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Thread: Global Warming Effects

  1. #1 Global Warming Effects 
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    A lot of climate articles refer to a "drier more arid climate and a negative net effect on agriculture". Perhaps this is true but I can't understand the mechanism by which that would happen and would appreciate some ideas to better understand it.

    Obviously there is more evaporation in a warmer climate, and therefore more clouds, more rain and more arable land. The huge mass of tundra that dominates the northern hemisphere could be productive farm land with a few more degrees in temperature and rain falling there rather than snow.

    The hottest place in the world should be the tropical belt yet that's one of the wettest and supports the most dense concentrations of life anywhere.

    It doesnt seem to be heat that life has a problem with, but lack of moisture so where is the net loss of moisture coming from on a hotter blue planet?

    I'm obviously missing something here so any illumination on what that is would be great.


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    One of the issues is the change in general circulation. A well-known expectation is the expansion of Hadley cells. They're the part of the general circulation that results in the current desert areas being so - Australia, USA, Africa have the most obvious ones.

    These deserts are the result of moist air being lifted at the equator, travelling polewards, then descending as rainfall. Wiki has a good explanation, including the expected expansion due to a warming climate. Hadley cell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Basically, a system that retains more energy is going to be more extreme. Dry places will become drier. Wet places will become wetter. Unfortunately, some of the productive farmland currently at the poleward edge of a Hadley cell will become unproductive. Cropland may have to change to pastoral. Currently pastoral will become less suitable for some animals - eventually only suitable for the kind of hectares-per-animal (rather than animals-per-hectare) arrangements we have here in Australia.


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    Obviously there is more evaporation in a warmer climate, and therefore more clouds, more rain and more arable land.
    All else being equal, soil moisture goes down and land becomes less arable. Also that additional evaporation and additional rainfall will not necessarily be co-located. For example, the additional evaporation from an Iowa corn field might not come down as rain until it's in a frontal passage over Ontario. This, and other changes to overall weather patterns might dominate the climate shift in many locations.

    The huge mass of tundra that dominates the northern hemisphere could be productive farm land with a few more degrees in temperature and rain falling there rather than snow.
    Most of the tundra has notoriously poor soils. As grain zones shift North they soon run into thin soils scrapped clear by the last glacial periods as well as inherently large inter-annual weather variability-for a good example review Russia's grain harvest, which is further North and often unreliable from year to year.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; March 27th, 2012 at 12:42 AM.
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    And there's the other factor that is far too often ignored. The amount of sunlicght in each season is fixed at a latitude. It might be warmer, but when the sun sets, there's no more energy for photosynthesis.
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  6. #5  
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    This seems like a good place to discuss this topic as one of the few places where political influence doesn't distort it.

    It sounds all very dependant on the idea that hadley cells will expand, do you know through what mechanism they are expected to do so? My understanding is that in a convection cell the cold zones are as important as the hot for sustaining the cycle, I would expect the size of a hadley cell (as far as the influence of temperature is concerned) to be dictated by the relative heat difference between where the heat rises at the equator and where it drops further north. In a warmer world, both locations would increase equally and the relative difference preserved.

    Though isn't the presence of polar ice important in keeping the poles cooler than they would be should they be ice free as 90% of sunlight there is reflected back into space? If so I would expect as the ice sheets melt, the relative difference between heat at different lattitudes to reduce, causing hot rising equatorial air to travel further before it reaches the temperature required to drop. Perhaps this is the mechanism through which hadley cells are expected to increase?

    North and south America seem largely immune from hadley cell drought compared to Australia and the Sahara, so I imagine there are other significant factors at play there. Doesn't the himalayas play a significant role in keeping north Africa dry?

    It's true that there would be no more solar energy for photosynthesis relative to lattitude in a warmer planet, although if it's true that Co2 is the cause of global warming there would be more chemical energy for photosynthesis so I imagine the net effect would be positive providing there would be at least the same amount of rainfall.
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    Sounds as though you need a quick rundown on climate science generally. The best introductory online book is probably Spencer Weart's The Discovery of Global Warming - A History "The Discovery of Global Warming".

    Being online you can take it in digestible chapter-at-a-time lumps. There are a couple of others which are much more technical (much more).

    If you have a physics background you might like to try a few items at The Science of Doom .
    This is the only item which popped up on a search for Hadley cell Convection, Venus, Thought Experiments and Tall Rooms Full of Gas – A Discussion « The Science of Doom ..... it's a bit long because it's in the form of 'trading' various analyses about the differences between Earth and Venus. It's good stuff if you're interested.

    there would be at least the same amount of rainfall.
    Nuh, uh. There'll be more. More sudden downpours, more flooding.

    Because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour, 4% more so far. And water vapour has no option but to condense out (and evaporate and start all over again.) There are a whole heap of technical biological arguments that higher CO2 concentrations may not enhance growth at all - because it's the things a plant is short of that inhibit growth. (Especially seeing as the plants most likely to benefit are weeds anyway.) But the effects of more droughts and more floods and more unseasonal heat will probably override any such benefit for crop plants.
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    Sounds like a very negative outlook. Perhaps you are right but as there is undeniably political pressure to make that seem the case it's probably worth looking at the facts in slightly greater detail before I change my neutral opinion.

    Through what process do more droughts and more floods coincide?

    As I understand it, floods typically happen when lower rivers burst their banks as a result of more periodic rain higher up the river, often as a result of mountains concentrating clouds and dispelling them all together in seasonal cycles. On the upside when they do burst a negative feedback loop has them increase their banks by dumping sediments all over the flood plains, the process which delivers much of the topsoil that makes such areas arable. I can see how that would increase in some areas with a warmer more humid environment.

    Perhaps the droughts which still puzzle me are dependant on the aforementioned hadley cell widening.. Sounds like this is the area I should be looking at more carefully.

