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Climate Change

March 19, 2017

Do you believe in climate change, or do you think it’s a hoax?  No wonder there’s doubt.  This is a complex topic.  Climate is actually part of geography.  It refers to long-term temperature and rainfall conditions.  In essence, it’s an average.  Is it changing?  Are we the cause of this change?

There are some major problems with the study of climate change.  First of all, ordinary people are unfamiliar with climate.  We all know weather, but that’s not climate.  Climate is a long term average, over hundreds or thousands of years.  This is longer than a person’s lifetime.  You may say that you don’t remember ever seeing a year like this one, but that’s not long enough.  You should be comparing to years that your grandfather saw, but generally you won’t have that information.  Weather is not good enough.

We do record extreme weather events, like floods and droughts.  We generally don’t record averages.  That makes the information on past weather both fragmentary and biased.  We do record the crops that can be grown succesfully in a particular area.  That’s good information on climate, but it also can be biased.  New plant varieties, for example, can be grown where old varieties would fail most of the time.  Still, scientists can only go  back a few hundred years by using information from humans.  To go back further, they have to employ a variety of indirect methods to determine the past climate.  For temperature, these methods taken together have been quite successful.  Temperature, of course, bears directly on global warming, the principal alarming feature of climate change right now.

Scientists have also created climate models that have worked quite well to reproduce climate from the distant past right up to the present time.  Of course, we don’t care about the past or the present time.  It’s the future that troubles us.  Predictions of the future have been notoriously bad.  Often they are only good for a laugh.  It’s a very difficult task to predict the future and get it right.  That’s what scientists are attempting to do with their climate models.  With every year of new data, they refine their climate models.

It does look to me as if predictions of rising temperatures are correct.  Even a simple straight-line prediction shows that.  It also looks to me as if humans have caused part of the temperature rise.  I have no doubt that we caused the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide, itself one of the causes of the temperature rise.  Consequently, we the people of the earth have to take action to stop releasing carbon dioxide.  That’s a first step, anyway.

 

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