Monday, May 16, 2011

Climate Changes: So What Else is New?

I live on Earth.

I think pandas and koalas look cute, and that dumping raw sewage in drinking water is a bad idea.

I'm also old enough to remember seeing piles of suds floating down the Mississippi River. I appreciate what may be the intent of the occasionally-wacky environmental legislation Americans live with.

That said, when I hear the latest 'and we're all gonna die' prediction I'm inclined to feel: 'we won: deal with it.'

Climate Change? Change Happens

As I opined in another blog, climate change seems to be the new global warming. (Apathetic Lemming of the North (December 6, 2010)) I'll say this about scaring folks with warnings about "climate change" - climate change is almost certainly real. I'll get back to that.

I remember when weather data suggested that Earth was cooling off. Or would be cooling off soon - which 'obviously' meant that there was an ice age coming. Bringing with it the end of civilization as we know it, and all sorts of bad stuff.

Why doesn't "climate change" fill me with dread and a manic desire that the government "do something?" Because I think Heraclitus was right:
"Nothing endures but change."
(Heraclitus, 540 BC - 480 BC)
It's my opinion that change happens.

That may or may not seem obvious. Most folks (I hope) notice the sort of cyclic changes we see every 24 hours - as well as monthly and annual cycles. That sort of change could - in principle - be 'unchanging,' in the sense that every cycle was like the last.

The Unchanging Land

I'll admit to regularities - but for the last half-century I've been watching a lake dry up, between here and Fargo, North Dakota: so it seems to me that each cycle isn't quite like the last.

Folks have been debating this sort of thing for - a long time. About two dozen centuries back, a couple of chaps (one named Leucippus, the other Democritus of Abdera) came up with a sort of compromise: assuming change-by-rearrangement of 'uncuttables' in a basically-unchanging universe.

And I'm not going to get sidetracked on developments from the time of Prodicus to Nietzsche's nifty one-liners.

As for change since around 1800 being someone's fault? Research recently suggested that Earth's climate might be affected by - brace yourself - the sun. (Apathetic Lemming of the North (October 7, 2010))

Not even the most rabid 'humanity is a cancer' environmentalist that I've encountered has suggested that pollution caused the Maunder Minimum. (Apathetic Lemming of the North (April 22, 2009)) And that's another topic.

Reading the News, Getting a Grip

What got me started on this post is an article - or op-ed - I read last week.1

It seems a publication from The Pontifical Academy of Sciences opines that mountain glaciers are melting all over the world - and it's (what else?) our fault.

The fellow who's responsible for that prediction apparently based his finding on what he'd said in another publication, one published through the United Nations.

I might be more impressed with the fellow who cites himself as an authority - if he hadn't stated publicly that his earlier prediction was based on "poorly substantiated estimates."2

It gets better - or worse, depending on your point of view.

Looks like the 'disappearing' mountain glaciers are, in fact, growing. Apparently those glaciers didn't get the memo.

I have the impression that the person who wrote that article, or op-ed, may be upset that the Vatican doesn't have a properly disdainful attitude toward global warming. Or climate change. Or whatever. I could be wrong about that.

However that may be, this new dire warning piqued my interest, so I did a little checking around.

Sure enough, there's been discussion of mountain glaciers at The Pontifical Academy of Sciences:
What interested me in the May 11, 2011, document wasn't so much the 'we're killing Earth' stuff - that's pretty much a rehash of the same standard-issue stuff I've seen since Earth Day #1. It's what I didn't find: the equivalent of this disclaimer:
"The opinions expressed with absolute freedom during the presentation of the papers of these two meetings, although published by the Academy, represent only the points of view of the participants and not those of the Academy."
("The Cultural Values of Science" (1 of 5) (2003)
No disclaimer could, maybe, mean that the Holy See is solidly one-hundred-percent behind the 'save Earth from dirty humans' crowd.

But I don't think so.

I suspect that the fellow who quotes himself as an authority - may not be all that careful about disclaimers, either.

But I've been wrong before.

Global Warming, Climate Change, and Genesis

"Anthropocene," by the way, is a new term (remember, I was born during the Truman administration, so my "new" may not be yours), meaning the era during which humanity's been having a significant effect on the environment here on Earth. Which, depending on who's talking, could be the eight millennia or so since agriculture caught on; the century or so since the Industrial Revolution started; or something else. I think there's something to the idea - but then, I've read Genesis 1:26.

Under the circumstances, it'd be surprising if we didn't make a difference. One way or the other.

Faith, Science - and the Bogeyman's Gonna Get You?

What folks with 'end times prophesy' books to sell, and folks carrying on in the tradition of Paul Ehrlich, have in common - my opinion - is a knack for exploiting the emotions of others. Particularly fear.

And that's yet another topic. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (December 23, 2008))

Related posts:

1Excerpt from last week's news and views:
"Green Smoke and Mirrors? Vatican Weighs in on Climate Change"
Jeremy A. Kaplan, (May 12, 2011)

"A scientific branch of the Vatican is touting a climate-change report that fears for the fate of the world's glaciers, appearing to support an erroneous conclusion from the United Nations' climate panel that skeptics have loudly debunked.

"But the Vatican's authors are some of the same people responsible for the U.N. error, even including Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the U.N.'s climate group and the man behind the 2007 report that feared 'the likelihood of [the Himalayan glaciers] disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner.'

"The facts behind that assertion quickly melted away, with Pachauri himself admitting that 'poorly substantiated estimates' had made it into print. But like his 2007 U.N. study, Pachauri's 2011 Vatican report, titled 'Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene,' again frets over the fate of the glaciers -- and it cites his U.N. report as evidence...."

"...'The [U.N.]-predicted warming of 1 degree between 2000 and the present has not happened -- instead it's gotten cooler!' he [Western Washington University emeritus professor of geology Don Easterbrook] told 'As a result, some glaciers in the Himalayas have begun advancing, and glaciers in Alaska, Norway, and South America have also begun to re-advance.'

" 'Pachauri is very intolerant of any point on climate change that isn't his,' Patrick J. Michaels, a contributing author on the U.N. report and a senior fellow with the conservative CATO Institute, told 'He makes statements that are just wrong, because he's not a climate scientist,' he said...."
(Jeremy A. Kaplan, (May 12, 2011)) [emphasis mine]
2 "poorly substantiated estimates:"
"...The facts behind that assertion quickly melted away, with Pachauri himself admitting that 'poorly substantiated estimates' had made it into print. But like his 2007 U.N. study, Pachauri's 2011 Vatican report, titled 'Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene,' again frets over the fate of the glaciers -- and it cites his U.N. report as evidence...."
(Jeremy A. Kaplan, (May 12, 2011)) [emphasis mine]


Brigid said...

You seemed to have stuttered here: "but I've for the last half-century"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...


Indeed. Found and fixed. Thanks!

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.