I planned to write something this week about the relationship between Energy and Climate Change. I thought this would include a few lines about one or more of denial, skepticism, groupthink, errors, modeling and other evocative buzzwords that tend to be thrown around in the climate change debate.
A bit of quick reading was in order. Wow. If following any of my links in this article, consider yourself warned. What a simultaneously fascinating and infuriating way to suck up the best part of a day! Wherever topics surrounding anthropogenic
climate change are being discussed, they frequently descend into a slanging match of claims and counterclaims that can be very difficult to follow.
A good illustration is this opinion piece
, which appeared in The Australian in January, and its accompanying comments. The article, written by a Jon Jenkins
, dismisses climate change as a fantasy dreamt up by a combination of religious-like fanaticism and media barracking, and not based on real science. Compare his tone with that of The Australian National Affairs Editor Mike Steketee
, who wrote this a few days before Jenkins. (Jenkins himself says that his article was intended as a response to Steketee).
Now I know I'm largely preaching to the converted here on Change2. Nevertheless I urge you to persuade yourself. Especially after what I have now read on this topic, I think it is especially important to be very sure of yourself on this issue, as clearly there are plenty out there who are not persuaded; many of them highly qualified.
Personally, I wasn't exactly (sure of myself I mean – I won't comment on qualified): I previously placed my trust in the integrity of climate scientists, without looking in great detail at the science itself. As it is not my field of expertise, I take this view as I would expect a climatologist to take it on, for example, photovoltaics.
By this I don't mean "believe me". Rather, ask yourself questions. Be a skeptic (as opposed to a denier
), and have a bit of a look around. I have now read enough to convince myself that all the counterarguments doing the rounds are manufactured, and have been scientifically refuted
(as opposed to arbitrarily declared incorrect). The consensus is there. If you would like to follow the same path, perhaps jump in here
– a post that critiques Jenkin's article, and the comments here
, featuring Jenkins himself. (Warning: Big time sink!!).
This debate should be over
. I originally intended this post to be focused on energy, merely against the backdrop of climate. Therefore on at least one point I agree partly with Jenkins who wrote,
"Science is only about certainty and facts. The real question is in acknowledging the end of fossil fuels within the next 200 years or so: how do we spend our research time and dollars?"
Either his first point here is deliberately misleading, or he is highly ignorant of the Scientific Method that he professes to follow. Science is obviously based on facts – observables upon which we can ground, and against which we can test, our understanding. Certainty, on the other hand, at least when it comes to making predictions, is very rarely (arguably never) achieved in any branch of science.
Meanwhile, there are two important kernels in Jenkins' point:
(1) The real question is about energy
(though thanks to climate change and population growth, we have much less than 200 years). To my mind, carbon trading once appropriately implemented will facilitate the required energy innovation. From a pragmatist's point of view, the two are thus the same, urgent problem.
(2) How indeed do we best spend our research time and dollars?
Climate predictions remain important and there are plenty of details and refinements to be made. But enough already, debating the existence / extent / danger of anthropogenic climate change! It's beyond time to focus on the solutions. The longer this takes the more it will cost us to act, as Nicholas Stern so clearly showed several years ago.
Incidentally, The Australian beat the UK Daily Telegraph to an award
for being "The most consistently wrong media outlet" of 2008.
Change 2 contributor Dr Miles Page is an Australian scientist who has been working at the international coalface of the emerging Energy Revolution. After receiving his PhD from Sydney University, Dr Page held senior research positions with the Atomic Energy Commission in Paris and the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam. He has spent the past 3 years in Israel researching Thin Film Solar Cells at the Weizmann Institute of Science and developing alternative Fuel Cells.