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i-d79be3a9aad20b816d5f917998d157dc-bay.jpgSome of us walk by the bus stop and nervously glance at the scruffy-looking man carrying the ragged sign. I try not to breathe through my nose while I read the sign, carefully pretending all the while that I’m not really interested. Ah, it says “Repent! The world will end tomorrow!”

I smile since I always love a testable hypothesis. Tomorrow morning, I will wake up and I will know the scruffy street preacher got it all wrong.

It is “An Inconvenient Truth” that global warming presents us with another testable hypothesis.

But this one doesn’t make me smile.

Al Gore has described some horrific events that are likely to happen if the earth continues to warm. If we wait long enough and let the experiment run it’s course, we will know with certainty if the dire predictions of floods and storms turn out to be correct.

As Tim Lambert, from Deltoid, brought to my attention, the 19 climate researchers, who saw the movie, say that Al Gore got it right.

According to the Yahoo News story that Tim described:

…those who have seen it had the same general impression: Gore conveyed the science correctly; the world is getting hotter and it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Seth Borenstein’s article also notes that some climate scientists think the movie is too optimistic!

While some nonscientists could be depressed by the dire disaster-laden warmer world scenario that Gore laid out, one top researcher thought it was too optimistic. Tom Wigley, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, thought the former vice president sugarcoated the problem by saying that with already-available technologies and changes in habit — such as changing light bulbs — the world could help slow or stop global warming.

[snip]

They are quite literally afraid to know the truth,” Gore said. “Because if you accept the truth of what the scientific community is saying, it gives you a moral imperative to start to rein in the 70 million tons of global warming pollution that human civilization is putting into the atmosphere every day.”

I’ve been depressed ever since I saw the movie. But unlike the public officials discussed in the Yahoo News story , I don’t think that avoiding the movie is going to make global warming go away.

Climate scientitsts have proposed a number of dire scenarios that may occur as a consequence of CO2 emissions. We can test the accuracy of the predications. We can wait, wake up twenty years from now, and find out if the scenarios are correct.

But is this really a hypothesis that we want to test?

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Comments

  1. #1 Polly Anna
    June 28, 2006

    Oh, my goodness, you are a polyanna!! Join our club. But broaden your self-centered horizon.

    Re: Ah, it says “Repent! The world will end tomorrow!” I smile since I always love a testable hypothesis. Tomorrow morning, I will wake up and I will know the scruffy street preacher got it all wrong.

    He is right! You projected that his thinking was actually yours. He will be right for 8.26 Americans out of every 1000 this year as he will be for everyone eventually, but one by one, and one day it will come for you, you will not wake up, he will be right concerning you on that particular day, you were wrong on that day, but you will never know it, ironic, isn’t it?

    The thesis in “An Inconvenient Truth” IS NOT a testable hypothesis. Because of that Al Gore and the choir are safe to say whatever they want. There will be no feedback, or responsibility for the actions that influence people in the event he is wrong, just as there will be none for you for making the poor guy above out as an ignorant fool on the morning you do not wake up.

    [Despite everything, I believe you are really good at heart–modified from the Diary of Anne Frank]

  2. #2 Sandra Porter
    June 28, 2006

    Dear Polly,

    I’m glad someone thinks I’m really good at heart.

    Perhaps I’m not really that self-centered, though, I took the street preacher’s sign to be a literal statement, and interpreted it to mean that the entire world would end. Not just me.

    But, let’s think for a minute about what it means to have a testable hypothesis. Simply put, a testable hypothesis is an idea, usually accompanied by predictions, that can be tested.

    So, if the guy with the sign really did mean the entire world, and I’ll concede that I never sought to clarify that point, I’m just using this for an example, then the experiment would work like this:

    STREET PREACHER’s HYPOTHESIS: world will end tomorrow.

    HOW DO WE TEST THIS? We wait and see what happens.

    I’m only imaginative enough to come up with two possible outcomes since Star Trekky parallel universe scenarios are a little too far fetched for my literal frame of mind.

    OUTCOME 1: Street preacher is correct. If he were right, of course, I would be dead. So, I wouldn’t ever know if I had been wrong.

    OUTCOME 2: Street preacher guy is wrong. If this is the case, then I will know because I will wake up in the morning and walk by the guy once again, as I usually do.

    Okay. Now, here’s how we test the hypothesis about global warming. There are some concrete predictions that climate researchers have made.

    Let’s see. Climate researchers have hypothesized that global warming will produce:
    1. More severe storms.
    2. Lots of melting ice – including the ice that covers Greenland, and ice at both the North and South poles.
    3. That melting ice will cause floods.

    How can we test whether the climate researchers are correct?

    One way is do nothing and wait.

    IF THE CLIMATE SCIENTISTS ARE CORRECT: we will see that the ice melts and causes massive floods. We will also see that storms get more severe.

    IF THE CLIMATE SCIENTISTS ARE WRONG: we can wait about 20-30 years or so and the ice on Greenland will NOT melt, we will NOT have open water at the North Pole, and storms will NOT get any worse.

    In other words, the hypothesis that world is getting warmer and that the increase in temperature is NOT a good thing, can be tested by watching how the world’s climate changes with the passing of time.

    My question, is this: do we really want to test it?

  3. #3 Deadly Doomham
    July 1, 2006

    Polly,
    Nobody needs to make this guy out to be an ignorant fool; he does it himself.

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