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This is the copy of a text I sent to a well-respected blog on climate change and climate science, RealClimate. When the chance comes, I’ll add them to the right bit of the site to create a link.

They haven’t responded to my email asking if they want to use it (it is unlikely; the text isn’t scientific enough), so here it is:

 

Give it to me straight: the layman’s ‘take’ on climate change.

 

So, the war is over, and the ‘pros’ won. The climate is changing and we’re responsible. Job done. Don’t believe it for a minute. Though the scientific battle over what, when and how much the climate is changing has swung steadily to the advantage of  the erstwhile AGW camp, and we are getting (slowly) closer to some kind of political response to the problem we may have to face in the coming years, the biggest battle, the one to win the hearts and minds of the layman, is still very much in the balance.

 

There have been recently published surveys which show a shift in perception amongst the general public (especially in the USA), and worthy graphics which show that 90% of the public, in many countries, accept that GW is an important issue. But in the face of the real world, these (apparent) statistics disguise a problem which both climate science and policy makers will have to face in the next few years; actually, we’re not buying it.

 

On a (UK-based, but internationally-reaching) website which has as its theme the weather, (how very British!), a poll was conducted recently about AGW and the weather. The (blind) poll asked members to choose an option which indicated whether or not the recent warm months had changed their views about AGW, and how much. The results, for me, were sobering.

 

Sure, this is no way to get a ‘proper’ poll done, you will say, and be entirely right; it isn’t a rigorous finding, in that sense. But I would argue that this works to its advantage as, in the informal and anonymous surroundings of a familiar environment, what we get in response from individuals is less likely to be moderated by what they think their answer should be. And if the poll and its associated comments are anything to go by, there is still a lot of work to be done to educate the general populace and establish the conditions under which real action on climate change can take place.

 

There always were going to be sceptics, people for whom the warm spell made no difference, as they ‘don’t believe’ in AGW. Exactly 20% of the respondents chose this option. Another 32% or so responded in varying degrees that the season had made a difference to their attitude (they were reconsidering their opinions)    but, and this was the real surprise, the number of respondents who said that it made no difference, as they ‘already believed’ in AGW, was less than 50%.

 

Here then, is the crux of the problem: informally, less than half of this particular population has accepted that AGW is a real phenomenon. Which in turn means that more than half haven’t.  As one of the laymen myself, albeit one who has studied the subject in depth, I found this shocking. How could so many people not understand one of the most publicised and most important scientific findings of our time?  And why were so many still sceptical about the fundamental science (not to mention the political rhetoric)?

 

The website concerned is not populated by the ignorant; there are 240 separate threads on environment change, with several thousand comments, and one can get a good idea of the range of attitudes by looking at some of these. Time and time again, the discussions go round in circles, inevitably, as debate boils down to entrenchment of established views, but some themes do recur, which is why I thought of writing this.

Being a pragmatic sort, though, as well as working out for myself what some of the core issues appear to be, I have also instigated a thread asking members what they want to ask climate scientists. I’ll come to those questions shortly, but first, this is what comes out of an analysis of the site as a whole:

 

·          Many people, of all shades of opinion, struggle to understand the most basic principles of physics and cannot distinguish between rigorous and unfounded assertions.

·          Few people think logically or rationally about this issue when it comes to the crunch, and so are not amenable to rational persuasion.

·          A substantial number are cynical about the science because of an underlying cynicism relating to politics and the media; there’s a tendency to view the science as simply ‘towing the party line’, rather than leading the way.

·          There is a lot of doubt about the reliability of climate models. (In part, this may well be a function of the fact that these are weather enthusiasts, who follow weather model runs avidly and frequently see how the unfolding ‘reality’ differs from the model output); some see the climate models as weather models ‘writ large’, others point to the many ‘uncertainties’ in model input and the unlikelihood of the models being able to incorporate all the relevant or necessary information required for ‘skill’ to be shown.

·          There is a large amount of confusion over the distinction between environmental issues and climate issues; the two are frequently conflated and both often misunderstood.

·          There are still plenty of conspiracy theorists out there.

·          There is a great deal of confusion over the role of CO2 in warming the atmosphere (and an accompanying belief that emissions regulations are simply an excuse to increase taxes and lay the blame on our problems on the individual).

 

So, I am writing this article to make an appeal. We need climate scientists to give the layman some clear and unequivocal answers, in the simplest of language. Don’t worry about supporting evidence: I have personally posted several hundred links to articles, abstracts and op-eds in response to the comments of others, and they don’t appear to make much difference; most of the time, I suspect they aren’t even read.

 

Because people are bizarre, wonderful and unpredictable creatures, some of the questions are somewhat ‘sideways’, but I’m sure that won’t concern some of you.

 

So, climate scientists (and others) of the world; give it to us straight:

 

1. The temperature hasn’t gone up very much yet; are we getting this GW thing out of proportion?
2. Is it [absolutely] certain that the recent trend is not natural?

