Monday, July 25, 2005

The scientific method unfortunately works

Fifteen to twenty years and more ago, climatologists studying global warming, then a 'theory' made a number of predictions, using both computer and traditional models.

Some predicted a hotter and drier southwest. We can see that today in Arizona, where fires (which have been around for ages) have burned forests, and desert vegetation is growing higher up the mountain. I have myself stood on a mountain covered with cactus and sagebrush, where the charred remains of timber and tree trunks are still visible. In fact, we have had the worst four fires in the history of Arizona the past four years. This year has been a wet year (all climatologists will tell you that in a prolonged drought there may still be one or two wet years, but the trend over the past decade of prolonged drought is clear). And in spite of this year's wetness, the dry forests, full of drought killed trees (and also some weakened by drought and now infested with bark beetles, which like to drill into diseased or weak trees) provide the promise of more record breaking fires to come in the future.

Some predicted more and bigger Atlantic hurricanes. We can see that this year.

In fact, looking at the report from the Nasa observatory during the week just past, we find out on a story about the unusually high number of hurricanes already this year, that July is usually a slow month for Atlantic hurricanes, but it feels like peak season for parts of Florida and the Gulf Coast, and meteorologists say it's because of warmer than normal water temperatures and a strong, larger-than-average high pressure system over the North Atlantic. (ABC)

Others predicted the breakup of the polar ice sheets. And this past year data has come out showing that the West Antarctic ice shelf is now collapsing and may be gone in as little as 250 years (a blink of an eye, geologically speaking). And it is documented that glaciers all over the world have been in decline, recently prompting Austrian officials to go as far as to 'shrink wrap' glaciers to slow melting.

This is exactly what the scientific method is. Look at data, form a hypothesis, then wait and see if the data you collect after forming the hypothesis matches your prediction. Unfortuately, it does.

Yet through it all, conservatives and those who have financial ties to industries that might have to pay a few more dollars to help implement tougher emissions standards and other impediments to global warming, have steadfastly put their hands over their ears and stretched science to the point of breaking.

The most ridiculous example of this came a few years ago when small island nations all over the world began complaining because the rising ocean levels that threaten their very existence. The response of conservatives was nothing short of laughable, creating a theory that had absolutly no scientific basis (and which was in fact laughed to scorn by geologists) that the geological plates that formed the sea floor had suddently all started sinking into the mantle, causing the sea floor to sink under these islands, uniformly all over the world, and thus submerging islands that had been high and dry for millenia, including centuries of habitation and discovery. This was conservatism at its best; When confronted with fact, rather than entertain the notion that they might have been wrong, to instead flail their arms and invent a wild claim, which had not a single shred of science to back it up (and which in fact would require, if true, a complete re-evaluation of the science of plate techtonics and planetary geology).

It is incredible that anyone still believes anything that these people have to say when they open their mouths.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Is global warming necessarily bad? Overall, a warmer, wetter earth could grow more food and support more people. Sure there might be less glaciers and icecaps but what good do they do now?