Following closely behind humility, we need a debate that is characterised by intelligence. Last week it emerged that 2008 is set to be the coldest year since 2000. Despite the fact that it will still be among the hottest years on record, it is being touted as evidence against global warming. Of course, it doesn’t prove anything, either for or against – it is the long term trends that matter, and there can be large differences from one year to the next. The Guardian printed the data at the top of their article, and all it has proved so far is that an alarming percentage of their readers don’t know how to read a bar graph.
There’s a Sunday Telegraph comment piece that claims Arctic sea ice is in fact growing, by using the month on month data through the winter – of course it is – it’s the winter. Bloggers compare the straight lines of the IPCC temperature projections with the jagged rise and fall of actual temperatures, and conclude that the IPCC doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Dr George Reisman, in a report giving evidence against man-made climate change to the US Senate (pdf), claims that global warming “will bring major benefits to much of the world”. Canada and Greenland would become temperate, and an ice-free Arctic would make for faster shipping. He forgets that if Greenland is free from its ice sheet, then New York, London, Shanghai and Buenos Aires are all under water. The same temperatures that would make Canada temperate would make most of Africa uninhabitable desert, not to mention parts of his own country in Texas or New Mexico.
We have to avoid snap judgements and knee jerk reactions, and think before we speak. We need to use data intelligently.
(Part 3 in a series, catch up here: Introduction – humility)