Why Doug will be the death of us.


A response to this article:


Dear Mr Edmeades,
I read your opinion piece on Stuff with great interest. I thought that climate
change scepticism had gone out of fashion since the oil companies gave up on it. I also imagined that the weather events of 2017 would have put most minds to rest on the subject. And yet here you are.

Before I go on (this is a long letter) let me start by formally inviting you to appear on the podcast. You will talk to me alone about your position that I can rest easy over the climate situation and you will be afforded respect, time and a keen ear, the same that is provided to any visitor on the show.

Guesting on the podcast.

I am not a scientist, yet I am one who accepts the scientific evidence of anthropomorphic global warming. I further recognize the work that describes humanity’s influence on the planet as the end of the Holocene era and the start of the Anthropocene. I also accept the findings that we are in the throes of a great extinction event that could quickly take the Homo Sapiens with it.

In short, I think we’re screwed. I further believe that people like you prevent any chance we have to avert this situation. You predicted that you would be accused of being a ‘denier’ and/or ‘a rejectionist’, but that what it is you are rejecting or denying will not be spelt out. Of course you are a rejecting of the consensus about climate change. So I don’t see your problem here: that seems pretty simple.

One reason I take this position is that I am not a scientist. I accept the scientific method and the notion that not all the information provided by science can be thought of as good news. I also recognize a philosophical position that humans are not the centre of the things and that we are just as subject to the indifference of the physical universe as anything else.

Neither of these positions is in anyway controversial of course. I accept the science that created my cell phone with the same set of assumptions and believe that someone who challenges these things is the one carrying the burden of proof.

So let’s get to your points.

1. The climate has always changed and there are other forces in play.
– Yes that’s true. Which is why it’s a science that requires a good deal of math. There are many variables in a climatic system, particularly over time. No argument there.

2. Ice core data shows temperature increases about 600 to 800 years before CO2 concentrations increased.
– You have to cite things like this. Since you have not, I am forced to google the statement and provide you with some articles that explain why this is a false assumption used by many climate change sceptics.

I will not put more effort into this point than you did. Since you are the scientist making the extraordinary claim, I will just point out that you make an unsubstantiated statement in one sentence that is not new and appears to have been hashed out endlessly by those more qualified than us. If you want to pursue this one further, you’ll need to point out the flaws in the work above.

3. Water vapour makes up 90% of the greenhouse effect.

This appears to be another argument commonly used by sceptics. There are plenty of articles that explain why its wrong, I just provided this one because I happened to like the font. A quick read indicates that water vapour is more of a symptom than a cause in the global warming scenario. This makes sense to me since the burning of fossil fuels appears to be the real change humans are making to the overall system and the
increases to cloud cover are a predictable consequence to increased temperature since that’s how evaporation works.

4. There have been warmer and colder periods since the dawn of civilisation.

Let’s be more precise and more generous to your argument and call it the dawn of humans. The cooler periods are the Ice Ages that occurred due to changes to the earth’s axis and the Medieval Warm Period (the one warmer period you cite) appears to have been both cooler than now and more localised.

While the Medieval warm period was something of an unusual event (judged to be a combination of volcanic and solar activity at the time) the Ice ages were more predictable (see Milankovitch cycles) and the rate of change within them is what we apparently evolved for. Any form of life older than the last Ice Age can be seen as adapted by evolution for it. That includes, as it happens, barrier reefs and humans, most of whom I imagine lived closer to the equator at the time.

5. Sattelite data show no increase in global temperatures since 1998.

I have to say this one was a surprise. We know stuff is melting, glaciers are retreating, droughts are increasing and fires are breaking out. We also measure ocean and land temperatures which have been rising predictably. And this, it turns out, is why in science its useful to arrive at the proof in multiple ways.

The satellite data was wrong; it turns out since it had not allowed for the changes in readings due to decaying orbits. After it was corrected to allow for them the number fell into line with the rest of the observations.

It turns out that this is also a popular claim by the sceptics that has been refuted, and took me a minute to bring up with google. Find it yourself.

6. Stuff about the color of CO2 and pictures of polar bears and a paper you wrote but fail to cite.

Nothing there constitutes evidence; I’m just working through your article.

7. The IPCC stating there is no evidence that extreme weather events are increasing as a consequence of global warming.

Seriously? You’re saying the largest climate change organisation is not convinced by global warming? That will need a citation. We do know that extreme events like hurricanes are no more common than before but that the increased evaporation adds water to them that increases their intensity.

And anyone that missed the global wildfires, mudslides, floods, hurricanes and droughts in the last 18 months is not paying attention.

8. The warming hiatus.

Apparently not a thing either. That you are using this one in the middle of a sweltering summer should amuse me. But I think its just the start, and we’re all screwed and its because we’re attempting to bargain with an indifferent universe and so, you know,  I don’t.


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