Friday, October 12, 2007

Greener than thou

I was all set to do a post today about my wonderful neighbor V and A who have been helping so much during these past few weeks. I know V and A visit here occasionally, so apologies. I’ll do a post on you guys next week. Rage before praise.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Be warned, there is a rant coming up. And while I am at it, screw objectivity. Whoa. This is oddly liberating. As I was pulling into my work campus, I tuned to BBC World to know what’s going on with the world, but mostly to just amaze the security by not listening to loud hard rock for once, I caught a half-sentence. Something about Gore and the IPCC being awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. This was as expected as Chip throwing a nuclear tantrum at the grocery store I suppose; with Gore’s film winning the Oscar and everything, and Climate Change the hot button topic of the century, but one, well, hopes against hope.

I don’t know what tortures me more. The fact that the guy who once claimed to have created the internet won the Nobel ( and I am not even going to go near the fact that Green Gore lives in a 10,000 sqft. mansion that uses energy like there is no tomorrow) or whether the folks over at the Norwegian Nobel Committee, in their haste, overlooked the immense controversy surrounding the Climate Change hypothesis. Coerced to pick, I will choose the latter.

Historically the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to folks resolving armed conflict. I am not going to be all nit picky about that definition, after all last year it was awarded to Muhammad Yunus and his micro-lending Grameen Bank, that allowed poorest of the poor a chance to be entrepreneurs and reduce poverty and strengthen third world economies. And that was fine by me. After all, micro lending is proven to work (see Kiva loans) and there are tangible effects that can be observed quantitatively. Not so with Climate Change.

Even if one believes the numbers- and I have a sinister feeling that is shared by many scientific journals that the numbers are exaggerated and doctored- it is hard to say what exactly causes global warming. Is this a normal variation in climate? After all, people have been recording temperatures and precipitation merely since the last century and in industrialized countries allone. There is no data available from say, sub Saharan Africa from 300 years ago. So, on the scale of things, things being the age of Earth and such, the data set is miniscule. Who was measuring carbon dioxide levels in 3000 B.C.? Not the Pandavas and the Kauravas.

Prove to me the sun is not shining 0.01% more brightly than it did say 500 years ago. Prove to me it is not related to the Earth’s geo-magnetic field is changing polarities. Convince me that this warming trend is something else than the warming the Earth has experienced since the last Ice Age. Prove to me this is not cyclic – periods of warming followed by periods of cooling and vice-versa.

Predicting climate is complex. The models are unreliable. There are so many variables and the physics is so dynamic and complex and perplexing that only approximate solutions can be gleaned. One computer model says one thing, the other can say something entirely conflicting. There is a lack of consensus. Meteorologists don’t even know how something as simple as cloud cover really works. The fact that cloud cover increases the ambient temperature in winter but decreases it in summer is one huge mystery to them. Predicting weather for the next weekend is more inaccurate than accurate. How many times have we seen them use this cover-all mysterious phrasing – partly cloudy with chances of rain. WTF? What the hell is THAT supposed to mean? It means if it is cloudy, they are right, if it is sunny, they are right, if it rains they are right, if it doesn’t they are right. Gets my goat every time.

It may be so that in another century, it will be proved beyond reasonable doubt that human activities have caused Climate Change. But to say so definitively now, while ignoring contradictory data is certainly bad science. And I am distraught to think that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to folks that have been perpetuating what can only be a hypothesis at this point in time. This year’s Peace prize is politics at its worst.

Suggested Reading – State of Fear by Michael Crichton


Altoid said...

Well, its shared between the UN's IPCC(R.K.Pachauri) and Al Gore. But I do see your point, I was/am just as enraged and disgusted myself. Its probably worth(and healthy :) for us to just look at the larger picture and ignore the nitpicks and conclude that we encourage and support environmentalistic efforts. And secondly, of course, whether its about Nobel Prize or Padmashri- there's always politicking. It all boils down to who markets themselves, how much and to whom- mind and power games.

Have a good weekend :)


DotMom said...

Altoid: I think you missed the point of my post. It was precisely about Environmentalists peddling a hypothesis.

Sue said...

I reviewed that book when it came out...

It was impressive while it lasted, but on reflection, I was not utterly convinced. I mean, I'm not entirely convinced that it's all a huge conspiracy theory by global environmental terrorists.

One thing I'll agree with -- since it's not even decided whether Climate Change is an issue or not, I don't think it compares with the tangible achievements of the Grameen Bank or the Missionaries of Charity, to take another example. So, I really cannot understand how it was found worthy of the peace prize. Science, maybe, if they wanted to, but peace?

