The unknowns of climate change

People who do not believe that climate change caused by human activity is happening (and they are perfectly entitled to their views) point out that there are many unknown factors in the science and theory of climate change. This is bound to be true of any scientific theory that you cannot verify by experimentation. Instead you have to make deductions from facts and circumstances. While you rely on consensus of a majority of scientists any theory is but a theory and lacks the hard proof.

Some theories are proved subsequently; when Copernicus postulated that the heavenly spheres revolved around the sun and not the earth in 1514 it was simply a theory. Within a hundred years the Church opposed Copernicus’s theory and a few years later tried Galileo for heresy for following Copernicus’ ideas. 250 years later Copernicus’ ideas were widely accepted.

Of course, we do not know whether climate change theory will ultimately be shown to be true or not but most people work on the basis that the chances of it being true are so high that it is worth doing something to alleviate it. This statement of simple common sense is sometimes called “the precautionary principle”.

Climate change is a matter of great scientific complexity and there are still many unknowns within the science of climate change.

We do not know whether there is a “tipping point” at which the percentage of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere sets off a series of catastrophic events that we will never be able to reverse.

We also do not know precisely how much, if any carbon dioxide will be released from its stores in the deep ocean as the oceans warm up.

We do not know how the melting permafrost will affect climate because it may release embedded carbon dioxide and methane and will it be compensated by plant growth in tundra and taiga regions?

We do not know how high the seas will rise.

We do not know how much more violent and extreme the weather will become.

We do not know where deserts will form, if they form at all.

Will human reproduction create so many beings that their own individual release of carbon dioxide can never be clean up except by nature deciding that it has had enough of this troublesome species?

We do not know how plants and animals will evolve when faced with higher carbon dioxide levels and warmer climates.

We are setting on a journey and we do not know where we are going, except perhaps that the descent is too easy and we shall probably arrive in a place we ought not visit, and from which there is no return.

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