Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?

Unless you live at the bottom of a very deep pond you are probably aware of the ongoing worldwide debate about climate change. On the one side we have the “Alarmists” who claim that the Earth is warming due to a runaway greenhouse effect caused by man-made pollution, and that we are approaching a tipping point beyond which the ice-caps will melt raising sea levels by several meters, swamping the world’s major cities while the remaining population swelters in drought ridden deserts punctuated by frequent hurricanes and flash floods. On the other foot we have the “Deniers” who say that the data is largely exaggerated or even faked and in reality there has been little or no warming and what there has been is a natural process that will stabilise and is likely to be beneficial.

Obviously this is no small matter. The future of our world and the fate of humanity is at stake here. If the Alarmists are right we need to take drastic and costly action now. If the Deniers are right we would be overreacting and seriously damaging the global economy for nothing. How can we decide who to believe?

Much of the debate in the media is driven by politics and journalists. You can call me a cynic but I don’t put give much weight to their style of argument. I don’t care if NASA has a great page supporting the case of the Alarmists or if a blog run by the Telegraph informs me the Margaret Thatcher was a climate sceptic. I don’t care how many scientists promote the cause of anthropic global warming or how many signed a petition against it.  Instead I want to look at the data and the science behind it because this is a question that can only be settled by careful scientific analysis.

My plan is to run a series of posts here looking at specific claims about climate change, such as “The sea is warming?” or “The ice core record shows that CO2 concentrations drive climate change?” I will look at the scientific arguments and try to decide if the claim is fact or fiction. Over time I hope to build up a picture of what is really going on. 

Of course I’m not a climate science expert so I may draw some wrong conclusions along the way. You are welcome to chime in with comments to put me straight. You can also suggest other claims for me to look at. This is a quiet corner of the blogosphere away from the major climate sites whose comment sections are always overrun. All the climate blogs seem to be either Alarmists or Deniers whereas here I am going to try to give a more balanced picture. Either everyone will ignore me or everyone will attack me but that does not matter.

The aim is just to try to get people to look at the science behind the issue directly rather than through the opinion of others. That idea may be flawed because the data is always supplied through organisations who manipulate it for our consumption and thanks to the system of  many science journals I don’t always have access to the papers I need to look at.  In some cases I will have to point to what the Alarmists and Deniers say and try to figure out who is right. I’ll always try to come to a conclusion myself but you should form your own. 

First real post in the series coming up soon. You are welcome to post suggestions for what to look at first.

6 Responses to Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?

  1. Mitchell Porter says:

    In my experience, if you start blogging about climate, a climate skeptic will soon show up in your comments. Given the nature of this blog, you will probably get the ones who want to revise physics in some way (there are many of those).

    So far as I can see, the basic situation is that the paleo data imply a “climate sensitivity” of 3 degrees, whereas directly inferring the sensitivity from the “feedbacks” only implies something between 1 and 3 degrees, with most of the uncertainty arising from clouds.

  2. philipgibbs says:

    Mitchell, There are skeptics who say that the link between cause and effect in the paleo data is not what the IPCC assume. That is something I will need to consider, but I will be applying a skeptical outlook to the arguments of both sides and will ignore anything that require a revision of physics.

  3. Kea says:

    Oh no, Philip, this is not a good idea. You’ll just end up either arguing, or being cheered on, by the likes of Lubos. I have looked at the data over a long time … and the simple story is that climate change is real and influenced by humans, BUT we don’t really know what will happen. It could get a lot warmer. It could get a lot hotter. Both alarmists and deniers tend to misunderstand this basic point.

  4. Kea says:

    … I meant to say that it could also get a lot colder.

  5. philipgibbs says:

    I know what you mean Kea. So long as there is some science in the arguments I dont mind. If it degrades to pure politics, sarcasm or name calling I will take action. Lubos sometimes makes good points. If he contributes that would be good.

  6. Cameron says:

    You could just start here, and save yourself some time:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/

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