Sunday, 27 October 2013

Five climate arguments

The point of my recent Five climate futures post was to introduce the idea of future climate scenarios and their likelihood. To recap - how likely is each scenario and how do we know? 
  1. Unambiguous warming.
  2. Ambiguous warming.
  3. No change.
  4. Ambiguous cooling.
  5. Unambiguous cooling.

 The short and obvious answer is that we have no idea. I estimated percentages based on how many there are. I know the estimates are illegitimate in any scientific sense, although I received only one challenge in the comments. Ah well.

The point is this – how do you estimate the likelihood of these climate scenarios using credible arguments? As far as I can see, there are five basic climate change arguments commonly encountered in the public domain. 
  1. Science with no predictive track record
  2. Appeals to authority.
  3. Rhetorical emotional appeals.
  4. Images – ice crashing into the sea etc.
  5. Abuse – overt, covert and parody

 The debate is packed with nuances such the political use of exaggerated risk to control behaviour, but which of these arguments enables us to choose between the five climate scenarios do you think?

Well abuse can be fun and in my view has a useful place in the climate change debate, especially parody. If nothing else it holds before our tired eyes the absurdities of current energy policies and how we stumbled our way into this mess.

So let us humanise the whole debate and accept a more personal and emotional role in our own beliefs. Here are the crucial questions whereby I think we may get to grips with how little we know and how much we rely on authority :-

Which future climate scenario is your best guess?
Which argument supports your choice?


Sobers said...

Over five years probably number 4 (ambiguous cooling), possible number 3. And the reason is simple - the sun spot cycle is slowing. Over a longer period 10-20 years definitely number 5, but over a short term 5 year spell natural global cycles (ocean cooling/warming cycles) could mask the solar slowdown. Longer term its definitely getting colder, history tells us so.

Demetrius said...

Ambiguous change, based on playing darts blindfold and rhetorical dispute about who won.

A K Haart said...

Sobers - I tend to agree with you, but I don't think the science is well established yet. I wouldn't be astonished by any of the scenarios.

Demetrius - good analogy. Maybe with a dartboard placed about three miles away.