Saturday, July 7, 2012

Science and Sensibility


I'd been curious about your assessment of the Colorado wildfires, and I certainly agree that part of the pathogenesis of this increasingly frequent event in the West is the hazardous intersection between home owning homo sapiens and the unpredictable vagaries of nature. Whether or not the Waldo canyon fire exemplify the sort of extreme weather events that climate models predict will only be determined in retrospect. Even as I accept the soundness of the evidence that man made release of carbon dioxide is a prime agent behind climate change, I cannot imagine the world waking up tomorrow to a new era of goodness and light in which we all sing kumbaya and display an ironclad determination to limit carbon emissions. Beyond buying green electricity, I haven't exactly been a model citizen in terms of my own carbon footprint.

At its essence, science aligns itself against a lot of human tendencies, superstition, deceit assumption, tribalism. Good science is obsessive, skeptical, careful, and humble. Scientific consensus builds from unceasing observation, welcomes challenge, and constantly revises itself. 
Scientists, however, are not immune from the frailties that plague the rest of us, and the annals science are full of individuals persecuted for the simple sin of challenging orthodoxy. Advocates of efforts to limit climate change do not advance their cause when they leave the careful language of science behind and descend into hyperbole. Eventually though, the truth,at least as we scientists understand it, will win out. Its possible, I suppose that the international scientific consensus regarding climate change is simply wrong. But if that's the case, it is surely scientists who will destroy that consensus, and not those imbeciles advancing the idiotic argument that the whole business is a massive global conspiracy to perpetuate a hoax in order to attract grant money. 

The science of climate change does not lend itself to the precision of an experiment under  controlled conditions. But carbon dioxide in minute amounts is a very efficient heat trapping agent, and carbon dioxide as a measurable component of the atmosphere continues to increase. You and I of course, won't be around long enough to see what kind of difference that makes.

So let me ask you. If the whole business is a bunch of nonsense, why are the Chinese scrambling to dominate the world in green technology?

Meanwhile, I hope you'll think twice before you buy that dream house in Pagosa Springs.



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