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Topic Title: Environmental effects: It's our doing
Topic Summary: Human activity is the dominant cause of global warming observed since the 1950s
Created On: 09 October 2013 08:32 AM
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 22 October 2013 11:50 AM
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Zuiko

Posts: 521
Joined: 14 September 2010

In a nutshell.

That humans, by our actions, are changing the climate, at a rate and magnitude that has the real potential to be disasterous to our wellbeing, especially in regard to land, water, and food supply issues; and that it would be in our interests to create as healthy an environment as possible.



I am naturally skeptical so I note that the loudest voices against the overwhelming scientific consensus come from either
A) Non-experts
B) Those with vested monetary interest in polluting industries and technologies
 22 October 2013 12:25 PM
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cookers

Posts: 205
Joined: 10 February 2012

Anyone who bases their life choices on a belief in scientific facts, should read this.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Ha...piration/dp/159184472X
 22 October 2013 01:05 PM
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Zuiko

Posts: 521
Joined: 14 September 2010

I did say, "...They are facts, in as much as any description of a phenomena based on evidence can be called a fact; and remain facts until there is stonger contrary evidence."


We all live our lives based on the acceptance of scientific facts. We accept that the electricity we require will get to our consumer units; we accept that our computers and internet access will work; our medical techniques work. We may not care how it works, or understand.

As an engineer you DO base your life choices on scientific facts and use the fruits of scientific research everyday. I hope you accept that the engineering solutions you provide work to a satisfactory level - i.e. the scientific principles they are based on are true, at least to a level and accuracy that is acceptable to provide working engineering solutions.


One alternative is to not accept any evidence and rely on personal incredulity.

Edited: 22 October 2013 at 07:27 PM by Zuiko
 22 October 2013 01:38 PM
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jarathoon

Posts: 1043
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I'm with cookers on this.

Engineers have to understand and know all the potential modes of failure before we can hope to build something that doesn't unexpectedly fail.

Having studied mechanical engineering, geophysics and atmospheric physics, I am not convinced Climate Scientists have found all their potential modes of failure yet.

James Arathoon






-------------------------
James Arathoon
 22 October 2013 03:47 PM
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rogerbryant

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Zuiko,

"That humans, by our actions, are changing the climate, at a rate and magnitude that has the real potential to be disasterous to our wellbeing, especially in regard to land, water, and food supply issues; and that it would be in our interests to create as healthy an environment as possible."

Sounds more like a belief than a fact.

I am totally in agreement with " that it would be in our interests to create as healthy an environment as possible", but if mans influence is not as big as the IPCC would like us to beleive then we should be looking at preparation/mitigation for the inevitible as we climb out of the current ice age and await the next one.

Best regards

Roger
 22 October 2013 06:46 PM
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OMS

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Engineers have to understand and know all the potential modes of failure before we can hope to build something that doesn't unexpectedly fail.


Do we ? - I've worked on plenty of systems that would unexpectedly fail if you flew a fully fuelled 747 into it, or attacked it with a main battle tank - and some of those systems could be described as high hazard.

I think what we actually need to know are the credible modes of failure rather than all the modes of failure, and perhaps more importantly, the impact of the failure (unexpected or otherwise).

Regards

OMS

-------------------------
Failure is always an option
 22 October 2013 07:07 PM
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kengreen

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James,

Out of the immensity of your learning can you guarantee thAat as engineers we either understand or know... " all the potential modes of failure before we can hope to build something that doesn't unexpectedly fail".

If you pretend to be an engineer and you must at least be practical in your outlook - iTt is not possible to deal either on the spot or in advance with... "Something that doesn't unexpectedly fail". How on earth can anyone anticipate the unexpected !

This was once encapsulated by one much greater than I as a "terminological inexactitude".

Ken Green
 22 October 2013 07:19 PM
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Zuiko

Posts: 521
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Originally posted by: rogerbryant

Zuiko,



"That humans, by our actions, are changing the climate, at a rate and magnitude that has the real potential to be disasterous to our wellbeing, especially in regard to land, water, and food supply issues; and that it would be in our interests to create as healthy an environment as possible."



Sounds more like a belief than a fact.




We, in maritime Britain, may not feel the effects of a changing climate.

But it is a fact that billons of people now live in highly environmentally stressed conditions. Billions rely on glacier melt for drinking water and favourable (but chaotic) weather for food. It will only take a slight deterioration in conditions for these people to be tipped into a completely inhospitable environment. These people will then naturally feel compelled to move to more hospitable climes.

This is not a belief. It is what happens when you are thirsty or hungry.

