Those Hacked emails – a teacup in a storm?

I – although I never stop doing it – was forced to re-think my acceptance of climate science over the weekend. Those hacked emails had (predictably) gotten the talk-back types in the blogosphere very excited. One of the excited ones made a comment on a site I enjoy commenting on, and made me think.

The reason was unusual – generally folk who are ‘climate deniers, are peak-oil deniers, end-of-growth deniers, and hold a dim view of those who seek to protect, conserve, enhance, or to hold in trust. It just goes with the territory, and is one of the reasons you can discount them. They pretty much argue from a vested interest viewpoint, whereas my kind – well, theres nothing in it for us, beyond the knowledge that we owe it to our kids…

This fellow professed to hold with exponential growth, peak oil and resource depletion being ‘big problems’. But then thought the carbon issue a crock. Rare enough to make me think, which is always a good thing.

So over the weekend, I started from scratch – the difference between the temperatures on Mars and Venus, and why. The science of why a glasshouse/greenhouse works, and why a clear night is a frosty night.

Then I looked at the hacked emails- and I’d have expressed the sentiments too, in the same position as those (hacked) folk. Firstly, they know we are already too late. Then, they know what the deniers don’t. So the sense of ‘time running out’ is one-sided – the deniers have all the time in the world, in fact, every day they play so that nothing happens (which will impact their precious little lives) is actually a ‘win’ for them.

The emails don’t change the science, as presented. The near-hysterical blog stuff reminds me of talk-back radio – about as balanced, intelligent and informed. Predisposed, I’d have called it.

If you need to hang onto the fact that 1998 was the ‘hottest year on record’, I feel sorry for you. The anthropogenic forcing is not as powerful as the background fluctuations – like la nina , and el nino – and nobody has ever claimed it to be so.

The scenario painted was receding ice caps and glaciers, extreme weather events (Katrina and the Victorian firebomb for example) and droughts/floods, all of which are playing out.

Say ‘record flood’, or ‘record fire danger’, and you get ‘It’s the weather stupid”.

I’ll tell you what’s stupid. We have clearly gone past the time when we invented, and believed in, Gods. We are now at the point where we have to be responsible for our actions, and at the point where those actions are so big, that they are planet-altering in their potential impacts.

That requires us to be mature – grown up, as it were.

That in turn gives us only one answer to the threat of climate change. We must address all the potential threats, as there is no time left to equivocate, if they are real. If they are not real, we can back off. If they are real, we did right.

End of story.

I looked for the best the denial brigade had to offer – Plimmer was the name, I think – Wishart (inevitably) gave him an airing – but not much of substance – just the old things about sunspots, a mediaeval ‘blip’ somewhere, water vapour and the usual about 1998 being the hottest year. (It’s been well known forever, that the difference between La and El episodes more than covers such – in which (corrected) case, 2005 was the hottest year on record.

But it’s all semantics. This was never about a straight line, nor about uniform warming everywhere. Some places were absolutely expected to get colder, and or wetter. Pretty obvious, really, as is the reason  why. Learn your way through  intertropical convergence zones, Hadley Cells, trade winds, ocean currents…..  The highs and lows are going to be running different average tracks.

I hope nothing comes of climate change, I really do. To be responsible to my kids, however, I can’t afford to pretend that it isn’t a threat, therefore I don’t have to address it.

That’s immature.  Denial, blame-shifting and obfuscation are immature.

Which we should be past, by now. If we aren’t, then we are a doomed unit, and fairly quickly, for a host of other looming paradigms.

Simple as that. What a race – in both senses!

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One Response

  1. Bloody good post

    We’ve all flopped around in our thinking as we learn about the Limits to Growth etc versus the looming switch to climate instability. In the past I have felt more passionate about oil depletion and the need to transition away from fossil fuels to the extent that climate change fell into the background. But, it keeps swinging around into focus again for me. What’s the use of learning high labour intensity traditional gardening and agriculture if the climate stability that we develop those techniques from is a thing of the past? I even went through a stage in the 80s of thinking that what was known as Global Warming was a beat-up to stimulate the employment of scientists.

    We don’t have the excuse to be ignorant any more. The scientific consensus is there to see. The loss of climate instability and its forcings are impossible for an individual person to integrate, it takes a scientific community to do that. If they are all wrong and the climate change science is flawed, what indeed have we lost? Most of the ‘right things to do’ to contain emissions are also the right thing to do for a variety of other reasons. As should be bleedingly obvious, the risk of doing practically nothing is a very high stakes game.

    I also ponder why we maintain a defence force for NZ when the probability in any year that it would be deployed to fight off a foreign aggressor is so low. We maintain the forces, nontheless, despite it being an undoubted drag on the economy. My point is that there is a consensus that a military is required for low probability events because the alternative to not having a military is extremely hazardous to the nation state, its economy and population. Well, climate change at a certain point is extremely hazardous to the nation state, its economy and population, but there is some level of doubt that prevents us from being galvanised to making opposing precautions. Is it because changes of such a global and profound nature are beyond our collective experience and therefore comprehension? Does that factor feed the doubt concerning climate change that dwells in all of us? I can only wonder.

    Congratulations for owning up to the momentary ripening of the seeds of doubt in your own mind, Murray. It could be that we are the last generation to labour under such a disbelief. It would also be a nice thought that my grandchildren once grown will chuckle at the foolish doomerism of their ancestors when it all turned out fine in the end. I wish it were true…

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