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Monday, September 12, 2011

Should we listen to climate-change skeptics?

A group called the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) and the Heartland Institute have produced and published a report called "Climate Change Reconsidered."

It will certainly cause an uproar in some circles. Here are some of the findings:
  • Climate models fail to correctly simulate future precipitation due to inadequate model resolution on both vertical and horizontal spatial scales, a limitation that forces climate modelers to parameterize the large-scale effects of processes that occur on smaller scales than their models are capable of simulating. This is particularly true of physical processes such as cloud formation and cloud-radiation interactions.
  • All else being equal, rising levels of atmospheric CO2 would increase global temperatures through its thermal radiative properties. But CO2 promotes plant growth both on land and throughout the surface waters of the world‘s oceans, and this vast assemblage of plant life has the ability to affect Earth‘s climate in several ways, almost all of them tending to counteract the heating or cooling effects of CO2‘s thermal radiative forcing.
  • Researchers have found extreme and destructive rainfall events were more common in many parts of the world during the Little Ice Age than they have been subsequently, contradicting the forecasts of the IPCC. Regional climate models of North America generate predictions that vary considerably among models and extend well beyond the realm of reality.
  • While some corals exhibit a propensity to bleach and die when sea temperatures rise, others exhibit a positive relationship between calcification, or growth, and temperature. "Such variable bleaching susceptibility implies that there is a considerable variation in the extent to which coral species are adapted to local environmental conditions." (Maynard et al., 2008)
Because I'm not a trained climatologist, or biologist, it's difficult for me to weigh in on such specifics. But as an engineer, I know enough about research to know that a good debate is not a bad thing. So I hope this report allows a healthy dialogue among specialists and laymen. Maybe the so-called climate-change skeptics are on to something? Are we not allowed to ask such questions?

However, it does seem hard to believe that the overwhelming number of scientists that are certain about climate change are wrong. There is just too much consensus by people who are smart enough to know that if they could disprove anthropomorphic climate change then they would make a real name for themselves. Why would so many scientists bolster a theory or a hypothesis that they have no reason to support other than the fact that the evidence backs it?

Level heads are needed. As with the conference held earlier this year by Rome, and the resulting Pontifical report on climate change, it would do well for the Church to foster more of exactly that kind of dialogue--locally and globally. If nothing else, it would help discern truth, and help others do likewise.

For now, it will be interesting to see what come of this reconsideration of climate change. And while we're waiting, we can pray that God will guide all within this dialogue to the fullness of understanding, truth and, as always, love of neighbor.

1 comment:

  1. An overwhelming number of scientists believe that God doesn't exist and that abortion is OK. Why should I believe them on global warming...I mean "climate change"?

    Hitler had scientists to prove he was right. So did Stalin. Doctors used to hawk cigarettes.

    The scientific method is great and a major contribution of Western Civilization. We have gotten to where we forget that it is just a method of inquiry and not a philosophy.


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