    I thought that the carbon cycle was pretty well established as a very well regulated proccess and the greater productivity of photosynthesisers which apparently have enough of all other things to jump in there and make use of any excess carbon dioxide was essential for explaining the long term composition of the atmosphere.

    Perhaps deforestation can explain much of current co2 levels, if so I guess the overall winners will be ocean dwelling photosynthesizers and the ocean life they support.

    If we look back in geological history at the productivity of flora&fauna do we find that they do better or worse in warmer and more humid climates?
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    As I understand it, floods typically happen when lower rivers burst their banks as a result of more periodic rain higher up the river, often as a result of mountains concentrating clouds and dispelling them all together in seasonal cycles. On the upside when they do burst a negative feedback loop has them increase their banks by dumping sediments all over the flood plains, the process which delivers much of the topsoil that makes such areas arable.
    That is one type of flood. It can also be caused by melting snows, ocean tidal surges and lake seiches and just severe storms over upstream plains. Humans also influence floods by denuding forest and filling wetlands which reduces thier ability to hold and gradually release water as well as building elaborate levee systems which shift and extend the flood waters to other parts of the vallegs. In many places floods happen every year and were once about the only way to rebuild soils. Modern aggriculture doesn't rely on floods much anymore. And think every levee, dam and other engineering project including the homes we build, assumes risk based on historical data which we assume it somewhat stable-- climate change is reshuffling the deck.
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    Perhaps the droughts which still puzzle me are dependant on the aforementioned hadley cell widening.. Sounds like this is the area I should be looking at more carefully.
    Well, the Hadley cell widening would be the prime reason why Perth's inflows to dams have declined so badly since the 1960s. Other droughts? Not so much. At least in Australia, our ten years of recent drought were mainly due to repeated El Nino - neutral years unrelieved by any significant La Ninas. So we got that 'fixed' all in a rush these last couple of flooding La Nina years - but the rain doesn't always fall where there was drought. And I'm not so sure that Texas, Oklahoma, Mexico are too thrilled with their 'matching' La Nina droughts in these years.

    I thought that the carbon cycle was pretty well established as a very well regulated proccess and the greater productivity of photosynthesisers which apparently have enough of all other things to jump in there and make use of any excess carbon dioxide was essential for explaining the long term composition of the atmosphere.
    OK, the oceans and the biological carbon cycle have been doing pretty well soaking up most of the excess CO2 we've released from geological sources. But the geological carbon cycle takes a lot longer, millions of years. It's the only reason we have a problem.

    In fact, if we'd started out by initiating geological sequestration to counterbalance our geological release of carbon, we'be in a much better position. We can't possibly counteract the 3 million years for each single year's oil we burn, but we could at least get started. Don't know what the equivalent number is for coal.

    One thing we have done with oil. Using some of it as fertiliser for crops, we've managed to increase human population from 2 billion to 7 billion in no time at all. 5 billion extra bodies are at least a temporary form of biological sequestration.
    Last edited by adelady; March 28th, 2012 at 05:14 PM. Reason: repetition
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  11. #10  
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    Aha! Here's a really, really good paper on your questions about changes in rainfall etc. Held and Soden, 2006.

    http://140.208.31.101/bibliography/r...les/ih0601.pdf

    I knew about it, just didn't think of it. I'll see if I can find a more user-friendly precis of it somewhere in my list of references. (Don't stand on one foot. This is not a very organised or simple process.)

    And hot off the internets, an interim IPCC report. The Press release gives you some notion of what's in there. You may be sruprised to hear that I haven't yet read the Policy Summary (20 pages) let alone the 594 page full report. But you might find something that's relevant to your queries about droughts and floods. http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/
    Last edited by adelady; March 28th, 2012 at 06:03 PM. Reason: failed link
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  12. #11  
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    Mr Monkey you said of a negative outlook on the climate issue
    ...there is undeniably political pressure to make that seem the case...
    With that remark I'm afraid you have introduced politics into this discussion.

    The scientific understanding of climate is the primary reason to believe a "negative outlook" is appropriate. If politics is 'undistorted' by that scientific understanding there is something wrong with politics. Political pressure to take science on climate seriously is not only acceptable, for those in elected positions of trust, to choose to dismiss, disparage or ignore it - given they have full access to the latest scientific advice - is a profound betrayal of that trust.

    If you seek to confirm that the scientific understanding of climate is legitimate, that's good; our scientists and institutions of science remain our most reliable sources of knowledge. The window of opportunity the foresight that knowledge about climate brings us is priceless.
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    The huge mass of tundra that dominates the northern hemisphere could be productive farm land with a few more degrees in temperature and rain falling there rather than snow.
    I only just 'noticed' this portion of the OP. This idea is a bit dangerous.

    Firstly, you can't 'exchange' land like this. If the currently productive farmland between latitudes of say 30 to 40 degrees is halved, you can't replace it at higher latitudes, say above 55 degrees. Why not? Because there's so much less land there. Remember we live on a globe, the nearer you go to the poles, the less surface there is for each parcel of 5x5 degrees of latitude and longitude.

    Secondly, productivity. The closer you are to the pole, the more/less sunlight is a problem - regardless of the temperature. You'd need fantastic feats of genetic engineering to get our grain crops to produce successfully in these drastically different seasonal regimes.

