Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's never too late to apologize

So a few months ago we pointed and laughed at Jairam Ramesh and this one scientist who said that global warming is false and that the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035.

Turns out, they were half right:

Leaders of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change apologized yesterday for making a "poorly substantiated" claim that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.

The finding was included in the group's 2007 report in an error-riddled paragraph that also misstates the total land area covered by Himalayan glaciers. Scientists who identified the mistakes say the IPCC report relied on news accounts that appear to misquote a scientific paper that estimated the glaciers could disappear by 2350, not 2035.


Hey, IPCC, aren't you guys scientists? So shouldn't you have OVERCHECKED for errors? Shouldn't you have higher standards than a student in fifth grade who even has typos in his project report which he completely copied from Wikipedia?

And yes, I WAS WRONG to believe the IPCC when they said that their "report was peer reviewed by scientists from various countries" and that they used data provided by ISRO.

So, to quote my favourite sign outside my neighbourhood grocery shop, "PLEASE BRING EXACT CHANGE. SORRY FOR THE INCONVEIENCE. THANK YOU FOR COOPERATION."

However, the point remains that even though the IPCC was wrong, even Jairam Ramesh and his crank scientist were wrong to deny global warming. Global warming is not a myth. It is something which is quite evident and in front of us. We see it when it rains unseasonly or the thick fog which envelops our cities every morning, we feel it when we have a heat wave and cold wave in the same year. It's real. The climate is changing and not in a good way.

Yes, I screwed up by believing those fact fudgers.

The pointing and laughing may now commence.

Regular programming will resume shortly.

Climate Science Panel Apologizes for Himalayan Error [NYT]
India's environment minister will not believe any stupid scientific fact about global warming [


Vishal said...

Climate change makes intuitive sense. We are disturbing a pre-existing equilibrium and it should have effects. However, most sensible skeptics don't doubt the existence of climate change, just the extent of it. Isn't it possible that the doomsday predictions are exaggerated somewhat or based on spurious assumptions(like positive feedback for eg.)?

Vishal said...

Climate change makes intuitive sense. We are disturbing a pre-existing equilibrium and it should have effects. However, most sensible skeptics don't doubt the existence of climate change, just the extent of it. Isn't it possible that the doomsday predictions are exaggerated somewhat or based on spurious assumptions(like positive feedback for eg.)?

Ketan said...

The last time around I had not read the links you had provided in your other post.

But now when I actually went through the ToI's article, Pachauri's highhandedness sounded totally distasteful.

But most importantly, it never appeared from DNA as well as ToI links (of your other post) as if Ramesh was trying to deny the occurrence of global warming altogether. He was only pointing out that the condition of glaciers was not as bad as painted by 'melting-by-2035-paper', and that there was no evidence for linking that change with carbon foot print. His words were much more guarded than Pachauri's.

And sorry for not replying to your and Rakesh's comments on your other post. Since, I had not known much about global warming, I decided to go through its wikipedia article, instead.

It's a very nice (but really long) article. While, I had never really been skeptical of harmful effects of rampant pollution, the article made me less skeptical of occurrence of global warming. Also, I had never been skeptical of climate change, but haven't been sure if it is restricted only to warming. For instance, I felt 2010 Delhi was decidedly colder than the last year's.

My contention with global warming and the theories is not whether climate change is bad or occuring or not, but the actual cause and solution for it.

It's when it comes to providing solutions for the problem that I find a conflict of interest in what a lot of environmentalists (climate experts, included) have to say.

I think most sensible thing to do is to chalk out effective (if possible) solutions, rather than just quarrel on the rates and intensity of the problem.

But, what are the solutions?

This is the biggest question that needs to be answere. The compromises that some of the highly impractical environmentalists expect us to make are totally unjust. I think the union government is very right in insisting that India cannot do much to curtail its carbon emissions currently because of imminent urbanization. This might sound irresponsible statement to make, but I will try to clarify all that in one of my posts. Urbanization is not only about shopping malls and people buying more automobiles, but would rather be imminent because the country does not require 70% households to involved in farming! There is a lot of disguised unemployment in the agriculture, and that can be tackled only by a major shift in the occupations (urbanization)....

Ketan said...

...Unless and until this sort of unemployment is tackled, farmer suicides will continue. And if the environmentalists do not come up with economic as well technological solutions to tackle global warming, their claim in the media that their concerns are 'humanitarian' will always come off as dubious (to me).

One more problem with global warming is that everyone knows it is emission of gases that's causing greenhouse effect. But the question is which gas? It could be carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide or even water vapor! I'm not providing excuse for inaction, but only pointing out that we should be careful in determining what those solutions are. Because, most of the technologies we consider to be environment-friendly do release water vapor, which is the LARGEST contributor to greenhouse effect!

Also, hydroelectricity is not as environment-friendly as we would like to think. Most apparently, it leads to displacement of native people, then change in the course of rivers (imagine, how much impact that could have on sufficiency v/s excess of irrigation water for farmers), and subsequently change in pattern of vegetation and CLIMATE CHANGE! Also, I don't know if this reason has been confirmed, but I had read that Koyna dam in Maharashtra had caused an earthquake.

Wind energy is insufficient, largely. At best it can play minor supplementary role.

Fuel cells release water vapor! :) Also, to produce hydrogen from water requires electricity.

How to obtain THAT electricity?

So, the only sensible solution to thermal electricity, I see is nuclear energy. Yes, the safety issue is important. But then no choices in life are perfect. Either we shun nuclear energy in trying to entertain potential threats it could cause, or we address the problem lack of energy is causing immediately (unemployment, price rise and suicides). But where I find environmentalists largely hypocritical is in opposing nuclear energy also!

I mean, what solutions are they offering?

Solar energy is extremely costly, because to the best of my knowledge, the only two elements that can go into making of solar cells are silicon and germanium, and both are very rare, and their processing costs a lot. Also, as energy source, solar energy is not very intensive, i.e., requires a large area.

But of course, there are other reasons too to switch to environment-friendly energy sources like acid rain and harmful effects of air pollutants....

Ketan said...

...But what I do not find convincing are 'solutions' offered by the likes of Gore, who has had nothing to do with science.

Lastly, I feel very guilty to comment on a serious note on your blog! ;) Totally, because of the tone you yourself maintain. So please do clarify if you mind serious comments or not. And sorry for the long comment, but I couldn't have stated all this much more concisely, but this is an issue, where very few people actually take a comprehensive view of all the problems involved and their speculated solutions (not that I'm myself am expert in any of the areas). But my only insistence is on some degree of skepticism in what appears to be 'mainstream' as well as a fringe movement - of course, something you yourself do as I see it, but could have done so for IPCC, too.


Stray said...

Didn't I hear u say awhile ago that u used to fudge numbers for MNCs to scrounge together a living?! - in context of which this is certainly F.R.E.S.H., coming from u! ;)

P.S. - It is nice to see u hard at work, educating the skeptics. (And dont get all naughty on the 'hard' bit)

Over Rated said...

@Vishal: I agree, how dumb do people have to be so as to deny global warming? But I do think the need is dire, because of the weird weather pattern we have been having for the past few years.

@Ketan: Whoa! Firstly, too answer your question, I do appreciate 'serious' comments on my blog. Even long ones. Basically, appreciate ALL types of comments on my blog. Secondly, I need to do deep extensive research to answer most of your questions! Thirdly, you are right and I should have been more skeptical of the IPCC. I'll never make that mistake again!

@Stray: Look who's talking, sir! :D . . .