Monday, 8 October 2012

Blowing hot and cold

I read something interesting on the internet. It was an article by a scientist about how having an opinion doesn't give you an equal right to have your opinion considered agaisnt the opinion of someone who's spent years becoming an expert on a given subject.

I thought it was a good article, so I posted it on a discussion board. Inevitably there was a response from a right wing reader.

It is interesting to me that one of the ways of reducing debate about an issue is by the use of ad hominem attacks.
I still recall the front page of the esteemed US weekly Time in 1974 Warning of Man-Made 'Global Cooling'. I am sure that Time consulted plenty of experts before publishing that article.
Sorry but the fallacy assumed is your argument is that experts cannot be wrong and trust me they can and often are....
And I too recall that fears about slipping into another ice age did make their way into the public consciousness. I read a bog standard disaster story called "ICE", and yes, the Time article is archived HERE although you need to be subscribed to view it all

The point my respondant wanted to make was essentially that anthropogenic global warming may not be true because climate scientists were predicting an ice age 40 years ago.

So why would those scientists raise such a possibility? Well scientists look at patterns of data, and it appeared to them that the data patterns suggested that global cooling was a possiblity.

Back in the 1970's, humankind was pumping collosal amounts of chemistry up into the atmosphere. We still do, but the composition has changed.

You see, back then, we weren't just producing CO2. We were also producing CFC's, Dioxins, and crucially, SO2. That's Sulphur Dioxide. Now from what I remember of O level Chemistry, Carbon Dioxide and Sulphur Dioxide are quite similar in some ways. Certainly the chemical formula for each is pretty similar. The O part is identical. Do Sulphur and Carbon sit in the same column of the periodic table? Well no, but they both come under the category of "Other Non Metals"

There is one significant difference in atmospheric CO2 and atmospheric SO2. SO2 reflects the sun's radiation. CO2 allows solar radiation through, but stops it escaping. So one is an agent for global cooling. The other is an agent for global warming.

By the early to mid 1980's we were starting to realise that what we were doing was affecting the global environment. From holes in the Ozone layer, to forests stripped bare by acid rain, to african famines caused by changeing weather patterns.

And so a remarkable thing happened. We made a fundamental global change. We banned CFC's as a refrigerant. We implemented measures to radically reduce the amount of SO2 sent up the chimneys and flarestacks of our industrial processes.

To anyone that believes that solving global warming is too great a task, and that we may as well just party on, it's a lesson that given the political will, big changes are possible.

So in the 1970's, there were two polluting processes that to some extent balanced each other out.

SO2 causing global cooling.
CO2 causing global cooking.

And then we took action to reduce one but not the other.

I wonder how that's likely to pan out?

driving lessons in Wallasey? learn to drive in Wirral? driving instructor in Birkenhead?

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