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I’ve finally got round to seeing ‘The Day After Tomorrow’.

It is a fairly routine
adventure story, topped off with great effects and lots of heroic ‘derring-do’. The nut
jobs who complained about it as propaganda for the climate change lobby clearly
need to get out more, because in the end the science in the film is there only to serve
as a trigger for the action.
Some political points were made of course but they were nothing to do with climate
change – I’m sure the irony of millions of illegal immigrants heading south over the
Rio Grande into Mexico was not lost on US audiences for example. In the end
though, to use the fact that a filmmaker takes liberties with the science of climate
change for dramatic effect, as an argument against the reality is to say the least
bizarre. I suspect that those who are still trying to deny what is going would be doing
so in letters written in green ink if they didn’t have access to e-mail.
I don’t see such concern for scientific rigour in other films. As I've said before - how
many buses can leap across 30 foot gaps in the roadway (Speed), how likely is it that
a virus could be uploaded to a computer you've never seen, built using technology
you have no idea about (Independence Day), how likely is it that you could clone a
replica Hitler to take over the world (The Boys from Brazil) how likely is any of the
action in any James Bond movie? And as for The Stepford Wives! Its one thing to
criticise a move because it is badly written but really people - get a life!
The latest report from the IPCC seems to have finally demonstrated the reality of
climate change and what we face over the next 100 years. The projections are
Probable temperature rise between 1.8C and 4C
Possible temperature rise between 1.1C and 6.4C
Sea level most likely to rise by 28-43cm
Arctic summer sea ice disappears in second half of century
Increase in heatwaves very likely
Increase in tropical storm intensity likely
These predictions exclude areas of really tentative science. For example, there is no
consensus about the effect of melting polar ice on currents like the Gulf Stream or
about the speed with which it would happen. Because they have been excluded it is
possible that the impact on sea levels would be much greater, while the impact on
temperature is also uncertain. The scenario in The Day After Tomorrow is still one of
the possibilities if rather more remote than once thought.
There are those scientific ignoramuses (ignorami?) who would argue that these
uncertain impacts should have been included, thus widening the range of error.
There are even more stupid people who decry the fact that scientists revise their
views. Take this for example:
On July 24, 1974 Time Magazine published an article entitled "Another Ice Age?"
Here's the first paragraph:
"As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several
years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly
contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic
upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time,
when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find
that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades.
The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming
increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the
harbinger of another ice age."
Their conclusion then was "The trend shows no indication of reversing"! And,
wonders of wonders, the impossible to conceive "reversing" occurred!
Take care with this because there is some fast footwork going on. See how the
conclusion ‘The trend shows no indication of reversing’ morphs into ‘impossible to
conceive’? If that isn’t scientific stupidity it is intellectual dishonesty – which is even
worse because it is deliberate.
However, giving these people the benefit of the doubt, they clearly do not understand
the idea of scientific method and its impact on uncertainty or even the concept of
statistical uncertainty. I don’t think it is accidental that the most outspoken opponents
of the thesis of human driven climate change are politicians and economists. Both
groups claim to have the answer to your every ill, neither group shows any sign of
understanding science and in general they do not progress by admitting of
uncertainty of any kind, let alone on issues such as this. In that respect I thought the
exchanges between the politicians and the scientists in The Day After Tomorrow to
be quite realistic, as the politicians struggle with the political impact of bad news.
Those who deny the fact of climate change and its human component seem to be
resorting to ever more desperate arguments in vain attempts to undermine the basic
facts. The latest uses tentative suggestions that Mars is coming out of an ice age as
the basis for an argument that this proves climate change on Earth is not man made.
They ignore the fact that Mars doesn’t have large bodies of water and that the drivers
of its climate will therefore be very different to those on Earth. Consequently the
same event – whether it be sunspots or cosmic rays or whatever else is flavour of the
month – is likely to lead have different climatic consequences on the two planets.
They also seem quite happy to use scientific data gathered over a relatively short
timescale – and recognised by its authors as highly tentative - to dispute decades of
work by thousands of scientists.
You may have come across Mr Myron Ebell (an economist), who argues that the
whole thing is a conspiracy to do down the US. It is Mr Ebell, (not a climatologist)
who claimed that the UK Chief Scientist didn’t know what he was talking about
because he wasn’t a climatologist. Spot the flaw in that argument? I’ve seen Mr Ebell
described as an intellectual terrorist and that isn’t wrong. He is certainly willing to shift
his ground and argue black is white so I suppose we have to class him as a politician
too. This site documents Ebell’s activities quite comprehensively.
He isn’t alone of course – take this comment on the Guardian Comment is Free site.
Environmentalists just form the rump of the social scientist west-hating morons who
are actually willing the environment to collapse so they can say I told you so and
blame the US.
Sadly such hysteria is all too common. It probably means a dim future for our children
and grandchildren.