Monthly Archives: October 2015

Who to trust?

The Mair-Cruz questioning got me a bit philosophical about the subject of trust. While Mr. Mair was initially claiming he was relying on the evidence, the data and the science, it was clear that he knew nothing about the evidence, nor the data, nor the science. It became really clear that he actually relied on the Union of Concerned Scientists/NOAA and they relayed the 97%-of-the-scientists-believe meme, which he used often in order to evade the questions.

When Mr. Mair stated that the evidence is there, he didn’t actually mean that he knew what the evidence was, but that he TRUSTED the position of the Union of Concerned Scientists and NOAA, therefor believing the claim that 97% of the scientists agreed that global warming/climate change/climate disruption is true, that the earth is now “cooking and warming” and that there is no stall in global temperatures in the satellite records.

When I look deep in myself, I surely can understand where that comes from. I realize that in the end we always need to trust someone. We can’t research everything on our own, even in a single field, let alone one that overviews many fields. We are building on the work of others who went before us. While I keep track on global warming news on a regular basis, I am far from an expert. I have a full time job and no apparent need to become a climate scientist. As a member of the public I have to have trust.

However, I can choose who to trust.

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Clashing definitions: Climate Change or (Catastrophic Anthropogenic) Global Warming

The questioning of Mr. Mair (president of the Sierra Club) by senator Cruz was not very interesting as such, but it shows something very familiar. In the testimony only the term “Climate Change” was used and Senator Cruz initially also called it that way. But it became rather clear that both men had a different definition of what that “Climate Change” is. Senator Cruz meant an increase in global temperatures (a.k.a. Global Warming), while Mr. Mair meant an increase in global temperatures caused by humans, with bad enough consequences to do something about it (a.k.a. Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming). It is no wonder that this influenced their conversation. More, on the long run both views are flawed.

Mr. Mair’s argument was flawed because he only looked at the politically correct side and basically believed a statement without even looking at what it actually meant. He didn’t start from the evidence, but from a belief. I think he would be really surprised if he ever learned what exactly those 97% agreed upon. 🙂

He is certainly not alone. The confusion between global warming and catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is something that a lot of people experience, including yours truly when he was still a believer. It meant that when I heard that temperatures increased or when climate changed, I immediately attributed it to human emissions. Whether it was actually the case or not. Thinking like that provided overwhelming evidence that showed global warming/climate change was real. I couldn’t deny it, it was all around me … by my own making. This self-fulfilling process was difficult to break through, even when surrounded by evidence that didn’t support this view.

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The science, the evidence and the (satellite) data

Recently I viewed the video Sen. Cruz Questioning Sierra Club President Aaron Mair on Climate Change in the Judiciary Subcommittee on “Over-regulation and its impact on minority communities”. The video was from a couple weeks ago and went viral at that time. It became perfectly clear why when I at last viewed it. Skeptics got used to be viewed as the underdog and blamed for not having the evidence on their side, but in this video we saw Mr. Mair initially claiming to be driven by the science, the evidence and the data, yet when the questioning advanced, it became quickly clear that he wasn’t driven by the science, nor by the evidence, nor by the data. He probably wouldn’t even notice the science, even if it bit him. 😉

This is how the story goes. In his written testimony, the president of the Sierra Club wrote that the science behind climate change and its effect on minority communities should not be up for debate, which provoked a sequence of questions from Senator Cruz, which the president of the Sierra Club had a hard time answering. Just watch the video if you didn’t already.

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A pessimistic world view and the media

Belgians in their 20s and 30s aren’t getting cheerful from what they see happening in the world,. This was the result from the research of sociologist Mark Elchardus (Dutch). He wrote the book ‘Voorbij het Narratief van Neergang’ (Beyond the Narrative of Downfall). It is based on 2,000 interviews with Belgians in their 20s and 30s, taken at the end of 2013. The result seems to be that they have a rather negative world view:

  • 92.1% fears more disasters caused by global warming
  • 84.8% thinks that open borders threatens our own workforce
  • 90.9% sees lowering of pensions
  • 82.8% poorer people becoming poorer and riches becoming richer
  • 68.8% fears more victims of terror

At the end, just in passing, was said that those young adults, while having a pessimistic world view, have it socio-economically at least as good as their parents and they look optimistic towards their own future. To me it sound like they are thinking these negative things will not effect them that much.

At that age, I wasn’t much different. I, and my peers, had it at least as good, maybe even better, than our parents. We also heard plenty of doom stories around us. Mostly known are the stories about an imminent overpopulation, the new ice age, acid rain, the ozone hole, the immigration wave from South Europe/North Africa, consequences of the aging of our population and many more. The topics that the current young adults worry about are rather similar to those that we had when we had at their age. Only the events differ.

It doesn’t seem if they are the last to do so. The children of today are growing up in a world with its own scares like climate scare, climate disruption, the current immigration wave from the middle East,.. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

But that wasn’t actually the thing that caught my initial attention. It was this: the contrast of their pessimistic view of the world and their optimistic view towards their own future could be explained by the news coverage in the media, according to Elchardus.

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The air quality in Flanders is getting worse … while getting better

The VRT news item from last post not only listed how we already feel the effects of “global warming” in Flanders, but also four ways in which “climate change” will affect Flanders in the future. One of those is:

  • The air quality is getting worse. Higher temperatures lead to more ozone in the air, and also particulate matter will peak.

That statement really surprised me. When I compare to when I was a kid, air quality has improved, nay, vastly improved. Back then, there were no filters in car exhausts, factories spewed their exhaust gases directly in the air, there still was heavy industry back then, houses were heated by coal or oil,… I don’t know the age of the one who wrote this, but from my personal experience I am not really agreeing.

The two components that apparently made the difference are ozone and particulate matter. Ozone was quite a lot in the media a decade ago when we heard a lot about ozone pollution. Ozone increases under certain circumstances like heatwaves, low wind speed and wind from East, South or South-East direction, absence of precipitation or substances that break it down,,… But during the last years I didn’t hear much about it anymore. Particulate matter is different in that regard. The last years it is often in the media and described as a problem. However, in the MIRA report I couldn’t find a trend or a graph from ozone or particulate matter. So I became rather curious about how big that increase actually is, given that global warming is already here, ya know.

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Global warming is here already right now: is it about the facts or presentation of the facts?

A couple days ago I found a link to a news item about how we already feel the effects of global warming in Flanders. Apparently, this is how we, Flemish people, feel global warming already right now (according to the MIRA report):

  • The 18 warmest years since 1833 all occurred in the last 25 years.
  • All seasons became warmer: 3.0 degrees in Spring, the other seasons saw an increase between 1.9 and 2.1 degrees.
  • Flanders got one heatwave per three years in the 1970s. Now we get one every year.
  • De average precipitation per year increased with 13 percent since 1833.
  • The average sea level increases fast: for example, the sea level in Ostend is 11.5 cm higher than at the beginning of the 1950s.
  • The wind speed decreased since the 1960s by 10 to 15%.

I could agree with all of those points (although the third one is stated in a very misleading way). If we look at the warmest years since the measurements in Uccle, then we indeed see the last 25 years popping up. That all seasons are getting warming is an obvious result of that. We indeed got more heatwaves now than in the 1970s. There is on average more precipitation since the beginning of the measurements. The average sea level is rising and the wind speed dropped since the 1960s.

If this is true what is not to like? Well, it is brought very one-sided and no context is given. This is a typical example of how information is presented in a way that the public would perceives it as a problem. A problem that doesn’t arise from the facts, but how the facts are presented.

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