This weekend saw climate change demonstrations all over the world. Interesting juxtaposition with an article by Steven Koonin, former Undersecretary of the Department of Energy, who says that the issue of climate change is “not settled”. Dr. Koonin presents several interesting data points, but overall, seems mostly to be questioning the methodology of those trying to draw conclusions about the climate when none of the models are capable of producing data that is accurate to history or capable of predicting near future trends accurately.
We’ve been at the climate issue for roughly 30 years. By now we should have models that work. This by itself should give pause for reflection. It’s a little like working on finite element models of physical systems and after 30 years finding out that the models don’t match the tested results. We would be in real trouble if this were the case. This is especially significant since in the engineering world, we can observe the results of our hypotheses quickly.
Finite element analysis, finite element magnetics, computational fluid dynamics and all the other simulation systems that are part of our engineering tool kits work very well. If that weren’t the case, these technologies would have ceased to exist a long time ago. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The cumulative benefit of decades long development is that the systems are getting more accurate, more efficient and with computing platforms doubling in power every few years, many of these packages will run on laptops with reasonable throughput.
That the IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, uses 55 climate models, none of which can predict future outcomes accurately, calls into question the entire debate. How can we infer anything from short term observations about systems which may have very long periods, from decades to hundreds of years? Or systems with masses so enormous, like the ocean, that we cannot begin to model them.
Worse still, we have very limited understanding of the the primary source of Earth’s energy as light and heat, the Sun. Depending on whose data you read, the Sun sends over 1300 watts per square meter on the Earth’s atmosphere every day. What are the typical variations in output of the sun during a year? During 100 years? Or a thousand years? What if the change in Earth’s average atmospheric temperature correlates more with 30 year solar cycles? (I have heard that it does)
More important, what happens if we experience a major coronal mass discharge and it crosses Earth’s orbit? We should be a lot more aware of Cosmic Weather, because the effects could be immediate and catastrophic. There was a major corona event in 2012, but it missed the Earth. The last known event was about 150 years ago.
We’re pretty lucky. There haven’t been any meteors or corona events in my lifetime that would end life as we know it. I think we need to invent a meteor defense system with orbiting magnetic rail guns that can break up meteors before they destroy the planet. Of course, if we have a corona discharge, it might shut down the defense system.
Sounds a bit sketchy to be spending that kind of money.