3. What difference will it make to me if we control CO2 emissions, and what difference would me doing my bit make?
3. Are climate models reliable guides to likely future climates, globally and regionally?

4. If you had a much greater amount of computing power available than you have now, what would you add to the climate models that isn’t already there and how else could you improve them?
5. There is no record that the models have predicted anything successfully yet, and no evidence that they are likely to do so soon, so why should we take note of them now?
6. If the models don’t ‘work’, you ‘tweak’ them. Doesn’t this mean that you are just getting the models to tell you what you want to hear, by changing the input?

7. The AR4 SPM tells us it’s going to carry on getting warmer anyway for the next decades, so how are we going to get proof whether or not we are responsible for it?

8. Given the substantial uncertainties relating both to measurements and processes in the Antarctic, how much confidence can we have in recent/current assessments of the probability of a collapse of the WAIS? And, could meltwater ‘surges’ from The Ross Sea area promote displacement of Australasian warm pooling’ leading to ‘El-Nino’ like warm pooling off Equatorial Pacific America?

9. Do you think that catastrophic sea level rises are now unavoidable?

10. Exactly HOW will global warming make tropical cyclones more likely, especially when global trends have shown no rise at all in the last 30 years?

11. How can the media be managed to get the global warming message across?

12. Is much research directed towards exploring alternative explanations for climate change, or is the majority of it directed at refining our understanding of currently “known” processes?
13. How far afield do climatologists go in their research – in other words, do climatologists actually study solar interactions (for example) with the Earth’s climate, or do they just draw conclusions from papers written by scientists from other disciplines?

 

 

This is the normal way of thinking for most of us, most of the time. Tensions occur, though, when an effort is made to consider one’s own interests and desires. Am I being selfish? How much should I take other people’s interests and concerns into account? Is it possible to thing self-interestedly and still be thinking of (or for) others?

There is much literature and many theories about self-help and satisfaction: Philosophical and quasi-philosophical texts, self-improvement books and study programmes, life-coaching and psychoanalysis/psychotherapy are the most common examples, outside the informal realm of introspection. Sadly, many of these are founded on very basic misunderstandings about people and the world and, whilst they may appear attractive at certain times, to certain people, often avoid the deep nature of reflection and the deep causes of dissatisfaction, or need.

There are times, however, when some of these approaches can be of help in our search for happiness or goodness. Most often, this is in the relatively short-term. As such, a self-help book, for example, might answer our immediately felt unhappiness with practical action to encourage a re-structuring of our thought processes or our lives. This is, possibly, good as far as it goes, but unless the introspection goes to the roots – the fundamental analysis of one’s state of being-in-the-world – then, ultimately it can be futile.

It is important to distinguish between the dissatisfaction which stems from an awareness of an immediate ‘wrongness’ in our everyday lives, and the dissatisfaction which originates in an awareness that one has no sense of meaning, of purpose, or of direction as a human being.

An important idea of this blog is to face this deeper uncertainty, this existential hollowness, and find, for you, an understanding of what you are and what your life in the world can be.

As always, be loved.

This is the text of a post I made elsewhere. It’ll be edited in due time.

A lot of people want to understand environment change;  in this post are some of the sites an interested non-scientist can link to. It has been kept as basic as possible; the links contain some information on most, if not all, of the main subjects that come up on the internet. Most of them have their own links which lead to more technical follow-up information or material.

Two documents stand out as being clear but detailed introductions to climate change: the Hadley Centre’s 60 page pdf slideshow covers all of the main ideas:
http://www.met-office.gov.uk/research/hadl…_greenhouse.pdf

or a 24 page document called ‘Understanding and Responding to Climate Change’, produced by the US-based Board on Atmospheric Science and climate (BASC), on:
http://dels.nas.edu/basc/

NOAA, a huge US government organisation, has many interesting links on the subject. A quick ‘google’ will take you to their homepage. They have produced a very short summary of the IPCC Third Assessment Report (see below), in the form of FAQ’s, on:
http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/globalwarming.html

The Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC TAR) is a long document, but a very important one. It was a detailed international summary of the available science, in 2001, of climate change. A lot of discussions refer to this report, and debates still continue about its contents. On a wet weekend, you can find it on:
http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/

Reading this will certainly give you an advantage when discussing the issues, whether you agree or disagree with its contents. Note, though, that the fourth report is due out in January 2007, so some of the information will be out-of-date in a few months time. [a link will be posted when it becomes available online]

An American physicist, Spencer Weart, has produced an outstanding series of long essays on almost every issue to do with climate change, on;
http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html

Don’t be put off by the title, ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’; it is a very, very good site for finding out about all sides of the climate change debate.

