Sunday, January 29, 2017

Don't look down Donald - climate and political change

Have you ever watched cartoons where the character doesn't know that they are about to fall under the influence of gravity until they look down? I remember once watching a cartoon (I was sure it was Ren and Stimpy but can't find the episode) where the laws of gravity are held in the local court house. Someone accidentally rubs them out and gravity fails.

The equivalent of this appears to be happening in the US at the moment with climate change either being removed or planned to be removed from government webpages. This, together with planned sackings etc in the US (and indeed what has happened in Australia with the Climate Council which now is publicly funded and CSIRO) is the equivalent of trying to erase the law of gravity.

Now you might protest that climate change science and gravity cannot be equated, but hear me out.

Firstly, both may be observed by anyone. Drop a brick on your foot, or keep track over the years when flowers first open or birds migrate. Keep a record of rainfall on your farm. A friend who worked in aid and development in Nepal for many years said there were no climate change skeptics there - because they could see it.

But secondly, both need some more careful observation. When Newton said that a body continues at a constant velocity unless acted upon by a force, he knew that in the absence of air that a pound of feathers and a pound of lead would fall at the same rate due to gravity (a fact someone I once worked with denied), but this is a level of abstraction since none of us lives in a vacuum (at least in the literal sense). Likewise, careful longterm datasets help us understand how natural change cannot fully explain the warming we see.

Thirdly, while Einstein came along, and quantum gravity might yet arrive, Newton is still valid for everyday. Likewise, while we learn more about aerosols, the role of the oceans, the sun, etc in natural variability, the basics of greenhouse gases - depending on the fundamental physics of quantum mechanics and radiative transfer are also still valid. It really is warming, it really is our fault and it really will get bad if we don't act.

Trump's lies (sorry alternate facts) will not change the real facts - except they will become worse through inaction. Tell the truth and shame the devil my mum sometimes says. Or as it says in the ten commandments, don't bear false witness. Tell the truth about climate change during this era of Machiavellian, oligarchic lies.