“What’s The Harm?”

Interesting post over at the Skeptical Libertarian Blog, a dissection of the dangers of pseudoscience.

If you want to believe that there are fairies living at the bottom of your garden, that’s your business. If you think that laying under a bed of crystals will “heal” you and remove your cancer better than a doctor, then – though I’d desperately try to persuade you otherwise – it is your body, your life.

But worldwide, billions of dollars are wasted and, more importantly, many people are seriously suffering, simply because they have never even been exposed to a science-based reason-centric point of view. Heartbreaking.

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Cooling the Language of “Climate Change”.

Ice ShelfCame across a smart and engaging article from The Spectator’s website this morning, about the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) toning down the alarmism in their fifth report.

It’s been a while (2007) since their fourth report, and even that dampened some of the alarmist rhetoric on the concept of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change. The rumours are that report five will go even further:

The summary of the fifth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will be published, showing that global temperatures are refusing to follow the path which was predicted for them by almost all climatic models. Since its first report in 1990, the IPCC has been predicting that global temperatures would be rising at an average of 0.2° Celsius per decade. Now, the IPCC acknowledges that there has been no statistically significant rise at all over the past 16 years.

Let’s take the 16-year figure with a pinch of salt. Both alarmists and skeptics have been seen to use 1998 as a significant date, but in both cases it’s unfair. When the alarmists like Al Gore used it in the late 90s/early 00s, the huge spike in temperature in ’98 seemed to seal the deal. At the time skeptics were keen to point out that 1998 was the year of the El Nino and so showed disproportionally high global temperatures.

Turns out the skeptics are right, and so the recorded temperatures after 1998 were lower, but what skeptics need to remember, is that the trend of warming continues, and so should exercise caution when using it as a data point now.

However, even factoring 1998 out of the equation, the most interesting thing about our data for a decade and more is that despite the exponential rise in manmade CO2 emissions around the world, the temperature has only slithered up. Rather in-line with the lack of sunspot activity we’ve had, in fact. And much, much less than the 0.2 C rise per decade that we were warned about.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that even though the CO2 we emit contributes to the global temperature, the belief that anthropogenic CO2 is either directly or indirectly the primary driver of our climate is on increasingly shaky ground. As Michael Crichton once put it: “I’m certain there’s too much certainty in the world.” The cost of adaption – even by the IPCCs figures – is a fraction of the cost of mitigation. When will we be able to have that debate in the political sphere without people calling overs “deniers”, etc?

Just on a side bar: I wonder how many mainstream sources will report this in any depth – or at least quickly dismiss the lack of significant warming? For example, it was widely reported by the BBC et al in 2007 that by the middle of September 2013 (you know – right now) there would be no sea ice around the Arctic due to our continuing obsession with pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. This year though, the sea ice is more substantial than any time in the last 12 years and in line with what we’d expect over the last 35 years. But we’ve forgotten the alarmist story now, so we don’t notice. We’re far too busy looking at the next scary story.

Dan Brown’s Overpopulation Is Overblown

I’ve just finished reading Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno, which I’ve heard is next in line to be a feature film, with director Ron Howard and actor Tom Hanks both on-board.

A lot of people are very snobbish about Brown’s books. My feelings are that this snobbery comes out of the fact that they’re quite popular, and it’s fashionable to look down your nose at what the “masses” enjoy reading on holiday, etc.

I enjoyed the book – another fun straightforward 24-hour thriller that he’s now so well known for.

Another criticism centres around the inaccuracies of his work. But so what if it’s inaccurate? It’s a book, a story – a work of fiction. Let him make up whatever allows his story to be even more exciting I say.

The latest inaccuracies in Inferno centre around the warnings that the human population is rising out of control and so we’ll have to do (cue scary music) “something” to decrease the “surplus population” (as Ebenezer Scrooge put it in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol).

The idea that there are too many humans has been around for some time. Whether it’s the 18th Century scary warnings of Thomas Malthus or Paul Ehrlich’s 1960’s scaremongering in The Population Bomb, there’s never been a shortage of people screaming that the end is neigh.

The fact is though, the overpopulation story is a myth. We’re always on the verge of a population crisis where we can’t feed everyone, and it’s all going to hell. And then it never happens.

Some smart talented people have knocked together some short, simple and highly watchable videos on this subject. They quickly and succinctly give the overpopulation myth a well-deserved reality check:

Many think that we simply don’t make enough food to feed everyone. Wrong again:

And it’s not that there’s too many of us. In some parts of the world, there’s not enough being born:

So it’s good news – if only we could solve some of the problems in the second video (war, poverty, etc.) things would be better still.