I read an article in the National Post discussing climate change. I try to avoid reading NP articles about climate change, because they usually just irritate me. However, I couldn’t resist this time, and regretted it as usual.
Why do they irritate me? Well, generally they are just re-hashes of climate change denier nonsense of one form or another. I suppose it satisfies a certain sector of their readership and sells papers, but it’s still usually nonsense. Let’s consider just one aspect of the article I read.
At the heart of the article is the premise that perhaps the planet is warming, but we’re still not sure what the cause or causes might be. And therefore, we shouldn’t do anything too rash, etc. etc. The article doesn’t get into the full details, but one of the usual arguments is that just because temperature and carbon dioxide readings are both increasing doesn’t mean that carbon dioxide causes global warming. On one level this is correct, since we always have to be careful to distinguish “happenstance data” from causality. (There’s a famous example of happenstance data used in statistics classes, where the birthrate in one region was correlated with the number of stork sightings, which could lead to the conclusion that storks do deliver babies!)
This denier argument conveniently leaves out the fact that increasing CO2 levels were predicted to lead to global warming over 100 years ago, based on fundamental physics. The great Swedish physical chemist Svante Arrhenius published the results of his calculations in 1896, decades before rising CO2 and temperatures were even detectable. Over the years, the calculations have been refined and improved, but no one has been able to refute the physics that show the link between CO2 and temperature. You can’t argue with basic physics, at least not without having to invalidate much of what we already know about physical chemistry and its routine applications in many fields, like spectroscopy, etc. So, in recent decades the measured rise in CO2 and temperature are really just a confirmation of what Arrhenius and others predicted long ago.
So the journalists can carry on blathering about policy and politics all they like, but don’t keep pretending that this is all recent, mysterious, and uncertain science. That’s irritating!