    The other issue at these latitudes is soil. On the vast Canadian shield, there is no soil worthy of the name. When the icesheets and glaciers from this area moved and melted away, they scraped the rocks absolutely bare. A good part of the soil that was there moved a long way away and finished up transforming the USA into a fertile paradise. (Think of the annual Nile floods fertilising Egypt's fields before the Aswan dam was built - but doing it in one gigantic geological upheaval rather than steadily supplying it year by year.)
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  14. #13  
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    The simplest way to understand the effect of Global Warming is to realize that it means a net gain of enery to the weather system. Green House gases reduce the amount of energy radiated away from our planet. The net energy in the system is increased. Increased energy in the weather system will increase the "vigor" of the weather. This means that the "storm of the decade" happens every other year and the "flood of the century" happens every decade. The immediate effect of "Global Warming" is more severe weather of every type, including blizzards and other severe winter weather. It is hard to imagine more severe weather being beificial for anyone.
    The net warming effect happens only slowly as the average global temp creeps up. However, even this slow rise can have dramatic effects on areas that had been existing in equilibrium, as for example polar sea ice coverage.
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    the effect of the climate change increases natural disasters, and changes rainfall patterns and crop yields, it affects the water and food supply and consequently poses a threat to the public health. The actual effects are not the same throughout the world as they depend on the quality and performance of health systems. The most serious threats are primarily to the developing countries, where malnutrition is already rife and health infrastructures are precarious.Regions where diseases such as cholera and malaria are most prevalent could extend further.Many people living in tropical regions could be particularly affected. This could lead to an influx of climate refugees if sea levels rise leading to flooding of certain islands or coastal regions. may its helpful for you.
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    Ken you seem to have a lot of trust for politicians in performing their role, I'm afraid I'll never be able to share that optimism and anything they promote so intently I'll have to take an independant look at before jumping on the bandwagon. In my experience they care primarily about themselves and getting re-elected, and secondly about increasing the economic power of their nation. I also don't have any particular goal in proving the political view to be right or wrong, exaggerated or not, just to uncover it for what ever it turns out to actually be.

    I'm not sure that a net increase in energy of the weather system should necessarily follow with more frequent weather extremes and it would be interesting to see how that is predicted to occur, sometimes you can get more stability in a system by increasing the amount of energy. For example a tank of water fluctuating between -1 and 1 degrees is "more extreme" than a tank of water fluctuating between 2 and +4 degrees as in the latter there is no change of state. I understand the main forces of kinetic energy in the weather system to be the earth's spin, hadley cells, pressure zones and the difference between rising heat over land and water. It's difficult to intuitively see an impact of a warmer net climate on any of these, if we could discuss them one at a time that would be appreciated.

    It seems though at first sight that the extra energy in the system will most likely be spent on keeping the air more humid and presumably the land less arid.

    Thanks for the references Adelady I'm going to make my way through them over the coming days when I have some time.
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    i am going irrelevent to the topic...but could u expln why temp. decreases with increase in altitude in troposphere?while hot air is lighter,it must be higher.
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    Quote Originally Posted by laizla View Post
    i am going irrelevent to the topic...but could u expln why temp. decreases with increase in altitude in troposphere?while hot air is lighter,it must be higher.
    A combination of Amontons' law which states temperature is proportional to pressure and radiation balance.
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    I'm not sure that a net increase in energy of the weather system should necessarily follow with more frequent weather extremes and it would be interesting to see how that is predicted to occur, sometimes you can get more stability in a system by increasing the amount of energy.
    I think it's important to remember that the change IS the natural disaster. A more stable system over Nebraska, might bring fewer hail storms but also mean regular droughts and less recharging of natural aquifers etc. While we tend to think of natural disasters as hugely destructive events, many are far more subtle and almost always relative to what's "normal," where they happen. Life there is accustomed to an existing climate. A six inch October snow in my home state of Maine is inconvenient but would be a disaster in Norfolk, VA any time of year; the two inches of rain I'm getting today in Olympia WA would be a disaster in Tuscon, AZ; a month of humid 100F is annoying in Dallas, but a disaster in Denver etc. Because our homes, schedules, arrigation systems, dams, levees, crops, water systems, forest, livestock, insurance tables, FEMA designated flood zones and many other things are all assume some normal at where ever we consider--any changes are at best disruptive--at worst disastrous.
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    Mr Monkey, it sounds to me like you have a lack of trust in science as much as a lack of trust in politics. The science on climate - from multiple specialties and institutions, using a variety of methodologies and lines of inquiry over more than 2 decades - have a remarkable degree of agreement and consistency.

    I suggest that a significant contributor to why, given all that time and the consistent and persistent message from our scientists about this, you still harbour doubts - is failures of politics.

    The consistent and persistent line from directly effected economic interests, with the endorsement and support of mainstream political parties and influential elected officials to doubt and deny in order to avoid and delay the actions a true knowledge of how our climate works requires of us - represent a profound failure of politics to do it's job.

    Far from having an excess of trust in politics, I think politics is proving incapable of dealing with a problem of this scale.

    I urge you to take the time and make the effort to find out what mainstream science says about the climate problem. The US National Academy of Sciences and Britain's Royal Society are good places to start and, of course, there are people at this Forum willing to discuss it and answer your questions honestly to the best of their ability.

    The IPCC reports are probably the most comprehensive single source - though suffering from a degree of conservatism IMO that tends to understate rather than inflate the risks. It's also been the consistent target of political campaigns to undermine public trust in it's objectivity that have been very successful.

    Mr Monkey, get knowledgeable, then get political.
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    "It seems though at first sight that the extra energy in the system will most likely be spent on keeping the air more humid and presumably the land less arid."

    I read an interesting comment the other day - didn't save it - but it was about extremes.

    This person pointed out that regardless of what we do and don't know about what kind of extreme events might occur when or where ......... the mere fact of more energy in the system means that there is a wider range of 'states' available for the atmosphere and the oceans at any one time. A wider range of temperatures, a larger scale of precipitation, more options for large scale circulations to move faster or slower or stop each other.

