global warming

Diamond Planet Finder Is A Star

You probably read recently about the scientists who found a planet  that may or may not be effectively a large diamond.

The story got a lot of coverage but one of the scientists involved, Matthew Bailes, has done something rather brave in a recent article and should be applauded for it. He used the opportunity given to him by this discovery to defend the climate scientists that are under attack by industry and lobby groups.

Here is a slightly shortened version of what he said…

Following the publication of our finding in the journal Science, our research received amazing attention from the world’s media.

I was asked by many journalists about the significance of the discovery. If I were honest, I’d have to concede that, although worthy of publication in Science, in the field of astrophysics it isn’t that significant.

And yet the diamond planet has been hugely successful in igniting public curiosity about the universe in which we live.

Imagine for a minute that, instead of discovering a diamond planet, we’d made a breakthrough in global temperature projections.

Let’s say we studied computer models of the influence of excessive greenhouse gases, verified them through observations, then had them peer-reviewed and published in Science.

Instead of sitting back and basking in the glory, I suspect we’d find a lot of commentators, many with no scientific qualifications, pouring scorn on our findings.

People on the fringe of science would be quoted as opponents of our work, arguing that it was nothing more than a theory yet to be conclusively proven.

Before long our credibility and findings would be under serious question.

But luckily we’re not climate scientists.

It may come as a big surprise to many, but there is actually no difference between how science works in astronomy and climate change – or any other scientific discipline for that matter.

We make observations, run simulations, test and propose hypotheses, and undergo peer review of our findings.

Of course we all make mistakes. But eventually the prevailing wisdom of the community triumphs and the field advances.

It’s wonderful to be a part of that process.

But on occasion those from the fringe of the scientific community will push a position that is simply not credible against the weight of evidence.

This occurs within any discipline. But it seems it’s only in the field of climate science that such people are given airtime and column inches to espouse their views.

Those who want to ignore what’s happening to Earth feel they need to be able to quote “alternative studies”, regardless of the scientific merit of those studies.

In all fields of science, papers are challenged and statistics are debated. If there is any basis to these challenges they stand, but if not they fall by the wayside and the field continues to advance.

When big theories fall, it isn’t because of business or political pressures – it’s because of the scientific process.

Sadly, the same media commentators who celebrate diamond planets without question are all too quick to dismiss the latest peer-reviewed evidence that suggests man-made activities are responsible for changes in concentrations of CO2 in our atmosphere.

The scientific method is universal. If we selectively ignore it in certain disciplines, we do so at our peril.

The full thing is here.

This guy has taken his 15 minutes of fame (as he called it himself) and used it to say something that is bang on the money and was in dire need of saying. Downplaying his own discovery in order to support his colleagues and the environment is not to be sniffed at. The problem is however, that probably the discourse he has given us here will be drowned out by pure nonsense, such as homeopathy* ,  or pure spin (and nonsense) that clutters up science reporting in the popular press.

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*Feel free to take this opportunity to accuse me of working for big pharma (though you couldn’t be more wrong. But before you do, I would like you to consider this. Big pharmaceutical companies obviously do not always behave well. However, there is no logical path from that fact to the idea that homeopathy must work.

Scotland Sunday Photos 7 – The Highlands

Ahh, got you!

The Scottish Highlands is an enormous area and 3 or 4 photos wouldn’t cover 0.1%  of it enough to do it justice.

However, Rick the Pleb in his latest cartoon has addressed the subject of Last Men Standing and the Highlanders could have something to say in the matter…

WHAT WILL IT REALLY COST?

There was a BBC report the other day saying this…

Climate target ‘could cost £8bn’

The cost to the taxpayer of meeting Scotland’s climate change target has been put at about £8bn by 2020.

Furthermore…

Scotland has set one of the world’s most ambitious targets for cutting emissions.

The Climate Change Act passed by Holyrood last year aims to reduce carbon emissions by 42% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

But BBC Scotland business editor Douglas Fraser said there was no estimate of what the targets would cost the government – or business, home-owners or drivers – when MSPs voted for the legislation.

Ok, I suppose it is important information. We need more “Not doing something would destroy this, that and the other” or “Not doing something would mean this amount of carbon/global warming etc” kind of articles.

When it is all presented as the BBC story above presents it seems like they are measures designed to hurt people when the truth is that they are probably measures that fall way short of meeting the current crisis – even if they go further than other places.

I suppose the BBC would say however, that that kind of article costs too much.

AH, SO NOW IT’S IMPORTANT?

The style of reporting in these stories tells you a lot about why we have some of the problems we do.

Today on the BBC there is this headline…. Nature loss ‘to damage economies’

This is followed by…

The Earth’s ongoing nature losses may soon begin to hit national economies, a major UN report is to say .

The third Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3) warns that some ecosystems may soon reach “tipping points” where they rapidly become less useful to humanity.

While the rest of the article gives some solid information, putting it all in these terms shows a mistake in thought that goes back to biblical ideas about the natural world being something that is simply there for the purposes of human exploitation. There is no suggestion that it might be a good idea to preserve the ecosystem for its own sake.

It is possible to extrapolate from the above statement the idea that as long as economies are fine then quite frankly flora and fauna can go and get f*cked.

Please have a look at this article I wrote for opednews in particular and my other site exit stage right if you want to see how dire things are really getting and why this is all way beyond economics.

Picture from http://www.schnews.org.uk