Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We will get fooled again

It's interesting to watch smoke curling from chimneys in late June, and to hear of people relighting their Agas, and to see pedestrians in their fleeces pass the window, as Radio 4 finally gets round, yesterday (no link available), to blaming the recent unseasonally cold weather on global warming.

Browsing the climate statistics at NOAA, set against a baseline of the 1971 to 2000 average (against which you'd expect current statistic to show "unusually warm"), it is very clear that the warming of the 1980s and early 1990s has plateaued, though not yet begun to fall back. Perhaps it will start rising significantly again.

But what if (when?) it does become obvious that the temperature trend has started to fall? What will be the reaction? Will heads explode?

Nope. The reaction will be as follows:

1. The non-scientific journalists who have been ululating about "consensus" and insisting that "the science is in" will start making "scientists, eh? Can't trust 'em" pieces.*

2. The milleniarists will move seamlessly onto the next reason why we're all doomed unless we let them take control of every detail of our lives, as they have every time their predictions have failed to materialise, which is what has happened every time they have made predictions.

And millions of people will buy it.

* Ever noticed how news items are prefaced "Scientists say..."? Scientists say sugar is good for you. Scientists say sugar is bad for you. Scientists, eh? Can't they make their minds up?

The same journalists never begin any pieces with "Politicians say...". Politicians say higher taxes are good. Politicians say higher taxes are bad. Politicians, eh?

If it were more widely understood that scientists disagree with each other, that knowledge is incomplete and that different research projects can under these circumstances be expected to point to different conclusions sometimes, indeed that apparently contradictory conclusions can all be correct in a state of incomplete knowledge, then we would have had to put up with a lot less bullshit in recent years.

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