    As for what we don't know. WACCy weather is one we didn't see coming. Warm Arctic Cold Continent winter weather looks as though it could become more frequent while the Arctic transitions to an ice-free state. It will be occasionally seasonally ice-free within the next couple of decades. Then it will be predictably ice-free every late summer/autumn for several decades. Because we have no previous experience to go on, we have no idea whether we will have any more, or lots more, of the extremely cold European and North American winters while the whole of the world warms even more. If we do, there will be more flooding events with additional snowfall melting quickly in warm springs.

    Seasonally ice-free is not a stable state. Stability for the Arctic is 2 options only, ice all year round or no ice year round. But we have no idea how long it will take to become ice-free year round. Could take more than a century, could happen quite abruptly. Depends mostly on how much heat stored in the depths of the Atlantic and the Pacific will feed into the currents that maintain the Arctic circulation. Once it reaches a certain level - as yet unknown - it will not allow any ice which forms on the surface during winter to last more than a few days or weeks.

    And let's never forget global warming's ugly big sister. Ocean acidification. Many hundreds of millions of people rely on the ocean for their food supply. We've already damaged this severely. When acidification prohibits corals, shellfish spawn and fish spawn to mature into adults, we lose fish and/or their reef habitat. Oyster farmers on America's NW Pacific coast are already having to instal new equipment and methods for raising oysters out of the dangerous local waters and only put them in once they've established decent shells and initiated growth. This can't happen for wild stocks of anything.

    Even if the CO2 wasn't damaging atmospheric systems, we'd need to stop releasing it to keep the oceans in a reasonable state for maintenance of fish stocks.
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    Politics.

    In my experience they care primarily about themselves and getting re-elected, and secondly about increasing the economic power of their nation. I also don't have any particular goal in proving the political view to be right or wrong, exaggerated or not, just to uncover it for what ever it turns out to actually be.
    I don't know why you expect politics to be any different from other professions. Most professionals take up their occupation because they want to do a good job of something. Medicine, law, police, teaching, armed services, public service, science, politics. But they're all human, and some individuals will fail to meet proper standards, fewer will deliberately flout the laws or the social obligations of their calling.

    But we have procedures in place. Doctors, lawyers and accountants get barred from certain activities or entirely struck off. Police, teachers, soldiers and public servants get disciplined, demoted or sacked. Scientists get ridiculed by their peers if they come up with something stupid or cut off from funding if they falsify their results.

    Politicians are in a different position though. Voters can replace someone who's a failure or a wrong 'un. But politicians are different from other professions in one special way. They can also be voted out because they do, or propose, the right thing - which happens to upset a few powerful people or lots of ordinary voters - all of whom are looking at their own very short-term, very personal advantage and not the good of society generally which the politician had in mind. (Think civil rights, the status of women, lead in petrol & paint, asbestos, seatbelts, whatever. All legislation about these can attract the ire of powerful groups or ordinary citizens, or both.) If you think that politics is inadequate in some way, work out what that is - specifically.
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    For adelady. It's not often I see or read the truth. While there are those who can acknowledge the truth and are prepared to speak it, there will always be progress on the positive side of things. Good for you adelady. westwind.
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    Without wanting to diverge too far, I think that politics differs from all other professions because of the selection proccess that determines the winner. As well as the appeal that the position has for megalomaniac personalities. While anyone that wants to do a good job in medicine can, given time, perseverence and some financial backing, the only people operating in politics are those that have managed to get through the filter of what it takes to get elected and that involves being able to suppress vocalising their own ideologies and act as convincingly as possible in the interest of the major public.

    I think that as you have pointed out, the best thing for a nation is often far from what the majority of voters think it is which is why who ever ends up attracted to the position of president or prime minister can only succeed if he is able to play one game, while showing himself to be playing another.

    I don't think it's "inadequate" however, I personally can not think of a better system. Although in searching for the truth about a subject I find it helps to take an independant look things that politicians promote so intently rather than just assuming them to be correct as a result of their resources.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    Mr Monkey, it sounds to me like you have a lack of trust in science as much as a lack of trust in politics.
    Is science not something that should be "tested" rather than "trusted" in order for it to be science as opposed to faith?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Monkey View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    Mr Monkey, it sounds to me like you have a lack of trust in science as much as a lack of trust in politics.
    Is science not something that should be "tested" rather than "trusted" in order for it to be science as opposed to faith?
    You should trust that it is tested. The projections are just that, projections with error bars, but the underlying principles are principles that have been known and properly tested for a long time. What you have to think about is if your mistrust of politics (not a fan myself either) might have an influence on your trust of the science itself. Do you buy into the load-mouthed allegations levied by climate deniers? That is why one needs as much credible information as possible and to remove preconception and bias from the equation as much as possible.
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    I think our climate is good as it was, no change could actually make any of those regions more productive
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    As much credible information as possible is precisely what I'm seeking in order to understand it better and draw my own conclusions. If that happens to be what the majority of the scientific community agree on then great, but that should be purely coincidental among all scientists for a majority view to have any value.

    It is unprodoctive for a hypothesis when scientists choose to become part of a majority without reason beyond the fact that they are a majority. The will of many (and some within this thread) to have such a stance, will inevitably cause majorities to grow to a ratio beyond their natural level until their size no longer reflects the accuracy of the information it's based upon.

    I expect the media to selectively put the effects that meet the political agenda of their backers in the public eye so I obviously don't trust what I read there to be an acurate portrayal of the climate situation. Nor do I expect that climate change is neccessarily a greater problem to mankind that requires more urgent action than other current affairs, such as deforestation, over fishing, and the dependancy of agriculture on fossil fuels, purely because the media give it more hype. On the same token I'm not convinced it isn't, I'm simply trying to find some reliable information to improve my opinion on the matter.
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    MrMonkey. I have no idea whether this would appeal to you, but here's an essay from someone who started out as a meteorologist with no real interest in climate science. He also happens to be a political conservative, and from the USA. This extract is from about halfway through.

