What has become known as “climate science” offers an opportunity to investigate the sociology of science and ask how political biases influence individual scientists. Since the lukewarm political response to the Rio conference, news articles indicate that climate science has a climate of its own – one that’s heating up over the inability to convince the public.
Punk eek in the data: Even before the Climategate scandal, skeptics of human-caused global warming pointed to historical warming trends that preceded factories and SUVs. Another paper in Science this past week added to the ways that non-anthropogenic factors can cause major climate changes. Wortman and Paytan published a paper proposing “Rapid Variability of Seawater Chemistry Over the Past 130 Million Years” that “are likely to affect ocean productivity, the global carbon cycle, and climate,” even though humans were not around then in the evolutionary timeline (Science 20 July 2012: Vol. 337 no. 6092 pp. 334–336, DOI: 10.1126/science.1220656). The fluctuations they found could be true of the entire geologic column. “The record is characterized by long phases of stasis, punctuated by short intervals of rapid change,” they said, reminiscent of punctuated equilibria (“punk eek”) in Stephen Jay Gould’s biological theory of evolution. The paper was summarized by Science Daily. “Humans get most of the blame for climate change, with little attention paid to the contribution of other natural forces,” the summary began. “Now, scientists from the University of Toronto and the University of California Santa Cruz are shedding light on one potential cause of the cooling trend of the past 45 million years that has everything to do with the chemistry of the world’s oceans.” Whether cooling trend or heating trend, the point is that humans didn’t do it.
Laughing gas: Another factor in the battle for public acceptance of anthropogenic global warming is the apparent silliness of some of the scientific claims. On New Scientist, for instance, Michael Marshall headlined his latest article, “Belch of laughing gas could heat up our planet.” He wasn’t talking about climate skeptics laughing over the latest claims, releasing carbon dioxide in their breath, but natural releases of nitrous oxide after the ice age….
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