Tip of the iceberg

I was going to comment on Court challenge for school screening of Gore film but that sort of stuff has been done to death. I have sympathy for the idea that the film is propaganda (though the science is largely correct, see stoat passim), but none for “Although climate change is clearly taking place, there remains great uncertainty about the extent to which human actions contribute…” so this is just septicism under a different guise, methinks. It won’t work, anyway.

But it does make me wonder about whats taught in schools: is it being sexed up too much in a desperate attempt to interest the pupils? I think so. For example… I saw a nice maths picture the other day of an iceberg on a maths poster, with the tag line that icebergs melt from underneath, become unstable, and roll; and you can understand this via catastrophe theory. All very cute and sexy. And true, for the smaller bergs (apart from the understanding, which I don’t vouch for). But it was illustrated (dominated) by a beautiful photo of a *tabular* iceberg. Which can’t roll, no matter how much you melt from underneath. But clearly that didn’t matter to the poster makers.

Comments

  1. #1 guthrie
    2007/10/04

    They probably just didn’t know. You are being a bit picky these days, aren’t you?

    [Probably I am. Your point and mine are the same, we're just interpreting it differently. They are purporting to explain how maths helps understand a certain thing; but they clearly have no understanding of that thing at all, or they wouldn't have used that picture -W]

  2. #2 Ken
    2007/10/04

    It is an assembly line. The graphic artists took over after the mathematicians were done. Obviously this graphic artist was not a mathematician.

  3. #3 Hank Roberts
    2007/10/05

    That’s the “graphics professional” test of science writing: whether the illustrator assigned to stick a picture with it is interested enough to read it, able to understand it, and can remember the point long enough to …. oh, something shiny! Let’s use _that_ picture.

  4. #4 Martin Lewitt
    2007/10/05

    How can you not have sympathy for “there remains great uncertainty about the extent to which human actions contribute”? Yes, the models cannot account for the recent warming without attributing most of it to CO2, but that may be evidence of a limitation of the models, and not necessarily relevant to the climate. There is great uncertainty in the models and the other evidence when it comes to attributing the recent warming. Is the CO2 contribution 30%, 50%, 70%? We can’t just compare the radiative forcings among the competing contributers, because they are coupled to the climate quite differently and arguably have different climate sensitivities. Sunspot models of solar activity only account for about 80% of the observed variability over the small sample represented by the last 2 cycles.

    Now, if you are arguing that there is not great uncertainty among the AR4 WG1 authors, then I agree. And Al Gore has practically no uncertainty at all.

    [CO2 probably accounts for > 100% of the change, since there are the aerosols in there and probably a slight solar dcline too. So, there is uncertainty, but not great uncertainty. Its more a question of what you choose to say in a limited space. If you choose to emphasise the uncertainty, you're a "skeptic" -W]

  5. #5 guthrie
    2007/10/05

    You could contact the school or wherever and comment nicely to them that the picture was wrong. They may well listen to you.

  6. #6 Martin Lewitt
    2007/10/06

    By that reasoning, solar could account for 100% of the change since there is only a 0.8W/m^2 energy imbalance globally and annually averaged. Shouldn’t all scientists be skeptics?

    [Errr no, even the solarists don't believe solar alone is enough, they need arbitrary amplification factors, hence the cloud stuff.

    As for skeptic, this is a familiar debate, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:William_M._Connolley/Global_warming_skeptic for example -W]

  7. #7 Rex
    2007/10/06

    They can talk about global warming until their ‘red’ in the face but they need to include a little science. Yes, humans are affecting the climate but the earth has experienced global warming four times before humans ever walked the terra firma… And what about all of the episodes of global cooling?

    So if it is earth’s natural process is to go through cyclic changes in temperature (with or without humans) and the process looks very much like a simple differential equations problem; then isn’t it arrogant to think that humans can change the earth’s natural cycle or stop global warming?

    I think the best course of discussion is how we are going to live with the next iteration of global warming without going extinct–not bickering about something you can’t stop or trying to place blame on some human for nature’s cycle. Being constructive rather then whimpering is what we should focus on.

  8. #8 guthrie
    2007/10/06

    I’m afraid your post doesn’t make any sense, Rex. Are you saying that we aren’t responsible for the current warming? And if we are, then why does it seem hard to consider that we can prevent it getting too much worse? Merely trying not to go extinct is not exactly a solution to anything, more a pitiful attempt at making it look like things will be ok in the end, honest.

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