Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why are Climate Scientists Soooo Clueless?

While conducting a reconnaissance mission in The Republican War on Science, I came across this diary at Redstate.com, a Conservative Republican group blog. It’s basically a DailyKos.com for Conservative Republicans.

Clueless Scientists Remain Clueless

Now, naturally that piqued my interest so I took a look at the diary. It begins with a quotation from this article on LiveScience.com:

Scientist: Inject Sulfur into Air to Battle Global Warming

which reports on Nobel Laureat Paul Crutzens suggestion that blasting sulfur into the stratosphere to block solar radiation from reaching the earth is worthy of serious consideration as a means of reducing global warming.

The diarist then points out a link to an earlier article at Live Science contained within the Sulfur article. This article is titled:

Scientists Clueless over Sun's Effect on Earth

to which the diarist snarkily adds: “ Scientists? Clueless? How can that be?”

If you consider yourself a scientist, as I do, then that probably makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But I want you to remember that question because I’m going to answer it in a bit.

Here's the text he quotes from the article, all bold and notes are the Redstate diarist’s.

A confusing array of new and recent studies reveals that scientists know very little about how much sunlight is absorbed by Earth versus how much the planet reflects, how all this alters temperatures, and why any of it changes from one decade to the next.

Determining Earth's reflectance is crucial to understanding climate change, scientists agree. [Would that be a vast majority of scientists? - Ed.]

Reports in the late 1980s found the amount of sunlight reaching the planet's surface had declined by 4 to 6 percent since 1960. Suddenly, around 1990, that appears to have reversed.

[snip]

Thing is, nobody knows what caused the apparent shift. Could be changes in cloud cover, they say, or maybe reduced effects of volcanic activity, or a reduction in pollutants.

[snip]

A third study in the journal this week, tackling a related aspect of all this, finds that Earth has reflected more sunlight back into space from 2000 to 2004 than in years prior. However, a similar investigation last year found just the opposite. A lack of data suggests it's impossible to know which study is right.

The bottom line, according to a group of experts not involved in any of these studies: Scientists don't know much about how sunlight interacts with our planet, and until they understand it, they can't accurately predict any possible effects of human activity on climate change.

It's so clear isn't it? Someone should have thought of a way to study the planet's albedo and collected this crucial data. Silly scientists, they are Soooo clueless!


The diarist finishes with:

Does that last comment apply to injecting sulfur into the upper atmosphere?”

I’m inclined to agree with him on that point, we should really focus on stopping doing the things we know are screwing up the climate before we start messing around with other types of climate control.


But what about that irksome question and his title which ask how can scientists be so clueless about something as basic and important as the amount of sunlight that is absorbed or reflected by the earth? Why hasn't someone collected these data?

The answer to this question is contained in something Dr. Roy Hinkley (blogging as Moment of Science) wrote way back in January.

Houston, we have a problem...

This article describes Al Gore’s “baby”, the Deep Space Climate Observatory, which was designed to precisely measure the planet's albedo so that we could determine the effects of changes in atmospheric pollution, cloud cover, shrinking of ice caps, increased solar flares, etc. on the earth’s climate.

This $100million satellite was placed in mothballs by the Bush administration because it was Al Gore’s project and because it would provide crucial data for studies of the earth’s climate. So now, not only did Bush waste the $100 million spent building the satellite, but scientists must be taunted as “clueless” about the earth's albedo and what it's contribution to climate change is because they were stopped just short of collecting the necessary data.

There really is a Republican War on Science. And the Republican rank and file are being conditioned to view with skepticism if not outright disregard anything scientific. They don’t trust things that come out of labs, or "ivory tower" universities and they are given to scorn rather than rockstar treatment for this country's scientists.

By clogging the news with misinformation about science, like Inhofe's panels on climate science, by blocking research such as this satellite or the ban on embryonic stem cell research, and by silencing prominent government scientists like James Hansen Conservative Republicans have reversed the process of evolution and made monkeys out of all of us.

The only blog inspired by a Bumper Sticker.


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