User:Woozle/Freeman Dyson on Global Warming

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This is a comment on a video clip of Freeman Dyson discussing global warming, to be updated/expanded if any further Dyson comments on GW come to light.

Commentary

"The average ground temperature... is impossible to measure, since most of the Earth is ocean... we don't have instruments... this average ground temperature is a fiction..." I don't think that's true; I seem to recall repeated mentions of (a) satellite surface-temperature readings, available since the 1970s but becoming increasingly frequent and more detailed as computing power and bandwidth increase, and (b) growing networks of ocean-based sensors which measure water temperatures at various depths and more or less cover the earth at this point.

You can also get meaningful data by looking at the prevalance of "record high" and "record low" days, severity of hurricanes (which are heat-driven), and other large-scale weather effects.

The idea that stratospheric cooling would be easier to measure seems very counterintuitive to me. Are there any sources about this?

His main point, though, that "global warming" is a bit misleading as a description of the problem, seems to be on the mark. Some have taken to calling it "climate change", but the neocons attacked that terminology as proof that the pro-ecology people were waffling and didn't know what they were talking about.

He also says that the average ground temperature isn't actually what's important, it's the secondary effects like rainfall and hurricanes -- he doesn't mention the average ocean level, which is one of the more devastating possible side-effects.

I think I remember reading about a recent discovery that glacier-melt rates seem to have a weird non-linear relationship with ground temperature, and that they are melting about 3 times as fast as the models predicted... but in any case, this would just underscore Dyson's point that it's not the temperature that's the problem, but the secondary effects on water and wind.

Just don't let any neocons try to interpret this as "prominent scientist says global warming is a myth", because it would be very easy to take a few sentences out of context and have it sound like he was saying that. From the summary: "He suggests that the relatively simple solution of land use management could potentially give us the ability to control the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at any level we'd like, and there's no need to stop burning coal and oil." This is what he says right at the end of the clip...

Obviously there are a lot of powerful interests that would like this to be true -- which it may be, and I'd like to find out more about the research to which he refers -- but there are also plenty of other reasons to want to stop burning coal and oil, so I'm not sure what the impetus is to eliminate this one reason -- unless he thinks the other reasons (mainly: economic dependence, pollution, and non-renewability) might be fallacious as well. Perhaps he just wants to be sure that any corrective measures we take aren't based on a fallacious, catch-phrase-inspired understanding of the problem? I can certainly get behind that...

Note also that those who oppose global warming counter-measures also tend to oppose funding for scientific measurements of the sort needed to answer the sorts of questions Dyson alludes to. Cut the funding for data-gathering, then plead that there's no data supporting the conclusion they're trying to suppress.