Friday, November 14, 2008

Confused scientists don't know which way to spin

The headline: Earth would be heading to a freeze without CO2 emissions

The subhead:

Scheduled shifts in Earth's orbit should plunge the planet into an enduring Ice Age thousands of years from now but the event will probably be averted because of man-made greenhouse gases, scientists said Wednesday.
The first line:
They cautioned, though, that this news is not an argument in favour of global warming, which is driving imminent and potentially far-reaching damage to the climate system.
From the middle:
According to the model, published in the British journal Nature by Crowley and physicist William Hyde of Toronto University, Canada, the next "bifurcation" would normally be due between 10,000 and 100,000 years from now.

The chill would induce a long, stable period of glaciation in the mid-latitudes, smothering Europe, Asia and North America to about 45-50 degrees latitude with a thick sheet of ice.
Love those computer climate models. A little further along:
Crowley cautioned those who would seize on the new study to say "'carbon dioxide is now good, it prevents us from walking the plank into this deep glaciation'."

"We don't want to give people that impression," he said. "(...) You can't use this argument to justify [man-made] global warming."
Certainly not. Grants might be in jeopardy!

Thanks to Glenn Reynolds, who mentions Fallen Angels.

Update: Followup at the NY Times's Dot Earth blog, with comments from the potentially dangerous James Hansen and others. It's all about the models. Carl Wunsch of MIT says some things about models that could be taken either way, though I doubt that's how he meant it:
If I make a four-box model of the world economy, and predict the US stock market level 500 years from now, who would pay any attention? Climate is far more complicated than the world economy, yet supposedly reputable journals are publishing papers that superficially look like science, but which are the sort of thing scientists will speculate about late at night over a few beers. It doesn’t deserve the light of day except as the somewhat interesting mathematical behavior of a grossly over-simplified set of differential equations. Why should anyone take it seriously? The wider credibility of the science is ultimately undermined by such exercises.
Just what the skeptics have been saying all along! Thanks, Dr. Wunsch.

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