Plenty of people will argue for and against climate modelling. Some in far more detail than I’m able to understand.
One man who’s spent the latter part of his career challenging the modellers is Richard Lintzen, professor of meteorology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, his career is now winding down.
It doesn’t matter what ‘side’ of the climate debate you’re on, it’s important to keep up with all points of view. Especially expert points of view, like Lintzen’s.
He has problems with computer modelling. And I can’t say I blame him. I’ve worked in the computer business since 1966 and one of the first things I was taught was the importance of GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.
Lintzen notes that not enough account is taken of the mitigating effects of cloud cover in the climate models. I’m guessing that’s not all that’s missing.
Call me simple-minded if you like, but I look at it like this: The Met Office, despite its ever-larger spend on modelling systems, keeps changing its mind about short-range weather forecasts. Maybe long-range climate models are more reliable, but I doubt it.
The climate debate is agonisingly difficult for everyone that cares about the future. And it certainly generates enough hot air to seriously impact the climate today. But, as a private individual with virtually no scientific training, there’s nothing I can do about the debate itself. So I subscribe to a ‘sustainability’ or ‘quadruple bottom line’ ethic which aims to balance economics, society, the individual and the environment.
And, yes, I put ‘economics’ first because it’s the lubricant for achieving many of the other results.
All organisations and individuals are capable of seeing whether their choices are, for example, polluting the land, sea or air or diminishing scarce resources. They are all capable of seeing how they can change their behaviour in order to reduce or, in some cases, eliminate their harm. The really clever ones may even find ways of delivering a net benefit to the environment.
It’s only by billions of us improving our choices today that we’ll leave a world worth living in for our children, grandchildren and their descendants.
Do we really need a heated debate based on computer models to shape our future? Aren’t the common sense arguments of sustainability for all going to get us to the same place? And probably more quickly.