Thursday, August 03, 2006

Free porn

Forget those furtive google searches, just read the coverage of climate issues in the media :-) (update: the Guardian has a link to the full report mentioned in that article). And conveniently, Coby Beck pointed to this just today, which I think fits the description nicely:
The vast Amazon rainforest is on the brink of being turned into desert, with catastrophic consequences for the world's climate, alarming research suggests. And the process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.

Scientists say that this would spread drought into the northern hemisphere, including Britain, and could massively accelerate global warming with incalculable consequences, spinning out of control, a process that might end in the world becoming uninhabitable.
Yeah right. (See comments for more on this.)

On a related note, I'd been meaning to write something about all the hot air concerning the re-appearance of summer (surprise!) in the Northern hemisphere. The UK media has been getting very excited over it, with headlines such as "Boiled alive". Apparently, during the "biggest natural disaster in Europe on record", the minimum overnight temperature (which seems to be considered the critical statistic) in Paris reached 25.5C for two whole nights in a row.

Time for a little reality check: there are regions of Tokyo where the average nightly minimum temperature exceeds that level for 6 weeks solid. Periods of several days in a row with 30C minimum are far from extraordinary across many areas of the country. This comes coupled with extremely high humidity, and I have to say it is a rather unpleasant experience (especially to someone brought up in Scotland where "summer" means that you can sometimes turn off the heating and take off the woolly clothes). Summer has finally arrived here this week, a bit later than usual (after an exceptional rainy season), and I'm off to the mountains next week to escape it for a while. However, the govt still doesn't refer to each August as the "greatest natural disaster...since last year", and I'm not aware of people dying like flies at this time (on the contrary, Okinawa is probably the hottest region, and life spans are extraordinarily high there).

Air-conditioning is officially set to 28C, which I find a bit of a struggle. It's OK until I start to think hard about something :-) Many businessmen here have learnt to not wear jackets and ties in the summer (I'm in shorts and a t-shirt for about 5 months of the year). Perhaps UK office architects could rediscover the concept of a window that opens, too.

I guess this is sounding a bit septic and I could add some standard blurb: yes, the world is getting warmer at a historically rapid rate, yes it will continue to do so indefinitely and yes it's our fault. I still don't see slightly warmer UK temperatures as much of a threat to life as we know it. It's about as scary as Montreal's risible slush hockey demo.

9 comments:

ankh said...

Have you looked for the science behind the Amazon news stories?

WHOI mentions something published last March in Nature; closest I can come to a link leads here:
http://www.ipam.org.br/

I recall most of the biomass in the Amazon is in the vegetation (not in soils as in temperate areas; once vegetation's gone it's subsoil, not topsoil). Having worked on restoration on arid mountain sites in California, the news stories don't sound out of line.

This happens. But where's the science?

ankh said...

This appears to be the rest of the news article (the Independent's put it behind a pay wall).

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0723-03.htm

Might have enough clues to find the research, unless it's news about pre-publication stories. Dateline is from the Amazon area, so could be the latter. Lots of legitimate scientists mentioned. I'll dig for it later.

It's based on climate modeling stuff, though -- so it'd take another modeler to critique it properly, not a journalist.

James Annan said...

According to this comment, the newspaper article is a very distorted account of some experimental research.

Note that it was also the Independent that published the Lovelock nonsense too.

EliRabett said...

I just got back from two+ weeks of Norway's third summer of the century in the past decade. The problem is not that it is hotter as a general rule one place or the other, but that the flora and fauna in any particular place are adapted to pre-existing climatic conditions.

James Annan said...

Sure. And I've no problem with realistic appraisals as to how the flora and fauna will (have to) adapt and/or change in response to the changes in climate. I'm sure it won't all be good, but that's no excuse for making up stuff that is plainly silly.

EliRabett said...

Obviously you don't read the Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silly_season

The silly season is the period lasting for a few months (starting in mid- to late summer) in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia typified by the emergence of frivolous news stories in the media. .....

James Annan said...

Eli,

I nearly mentioned the silly season in the original post...but I'd have thought that there was enough real news at the moment!

Daniel Collins said...

That Independent article is aweful. Not only do they fail to provide sufficient information to locate the original research, but they mispell "Nepstad".

(PS. Ankh, it's WHRC, not WHOI.)

Adriana said...
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