A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Monday, May 03, 2004

"A skilful obscurantist", moi!.....

I quite liked being dubbed "a skilful obscurantist" in today's The Groaniad: 'Consensus is not proof ' ('Letters', The Guardian, May 3). Better than being called an 'obscurant', and, in climate-change terms, to 'cloud over' seems more than apposite. I wonder if, however, it may be a case of obscurum per obscurius (or ignotum per ignotius).

So, let me cloud over climate change just a teeny aerosol more. Here's a list of some of the more important factors governing climate change, all, of course, working together at different, but intermeshed, time-scales:

+ The changing cosmic ray flux (CRF);
+ Solar magnetic cycles;
+ Sunspot cycles;
+ Meteorite impacts;
+ Cosmic dust;
+ Changes in the Earth's orbit around the sun;
+ Changes in the angle of tilt of the Earth upon its axis;
+ Shorter duration 'wobbles' of the Earth upon its axis;
+ The changing shape of the Earth, or the Earth's mean dynamic oblateness parameter (J2);
+ The changing rotational velocity of the Earth's core;
+ Changes in the Earth's magnetic field;
+ Tectonic movements of the Earth;
+ Volcanic eruptions;
+ Changes in the circulation patterns of the oceans;
+ Changes in ocean salinity and chemistry;
+ Changes in ice-sheet stability (the mass-balance of glaciers);
+ Changes in sea-ice thickness;
+ Changes in atmospheric water vapour, the most important 'greenhouse' gas of all;
+ Clouds and cloudiness;
+ Natural variations in atmospheric gases, including carbon dioxide and methane
+ Changing albedo (reflectivity of Earth) through landscape change, natural and human;
+ Overall surface radiative energy fluxes;
+ Vegetation, agricultural and industrial fires and their emissions;
+ The emission of aerosols, both natural and human;
+ The emission of tar balls;
+ Human-induced emission of 'greenhouse' gases;
+ Other known factors not listed;
+ Unknown factors;
+ Non-linear feedback links for all of the above;
+ The chaotic factor - the flip of a butterfly's wing.

Yes, of course, we can manage climate change predictably by fiddling at the margins with a couple of politically-chosen factors [apologies, British irony again]. Pity that in so complex a coupled, non-linear, chaotic system, not doing something at the margins is as unpredictable as doing something.

Philip, delighted to be clouding the issue. He will continue to do so. Afternoon tea?

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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