Who Do You Love?

by | Nov 16, 2008

The BBC report on a paper published in the current issue of Nature that poses a bit of a moral conundrum for environmentalists:

A new model of the Earth’s climate suggests that human-made carbon dioxide emissions may prevent the onset of the next ice age.

Based on geological history, the Earth would be expected to enter a new ice age in 10,000 to 100,000 years.

Researchers say even small changes in carbon dioxide levels right now could prevent this from happening.

So should we reduce emissions for the sake of our children’s children, or do we keep pumping out the GHGs for the sake of future civilizations or even some humanoid species that hasn’t yet had the chance to evolve?

The professor behind the study is keen to stress that the research doesn’t mean that global warming is suddenly a really good idea:

Professor Crowley warns against seeing increases in carbon dioxide levels as a good thing

And he’s right of course. Because no climate projections can tell us how much CO2 we should or shouldn’t be emitting. But it’s funny that scientists only seem to express such caution when there’s the sniff of a possibility that the research might disincline the masses to tread lightly on the Earth.

Anyway, judging by the lively discussion of the our-models-are-better-than-your-models variety the paper has generated, it seems it’s touched a few nerves. Carl Wunsch is among those not mincing their words:

Surely this isn’t science in any conventional sense. Taking a toy model and using it to make a “prediction” about something nearly a million years in the future, is a form of science fiction—maybe interesting in the same way a novel is, but it isn’t science.

1 Comment

  1. geoff chambers

    The lively discussion you link to is on Revkin’s blog on the New York Times site. Like the discussions set up between Lomborg and others in the Guardian, it’s intelligent and well-informed, but its purpose seems to be to keep alive the illusion of controversy in the liberal media, while avoiding the only question of importance -whether or not dangerous anthropogenic global warming is occuring, or can be confidently predicted in the near to medium-term future.
    The underlying message ofthe BBC article and the NYT blog seems to be: “Look, we’re not blinkered, we’re willing to have a lively discussion about climate change, really we are”. Does it suggest that someone in these organisations has the glimmering of a guilty conscience about the stifling of genuine debate?


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