We're all at it, all coming up with deeply held opinions on the Global Warming crisis. We should try to argue with the people who disagree with us in a restrained, objective, respectful way, but we get too emotional. Unlike my husband, I don't see commentators who disagree with me as "the trolls", necessarily; some of them seem to be as genuinely anxious as I am, but from a different standpoint. Right wing males feel particularly threatened by protests from people (women and girls in particular) of a left wing persuasion, which leads either to temper tantrums or to long-winded, defensive wordiness.
Each faction accuses the other of generating fake news. The language used by extremists on either side is remarkably similar, murderous in some cases. I do not like this.
It looks to me that there's an awful lot of what psychologists call projection going on. We accuse one another, viciously, of what we are guilty of ourselves. It happens not only behind closed doors in private homes but also in the international public arena. For instance, the billionaire, Hungarian philanthropist, George Soros, is accused of funding conspiracies that would lead to world domination. I doubt that, at the age of almost 90, this man has any desire to dominate the world like a latter-day Genghis Khan, although there are people of a different persuasion who probably do. Another example of projection (of course my examples in this post are biased): Americans who cannot accept the warnings from the vast majority of scientists --- that through our preference for carbon emitting fuels humankind is bringing about the planet's destruction --- claim that anyone trying to state the other side of that argument is having his work suppressed. And yet it is the scientists themselves, of NASA and other federal agencies, who are being forbidden (their publications censored by the government) from sharing the results of research that backs up those warnings, and their frustration is intense. So exactly who is clamping down on whom?
To judge by pages like this one (published last year for a lay readership), the NASA website does seem to be surreptitiously disobeying the clampdown, subtly sneaking in some home truths or at least the implication of home truths. It reminds me of Galileo Galilei, his work suppressed by the Roman Catholic authorities of the 16th century, smuggling his thesis out of Italy, carried by a student of his into a more enlightened place, "die Wahrheit unter dem Rock" (the truth hidden under one's coat), as Brecht put it in his play. We're half a millennium further on now, but human nature hasn't changed much.
What brought on this post was an exchange between me, my daughter Emma and a commentator from New Zealand on Avaaz' Facebook page, this week, whom I shall call RL, viz.:
RL: Poor children indoctrinated with all of those lies, robbed of the ability to think critically for themselves and make up their own minds. They have been taught to be narrow minded and totally intolerant of opinions that differ from those taught to them. The next generation is stuffed mentally and I guess that is how it has been callously planned.
So what exactly is the climate emergency? What factors are causing it and how do they all inter relate? Have you identified all of the factors and how, precisely would you know if you had? What responses will you make for each factor and how would you measure whether the response is effective, ineffective or actually making things worse, and over what time frame would you measure that response? If the response was making things worse would you be able to fix it? These are very important questions considering the recent NASA statement saying they are unable to measure whether the sea level rise but they estimate it to be around 1 to 2 cm per century. Also in a recent presentation an IPCC scientist said they didn't know whether a temperature increase would produce more or less water vapour, and what change that might make to the climate and that they still don't understand the interaction between water vapour and CO2. Now, that is very important considering that water vapour is by far the largest greenhouse component in our atmosphere. Another thing to consider is that our planet has tilted further on it's axis than was expected. This means that how the sun heats the planet has changed, affecting surface ocean current and in turn wind currents. This can cause things like last summers European heat wave because the wind currents from the Sahara Desert covered Europe more often and for longer periods than usual and extended as far as the Arctic. If it is the rate of the earths tilt that has changed and is causing climate change, is it changing the weather is ways that are beneficial in the long term, and it may take fifty years to get that answer, and if it is making things worse just how do you propose to fix it?
Me (quoting https://climate.nasa.gov/causes): "1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world [...] concluded there's a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet." Are you saying that all these scientists got it wrong?
My daughter is a British metrologist who gave a keynote speech about measuring climate change at a conference in Paris today. She works with people who analyse data from satellites, and with oceanographers, all of whom believe that "human activities have warmed our planet". I shall ask her what she knows about the interaction between water vapour and CO2. She said that at the conference she also listened to a presentation about observations of carbon isotope ratios that enable scientists to distinguish between natural carbon dioxide emissions and the emissions caused by the use of fossil fuels. The graphs they generate are alarming proofs of the harm we humans are causing. I don't agree with Greta Thunberg that we should all be panicking, — panicking is no good as a strategy — but this is a global emergency for sure.
Emma Woolliams: Alison’s daughter here. Very happy to explain any aspects of the science you have questions on. And yes, there are questions on the exact nature of the cloud feedback. A hotter atmosphere (from CO2) holds more water vapour before it forms clouds and rains. As water vapour is the dominant (natural) greenhouse gas (without it, average global temperatures would be about -15 degC) increasing water vapour in the atmosphere acts as a positive (that’s bad!) feedback loop for the climate. However it creates more clouds and that tends to warm nights and cool days (and other things). So yes, scientists are still working on understanding that detail. But - and this is crucial- just because we don’t understand everything, doesn’t mean we understand nothing. As scientists we are always open about what we do and don’t know - and my research is about the uncertainties in climate observations. I am evaluating how much we don’t know. Do not mix the normal scientific process with “doubt”.
Very happy to discuss further - send me a PM if you’d like to know more.
Me: I didn't bring my daughter up to be "narrow minded and intolerant", quite the contrary, as you see. Education, in my opinion, is all about encouraging young people to ask questions in a critical (but not impolite) way. I dare say these "poor children" indoctrinate one another when they're together, that's normal too — human beings become tribal in a crowd — but I don't agree that their minds have been callously and deliberately manipulated by adults. Teenagers are quick to notice and condemn hypocrisy and I think there's a large element of that in the protests we saw last week.
Your question to scientists and policy makers: "just how do you propose to fix [weather that is making things worse]?" is a very good one. Let's hope everyone with a brain will work together (without panicking) from now on (and without wasting time over petty arguments about personalities) to come up with answers to that question.
RL: Alison Hobbs, all of those scientists did not get it wrong, the people that put the survey together got it wrong, quite deliberately as it turned out when it was discredited, and they admitted to it. I have looked at that NASA site and am disappointed to see some of that information with those manipulated graphs still around. The majority of those children have been deliberately indoctrinated and taught that anyone who disagrees with them or questions what they say is a hateful nasty piece of work who doesn't deserve to live, and that is often reflected in the way they talk, and I have been subject to that abuse on this forum many times. Many scientists have been fired, had funding removed or severely punished and had gag orders imposed them when their legitimate research produces outcomes that differ from this enforced climate change narrative, and many others are just too frightened to question anything because they have witnessed the lives and names of good, honest and hard working colleagues destroyed. I do not believe that this is how good science should be conducted. It just creates an atmosphere of fear, distrust and ignorance and is not a conducive environment for robust scientific outcomes. The science on global warming is no where near settled.
Me: Oh dear, I'm sorry to hear of the abuse to which you've been subjected. There is no excuse for hateful speech or other bullying tactics, anywhere. If only we could discuss these things in a genuine spirit of inquiry and in a civilised manner, without taking sides—without the fear, distrust and ignorance, as you rightly say! But nobody, including you and me, wants to admit that his or her assumptions might be wrong.