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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Plant science & climate change [20100115|11:21]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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[the weather today is |pissed off]

Last night I went to a lecture at Emmanuel College in Cambridge that was given by Prof. John Pyle, who is a computational chemist studying climate change. He recently did some work in Malaysia which necessitated using the Palm House in the botanic gardens for proof-of-principle experiments for some new instrumentation that measured emissions from tropical plants. The lecture, which was given to the Friends of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, was pitched at a rather high level for non-chemists. Since my background is in chemistry, I understood it, but I could see afterwards why some of the people I spoke to afterwards, who were mostly botanists, were rather overhwelmed.

I don't really want to critique Prof. Pyle's presentation, though. What ticked me off was the man in the audience, a climate change skeptic, who clearly failed to understand how atmospheric climate models work on the most basic level. Yet he insisted on asking questions in a most aggressive and antagonistic manner and then, despite failing to understand the answers, kept plugging away at his point. His point, by the way, was that such models don't take water into account as a greenhouse gas, which they most certainly do.

Honestly, I tend to keep my mouth shut when climate change skepticism is expressed in an offhand manner by people at cocktail parties who don't understand the difference between weather and climate, let alone know the Clausius-Clapeyron equation. But when you get people like this, who are clearly reasonably articulate and (supposedly) educated who bleat on, repeating an argument that can be debunked if they bothered to spend the time and the effort getting to grips with the complex equations that go into climate models, insisting that they must be heard, I want to punch faces. I really do. Why are they still getting airtime? Why are they still getting airtime when 99% of the scientists working in atmospheric, oceanic and environmental chemistry and physics agree that anthropogenic activity is warming the Earth beyond anything we've seen in the past 650,000 years? And why, for pity's sake, are they being allowed to be so goddamn rude about it, when most scientists will bend over backwards to present their evidence in a calm, logical and courteous manner? When most scientists will take pieces of constructive criticism and spend years demonstrating that their ideas and hypotheses still stand up to those tests?

Seriously, if you're going to criticize the research of a scientist who has just given a coherent, rational lecture, who has not been strident or preachy and who has made an effort to point out the places where there are still gaps and uncertainties in our knowledge, the least you can do is be polite.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: greyface
2010-01-15 12:02 (UTC)
If they were actually interested in doing science correctly, would they have the positions they do?

Assuming the other 99% are doing their job correctly, it seems like the opposition faction would be saying DIFFERENT (dissenting in other ways) things, not just saying them differently.
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[User Picture]From: senusert
2010-01-15 12:09 (UTC)
Also, why would you want to be rude when there is a wealth of economic analysis suggesting that remedies range from triflingly cheap (several hundred million US in total, which translates to a carbon tax of 10 cents on the gallon) to cheap (1 trillion US, wjich translates to 40 cents on the gallon).

Most of these people are nutjobs, who think that by reading Hume or Feryabnd or Rorty gives them dispesnation to comment on the nature of scientific endeavour.
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[User Picture]From: chickenfeet2003
2010-01-15 12:16 (UTC)
Climate change denialism is promoted by powerful economic interests so it gets heard. It has always been "acceptable" for the powerful to present their nutjob ideas rudely and aggressively. Science, and indeed reason, doesn't get much of a look in if Exxon's bottom line is threatened.
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[User Picture]From: automatic_kafka
2010-01-15 13:05 (UTC)
Climate change skepticism? Pfft, everyone knows it's weather that's the myth.
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[User Picture]From: anthrokeight
2010-01-15 17:48 (UTC)
Aymen.
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[User Picture]From: sneakypeteiii
2010-01-16 14:45 (UTC)
Well, semantically, he's right: Models don't treat water as a greenhouse gas. They treat it as a climate feedback, which, of course, includes its impact on the outgoing longwave radiation. Doesn't make him any less of a jackass, though.
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