    Acknowledging Climate Science Doesn’t Make You A Liberal

    My climate epiphany wasn’t overnight, and it had nothing to do with Al Gore. In the mid-90s I noticed gradual changes in the weather patterns floating over Minnesota. Curious, I began investigating climate science, and, over time, began to see the thumbprint of climate change, along with 97% of published, peer-reviewed PhD’s, who link a 40% spike in greenhouse gases with a warmer, stormier atmosphere.
    Shawn Lawrence Otto | A Message from a Republican Meteorologist on Climate Change He writes fairly well, it's an easy read.

    This comment of yours concerns me a bit.

    Is science not something that should be "tested" rather than "trusted" in order for it to be science as opposed to faith?
    In climate science, even the super-brainy rocket science types in atmospheric physics have to take a lot of things on trust. They can't also be oceanographers and glaciologists and botanists and agricultural experts and cryologists and ecologists and forestry experts and fluid dynamics experts. They have to accept the conclusions from these and a score of other disciplines, because none of them can be expert in everything. Even though they probably know more than any of us might on some or many of these topics, they wouldn't regard themselves as expert. (Just like doctors can't be endocrinologists and rheumatologists and obstetricians and ENT and gastroenterology experts. They have to defer to the opinions of experts in those particular fields.)

    We have little option but to rely on experts. We might not like what they tell us, just as we'd be pretty unhappy with some pronouncements of a cardiologist or a dermatologist about diagnosis and prognosis and tedious or unpleasant treatments when we consult them about something troubling us.

    From the non-expert perspective, seeing the new USA advice about which seeds and plants are now suitable (or unsuitable) for a whole new set of geographic areas should tell us that something's up. That advice is entirely consistent with all the other reports and analysis we see coming out every week. Consistency and consilience of evidence lead us to accept what the experts have been saying for 30+ years. It's getting warmer. It's because of us. We can undo some of the damage we've done and (hopefully) head off the worst of what we've already started.
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    Kalster @25, well said. It would be one thing if there were profoundly different schools of thought on the fundamentals of climate but that is not the case. It's not like it's a small isolated field of enquiry anymore, that goes unnoticed and unexamined - the physics involves physics departments and physicists, the chemistry, thermodynamics etc likewise. Although there are deliberate - political - efforts to persuade us otherwise. There are serious economic concerns and interests at stake.

    In areas of science where different schools of thought co-exist and compete there are usually a lack of data or contradictions that haven't been resolved. That isn't true of climate science. There are uncertainties that make precise predictions, especially of local and regional scale effects difficult but none that I'm aware of that can render the human factor insignificant or absolve humanity of responsibility.

    I think it's worth bearing in mind that climate science has been set that difficult task of projecting and predicting climate consequences of various scenarios of future human activities in order for Governments to make informed policy decisions. It's also worth noting that there is one big experiment that will give conclusive results no-one rational is likely to argue with but, personally, I'd prefer not being in the test-tube! Especially given that the theoretical work to date indicates a very strong likelihood the results will be bad for the future security and prosperity of humankind.
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    Following up on Adelady @20 mentioning ocean impacts.
    A just released report - "Valuing the Oceans" - on stresses on our oceans - acidification, ocean warming, hypoxia, sea-level rise, pollution, and overuse of marine resources - gives more reasons for humanity to come to grips with the long term 'external' costs of humanity engaging in business as usual.

    The report estimates that unchecked climate change alone could reduce the economic value of ocean services by US$1.98 trillion a year by 2100. And it's not like the problems stop at 2100 - that's a purely arbitrary date. It's worth noting for example, that sea level rise by 2100 is not expected to be much different for high emissions than for low emissions but the former is expected to induce continuing rise for several centuries whereas the latter would see sea levels stabilising. I'll try and find the link - I recall attempting to insert a graph on that in a previous thread.
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    We have little option but to rely on experts.
    This is another interesting digression to think about. We seem to agree in one form or another that we can not rely on the media to accurately portray the climate situation and put it into a credible perspective against other imminent current affairs so those of us interested in allowing it to effect our voice on policy need to turn to the science behind it instead.

    Personally this is what I am trying to do, I don't think it takes an expert to understand a hypothesis and draw his own conclusion (I've never had any trouble doing so in the past - the best hypothesis is the simplest that does the job after all) and I feel that it is the role of experts to collect the relevant data, assemble the relavent hypotheses and present them in a coherent way to the scientific community at large. It is then the role of the scientific community to come to their own independant conclusions rather than let the teams behind the experiments dictate their opinion on it also.

    The idea as Ken pointed out that climate science is a science brought into existence in order to help governments make informed policy decisions is also cause for thought. Particularly as it seems to be directly related to existing policies such as the global competition for utilising the remaining fossil fuels.

    Unless we all agree that over fishing, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture is significantly less important than climate change (as far as it is within our capacity to easily change them) then it seems that policy is already distorted beyond what the science behind it justifies which would give anyone with a voice on policy all the more reason to look at the science itself rather than the mediums through which it is being delivered to the public eye.

    Yes I am "skeptical" about some of the popular conclusions, I think all scientists should be when it is their intent to contribute towards the validity of a hypothesis, or to join a majority of backers who's size reflects the strength of the theory rather than some arbritary human fear of being ostracized . But that doesn't mean I won't stand up behind the theory just as enthusiastically when it's able to stand up on its own two feet in front of me.

    What's the most likely political solution for global warming anyway?
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    What's the most likely political solution for global warming anyway?
    The one and only great advantage of global warming is that policies dealing with it effectively will mean we also deal with a whole heap of other issues in the same package.

    The obvious one is peak oil. If we move to renewable energy promptly, we'll avoid the worst of the economic disruption that is guaranteed to occur if we have to deal with 'oil price shocks' daily rather than every decade or so.

