Saturday, June 14, 2008

We Can't Even Handle Geologic-Speed Change

When we talk about how people react to change, we assume we are discussing--and on this blog our mission is supposed to be!--rapid technological change. But how can we expect them to accept a doubling of scientific knowledge every five years if they can't handle the concept of natural, long-term, climate cycles? Change that occurs over thousands of years?

You guessed it. I'm about to wade into global warming.

This was precipitated by (pun intended) a post on the excellent weather blog under the direction of James Spann. James is not only the Birmingham, Alabama, TV market's best-known and most highly-respected weathercaster, but he is also a long-time ham, WO4W. Though many fuss when he interrupts their favorite programs with continuous dangerous-weather coverage, he has saved many lives over the years by doing so. Seems like a reasonable trade-off to me!

James has caught quite a bit of heat lately for his common-sense comments about Al Gore's global warming campaign. A representative from the Weather Channel even proclaimed he should lose his certification from whatever high-level organization certifies weather forecasters...all because he maintains warming of the planet is nothing more than the natural cycle of things. On Earth, we are either in an ice age, warming up from one, or cooling down for the next one.

The post on his blog that I read this morning is mostly a replay of an article on another web site by John Coleman. John was, ironically, one of the founders and early stars of the Weather Channel. He makes some very intriguing points about the hysteria surrounding the supposed calamitous heating of our planet, all caused by the emissions from our beloved automobiles. Regardless of which side of the debate you are on, it is an interesting read.

Of course, I couldn't help but chime in so I posted some comments on Spann's blog. There are some things so obvious you would think they did not have to get their own bullet points, but I suppose not. So:

– You can sell far more books, movies and speaking engagements with a crisis than you ever could with naturally occuring phenomena. As always, follow the money!

– As mentioned by James and others, people have short memories. We tend to see things in our own limited little area of time and space. Weathercasters perpetuate things when they say, “The high today will be 90, and that’s ten degrees above average for this date.” “Average” is determined by taking the high temperatures for this day all the way back to when recordkeeping began, adding them together, and dividing by the number of days we are considering. Not only does that ignore millions of years of history, but it is a math exercise that smooths out a lot of temperature extremes!

– People want simple answers to complex problems. Just like they expect murders to be solved and wars to be won in sixty minutes–less commercials–they want to be able to solve any perceived crisis in a simplistic way. If we stop driving cars and using electricity, the polar bears will survive and New Yorkers won’t be paddling rowboats down Broadway.

Is every one of the folks on the other side of this issue only in it for the buck? No, I think most are sincerely worried about what they believe to be the truth. Are others in it for the notoriety or for the money? No doubt about it. Those are the scoundrels who should be ashamed of themselves.

The rest of us, though, should step back and broaden our perspective. This whole thing would be comical if it didn’t also mean the ensuing hysteria may have far more negative impact on society than the “crisis” we are supposed to be hysterical about.

How are we going to handle REAL change if we can't understand something as slow as climate evolution?

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