“I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely in your thoughts advanced to the state of Science, whatever the matter may be.”
William Thomson, created Lord Kelvin for his engineering work on transatlantic communications cables, had firm views on what was and was not scientific knowledge. He was also interested in global temperature, but not they way we are today. He put a monumental scare into Charles Darwin, whose ideas he did not accept, by calculating that the earth must be much younger than Darwin had believed it to be. His conclusions were based on the rate at which the earth would cool from its initial molten state. Since evolution takes a very long time, and Darwin knew that well, this was a serious blow to Darwin’s theory. Eventually, Kelvin’s figures were shown to be wrong, and we now believe the earth is billions of years old, plenty for Darwin!
Kelvin also was interested in very low temperatures. He created the temperature scale, now known as Kelvin, that has as its begining, Absolute Zero (no connection to the vodka) which is the point at which all molecular motion ceases – thermodynamic zero.
All this stuff about metrics and temperature got me thinking about the latest blast on global warming, this time related to a major IPCC scientist who has been quoted as implying that all the climate science of projected warming is wrong. He writes that the warming in the recent decades, such as it is, is not the result of CO2, but of natural cycles. The warming due to CO2 is now kicking in, and will continue unabated as long as we burn fossil fuel. He laments that some journalists have “distorted” his views, describing him as a sort of crypto-denier, and asserts that “if my name was [sic] not Mojib Latif it would be global warming.” Wow, there’s a believer! (I guess he doesn’t believe in the subjunctive, but who does?)
I’m sure there have been reports in magazines and news shows that do distort Mr. Latif’s views – that’s to be expected in popular science journalism. What is odd is that he doesn’t see that his views do contradict some of the AGW orthodoxy. That is, a lot of people would deny that natural cycles have much, if anything, to do with the purported temperature rise over the last few decades. They point to a clear “signal” of AGW. His statements also raise the question of how he is so sure that the real AGW warming will begin soon – isn’t that just his … belief? I mean, if it hasn’t been happening already, how can he be so sure? Those computer models?
Finally, he weighs in with a strange observation about the ability of people to reason coherently:
Nobody would discuss the problem of [Einstein's theory of] relativity in the media. But because we all experience the weather, we all believe that we can assess the global warming problem.”
Actually, I have seen discussions of relativity in the media, and some of them were admirably clear. They may be difficult to understand because the theory entails a profound challenge to our “common sense” notions, but that’s another story. Latif seems to be claiming that only experts such as himself can assess AGW, presumably with the help of their digital crystal balls, but we can all assess the logic of their claims, and his seems rather tortured.
As Kelvin might have asked, let’s just look at the numbers…