    Unsustainable agriculture is intimately linked with oil based fertilisers anyway, so finding ways to repair, enrich and maintain soils without such inputs is already overdue. Changing desirable crops would also be a good idea. Watering Australian arid areas, from our most stressed major water resources, to grow cotton of all things is lunacy. Growing a better crop like hemp would require not only less water for each crop, we'd need less of it because garments made from hemp are much more robust and long-lasting. If jeans and shirts made from hemp were good enough for the pioneers and cowboys of the New World, they're good enough for me. Using vast quantities of water to grow fertilised crops of sugarcane and corn to sweeten drinks and other non-nutritious items is grossly foolish considering our fertiliser and water issues.

    Unsustainable fisheries? There won't be any fisheries worthy of the name if we allow acidification to follow its current path, nor if we follow our current approach - or the lack of it - to managing the fish stocks of international waters, let alone blowing up reefs just to get a day's catch of undersized fish.

    Deforestation for palm oil plantations to produce 'sustainable' 'renewable' liquid fuels is another form of lunacy that needs to stop. Making reforestation more profitable than its reverse is achievable.

    First and foremost, we have to stop subsidising all forms of power generation, including subsidies for exploration and for retail use of petrol in personal vehicles. That will hurt renewables far less than the established coal, gas and nuclear industries, and with any luck would destroy the substitute liquid fuel nonsense at the stroke of a pen. Using oil based fertiliser to maximise crops for conversion to oil fuel substitutes would be comical if it weren't near tragedy.

    It won't be as easy as it would have been if we'd started a smooth and steady transition away from a fossil based economy back when we first knew that a) it was a problem b) we had technical solutions available. A whole generation ago. Now we have to do it all at once and in a rush.
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    Just came across this.

    One sentence struck a chord with me.

    I think that in some tiny recess of our minds we’re all hoping, somehow, some way, that the science is wrong, or if it’s right then we’ve grossly overestimated the urgency of the situation we’ve created.
    This is from 2C of warming is a pipe dream « The Cost of Energy . One thing worth looking at is the link halfway down referring to 40 years ago. Food for unencouraging thought.

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    Those who's studied this issue in the US should be well aware of the 40 years. It's actually longer than that...Rachel Carlson and our President Johnson both warned about impact of changing the atmosphere based on the science more than 50 years ago. It's almost unbelievably frustrating how long this has been going on in the US--a combination of deliberate disinformation, distrust of science, and organized refusal to apply a value to environmental impacts when we measure the relative cost of preserving and conservation of energy.
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    Mr Monkey, I agree that there are multiple issues around sustainability that deserve our attention and none should be ignored.

    I personally tend to emphasise and focus on urgency about climate for a few reasons; there is a long time gap between rise in atmospheric concentrations of GHG's and the full impacts, with those 'in the pipeline' impacts effectively impossible to reverse or turn off. More recent science is coming to the view that the amount of global temperature rise that would take dangerous climate change into extremely dangerous is less than previously thought. In spite of all the science on climate and clear advice to governments there continues to be acceleration of use of fossil fuels including recent rapid growth of 'unconventional' ones like tar sands, shale and coal seam gas. Clearly Governments are not taking the scientific advice they've been getting seriously.

    The view that climate science is infected with some kind of group-think that has scientists toeing the majority line is an unfounded smear - each contribution gets to be part of the whole on it's merits. How to convince you or anyone else that is the case is something I'm not sure of. I know that I personally trust organisations like the US National Academy of Sciences to assess the issue on it's scientific merits without fear of favour or the influence of group-think. I believe they go out of their way to draw upon both leaders in their fields as well as those with relevant independent expertise when they put climate science under the microscope.

    Organisations like NAS and The Royal Society have well and truly earned the high esteem and trust they get and the fundamentals of climate science have been under their close scrutiny for decades. If there other similar leading science advisory bodies - or any institution engaged in actual study of climate - in disagreement, that would be one thing but there are not. Group think, through decades of this issue being recognised as of utmost importance, implies widespread incompetence or corruption across all the pre-eminent scientific institutions around the world. Or else the multiple lines of enquiry being in agreement means that the fundamentals are correct. I would note that 'skeptical' world leaders with strong political views that the climate issue is overblown and primarily political in nature - leaders with intelligence and security agencies and investigatory powers at their disposal - have not managed to uncover any political conspiracies amongst climate scientists.
    Last edited by Ken Fabos; April 1st, 2012 at 02:35 AM. Reason: clarity
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    I think all scientists should be when it is their intent to contribute towards the validity of a hypothesis, or to join a majority of backers who's size reflects the strength of the theory rather than some arbritary human fear of being ostracized .
    I think you badly underestimate competition among scientists. They are constantly competing with each other to get funding for their research proposals. And so few of the competing proposals get funded that you can be absolutely certain that every single one of them tries to make their own project stand out from all the others to get to the head of the queue. Proposing that you'll redo or revise someone else's work is a guaranteed ticket to oblivion. You have to have something new to say.

    And then, of course, there's competition for recognition. The general public knows very little more than the Nobel Prizes. But there are medals and awards for outstanding work in every scientific discipline. Once someone is at the top of their game, they're not in the least interested in backing up other people's work or going along with the crowd. They want to do their own original work.

    Above and beyond all of that, there's the great personal satisfaction of discovering new things or proving, improving or disproving general theories about the way the world works. And if you think that scientists are kind or nice or supportive of each other in their professional capacity,

    I once went to a math conference and was talking to one of the mathematicians about his impressions from having gone to a conference in materials science...and he was amazed at how adversarial it was, much more so than in math.
    which is from a comment on this piece. No need to read the argument if you don't want to, just have a look at the list of polite? restrained? kind? supportive? reviewers' remarks on some scientific papers. The nothing that was Climategate | Not Spaghetti
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Monkey View Post
    A lot of climate articles refer to a "drier more arid climate and a negative net effect on agriculture". Perhaps this is true but I can't understand the mechanism by which that would happen and would appreciate some ideas to better understand it.

