[Coral-List] La Nina, and global warming

Eugene Shinn eshinn at marine.usf.edu
Tue Nov 23 14:42:26 EST 2010

  Gee!  The emotions and vitriol stirred by my climate poking is 
overwhelming. Why is it mainly among coral researchers? Other 
disciplines, including the readers of Scientific American, seem not 
nearly so excitable. The last time I saw scientists so divided was 
over Continental Drift. Alfred Wegener's observation that anyone can 
see by looking at a map created a huge storm back then but it was 
almost entirely among geologists. I suppose that's understandable 
because Wegner was a meteorologist and he was treading on another 
discipline's turf. Wegener idea (we call them models now) was 
basically discredited for lack of a mechanism that would explain how 
the continents move. Never mind that the evidence was as plain as 
well you know what. The controversy raged on well into the 1950s and 
carried over and ended in the late 1960s when the magnetic stripes 
and sea bottom ages were verified by the deep sea drilling project. 
The climate issue may be similar because skeptics reject the CO2 
explanation but have not put forward a mechanism for warming 
acceptable to the AGWs.
     Continental drift was something that could be solved but 
unfortunately we have no surefire way to solve the climate issue. The 
issue thus has taken on quasi religious status. In addition the 
public and politicians are now involved while with plate tectonics 
there was little money to be made, or lost, so politics and the 
public stayed away. If only there was a single controlled experiment 
that would prove that CO2 is or is not the cause we could all go 
home. Yes we are doing a huge experiment by raising CO2 levels but 
unfortunately there is no sister earth to serve as a control. We can 
only correlate and everyone knows that correlation is not scientific 
proof. There are also unexplained correlations to contend with. 
Between 1955 and 1975 worldwide temperature dropped while CO2 level 
rose, and between 1975 and 2000 temperature and CO2 rose together but 
during the past decade temperature remained flat or decreased 
slightly while CO2 continued to rise. The latest decline may be only 
a temporary blip but we will have to wait at least 20 more years to 
see what happens. Less than 30 years and it called weather but 30 
years is considered climate. Lets hope it does not continue to 
decline. A cold world is a really bad place.
      I sent the Pew Foundation posting about the Rainbow Warriors 
concern to a member of a skeptic group and received the following 
"What is this stuff about "the amount of resources" that we skeptics  
have at our disposal? The AGW folks have literally billions of  
dollars at their disposal, at least $2 b in the U. S. alone, while 
most of us toil without any support whatsoever, only focused on 
maintaining  integrity  in our science. We are literally the 
"starving artists" of science, trying to bring honesty to a 
politically charged debate. If we could only bring reasonable 
scientists together to look at data without defending prior 
positions, we might be able to bring order out of this chaos. 
Unfortunately, we can't even get both sides to the table for a 
      Yes there are emotions on both sides of the issue. I don't doubt 
there are some industry groups funding anti AGW research but it is 
peanuts compared to that being supplied by governments both here and 
abroad. I still ask why so many coral researches have bought into the 
AGW side of this dogfight? Lets see, are there coral researchers not 
funded by various government and state governments, or NGOs? As one 
writer on the list said, "The question is fundamental because where 
politicians do not find an issue to be important they will not want 
to allocate resources at state or federal levels to deal with it." 
Ummmm.  Another writer commented, "The question is how can we turn 
the tide and make sure that the sciences involved in dealing with 
issues directly related to climate change do not become? political 
issues? Wow! Is that writer suggesting this is not already one of the 
biggest political issues of all time? Remember the "I" in IPCC stands 
for "Intergovernmental." Does that not tell us something?
      Many national and international scientific societies (even the 
Geological Society of America and AGU and so on) have signed onto 
human caused global warming. Could there be a reason besides the 
science? I think all of those societies are composed, and 
orchestrated, mainly by scientists receiving government funding 
and/or they work for universities receiving government funding. Would 
granting agencies send money if they thought they were supporting 
research that rejects AGW? Umm!    
       I as struck by Steve's comment "one of the most disturbing 
aspects of this discussion is the fact that many contrarians are 
scientifically literate and most certainly capable of complex 
intellectual analysis." He is right on but does that not sound like 
defense of a "faith based" belief rather than science? Remember 
Galileo questioning the church's dictum that the sun revolves around 
the Earth. I guess he just didn't realize "the science was settled."
      Bruno's comments are well taken. He seems to have a cabinet full 
of standard replies and websites just as do many skeptics. Clearly 
battle-lines have been drawn on the climate issue but unfortunately 
our National budget can ill afford a war like this. Ok I know that is 
also a standard skeptic reply and I am sure there is an alternative 
answer. Unfortunately there is a wealth of ad hominem accusations 
flying around when concrete issues need to be discussed. But it's 
hard to get both sides to the table. It does no good to kill the 
messenger. The diatribe against Robert Carters co authorship of a 
paper on El Nino is a good example. I still stand by his book as an 
excellent way to understand the issue in balance even if it disagrees 
with your faith. If each side of the issue only reads the stuff that 
supports their side then there will be no progress and the battle 
will rage on. In the end science becomes the looser. The public will 
loose faith in us as well. Gene       


No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
University of South Florida
Marine Science Center (room 204)
140 Seventh Avenue South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
<eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 

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