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... the status quo, which is taking is into completely unexplored terrain in terms of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, should be allowed to continue without conclusive proof to the contrary.

Just to be clear, I'm not accusing this post of taking that line ... this post is addressing the technical issue of the precision of climate modelling, which is an important issue no matter which side you take on the underlying issue. Rather, I'm saying that that's been the framing of those arguing for continued right to emit accelerating amounts of greenhouse gases since I first encountered the argument in the late 80's.

Setting up the work to try to model the consequences of entering that unexplored terrain.

However, if it was a situation encountered in a more immediate way, like driving on an unknown road in a heavy fog, the argument "we don't know what lays ahead, so we should accelerate" would not be taken seriously by very many people ... OK, a certain number of teenage boys of various ages, but other than that, not many.

In terms of the fight to reduce the impact of the climate crisis, I'm not bothered by the likelihood that the climate models are way off the mark ... because I only expect models to be precise when they are models of well-traveled terrain.

And also because "when you are driving in a fog on a road you've never driven on before, do you speed up or slow down?" gets to the heart of the matter with most ordinary people a lot more quickly than going through the ins and outs of climate modelling.

In general, following Robert Rosen's work Anticipatory Systems Theory, I'd expect climate modeling is likely to be imprecise because modeling a complex system with a much higher order of interaction than in the model only ever works with models that have been fine tuned with actual experience over a given range, where we know that the omitted higher order interactions are either effectively compensated for by lower order approximations or are not critical within that range.

That of course does not mean, for me, allowing continued acceleration of emission of GHG. But it remains important, because it underlines that no matter how much modelling we do, the climate crisis will catch us be surprise. So we cannot expect to cope with the crisis by simply "engineering" for the outcomes predicted by climate modeling ... our strategies to cope with the crisis have to include a heavy dose of building resilience and adaptability into systems.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jul 30th, 2008 at 10:40:40 AM EST
My irk with climate modelling is that the experts put the kind of faith in their work that is almost holier than thou. From a narrative point of view I can understand, from a scientific point of view I find it stinking to heaven and also somewhat irresponsible, for the reasons you stated at the end.

Although I'll PN you on:

completely unexplored terrain in terms of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases

The geologic record indicates very little doubt that higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations (very much higher than those today) are correlated with a more warm planet. The planet will warm; the question that remains is: how much?

by Nomad on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 04:58:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Although I'll PN you on:

completely unexplored terrain in terms of atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases

The geologic record indicates very little doubt that higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations (very much higher than those today) are correlated with a more warm planet. The planet will warm; the question that remains is: how much?

Well, OK, maybe not completely unexplored terrain ... but much less well explored terrain than this part of the Quarternary.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Jul 31st, 2008 at 05:16:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have the same impression as you. I read a lot of qualified doubts about models, by experts. Nevertheless, they will tend to point out that:

-Acknowledging the imperfection of models should NEVER be understood as a validation of all the empty talks (base on no models whatsoever) about Global Warming being a hoax, or nature being so full of negative feedback that it will never move significantly, and so on.

-CO2 (and in fact all GHG) and heat are not merely correlated, it is a laboratory-proven effect that GHG do cause warming, everything else being equal (trouble is, it seems that "everything else" is reinforcing rather than equal, let alone mitigating in real life). It is not a laboratory result that warming should increase the presence of GHG, but there is ample evidence of that, in particular for methane releases.

-So far, reality has invariably turned out worse (ie faster warming and expected effects happening earlier than expected) than models expected. In particular, the Arctic ocean is DECADES early in its melting, even compared to the business as usual scenarios.

The constant uninformed denial of those things will get scientists annoyed, and I can't blame them. But I always find them willing to admit that models are models.

Hint: that ALSO means that the inaccuracy of a model is NO refutation of Global Warming. Yet this is how it keeps being presented. We can't reject prediction because they can't be absolutely accurate, yet at the same time using any inaccuracy as refutation of the (proven) science that was behind the forecasting.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 09:29:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We can't reject prediction because they can't be absolutely accurate, yet at the same time using any inaccuracy as refutation of the (proven) science that was behind the forecasting.

I would argue that such lines of "argument" are characteristic of most who employ belief based approaches to understanding reality.  You almost always see that as part of "creation science" and other such "fundamentalist" rhetoric.  Plus, as Sinclair Lewes said:"It is very hard for a man to understand something if by understanding it he looses his livelihood." (Loosely quoted from memory.) Hard to know which is worse, delusion or cynical hypocrisy.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 7th, 2008 at 12:11:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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