    Obviously there is more evaporation in a warmer climate, and therefore more clouds, more rain and more arable land. The huge mass of tundra that dominates the northern hemisphere could be productive farm land with a few more degrees in temperature and rain falling there rather than snow.

    The hottest place in the world should be the tropical belt yet that's one of the wettest and supports the most dense concentrations of life anywhere.

    It doesnt seem to be heat that life has a problem with, but lack of moisture so where is the net loss of moisture coming from on a hotter blue planet?

    I'm obviously missing something here so any illumination on what that is would be great.
    Rain fall would increase, as would forests and vegetation but, it's really not about the environment for the people pushing the idea that warming or cooling is a bad thing, it is all about money. Environmentalist are businessmen/women or they are people who are sold lock stock and barrel (for many reasons) on the products these businesses want to sell or on the ideas these organizations are pushing in order to make money.

    The strategy of using doom, gloom, fear, propaganda and hatred to sell products and/or make money have always been acceptable and ethical tactics in business or other ventures to create wealth or make money.

    Some other business will come along and use the same tactics against these "environmentalist", or the businesses that are in place will run their own doom, gloom, fear and hatred campaign against them at some point in time.

    It is just the way it is.
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    Environmentalist are businessmen/women or they are people who are sold lock stock and barrel (for many reasons) on the products these businesses want to sell or on the ideas these organizations are pushing in order to make money.
    Some of us just love nature and could give a crap less about money.
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    Gonzales I think that you have it backwards - Science doesn't reward conclusions that can be shown to be wrong. The big money at stake is the future projected revenues from exploitation of fossil fuels along with the costs and difficulties of making profound changes to the way industry makes and uses energy. For commerce and industry the issue becomes that of costs, competitiveness and profitability and, being the sectors that make, do and enable most of our economic activity they, rightly, have influential voices. However, whilst the costs of climate change impacts are easily seen by them as beyond their ability to influence and far off - the chips falling as they will - the costs of preventing dangerous climate change are readily seen as within their ability to influence and to avoid in the near term. Advertising, tankthink, PR, lobbying and the use of economic gloom and doom and even propaganda and hatred for those who have genuine science based concerns for our future economic viability within our planet's degrading environment - are familiar tools they have at their disposal.

    That is not the case for our institutions and practitioners of science. If there is one area of human endevour that seeks to know what is true and favours accuracy in observation and exalts intellectual prowess and honesty to do so I think it's Science. It's not perfect but the continuing cycle of re-examination of conclusions in the light of improved data makes it self correcting. With trillions of dollars of future fossil fuel incomes at stake there is enormous incentive - financial and otherwise - to rewrite the text books on climate to absolve human activities of having any causal effect; people are already doing very well writing and promoting misinformation and lies. How much more could they make if they could do so using genuine scientific arguments? Any scientist who truly could show the entire body of knowledge about how our climate responds to rising concentrations of gases like CO2 and Methane is fundamentally wrong would acquire fame and riches far beyond that of any scientists living off grants and tenure in Academia.

    I think you do a great disservice to our scientists by presuming they are so incompetent, venal or dishonest as to perpetrate a fraud of that scale and enormity upon us. The captains of commerce on the other hand...
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    Lynx Fox - some of us also want to know how the world really works. Knowledge can be it's own reward although with respect to climate it's giving us a level of foresight that is crucial to our future.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Environmentalist are businessmen/women or they are people who are sold lock stock and barrel (for many reasons) on the products these businesses want to sell or on the ideas these organizations are pushing in order to make money.
    Some of us just love nature and could give a crap less about money.
    Love nature? with all due respect, what does that mean? Maybe you can define what you mean by "nature" and what it is you love about it because, most people hate it, fear it (rightfully so) and/or respect it and want no part of it.

    IMO one can be a good steward of their fellow man but, they cannot save or preserve something on a planet that is forever changing, that destroys its own surfaces and a planet that will end up being completely useless and then destroyed anyways. IMO, humanity owes it to itself to be as comfortable as it can, to advance and to lookout for its own well-being and safety above and beyond anything and everything else.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Fabos View Post
    Gonzales I think that you have it backwards - Science doesn't reward conclusions that can be shown to be wrong. The big money at stake is the future projected revenues from exploitation of fossil fuels along with the costs and difficulties of making profound changes to the way industry makes and uses energy. For commerce and industry the issue becomes that of costs, competitiveness and profitability and, being the sectors that make, do and enable most of our economic activity they, rightly, have influential voices. However, whilst the costs of climate change impacts are easily seen by them as beyond their ability to influence and far off - the chips falling as they will - the costs of preventing dangerous climate change are readily seen as within their ability to influence and to avoid in the near term. Advertising, tankthink, PR, lobbying and the use of economic gloom and doom and even propaganda and hatred for those who have genuine science based concerns for our future economic viability within our planet's degrading environment - are familiar tools they have at their disposal.
    Climate change is a reality of our past, our present and it will be the reality of our future. How is climate change, all of a sudden, so critical? It is not IMO.

    I am going to find me some scientist who will claim that electricity and global electric networks can and do effect the earths magnetic field (as if it matters who, or what, is effecting it)...... Then I can shout about the magnetic field weakening (as if it has never done that before), moving (as if it has never done that either), call it critical, predict doom and gloom and then open up a candle factory.

    The planets temperature has, is and will constantly change. I could careless about how or why the thermostat is moving because, I don't care that it's moving. It does not bother me and it does not worry me.

