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Sunday 23 January 2011

Climate, Weather, And The Power Of Knowledge

In support of his urging that people should have an intelligent position on the subject of economics, J K Galbraith explained that not to do so effectively ceded power in that subject area to those who did take an intelligent position, or who claimed so to do. A recently controversial subject area where I would urge anyone to take an intelligent position – for the same reason – is in the area of weather and climate.

On climate, the best attitude to take for anyone who really wants to gen up on the issues is to be thoroughly and genuinely sceptical: that means to be in “show me” mode (the denial lobby aren’t really sceptical, as they have already made their minds up). By all means check out the antis, but also some researched and reasoned Q&A.

Our own National Environmental Research Council (NERC) Climate change challenge is a good place to start. In the USA, the OSS Foundation hosts a Myths v Facts area. Brian Angliss has also assembled a list of myths, and explains why that is all they are. And the people at Real Climate have a host of articles that also explain why science is right and the antis are wrong – often wilfully so.

Basically, you can be sure that whenever a pundit or hack sounds off on air or in the press in forthright condemnation of climate change science, the arguments they make have already been comprehensively debunked, and that at least one of the resources linked above will explain why those pundits and hacks are wrong.

So what of the idea that “it’s cold therefore there’s no global warming”? Sadly, there is no link between the ability to sound off on air or in print, and the knowledge that transient weather patterns do not disprove climate science, although some pundits do take an intelligent position. The basics on how to usefully interpret those weather patterns are not difficult to learn, and, again, I would urge people to check them out.

For those of us in the UK, the behaviour of the Atlantic Jet Stream, and its influence on weather patterns, are a crucially important part of understanding that weather. I posted on the subject recently, and linked to a site which gives free and regularly updated Jet Stream forecasts. At present, this shows why we have a quiet period of weather across the UK.

And the Met Office site lets you see the development and movement of weather systems on its synoptic chart (right now it looks like rain from the NW during Tuesday next). Monitoring this chart over time also demonstrates why exact forecasting for a country placed between ocean and landmass is not always easy.

It’s not difficult to get knowledgeable on climate and weather. And by doing so, you take the power of making decisions on those subjects into your own hands.

[UPDATE: this post has also featured on Liberal Conspiracy. My thanks, as ever, to Sunny Hundal]

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