RESOURCE CRISIS:How to convince the public of the danger of anthropogenic global warming

 

RESOURCE CRISIS

 


RESOURCE CRISIS


How to convince the public of the danger of anthropogenic global warming

Posted: 18 Jan 2018 11:41 PM PST

Last year, the vagaries of life led me to chair a commission charged with examining the candidates for the admission to the Italian Chemists Association. It was a rather formal exam that was supposed to provide the successful applicants with the legal status necessary, for instance, for certifying chemical analyses. Overall, the applicants did poorly, but one of them, a young lady, did much better than the others. So much that I thought I could encourage her to do even better. So, let me tell you about a question I asked her during the examination.

Me. Dear candidate, I would like to conclude this exam with a question that may be a little outside your area of expertise, but which I think will give you a chance to show your understanding of some basic concepts of chemistry. The question is: can you propose an experimental test that would prove that human-generated greenhouse gases are warming the Earth?

Candidate…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Me. It is not such a difficult question. I am only asking you to apply to the problem what you know of chemistry and of spectroscopy.

Candidate…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Me. Let me help you. Maybe you can start by telling me something about the thermal effects occurring when you expose an infrared active gas to infrared radiation.

Candidate…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Me. I am sure that you heard about global warming. Can you tell me what is the mechanism of the so-called « greenhouse effect »?

Candidate…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Me. Well, I guess that it is time for the commission to retire to examine your application. You did well with the other questions, so don’t worry.

____________________________________________

Now some comments:

– The question of the « proof » that humans are causing the observed warming is not an easy one to answer and indeed is a favorite question by anti-science trolls. For instance, this recent post on « Carbon brief » claims to bring this proof but if you examine it carefully, you’ll note that it only proves the existence of a correlation between the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and the temperature. Which is a strong indication in favor of the current interpretation of global warming but, strictly speaking, not a proof. Correlation, as it is well known, doesn’t mean causation. Conversely, you can find a good discussion on the empirical evidence of anthropogenic global warming in this post on skeptical science. This is what I hoped the candidate would have been able to devise by herself. But she failed utterly.

–  The students that come out of our classes are persons who know so much about so little that, if the trend continues, soon they’ll know everything about nothing. The young lady I had been telling you about went through five years of training in chemistry at a high-level university (at least in terms of Italian standards). Yet, she had learned strictly nothing about climate change, an issue that involves the physical survival of humankind (and of that young lady as well). It is a qualitative consideration of mine, but it is confirmed by almost everyone I know who is involved with what we call « higher education, » and not just in Italy. How it has happened that universities transformed themselves from enlightening institutes into brain-dumbing machines is beyond me to understand. But I think it is, mostly, because our society doesn’t reward people for being smart (unless it is Putin’s fault – as usual).

–  Climate science is difficult. The basic principles of climate science are not so difficult, but their implementation in the real world is devilishly complicated. Try to answer the question of why the stratosphere cools when the troposphere warms and you’ll see what I mean. Devilish, indeed. So, when I read someone proposing to educate the public in order that they may understand climate science, well, it is a laudable idea, but so difficult to be impossible. There are some valiant efforts, such as the « climate kids » site created by NASA, but, really, most of the well-intentioned people who are convinced that anthropogenic global warming is real do so because they trust the scientists. It is mostly a question of trust, not of data.

– Our strategic plan seems to have been, so far

1. We educate the public in science and in Climate Science in particular.
2. A majority of people understand that Anthropogenic Climate Change is real and dangerous.
3. They elect wise and enlightened leaders.
4. The world leaders act swiftly and effectively against Climate Change.
5. The problem is solved.

Well . .

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