For information on the past and future of British climate, The UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP) is a good starting point: http://www.ukcip.org.uk/default.asp

Their overview of climate change is on: http://www.ukcip.org.uk/climate_change/

They also have a useful summary of the UK climate since 1914:
http://www.ukcip.org.uk/scenarios/ukcip02_…ervedtrends.asp

At the bottom are links to the Climate Research Unit, another excellent website, and their original research documents. A href=”http://”www.cru.uea.ac.uk/” target=_blank>http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/

There are people who do not assume/agree that global warming is happening. Two popular sites are:

http://www.junkscience.com

http://www.worldclimatereport.com/

Some eminent and respected scientists also take issue with a lot of the assumptions contained in the above reports. Of these, you should know about Climate Science; http://climatesci.atmos.colostate.edu/
and Prometheus.

Some of the commentators on climate change are ‘controversial’. A US site called ‘Sourcewatch’ is not unbiased, but can be revealing about certain people. You can use the search engine on the index page to find out about them:
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SourceWatch

Why isn’t Wikipedia on this list? Wikipedia is a brilliant resource. It is also an ‘open’ resource, meaning that the quality and honesty/reliability of some entries is doubtful, but it is hard to tell which. If you are on this pin, it is because you were confused. Relying on the entries in Wikipedia is likely to add to your confusion, until you have an idea about the quality of what you are reading, so, for a ‘beginner’, it isn’t the best idea.
—————————————————————————————————-

If you ‘google’ ‘global warming’, you’ll get about 42 million ‘hits’ in less than a second. In a day or so, a post will add some of the more useful and interesting sites, including weblogs and links to graphics.

A final word, about the media: for most of us, the information we get about climate change comes from news, press and internet sources. The job of the media is to make a story out of the science, not to provide balanced public information. Like it or not, most news reports are ‘spun’. They are not necessarily dishonest, but they can be deceptive. It is always a good idea to question what you read or hear from the media. NW is a good place to do this, as are many other forums; you will often get a lively exchange of views, and can then make your own mind up about how credible a story is.

Whilst thinking about a possible new job last evening, these ideas came to mind. At the moment, it is just a list, but some of these will be explored in more detail as time passes. Some are questions, some statement, some reveal their subject, some are lyrical in style.

  •  ‘Am I bothered?’ the contemporary experience of children and literature.
  • Revisiting the fear of failure.
  • Authority and rebellion at the core of the classroom process.
  • Existential phenomenology, psychoanalysis, Levinas and the idea of teaching.
  • Applying the ‘Carlsson’ lesson: professional principles applied to school management.
  • Making Media Matter; the underselling ofspecialist media studies.
  • Communication in the ‘real world’; do schools prepare children for the world of work?
  • What is a school for?
  • Towards a phenomenological theory of education.
  • The releveance or otherwise of school – the consuming child mind and the inquiring mind.
  • Schizology and education; approaches from Deleuze.
  • The prison or the school; approaches from Foucault.
  • Towards a meta-pedagogy.
  • (? Empowering) the other in the workplace; Levinas’ being amongst teachers.
  • Loving the job; Existential phenomenology and sincerity.
  • Joy in the classroom.
  • Play and fun in learning.
  • The limitations of the academic model in state education >
  • How to make egalitarian educational principles work. >
  • Attitudes to learning and intelligence in society.
  • Existential phenomenology as the grounds of a theory of education and an education policy.
  • Is ‘successful competitiveness’ possible, or even desireable?
  • From a process model to an interactive model to English learning.
  • What is wrong with using media in the classroom?
  • Is the end of paper a desireable end?
  • English is learning the saying.
  • Activities which encourage the autonomous use of the mind.
  • Fear of thinking.
  • What do children learn in Primary schools?
  • The child’s view of education.
  • Reconsidering the Key Stage 2 English curriculum.
  • A child’s achievement in school is  defined by the earliest experiences.Who speaks in the classroom?; the dynamics of engagement.
  • The end of the Teacher.
  • Practical considerations for the aspiring Engish teacher.

More thoughts as they occur.

If you come here asking ‘what is the meaning of life?’, then you have started. I then ask you, what do you mean? What is it that you want to understand?

The question of the meaning of life has many forms. One of these may be what you mean to be asking:

  • Why do I exist?
  • Why does anything exist?
  • Does anything really exist?
  • Does (my) life have a purpose?
  • What should I be doing with my life?
  • Why am I dissatisfied with my life?
  • If I cannot believe in a ‘god’, what is there to guide me through life?
  • Is it possible to be good and happy?
  • What meaning does existence have?
  • Isn’t all existence random and absurd, anyway?

These are only some of the questions which often are starting points. One of them may be your question; if not, then tell me: what is your question?

One of the aims of this blog is to create a dialogue, rather than an instruction manual. As and when one of you comes to see, then please, speak; say what you want. As for each the question is your own, so by need the answer must be to and for each one, and only one. Watching and listening is not bad, but to understand who you are, what you are, and what can make you a good and happy person, then your talking, your ‘saying’, will be needed.

An important point should be made now: This blog is absolutely NOT promoting any religion, faith or creed. You may already have a belief, you may be a pure atheist; this does not matter, as the meaning of your existence does not depend on either way of being. But you will not be given religious instruction. If this is what you seek, go somewhere else.

So; here is a place where a listener awaits: speak, friend, and know that you are loved.

a

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