIEVE. We could go on and on here, but I’d rather not.

And that leaves the third approach.

3. The REAL free market approach–used by people who might make or lose REAL money if climate change is happening.

This approach often includes ideologues, but there’s an important difference. These folks are talking about here and NOW matters, not distant or theoretical implications. This isn’t about taxation or socialism or God. This is about BUSINESS.

A couple of years ago, I decided that when insurance companies and farmers started freaking out about climate change the issue had passed from theory to something close to certainty.

I saw the first news stories a few years ago. Now the headlines are now coming more and more often. Here are two from today.

This is from Bloomberg: “Natural Disasters Cause Higher Losses in 2008, Munich Re Says”

Here’s a pertinent section:

“Climate change has already started and is very probably contributing to increasingly frequent weather extremes and ensuing natural catastrophes,” management board member Torsten Jeworrek said. “2008 has again shown how important it is for us to analyze risks like climate change in all their facets and to manage the business accordingly.”

This is from Western Farm Press: “Researchers Say Global Warming to Have Devastating Impact on Certain California Crops”

Now that’s the sort of headline that should get the attention of someone whose living comes off a crop of oranges or grapes.

Of course, this article features research and projections done by Stanford researchers and Michael Mastrandrea of the Woods Institute for the Environment. Science nerds!!

As I see it, this means the scientific approach wins 2-1.



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