Friday, January 31, 2014

Of Neanderthals and climate change

By conincidence a tweet about Prince Charles criticising "climate change deniers" popped into my twitter feed almost adjacent to this one from the Economist suggesting that Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis may live on in us, as modern humans may have some of their genes.

You can take that one two ways: one way would be to compare those who don't agree that there is a preponderance of evidence for man-made impacts on the environment to Neanderthals who refused to adapt.

However, I also remember a Spectator cartoon showing a Neanderthal family huddled round their fire in a snow-covered landscape, breaking into smiles as one of their number returns from a trek with the words

"Great news - we're melting the ****ing Ice Caps!"

Actually the whole issue of climate change is far more complex than some of the hardliners on both sides of the argument are willing to admit.

Yes, there is a preponderance of evidence that human action is affecting our climate, certainly enough to convince me that the "precautionary principle" should apply and we should seek to limit our impact on the environment until and unless we gain a much greater understanding of the consequences of those impacts.

Hence I don't have much time for the hardliners on one side who I presume Prince Charles was getting at and who blithely assert that man-made climate change is a "myth" or conspiracy.

However, some - not all - of the early models of climate change made predictions which have not been coming true. The hypothesis that mankind is affecting the environment to some degree has not been falsified by the evidence, rather the contrary, but the many of the models which produced some of the direst predictions of runaway global warming are not in line with the evidence.

Hence to label as "climate change deniers" those who apply constructive and critical evidence-based analysis to models of climate change - and who don't agree with every last policy of the hardline "deep greens" -  is not particularly helpful either.

We need to keep carbon emissions and other forms of pollution under control, preferably without bankrupting the economy. But let us also continue to monitor the ongoing evidence for what is happening to our climate and debate that evidence - preferably without kindergarten insults like "climate change deniers" or "the global warming industry."

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