February 9th, 2006

Fundamentalists Everywhere!

Global Warming

Recently I read Michael Crichton's new(ish) novel State of Fear. I found it facinating.

Basically Crichton takes the view that global warming is both unproven, and unlikely to happen as predicted. Notice I didn't say that he says it won't happen at all, because he doesn't: he knows it will. He just thinks it won't be very much at all.

Now I tend to like the way Crichton researches his books, he is afterall a qualified doctor - so should know about technical research. This is what has lent an interesting and credible air to his work over the years. So I was surprised that his views went against conventional wisdom, and my own thoughts on the subject.

In fact his book deals with just this point - most people don't know anything about climate change. He parades out very significant sounding data and reports to support his characters statements. It really challenged me to think about what I thought I knew.

For that reason it's a great book. However, just like in all his books, he hasn't let facts get in the way of the fiction. I'll explain:

I had 5 mins free today, so I thought I'd see if I could find a good discussion based on his book (science is nothing, if not all about discussion and concensus). However all I could find in favour of his arguments were people back-slapping each other for him confirming their views. Not a good sign, especially when almost everything else - especially actual climatologists - subjects it to a thorough debunking.

However, I am still happy I have read it - because it forced me to both question, and investigate, my knowledge. It allowed me to understand arguments on both sides, and overall learn more about a subject.

Crichton makes some good points about how no-one is helped by extremists, and how we don't know much about climate models, that it is mostly educated guesswork. This is all true, but then again so is neurology, psychology, and economics. That doesn't meant it isn't valuable, or even that inacurrate.

Or as someone else has put it:
"For 20 years a growing number of climatologists have been saying 'based on our understanding of how climate works, we expect temperatures to increase'. And so far their predictions seem to have been justified. Meanwhile, other climatologists have been saying 'you're wrong!' but have been unable to come up with a clear refutation and have refused to make predictions of their own.

Suppose there were two groups of economists and one group said 'based on our understanding of the economy, these are our predictions for the stock market' and for 20 years they had been generally correct. A second group, however, had been saying 'you're wrong' but refused to say why or to make predictions of their own.

Which group of economists would you be more inclined to listen to?"

Either way: I would recomend reading the book, and the articles that counter it, and coming to your own conclusions.
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