Edited: 22 October 2013 at 07:36 PM by Zuiko
 22 October 2013 07:22 PM
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Zuiko

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Originally posted by: jarathoon


Having studied mechanical engineering, geophysics and atmospheric physics, I am not convinced Climate Scientists have found all their potential modes of failure yet.



James Arathoon


And I'm convinced that the overwhelming scientific consensus amongst people that spend their lives investigating such things is more on the money than us here on a internet forum.
 22 October 2013 07:34 PM
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Zuiko

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Originally posted by: jarathoon
Engineers have to understand and know all the potential modes of failure before we can hope to build something that doesn't unexpectedly fail.


That is absolutely not the case.

Everything that is built is built to a specification that depends on acceptable failure. For example, if a jumbo-jet was built to be fail-safe it would be too heavy to get off the ground.

In every case, it is impossible, in Donald Rumsfeld's immortal words to know what the unknown unknowns are.
 23 October 2013 08:34 AM
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rogerbryant

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Zuiko

"We, in maritime Britain, may not feel the effects of a changing climate"

I don't live in Britain and may therefore have a different perspective.

You still haven't given me what you fell is factual about man-made climate change. I agree as I have said many times before that the climate has changed, is changing and will almost certainly continue to change. I also agree that the actions of man must have some effect, but I don't currently believe we can quantify this. There is no scientific consensus on what triggers an ice age and what prompts the next warming cycle. How can there be consensus on man's influence when we don't understand the other influences?

Best regards

Roger
 23 October 2013 10:14 AM
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jarathoon

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Originally posted by: Zuiko

Originally posted by: jarathoon

Engineers have to understand and know all the potential modes of failure before we can hope to build something that doesn't unexpectedly fail.




That is absolutely not the case.



Everything that is built is built to a specification that depends on acceptable failure. For example, if a jumbo-jet was built to be fail-safe it would be too heavy to get off the ground.



In every case, it is impossible, in Donald Rumsfeld's immortal words to know what the unknown unknowns are.


I was specifically talking about "unexpected failures" and to ideals we can very rarely if ever attain. I agree that this can never normally be attained in practice, and that we need to put some thought into what happens if they fail in ways we are not expecting.

Since you mention aircraft, I was talking last night to some people about whether or not it is possible in aircraft to have back up indications of air speed if the pitot tubes ice up, or fail for some other reason. If there are potential failure modes that are associated with not getting the right measured data to the pilot then I suggest that they are unacceptable failure modes, if this is likely to significantly increase the likelihood of a crash.

What is "acceptable failure" in terms of climate models assuming there still exist important "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns" that may cause global climate models to fail in what they predict on various different timescales?

The "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns" in terms of climate models will be physical or biological processes which we are currently ignorant of, leave out because we believe their effect is small on all timescales or because they are parameterized wrongly in the models.

The fact that climate models cannot be used to predict climate change at the regional level or even at the hemispherical level must also be taken into account. In that sense they are unphysical, and presumably much simpler models would give the same results they achieve.

If all you can do is predict outputs related to global mean temperature and global mean precipitation then sure much simpler non-physical models will suffice.

James Arathoon


-------------------------
James Arathoon
 23 October 2013 02:07 PM
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Zuiko

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Originally posted by: rogerbryantHow can there be consensus on man's influence when we don't understand the other influences?


That's the argument from personal incredulity.


It's seen in other fields : we don't fully understand the exact details of speciation therefore evolution is a myth etc.


It's the case that as the understanding of science moves further away from "the man in the street"; the more difficult it is for us to believe what the experts are telling us.

Climate change science is so utterly complex, covering virtually every aspect of natural science, it is impossible for laymen to question and investigate observations. I certainly can't do it, anymore than I can question the wisdom of a brain surgeon. If the technques and skills required to investigate a science take decades to learn and understand we have to leave it to the expertise of others.


So if you ask what is a fact. I believe the accumulated consensus of experts on this more than I believe you.

Please take no offense in that: I would beleive the opinion of my partner in medical diagnosis over your opinion too, even though you may well have valid personal experience. That's because she is a medical expert and studied and practices medicine and you are not and do not.


When the consensus changes, be it in climate science or medicine or engineering, I will go with the evidence.
 23 October 2013 03:33 PM
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rogerbryant

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Zuiko,

"Please take no offense in that:"

Absolutely none taken. I am not actually trying to change your views I am trying to gain all the information and understanding I can to see if I need to change mine. When you said you had factual evidence I wanted to see what it was and if I could use it, however from your last post it is belief in the current IPCC consensus.

I tend to take the view that if someone says that a concept is too difficult to explain they probably don't fully understand it themselves (much as Ken Green has been saying in the SMP thread).

