Being Done By Numbers (A Rant)

[modified from the original, published March 10th, 2012]

OK – I now feel I have to say something. I have recently read a whole lot on a web site about how humans are not affecting climate.

Whenever Teams of scientists go into battle against each other, we the public, are the loser. I say this because if there ever was anyone completely incompetent to judge multifaceted, complicated scientific arguments comprising incomplete and inconsistent data, across many different scientific disciplines, it is, well, pretty much everyone! And in the case of climate change, I really do include even the most genius endowed scientists in that as well.

That doesn’t mean we are completely helpless. But it does mean that we need to know when we are having a job done on us. Typically a tip off that it is happening is when the perpetrator uses emotive words or tones instead of dull boring facts, and where the questions or statements put are set up to make you feel that the answer or its implication is blindingly obvious and you are an idiot for not being sure.

In the case of an article on the web site here are a couple of examples:

1) What percentage of the atmosphere do you think is CO2?

The Correct Answer: CO2 is less than a mere four 100ths of 1%! (as copied from the article) – ie the implication is that CO2 comprises such a small proportion of the atmosphere that it can’t possibly be important. They even go on later in the explanation to that answer to say:

“Also, the vast bulk of the population have very little knowledge of science so they find it impossible to make judgements about even basic scientific issues let alone ones as complex as climate. This makes it easy for those with agendas to deceive us by using emotive statements rather than facts.” [excuse me but didn’t they just do that themselves? … Oh, I get it, they are OK because they use emotive words (and punctuation) as well as, rather than instead of, facts.]

This attitude is further revealed by the next question …

2) What % of CO2 do humans produce?

The Correct Answer: Nature produces nearly all of it. Humans produce only 3%. As a decimal it is a miniscule 0.001% of the air. All of mankind produces only one molecule of CO2 in around every 90,000 air molecules! Yes, that’s all. (as copied from the article)

Again the implication that because it is such a small amount it is insignificant – also the emotive overlay.

Lets see how insignificant 0.001% of the air might or might not be by comparison to another component of the atmosphere that there is less controversy about.

The gas I am thinking of takes up only 0.000007% of the atmosphere and possibly a lot less than that. Hence there is at least ~5500 times less of it than CO2. This gas can be dangerous to life, but we would not be here as we are now without its existence. I am referring to Ozone.

The point is that all the huffing and puffing about the quantities of CO2, even without the emotive overlay, is completely irrelevant because it tells us NOTHING!

It tells us nothing because we simply don’t know what is too much and what is too little. Without this added information, the absolute amount carries no information.

To state or imply that the amount of CO2 is too small a quantity to make any difference, with no basis for comparison, is a blatant attempt at manipulation (agenda pushing), as there is evidence that other gasses can be very significant at much much lower concentrations.

The important outtake of this is that for almost all of us it is impossible to judge when scientific titans clash. And to recap and modify an earlier statement: “This makes it easy for those with agendas to deceive us by using emotive statements rather than AND facts.

There are other issues with the article on that web site and I may mention them in a later blog.

Ciao for now,
Bazza

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