Monday, 15 March 2010

Climate Change – the trouble with statistics

Climate Change
I’m not a Scientist but I live on this planet and have grandchildren whose quality of life will be affected by the decisions being made now. I’m also cautious about statistics, having worked with the slippery things for too many years to take anything for granted. GIGO rules every time.

Scientists don’t know (and may never know) all the questions to get the right answers. I’ll accept that. Perhaps the situation is driven, not by human intervention but by a natural cycle which is inevitable? Can we afford to ignore the possible consequences either way?

No. Definitely, NO.

But I do worry when the following occur.
We are getting all our information third, or even fourth hand – even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The benchmark IPCC report of 2007 claimed to incorporate the latest research into the impact of global warming. A central statement was that the world's glaciers are melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

The Times Online published an article in January 2010, claiming that the suggestion that Himalayan Glaciers would melt by 2035 is ‘likely to be retracted’.

Glaciers near K2, Pakistan.  Photo by Finavon, licensed under Creative Commons

. According to The Times, the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a 2005 report from the World Wild Life Fund - which was based on an an article in the New Scientist, published in 1999. The New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with an Indian scientist.

Research – what research?

In the same vein :
The Dutch Government has asked the IPCC to correct a claim that 50% of Holland is under sea level. The correct figure is 26%.

A ‘major’ study by the BBC claims to have run a ‘full global climate prediction model’ – starting in 1960 and running to 2000. They then extrapolated to give a prediction for temperatures up to 2070.  At least they had the decency to say their study shows how temperatures could change.

I could go on but this is enough to make the point. With reporting like this, it is hardly surprising that many people are unwilling to accept the reality of climate change.

Climate change or global warming is a hot (sorry for the pun) and worrying topic. Perhaps the situation will stabilise or reverse? In the growing confusion and squabbling among scientists, I’m left with my observational experience.

I moved to the north of England 28 years ago. I made some rather sad mistakes in the garden. I tried to ripen tomatoes out of doors, everything was about two weeks behind the south of England in the spring and summer was a couple of weeks shorter. Grow Canna out of doors?  Palm Trees flowering? No chance.

Now, despite the cold, plants which would have died in the winter when I arrived in God’s Own County are surviving. The palm trees and Canna are not dead (I checked yesterday).
It’s more a matter of confusion. The Hellebores have few flowers – but they started flowering in October. The Winter Jasmine has been flowering since September.

I don’t want to take a chance. This may be a natural cycle. It may be manmade.

Whichever, I want a future for my grandchildren.

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