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Your wording is somewhat oblique ("this hysteria"), and you are making distinctions that are not clear ("no one knew" vs. "people were aware of the possibility"; "terraforming" as a feel-good substitute for unplanned global climate change), and claims that are very strong, sweeping, and incorrect ("totally model-driven field").

Let's correct two of these. Of course there are empirical observations related to climate. There is a definition of 54 "essential climate variables" (ECVs), see [1]. One of these is greenhouse gases [2]. At the bottom of the link, you can see observing programs for CO2 and CH4, both in situ and satellite.

These are well-measured variables, with well-characterized error bars, and models are tested against these observations. For instance, the ~400 ppm CO2 ECV is measured to within 1ppm quite regularly and has been for many years. This is how we improve the models. The same kind of monitoring/model-improvement feedback loop is in place for almost all of the ECVs, including clouds and sea surface properties like temperature and salinity.

Another correction, relating to "no one knew" about a future crisis in the 1980s. Here is a paper [3] from James Hansen in Science magazine, in 1981, that clearly warns of crisis-level consequences. From the abstract -- In the 21st century, we will see "creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage." For whatever it's worth, this appeared on the NYTimes front page in 1981.

That's just one publication. Throughout the 1980s there were broad-based studies, mandated by Congress, that indicated the scope of the problem. See [4], from 1983.

[1] https://gcos.wmo.int/en/essential-climate-variables

[2] https://ane4bf-datap1.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/wmod8_gcos/...

[3] https://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha04600x.html

[4] https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18714/changing-climate-report-of...




>terraforming" as a feel-good substitute for unplanned global climate change),

Not true, please don't put words in my mouth. I use the term terraforming to emphasize the magnitude of the claim. We are fundamentally changing the properties of an entire planetary atmosphere, inadvertently.

>and claims that are very strong, sweeping, and incorrect ("totally model-driven field").

Also not true. The point is that climate science by nature cannot be experimental. We can only make predictions and then proof amounts to measuring how well decades of measurements line up with predictions/models.

>Another correction, relating to "no one knew" about a future crisis in the 1980s. Here is a paper [3] from James Hansen in Science magazine, in 1981, that clearly warns of crisis-level consequences. From the abstract -- In the 21st century, we will see "creation of drought-prone regions in North America and central Asia, erosion of the West Antarctic ice sheet with a consequent worldwide rise in sea level, and opening of the fabled Northwest Passage." For whatever it's worth, this appeared on the NYTimes front page in 1981.

Again, given the non experimental nature of climate science, this was a massive claim which requires decades of data collection and modeling to verify before committing to sweeping social and economic policy reform which has costs of its own.

People underestimate the fact that climate change is one of the most radical ideas ever proposed by the modern scientific establishment, in terms of the scale of the changes, the disastrous predicted consequences, and the scale of societal change required for mitigation. We're talking about a potential irreversible, runaway global extinction accidentally triggered by humans 100-1000+ times faster than any measured natural rate. Due diligence, in a non experimental field, limited by 80s modeling hardware, took time. Meanwhile we all benefited from the fossil fuels we (and our parents) burned.


You said Climate Science is a "totally model-driven field" and I provided facts correcting that sweeping claim.

It's not uncommon to hear this kind of claim on HN - sometimes people seem to not really have on-the-ground information about how climate science works, and are instead going by how they might imagine it works -- a bunch of modelers working in isolation.

That's not how climate science is done. For more on the relationship of climate models to observations, see an old comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15613090#15620293

--

Your reply says that you meant to say that Climate Science "cannot be experimental". This, it turns out, is also not true. There are cases where nature runs the experiment for us.

For instance, the large methane leak recently in the LA area allowed us to understand the effectiveness of the inversion algorithms that are used to turn observations of concentrations into observations of the emissions that caused those concentrations. For instance, to understand the correctness of wind models.

Wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and ENSO onsets often serve as nature-given checks on climate science predictions. They basically provide a "step function" input that is a tool to characterize the system response to a shock. For instance, we got a lot of science out of the varying climate-system responses to different volcanic eruptions.

--

You said that "no one knew" about a possible future crisis in the 1980s. I supplied links showing that this is not the case -- the science establishment, the Congress, and the readers of the front page of major newspapers knew.

Your reply counters with "what should we have done". That's another question, isn't it?


>Your reply says that you meant to say that Climate Science "cannot be experimental". This, it turns out, is also not true. There are cases where nature runs the experiment for us.

>For instance, the large methane leak recently in the LA area allowed us to understand the effectiveness of the inversion algorithms that are used to turn observations of concentrations into observations of the emissions that caused those concentrations. In other words, to understand the correctness of wind models.

This is exactly what differentiates model driven from experimental sciences. You cannot go out and define an experiment to confirm your claim, you can only make observations of natural phenomena. Which can take decades when you're considering sweeping, global changes, particularly when you're measuring changes which occur on scales of decades-centuries.

>You said that "no one knew" about a possible future crisis in the 1980s. I supplied links showing that this is not the case -- the science establishment, the Congress, and the readers of the front page of major newspapers knew.

Once again you are twisting my words. My point is to differentiate between knowing that something is happening with certainty, e.g. a consensus that climate is indeed changing due to human activity, and knowing of the possibility of something significant occurring, requiring substantial evidence to match the claim. It took decades to gather enough evidence to match the scale of the claim of global climate change.

>Your reply counters with "what should we have done". That's another question, isn't it?

Again I've done no such thing. My point is that we did what we should have - it is not rational to make sweeping changes to society, culture, and economy for every alarmist prediction uttered by a scientist, because such changes, big or small, are not free. One requires a minimum degree of certainty and, considering the magnitude of the implications of climate change, from the perspectives of both consequences and mitigation, it isn't unreasonable to say that 30 years is a relatively short time to establish a rigorous scientific consensus given the age of the modern scientific establishment and the amount of data that needed to be collected and analyzed because of the purely data driven, non-experimental nature of climate science.


Do you have the same objections about astronomy, cosmology, archeology, etc?


Given that you agree with the basic premise of climate crisis, what part of advocating for a post carbon economy "hysterical"?


IIRC, then US Rep Al Gore first Congressional hearings were in 1981. Further IIRC, Gore had had a professor that was lecturing about climate change, so that'd be the 1970s (?).

Of course, as we know now, the fossil fuel industry knew in the 1950s.


1950's? I'm not familiar with that; I mean, technically speaking, the scientific community has 'known' about the impact of CO2 on global temperatures since Svante Arrhenius published in 1896[1]. There's a bunch of provisos though to a claim that we 'knew' about global warming and it's impact in 1896. I'm curious though; what are you referring to with respect to the 1950s? What research were they doing then?

https://www.rsc.org/images/Arrhenius1896_tcm18-173546.pdf


It's been so long, I can't remember when I first heard it; I've always taken it as common knowledge. The weird part, for me, was when the denialist campaign started some time after. Which I associate with the Reagan Administration, rightly or wrongly. (We in the tree hugger community were aghast by EPA Chief James Watt. And so forth.)

From what I now gather, multiple persons & orgs were raising the issue independently. Certainly, the leaders were kept in the loop. Top three hits from a quick search:

https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/exxon-and-the-...

https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Oil-Companies-Knew-About...

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97...

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=oil+companies+climate+change+1950s




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