DotMom said...

thats a title of a book? my bad. it was not intended as such. I should have checked. never occured to me. coming to the point, I don't think it is a conspiracy, not in an intentional sense anyway. I just feel it is political correctness having gotten out of hand.

choxbox said...

interesting view dotmom. there isnt any doubt about how humans are ravaging the planet, but is it is big enough to cause climate change? hmmm.

choxbox said...

btw just saw your profile - apart from the story of his life, have you read the feynman lectures? awesome stuff. makes physics super interesting.
also you might like paul erdos' biography called 'the man who loved only numbers'. he refered to children as 'epsilons'!

Anonymous said...

Highly ironical that the one who promoted peace and non violence never won the Peace Prize..I am talking about Gandhi.


noon said...

I was not surprised about Gore (in all his hypocrisy) was expected considering the politics behind the peace prize every time. It doesn't even make sense...esp the nominations.
And are you saying human activity is not contributing to global warming?
Or just that it has not been proven and hence people don't have to panic and "go green"? Lack of consensus I agree for sure.

Mahendra said...

Dotmom: You write very, very well.

It is refreshing to find another blogger who also laments the Nobel Peace Prize fiasco.

You've written about it much, much better than I ever could have.


Suki said...

Well said, Dotmom.

I do wish we would be a lot more conscious of how we hurt the planet, but well... that isn't the only thing that climate change can be attributed to.
How does environment relate to the Peace prize, I'd like to know? How, how?

We've had enough of politicising any major prizes and endeavours. Time for some genuine appreciation!

DotMom said...

choxbox: see, another one who agrees

choxbox: yes.. I have read them... they are a family hit. thanks for reccomending the pauk erdos bio. will definately read it.

atgc:yeah, true.

noon: i don't know if human activity is contributing to climate change. like i said there could be many more explanations

mahendra: thanks. you are being generous. you write so well too.

suki: yup.. agree.

Sue said...

Actually, I was refering to 'State of Fear'!

Found it a little less impressive than it could have been.

DotMom said...

sue: well i guess that can be said crichton's novels.. didn't like Next either that much.

Squiggles Mom said...

I agree that tha rationale for the Peace Prize leaves a lot to be desired. But whether we have are able to prove a definite link between climate change and human actions, it can only be good to behave environmentally friendly.
I was working on a project before I went on mat leave linking banking products to a 'green' theme and was interested to find out that most companies that claim to be carbon neutral don't have the first clue where to start. They may offset the costs of producing statement paper but are not really concerned about using their might to force their suppliers to be more environment friendly. Marks & Spencer is on a big drive to calculate the carbon costs of all it's products down to the crop and will use that as the base for its branding.

utbtkids said...

Dotmom, peace prize to Gore did make me raise my eye brows and roll my eyes!

But I honestly think global warming- hypothesis or not, we humans must start taking good care of our planet. All along we just take and don't give anything back, forests destroyed, river beds raveged, air polluted...Ecosystem's control system can kick in only to a certain extent, some point of time it is just going to give up.

DotMom said...

squiggles mom: sure, but where do you draw the line? All through out history, humankind has been striving to improve life. Being Green is fashionbale now. It is not a cause in itself but an effective marketing tool. And that bothers me. People will take canvas bags with green logos to go grocery shopping, but will still prefer to live in 5-bedroom homes. The advantages of say, using plastics, gasoline far surpass its disadvantages. And I have no doubt that in future, human ingenuity will find solutions like say, a genetically modified bacteria that will happily eat plastics. I also think coercing people to be green can be diastrous. Take recyling in the Us for example. Although we do recycly, I have a strong suspicion that it takes more enerygy to transport recyclables to a sorting unit and then further cart them to factories and then convert them to something useful that create a plastic yogurt container from scratch. But its green to recycle, so who's asking?

utbtkids: See, this sort of argument I just don't understand. Why do we seperate ourselves from the ecosystem? We ARE the ecosystem. We have adapted nature to best suit our survival rates. What's wrong with that? And like I said to squiggles mom, where will you draw the line? Stop producing antibiotics because some frog species is going to go extinct? Better frogs than humans. Every species does everything it can to survive. From prime number year life cycles and predator satiation of the cicadas to the beavers who build fantastic dams out of trees to us, the humankind who only has our brain working for us.

ddmom said...

Late here, but could not stop commenting.
Agreed we need to draw the line somewhere and 100% with you on ridiculing Gore getting peace prize for this.
However, global warming, though the scale and scope is more of a hypothesis, is definitely in for some damage. Agreed one needs to draw a line somewhere. Agreed on the example you cited on the previous comment regarding more energy consumption. But, then we vote against spending tax dollars to research on better alternatives. When one's willing to spend billions of dollars on Iraq war, why not a little bit to researhh on tools and methods to keep environment safe.

DotMom said...

ddmom: thanks on agreeing on so many things!!!! but i have to disagree with you about tax dollars. its not the goverment's business to research environmental solutions. I'll be happy to support private research.

did a post on this topic a while ago

Preethi said...

I have to read State of fear... someone else suggested that too.. I know what you mean.. and unless we start cleaning up the mess we have created there is no going back .. no turning away from another ice age!!