Saturday, 4 April 2009

Yet another in the "Crock of the Week" series

The "crock" video embedded below is about the "Oregon petition" which was supposedly signed by 32,000 “leading scientists”. It goes into some detail about the background of the initiators of the petition and their dubious values. It also touches upon the past links that some major deniers have to the tobacco industry’s previous long term denial (and deliberate deception about) the risks of smoking. It does not, however, mention probably the most misleading aspect of the petition, the whole text of which follows.

We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan in December, [sic] 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

Firstly, even the re-circulated (in 2007) petition still uses this text which is clearly severely out of date. Secondly, the major deceit comes in the misrepresentation of what can be called scientific philosophy in order to fool the public. When they use the term "convincing scientific evidence" in this way it should be taken to mean there is no final and certain proof that man made emissions will definitely cause catastrophic heating and disruption of the climate. This is true!! What deceitful denialist propaganda like this fails to tell the suckers is that only by "running the experiment", and seeing what actually happens, can there be final proof of the theories. By the time the theories are scientifically proved, if we are then undergoing catastrophic disruption, it will be a bit late to do anything about it.

Another crock that the author is probably working on is the "it's just a fallible computer model" canard. Senator Ferguson loves this one. I'll get around to commenting on that in due course but the basic riposte to this argument is this: seeing as we do not have perfect knowledge of how climate systems alter with varying inputs, nor could we without hundreds of years, possibly thousands, of actual experimental science, the computer models we have, flawed as they may be, are our very best idea of what may happen.

When the best available peer-reviewed scientific prognostication method states that there will be a problem that will range from moderate to catastrophic, it should be basic risk/benefit analysis that we use to show us what to do. Are you feeling lucky, punks?

It is not simply that there is one model anyway - there are at least twenty and they all broadly agree. Even if they are all wrong, policy makers and people generally, and deniers in particular, have to take into account that they can be wrong either way when deciding what to do to mitigate the risk. The models and majority science may be wrong and global warming could turn out to be benign, even ultimately beneficial, compared with our current climate - or it could turn out to be the end of our civilisation and the prelude to one of those mass extinctions of species that happen when some major outside disturbance assaults the planetary systems, like an asteroid slamming in. It would be pretty stupid of the so-called intelligent human race to do that sort of destructive planetary engineering all by itself wouldn't it? Acts of God are one thing but how much dumber would be this “Act of Man”? Jared Diamond would be able to write a much more dramatic sequel to "Collapse”!

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