Opinion| Opinie 11/02/2010

I don’t often copy my opinion, but I wanted to write a long piece on climate change, and I don’t find I have the time. Instead, this is a well-balanced Op-Ed in the Guardian that sums up my feelings very well.

“The case for climate action must be remade from the ground upwards” – Ian Katz

Some of my personal ideas added, or some from the article stressed:

Of course AGW is real, duh.

As the recent “email hack” showed, or more accurately, FAILED to show, there simply is no evidence that data has been manipulated to make up global warming. The reason for this is simple:the data is real, global warming is happening, and it is the human produced CO2 that’s predominantly the cause.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who knows anything about science; the only scandals in science that lead to retractions of results are perpetrated by individuals or at most single labs. It’s unthinkable that many scientists from all over the world would all be co-operating to make up something, and even more unthinkable that this would remain unnoticed. Like no-one from any of these labs ever walks out with a dispute with their bosses and a resulting axe to grind.

and that book on the left is an exagerration!

The small issues are distracting from the main issue

In the Netherlands, the Minister of Environment has said to “accept no more mistakes” from the IPCC. My first reaction is: yeah right – so what are you going to do? Ignore them? That will teach the IPCC a lesson, surely. “We, the Netherlands, refuse to improve our dykes because we don’t believe the IPCC anymore”. I’m sure the next generation of Dutch, living in Amersfoort aan Zee, will feel proud that she has stood up against the IPCC.

But back to the mistake in the IPCC report that made her react the way she did: an error in the percentage of the Netherlands that lies below sea level. A simple error in adding two numbers that were provided to the IPCC.

I mean, WTF?! Seriously. We are still talking about a 3000-page report that is choke full of positive evidence for AGW; the few mistakes that are found are not about global warming, nor about the question whether it is “man-made”. The are “behind the comma” issues about whether the consequences will be not-so-bad, bad, really bad, or catastrophic. To question the IPCC report because of a minor – human, and not even unlikely – error like that shows real ignorance.


To me it’s like being on the Titanic and getting the very strong impression that we are sinking. At least, 90% of the crew say we are sinking …and they are the experts after all. They also say it’s because we hit an iceberg. The remaining 10% of the crew say this is not so; some say that yes, we are sinking, but not because of an iceberg; others deny we are sinking at all. Nevertheless, there does seem to be water in some compartments down below. The sink-deniers say “Yes, but the stern has even come up. How is that sinking?”.

There is also dispute between the 90% of the crew who do say that we are sinking. Some say that half of all people will perish; others say that will only be 25%. Some say it will take a couple of hours to sink; others say it may take more than a day. It is rumoured that the crew members who think we are sinking are trying to silence the others, calling them liars and preventing them from talking to the passengers.

The result of all this uncertainty on the passengers is that the passengers are starting to doubt that they are in any danger at all. They decide to keep on dancing, and eating. And the band will keep playing until the water floods their instruments.

Communication breakdown

As usual, scientists are very bad at dealing with 1) the public at large (in other words, huge masses of stupid) and 2) with cynical, calculated, malicious attacks designed to discredit them. Note that point 2 works because there is point 1.

There is no easy way out of this. In the US, attacks on evolution work for precisely the same reason, as do attacks on vaccination schemes. Scientists are simply looking for the truth and assume that, faced with the evidence, people will see the truth and say “Well, thank you so much, I did not know that. How very clever of you!” Wrong.

Scientists don’t like to spend time explaining too much to the general public. A little explanation is good, but then they want to get back to work. Their opposition has the luxury of not having to do that work; they can spend all their time writing and lobbying against science (and scientists). You can see the examples everywhere; opposition to evolution, climate change, etc, does not come from bona fide scientific work showing contrary evidence; instead it comes from people hacking email accounts, digging through scientific literature trying to find the tiniest of contradictions, reading the bible, and general rhetorical bullshit based on equal parts ignorance and malice (“Global warming? Then why is it snowing?”).

On the other hand, the general public is more interested in quick, easy explanations. These usually don’t include science, because science requires thinking – time, effort, work. I do believe 90% of the people could understand science if they – and scientists! – made an effort; it’s just easier for everyone not to make that effort. (I plan to write more on this in the future) All this isn’t helped by the cynical and calculated efforts from people who have vested interests in keeping the status quo (in various forms).

Gonna buy me this


I’ve said this before I think – or else I should have – but it is becoming clear that we, as a species, will not be able to stop  climate change. So I’m seriously considering becoming a cynic and put my money where my mouth is: into companies and government agencies that don’t try to stop climate change, but with coping with the effects.

That is where we are headed. I plan to be prepared.


With regards to the recent “email scandal” surrounding the climate change research…

I think it is only fair that the climate skeptics in return publish their complete email correspondence of the last decade, to show that they themselves are far removed from all the things they accuse the climate scientists of.

I’m not holding my breath for that though.