Believe nothing on the faith of traditions,
even though they have been held in honor
for many generations and in diverse places.
Do not believe a thing because many people speak of it.
Do not believe on the faith of the sages of the past.
Do not believe what you yourself have imagined,
persuading yourself that a God inspires you.
Believe nothing on the sole authority of your masters and priests.
After examination, believe what you yourself have tested
and found to be reasonable, and conform your conduct thereto.

Buddha
 23 October 2013 03:59 PM
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Zuiko

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You are right: I don't understand it.

That's the point.

I don't understand the human immune system, but I can take on some sort of authority that a medical doctor does; and they have done the study for me; and they can offer me their expert advice.

It is impossible to go through life having to understand everything. Even as engineers we only know a the tiniest fraction of our own specialist field and accept the accumulated wisdom of experts. The jokes about the engineer relying on the handbook and rules of thumb is true.

It would be impossible to function if we doubted all scientific knowledge before we fully understood it ourselves.

Regarding the explanation, I think the scientists HAVE explained it in simple terms: that human activity is increasing the amount of CO2 in the air, at a rate which is unprecedented, and which is leading to climate change.
 23 October 2013 08:06 PM
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cookers

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Zuiko,

You quite rightly ask "why don't you believe the climate scientists?" and that is a fair question. I used to believe them, but now don't, an interesting journey psychologically as well as scientifically. How did this happen?

You may be right that my eyes are blinded by cynicism and doubt, but I don't think the experts are right in this instance, so I can only go on my own experience and say what I think.

You are rather harsh on amateur scientists in this field, I always have had a high regard for "trainspotters", they do know an awful lot and their views come without any self interest or political baggage.

I used to have a daily long rail commute to London, and by habit used to sit in the seat next to the railwayman whose unfortunate duty was to write the West Coast main line timetable, a complex task with many variables and interdependencies. He was an amusing and interesting fellow whose tales made the long journey appear quicker that it often was.
He stated that he got his best ideas on efficient timetabling from the guys with Anoraks at the end of the platforms, he could rely on them to say what was going on and why things got delayed etc without fear or favour. He could not ask his own organisation of experts for such information as all he would be told was the corporate message, the message the management wanted to hear.
 23 October 2013 08:16 PM
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Zuiko

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Originally posted by: cookers

You may be right that my eyes are blinded by cynicism and doubt, but I don't think the experts are right in this instance, so I can only go on my own experience and say what I think.


Evidence trumps personal experience.

If you think the evidence is wrong (and it may be) then you must produce compelling counter evidence; not merely personal experience.

Climate change is a field that is being studied by literally hundreds of thousands of scientists and not just those studying the weather: zoologists studying animal behaviour; botanists studying the distribution of plants; oceanographers studying the chemistry of our waters; glaciologists the volume of our ice; epidemiologists the distribution of climate-dependent diseases. There is no field of natural science that does not have an interest in this. And the consensus is overwhelming. So are all these people, from different disciplines, from different countries and cultures, with different educational backgrounds and carrying their different world views and political bias' wrong? Are all these experts missing something that is plain to the non-expert? The hundreds of millions of man-hours of study and computation all wrong? Are they all that stupid? Or is there a global conspiracy to hoodwink us? Rationally, I just can't accept that. It defies logic.




It's the same argument (for example) you get (largely in the USA) against evolution - it goes against people's experience (of god) and what they think (that creationism is true). And no amount of scientific rigour nor evidence will convince them otherwise, so strong is the conviction that they are correct.

That there is a huge overlap in the climate change "denial" group and the anti-vaccine group and the creationist group comes as no suprise to me. (also note that the politics of these people tend to be the same)

The questions in science are becoming more and more difficult for the man in the street to comprehend, even those with say a decent undergraduate scientific background (this is where the timetabling analogy isn't that great - it only requires armchair logic)

Its a strange dichotomy that we live in an increasingly complicated technological age, surrounded by machines and medicines that have come about by the understanding and application of very difficult and complex science. We use (and in every way rely on) these machines more and more yet the distrust of the scientific method that brings use these technologies is increasing because it is more and more difficult to understand at a non-trivial level.

Edited: 23 October 2013 at 10:35 PM by Zuiko
 24 October 2013 02:19 PM
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clivebrown

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Postings of the last day or two have been fascinating!

