Here's the final instalment of my interview.
So where do we go from here? What action items do we take?
I'm not into politics. I do think it's clear we don't want to be dumping this much CO2 into the atmosphere for the next 500 years. However I do think we have more than enough time to research this more closely, pay close attention to the observations, and improve the climate models to where they can make better predictions on independent data. In the mean time we are inching our way where we need to go with more efficient cars, stricter EPA regulations, and trending toward cleaner fuels. The next 10-20 years will be important and should make the issues more clear. If global temperatures start up-ticking again toward the climate model projections then that would be a big red flag saying we need to take more serious immediate action. However before it gets to that point I am hopeful that we'll come up with technological solutions to the problem.
Any other recommendations?
Well just one. When a new study appears on the news regarding a recent climate change study, it's best to treat it like you would a new study from one of the medical journals. You know the kind "people who eat oatmeal for breakfast lower their heart attack rate by 65%, etc." Treat new climate change results the same way. That is, don't discard them in the trash, because they might actually be right, but don't take them so seriously that you rush to the store to clear oatmeal off the shelves. It's not that I want to intentionally downplay everything, but rather it's just my experience dealing with these studies (that are solely derived from output of numerical models) which often fly in the face of what's really predictable and what's not given the current state of the art.
What good has come out of the debate over climate change?
The first thing is awareness of a potential problem. Even though some climate change skeptics (or "deniers") are overly critical of climate change activists (or "alarmists"), if it wasn't for the loud voices on the side of the activists then we run the risk of business as usual for too long before taking remedial actions, and that could be a problem.
The second one is advancement of science. Even though some climate change activists are overly critical of climate change skeptics, the net result is better science because it forces the scientists to go back, re-look at the data and make sure there are no holes in their work.
What things do you dislike about the climate change debate?
I guess the thing I hate the most is when there's a bad storm and the news media (or even some scientists who should know better) attribute the storm to global warming. There is no evidence despite
all the warming the last 100 years that there have been more stronger
storms. Even the IPCC admits as such in their reports. Here is the
latest study on the subject which looks at global frequency of
hurricanes and the total accumulated storm energy:
In actuality, whether or not we get stronger storms really will depend on where the warming occurs (if in fact the earth's atmosphere does get warmer). If most of the heat increase is at ground level or in the oceans then that could lead to more intense hurricanes as long as other factors don't change. If most of the heat increase is higher up in the atmosphere than that would stabilize the atmosphere leading to fewer strong storms. Right now I don't think the models are reliable enough to trust what they say in that regard.
I also detest the overt scare tactics, like when someone who should know better says that we only have 4 years (this was back in 2009) before we reach the point of no return and that New York City will be partly under water by 2020. That really gives me heartburn. I also detest the use of labels (e.g., "denier", "warmist").
Is there any aspect of a warming planet that does concern you?
To be honest, I'm more concerned about global terrorism than global warming. That said, I won't be buying any property in Miami Beach because of rising sea levels, LOL. But even in that case the worst that will happen is people would have to re-locate, and it would happen so slowly over time that it's not like people will die all of a sudden. The other effects ... stronger storms, increased droughts, more wild fires, more floods, food shortages, mass extinctions by 2050, 20-foot sea level rises I don't take seriously at this time due to lack of evidence or lack of track record at making such predictions.
Any parting words?
Yeah, don't use the phrases like "greenhouse effect" or "greenhouse gases", they're wrong! Greenhouses stay warm in the daytime for a totally different physical reason (lack of convective mixing) than how the earth would stay warm through increased CO2 (absorption & re-emission of long wave radiation). I'm surprised so many scientists still use these terms.
This concludes the "interview". Thanks for reading!