Playing Dice with the Planet

Those running the Berkeley Earth Project were not scientists who felt that global warming was caused by human activity. However, changing your mind is a sign of intelligence, where the change is the result of new discoveries or new ideas. The lead scientist involved in the Berkeley Earth Project, Professor Muller, now thinks that there is a very large probability that global warming is caused by human activity.

The Berkeley Earth Project team have reported a new estimate of the average earth surface land temperature for the period from 1753 to 2011. They used a larger sample of weather stations that has been previously used. Their findings (which are not yet per reviewed) are:-

1. The land temperature rise from the 1950s decade to the 2000s decade is 0.87 ± 0.05 ºC (95% confidence)

2. Both maximum and minimum daily temperatures have increased during the last century. Diurnal variations decreased from 1900 to 1987, and then increased.

3. The period of 1753 to 1850 is marked by sudden drops in land surface temperature that coincide with known volcanism. This volcanism, combined with anthropogenic effects can account for much of the variation in the land surface temperature record.

Of course it is rather crude to try and reconstruct earth temperatures before times when we have accurate and extensive measurements. Ultimately, this is guesswork, albeit highly sophisticated guesswork of a scientific and logical kind. It is not proof.

The interesting thing about this latest research is that how all the studies show that the warming trends become uncontroversial from one study to the next as the time line develops, regardless of whose study you use, and whether you use one year averages or ten year averages. The graphs attached to the Berkeley paper illustrate this clearly. (http://berkeleyearth.org/pdf/results-paper-july-8.pdf).

Not every scientist thinks that there is value in the latest Berkeley paper, notwithstanding some of those involved in producing it having undergone a Pauline type conversion. Professor Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology regards the Berkeley study as over simplistic, which the authors of the Berkeley study seem to accept. The study does use simple proxies as part of its methodology, but presumably because there is little reliable data.

So for some the new study simply creates new arguments. It does not, as far as some scientists are concerned, even add meaningful evidence that a global warming trend exists. Albert Einstein once proclaimed that God does not play dice with the Universe. The famous retort was “Albert, stop telling God what to do”.

Climate change is not a universal concept but a theory that is based on the known laws of physics and the known data. In all probability it exists and in all probability it is caused by humans. In less expansive terms to those used by Einstein, humans are playing dice with the planet, but there is no one to tell them what to do, and no one to say “stop it”.