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6. It is worse than scientists think

The progress of the so-called “hard sciences,” particularly physics has been built on a foundation of search out the true reality of the phenomenon being studied. (A superb example is recent search for a prediction Einsten made of gravity waves.)

However, there is a point at which scrupulearness can become excessive, and climate change is one of those. Its nature is full of fascinating scientific problems on which one could expect to build a career. But its nature has another side, a persistent cancer like devourment of its subject that almost no one wishes to recognize and that, unfortunately, includes many of the scientists.

The danger of global warming requires action before all the studies are complete because it insidiously metastisizes more rapidly than the studies can be completed. And the political individuals and institutions that need to deal with the impending calamity neither can nor want to face the implications. So a fudamental weekness of humanity itself is revealed.

There is now evidence accumulating for this. A headline in the November 8, 2019 New York Times “How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong: Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios.”

Quoting from the article:

“Had a scientist in the early 1990s suggested that within 25 years a single heat wave would ... bake the Arctic and produce Sahara-like temperatures in Paris and Berlin, the prediction would have been dismissed as alarmist. But many worst-case scenarios from that time are now realities.”

The Times story is based on an article in
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN with the headline: “Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Pace of Climate Change.”

What is going on here?

The scientific work is good, but it generally shows a range of possibilities with some extremes, and scientists are reluctant to publish a range with extremes for many reasons. So a consensus must be arrived at and the more extreme possibilities discarded even if the rational for them is very good. There is the valid fear that deniers will jump all over them: “See. They don’t know what they are talking about.”

Another issue, not discussed in these articles, is that the majority of the work is done by tenured professors and rocking the boat just causes upset and there is no need to be far-sighted or extreme. Job security is for the most part 100%.

As I watched the first video of the MIT symposium I was impressed by the eloquence of the president, L. Rafael Reif, but dismayed by the light-heartedness of the speakers (I did not watch long, so the tone may have changed later). I cannot imagine speaking about the fate of the earth in this time of great urgency (which was indicated at various times) without conveying that urgency as fully as possible.

This is a link to the MIT PLAN.

There is another characteristic of “good science” that can interfere with research into complex problems like global warming. Good science does not generally concern itself with the time it takes to solve a problem, rather the most important quality is to get the science right, so the study or experiment can be relied upon by future scientist.

This often results whwithen very complex problems in “simplificans,” which means leaving out variables that may contribute to the result, but make the original problem intractable; i.e. impossible to solve. Such simplificanion works but can result in a useless result. I remember one such several years abo about sea level rise that discounted all but one variable, resulting in worthless results.

7. A Review of The MIT Plan

Although there are other greenhouse gases, the most important is carbon dioxide. Here a simplification is in order, and that is to recognize that in the big picture it is carbon dioxide that is most import. If that is brought under control.

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