I'd like to re-state what (back in January) I put on ' E&T Magazine - Debate - Is climate change a man-made phenomenon?' :-

Most of us engineers are not climate scientists, which is a highly complex and rapidly developing subject. My simplistic view of it is that a stable global climate, which earth has experienced for around the last 10k years, exists because of a very delicate balance between large warming and cooling forces; most of these forces cannot be influenced by mankind but an exception could be warming caused by increased greenhouse gases (principally CO2 from burning fossil fuels and rain forest destruction). Is this additional greenhouse gas going to cause significant warming of the planet and if so by how much?
That question, especially the second part, can't be answered with 100% certainty; but the vast majority of the world's most senior scientific establishments (National Science Academies, in the UK the Royal Society) consider that there is risk of dangerous warming due to man's activity - I accept that collective expert view. (I sometimes think it amazing that a few hundred ppm of CO2 can have so much effect but then remember such things as the need for certain trace elements for plant growth or the consequences of a drop of arsenic to the human body.)
If significant warming should occur, the possibility of positive feed-backs affecting the present climate equilibrium does seriously bother me (although I don't think it will be in my life time). Two such feedbacks are caused by reduced artic sea ice cover in summer and melting of frozen tundra releasing trapped methane. I believe that current climate models do not incorporate these feedbacks which could result in our planet becoming pretty inhospitable to man. Evidence indicates that very rapid climate change has occurred in the past; my worry is that the next could be self inflicted. Although there is no certainty, surely precautionary action would be wise.


I admire 'Sustainable Energy - without the hot air' (2008) by David MacKay FRS http://www.withouthotair.com/about.html

He is now chief scientist at DECC and delivered the Melchett Lecture to the Energy Institute in June 2013. The slides from this presentation are at http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk and I think well worth a look. Can anyone find the text - I think it would be interesting?

Regards.....Clive

-------------------------
clivebrown
 24 October 2013 02:33 PM
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Ipayyoursalary

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Originally posted by: Zuiko
Climate change is a field that is being studied by literally hundreds of thousands of scientists...

Yes, thanks to climate change hysteria, this sleepy backwater of science has seen $Billions of research funding flowing into it, and endless conferences in attractive holiday resorts from Cancun to the Maldives.

There is no field of natural science that does not have an interest in this.

Yes, you can be studying practically anything and all you need to do is append "due to climate change" to your grant application, and funding is practically guaranteed. Here's a list of things that have been blamed on man-made global warming in recent years: warmist

The general rule is: if it's something horrible that you don't like, there'll be more of it "due to climate change", whereas if it's something cute and cuddly that everybody loves, it will die a horrible death "due to climate change".

And the consensus is overwhelming.

Yes, when asked, 97% of climate "scientists" said they'd like to keep receiving their juicy pay cheques and all-expenses-paid trips to far-flung holiday resorts.

Are the hundreds of millions of man-hours of study and computation all wrong?

Er, well since none of the climate models predicted the total lack of warming this century, yes, they were all wrong. But don't worry, despite their total failure so far, they're "95% certain" we're all going to fry in 30 or maybe 40 years time - well, at least far enough into the future that they'll all be comfortably retired after enjoying lucrative careers predicting doom which never arrives.

there is a huge overlap in the climate change "denial" group and the anti-vaccine group and the creationist group

That's weird, because I'm what you and the IET would offensively and disingenuously call a 'climate change denier', and yet I'm very much pro-vaccination and I don't believe in any of the religious creation myths. I submit that it is *you* that believes in a religion: The religion of man-made global warming.

The questions in science are becoming more and more difficult for the man in the street to comprehend,

The man in the street knows a tax scam when he sees one. And this one's as old as the hills: weather scaremongering. Who'd have thought people would fall for that in the 21st Century?

"We never used to have bad weather round here until those witches arrived".

FFS
 24 October 2013 09:02 PM
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cookers

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So we seem to be going round in circles.

I always remember sitting at a conference in 1999 listening to the then President of the Royal Society proclaiming the Y2K computer bug would be a "threat to our civilisation".

He asked for questions, so I asked "how he had worked that out"! I didn't understand his reply, and neither did anyone else! but then again we were all computer engineers so what would we know about science! More amazingly The IEE produced a 1000 page manual on how to deal with the Y2K bug, I read this and it told me absolutely nothing, it did not even refer to code or give examples of bugs found in code, a complete waste of space.

I thought the Y2K bug scare would all quickly blow over, but it just carried on and on, my colleagues and I made a pile of money checking code for bugs, never found a thing! Found some really rubbish software though, it was amazing some of it worked at all!

I had some colleagues in ITALY who along with all their countrymen decided that life was too short to spend it searching for something that didn't exist, and even if it did it didn't matter, they did nothing and nothing went wrong!

I will now make a prediction that this thread will next contain a long treatise on how the Y2K bug was real, and how the world was saved by science, but strangely on or before Jan 1st 2000 there was not one report of a Y2K bug being found or how disaster was averted, but 13 years later (when we cannot investigate to prove or disprove) there will be a few who say how science saved the day. Myths do not die even when proved wrong!
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