This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
.. Just wondering what the usual contributors here made of last night's lecture? I'm afraid I fell asleep in spite of the constant handwaving.
I missed Paul Nurse's lecture myself, but the text of his lecture is available on this link from the Royal Society website:
The bit of the lecture which seems to have attracted most interest, highlighted by JEB in the February 'Number of the Month', is the paragraph picked up by the bloggers Neil Craig and James Delingpole where Nurse seems to be climbing down from a CAGW (Catastrophic AGW) position and presenting himself and so-called expert climate scientists as moderate people.
The relevant extract is:
"Look at the debate about climate change. The majority of expert climate scientists have reached the consensus view that human activity has resulted in global warming, although there is debate about how much the temperature will rise in the future. Others argues (sic) that warming is not taking place at all or that it will happen in a catastrophic way, but they have failed to persuade the majority of climate experts, who have judged the scientific arguments made to support these more extreme views as being too weak to be convincing."
My interpretation of the above is that it all depends what exactly he means by catastrophic. My first reading was that he was probably talking about the more extreme runaway greenhouse positions held by scientists like Lovelock and Hansen. As further explained in the "Hansen trashes renewable energy" thread, Lovelock thinks the Earth will be unable to sustain more than a billion people due to AGW and Hansen thinks that all life will become extinct due to the Earth transforming into a Venus-like atmosphere. Stephen Hawking supposedly agrees with Hansen's 'Venus syndrome' position.
I think most neutral observers would regard the proposed expensive drastic action to deal with AGW (like the UK's Climate Change Act) as being consistent with AGW being expected to occur in a catastrophic way, but I'm not sure whether somebody like Paul Nurse or the 'expert climate scientists' might see it like that. I don't see Nurse as being someone who is too concerned about wasting public money.
Anyone here paying attention to the "Pink Slime" debacle. Pink slime is apparently being used to feed people. HORROR. People in the meat industry have figured out how to safely us previously unusable parts of cows as food. I always thought that was what sausage was, but apparently they have taken it to new levels.
The Pink Slime story could have been presented as "Amazing new sources of food leveraged".
Hansen et al have read too much science fiction which itself leveraged the science of the time. End of the world scenarios are common in SF. Earth often becomes a forgotten origin because we ruined it as a planet (or in the case of Asimov is specifically ruined to get people off the planet). Selling stories usually involves making something interesting happen. Telling the story of men and women toiling successfully to feed their children and get them educated doesn't sell a lot of copy. Getting a nice littler "earner" going involves telling tales that make people passionate.
IIRC, Asimov got people to populate the rest of the universe by making earth more radioactive. Heinlein discusses the counter claim though that it is the radioactivity of earth that made it a bastion of life (hinting that tweaking the radioactivity a little higher would not lead to mass migration, but might lead to increased evolution).
We should create a model and find out who (Asimov or Heinlein) was right. It will be a projection rather than a prediction, but we can right papers on our computer models "discoveries". The news agencies need stories. We can provide them.
I suppose it's worth updating this thread just to mention the fact that LOvelock has now adopted a less alarmist position on AGW in the past few weeks, as mentioned in this BBC article:
The article seems to define 'catastrophe' as corresponding to the alarmist scenario that Lovelock was previously pushing, though many of us might think that a scenario where only a small fraction of the current human population survive as being a bit stronger than just being a catastrophe.
There is an interesting switch in the BBC's terminology in describing Lovelock. He has now become a 'scientific maverick', which is really what he was all along, but their new use of the term seems to imply they want him to be seen as having less credibility than before.
Previously when Lovelock was pushing the more alarmist scenario (and therefore serving the Green agenda) the BBC often exaggerated his status. For example in this article from 2004 Lovelock is referred to as 'Professor Lovelock' all the way through the article. (he isn't a professor, he's a self-employed scientist who has worked from home since the 1960s).