Zippidy Doo Da

I'm not stupid, I'm from Texas!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Cunningham's Climate


Today’s Chronicle Outlook section includes an article headed “science” titled “Let experts take lead on climate challenges.” In it, former NASA astronaut Walter Cunningham takes issue with Paul Krugman’s recent articles calling measures to reduce carbon emissions in our atmosphere necessary and affordable.

Fair enough; Cunningham is a geophysicist and worked at the Rand corporation, I read on to see if he can teach me anything.

I’m still looking. Through the first twelve paragraphs or so, all I really see is him slapping the name Krugman down every few lines, deploring the fact that an economist who won a Nobel Prize for studying world trade patterns would dare to write about the paths pollutants take following this commerce.

Finally, in the last quarter of the piece, Cunningham lists factors that influence our climate, the Earth’s tilt and orbit, sunspots, atmospheric heat retention, and land mass distribution, above and sub-sea. Here I finally learn something, a word, “albedo," describing the ratio of light reflected from an object compared to the light that falls on it. This is what NASA’s Dr. James Hansen is quantifying when he speaks of “watts per square meter” of solar energy falling on the earth, warning that if we don’t reduce carbon emissions yesterday, this energy will soon skew our weather in frightening ways.

Well, next I had to Wiki Cunningham to see what sort of axe he has to grind. The article described him as a climate change skeptic, and cited a Launch Magazine article that “contributed to the magazine’s demise.” The article was followed by many insightful comments, like this one..

“Yes, even large numbers of scientists have gotten it wrong on occasion in the past. But not that often, and not much after the decades of research that now stands behind the current science. Where should policy-makers base their policy deliberations on? An overwhelming majority - or a small minority?”

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