    Fossil fuels are not only cheap, they have allowed/given humanity the ability/chance to advance rapidly. Someone ought to take a lump of coal and put every Nobel Prize around it.
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    IMO, humanity owes it to itself to be as comfortable as it can, to advance and to lookout for its own well-being and safety above and beyond anything and everything else.
    If you believe that then you have a real interest in maintaining, as best we can, the stable climate that has allowed our civilisation to develop as it has for the last 10,000 years. We might see technology as the great thing, but the really great thing is the soil and the seasonal and other climatic factors that allowed agriculture to establish and to flourish.

    Like you, my main interest is in people and as far as my grandchildren's grandchildren - I can't really envisage much beyond that. And I certainly can't do anything about the fact that eventually the sun that gives us life as we know it will burn the earth to a crisp in a few billion years. Long before all life on earth is destroyed, humanity and the plant and animal life we know will have evolved into forms beyond our recognition anyway.

    We should do our best to keep the best of what we've been given. At the moment, we're behaving like arrogant selfish teenagers pretending that we're living as we want to, but knowing deep down that the mess, the mouldy food and the dirty socks stink in our bedroom is entirely our own responsibility. We're fully capable of growing up and living responsibly but we try and hand the job off to others. Lazy teenagers expect their parents or someone, anyone, else to make their lives better with no effort from them. We're handing the climate and oceans job over to our descendants - and not doing anything in the meantime to make the job simpler or easier for them.
    Last edited by adelady; April 1st, 2012 at 08:58 AM. Reason: typos
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    Quote Originally Posted by adelady View Post
    IMO, humanity owes it to itself to be as comfortable as it can, to advance and to lookout for its own well-being and safety above and beyond anything and everything else.
    If you believe that then you have a real interest in maintaining, as best we can, the stable climate that has allowed our civilisation to develop as it has for the last 10,000 years. We might see technology as the great thing, but the really great thing is the soil and the seasonal and other climatic factors that allowed agriculture to establish and to flourish.

    Like you, my main interest is in people and as far as my grandchildren's grandchildren - I can't really envisage much beyond that. And I certainly can't do anything about the fact that eventually the sun that gives us life as we know it will burn the earth to a crisp in a few billion years. Long before all life on earth is destroyed, humanity and the plant and animal life we know will have evolved into forms beyond our recognition anyway.

    We should do our best to keep the best of what we've been given. At the moment, we're behaving like arrogant selfish teenagers pretending that we're living as we want to, but knowing deep down that the mess, the mouldy food and the dirty socks stink in our bedroom is entirely our own responsibility. We're fully capable of growing up and living responsibly but we try and hand the job off to others. Lazy teenagers expect their parents or someone, anyone, else to make their lives better with no effort from them. We're handing the climate and oceans job over to our descendants - and not doing anything in the meantime to make the job simpler or easier for them.
    I agree with you in the over all principle of doing what is best for those to come but, we do not see eye to eye on what the "best" things to do are, and that's fine, right?

    I am not worried about the climate. I have no problem with it going up or down because I know it has in the past, I know it is now, and I know it will in the future.
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    Quote Originally Posted by gonzales56 View Post
    Love nature? with all due respect, what does that mean? Maybe you can define what you mean by "nature" and what it is you love about it because, most people hate it, fear it (rightfully so) and/or respect it and want no part of it.
    I could write a book about what it means (and might someday), but in short I have the most utmost fondness, respect, awe and emotional wonderment in the complex web of life that connects my understanding from astronomical events to the red soldier lichen which live in the hollow stump behind my house. I do not fear nature, nor do I think the commercial fishermen I grow up with who depended on it to make a living--most of them love nature in their own way as well, much as farmers do. Tens of millions build their homes with decks, visiting nature parks, or enjoy time in woods walking their dogs or marveling and sharing the wonder of the wood with their children; tens of millions who want to be closer to nature---not "no part of it."

    IMO one can be a good steward of their fellow man but, they cannot save or preserve something on a planet that is forever changing, that destroys its own surfaces and a planet that will end up being completely useless and then destroyed anyways. IMO, humanity owes it to itself to be as comfortable as it can, to advance and to lookout for its own well-being and safety above and beyond anything and everything else.
    Your own faulty logic can be equally applied in reverse--why love a baby daughter for instance--when she's forever going to be changing and inevitable going to die in less than a century?

    I also don't buy into the false dichotomy you've presented. People can be comfortable and safe without destroying nature. If you really think people shouldn't be good stewards of nature then your core philosophy is also working against the safety and comfort of your descendants--a position I personally find morally reprehensible.

    My initial response was to your casting environmentalist as all about the money or puppets of people with money. Environmental philosophies go back several hundred years in the US (e.g. Benjamen Franklin, Henry Thoreau and Congressmen George Marsh) and thousands of years in various forms to some of our oldest literature such as the bible and Koran (which has far more to say)--long before business and money motives.

    Neither did money have a thing to do with my values when at 16 year old I shut down a housing development by reporting to the State of Maine they were backfilling into a trout stream.

    You might view the world through the eyes of business and money--don't make the mistake of thinking everyone sees things that way, many environmentalist do not.

    --
    I am not worried about the climate. I have no problem with it going up or down because I know it has in the past, I know it is now, and I know it will in the future.
    The few times it changed as dramatically in the past as it will in the next century it brought huge devistation to the planet that involved all life--as Chief Seattle once said--we're but one strand of the web of life on Earth.
    Last edited by Lynx_Fox; April 1st, 2012 at 09:09 PM.
    Meteorologist/Naturalist & Retired Soldier
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  47. #46  
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    Gonzales - science based knowledge of the physical world we inhabit allows us to foresee consequences of our activities, both the pitfalls and the opportunities. That makes it valuable knowledge. Failure to advance such knowledge and make full use of it - and the foresight it brings - can only make it harder "... to advance and to lookout for its (humanity's) own well-being and safety..." .
    Last edited by Ken Fabos; April 1st, 2012 at 07:34 PM.
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