While it may irritate some because it undercuts the notion that a consensus exists with regard to AGW, it does a good job of providing the opinions of scientists trying to understand why the climate has in fact warmed over the last 150 years, and stopped warming over the last 15 years even though CO2 in the atmosphere has significantly increased. The issue at the heart of solving the question of the degree to which human activities warm the planet is the degree to which the models developed are based on the atmosphere being sensitive to CO2. Where climate scientists are skeptical about anthropogenic warming, it is usually because they don't see support for the level of CO2 sensitivity that IPCC models are based on. Other scientists suspect that solar activity has significant impact on how warm we are, while other solar scientists aren't so sure.
First off Delfin, I read most of the previous posts on the subject and yours has to be the best so far from a quality viewpoint.
Second off, I have not read The Economist for the last couple of decades but whilst I lived overseas found it to be one of the better quality news magazines. I would certainly not hold the fact that it was published in The Economist against the article in any way. However I am a regular reader of New Scientist and tend to skepticism regarding anything it publishes regarding global warming or climate change.
The reason for this is that whilst The Economist article appears to proceed from a fairly agnostic viewpoint and discusses the various points of view and/or assertions in a fairly neutral manner my feelings regarding the New Scientist viewpoint is that it tends to be dismissive of any viewpoint other than the pro climate change.
The NOAA data is probably the only really reliable data we have on temperatures world wide, every thing else we have is either inferred or, even if directly measured using accurate instruments, acquired in too few places and often biased by local factors. The NOAA data, whilst it may be good quality data in that the instrumentation is good and the sample size sufficient to allow high confidence suffers from two defects; we just do not have it for a long enough period, and it does include a hiatus which should not be there according to the CO2 concentration history
over the same period.
In my humble, lay persons, opinion the fact of the hiatus, and the lack of a widespread consensus amongst the climate scientists regarding the cause completely discredits the "settled science" hypothesis. We have just not done enough science on climate change to allow a high probability prognosis to be asserted at this time.
However, whilst this may be a valid assessment of the circumstances this does not excuse a lack of action on our part - waste in itself generates a moral hazard which is best avoided. Much of our, and most probably future, civilization depends upon products produced from hydrocarbons and the production of these is a far less wasteful process than burning them up for heat energy, particularly where we are able to recycle the base material.
Any attempt to have western societies regress to less bountiful life styles is doomed, there will always be segments of the body politic that will both resist and exploit the for and against arguments and enormous disruptions of social harmony will result from either segments gaining absolute supremacy.
At the moment we are involved in a fairly massive "renewables" experiment
. Having been dependent upon them, and being cognizant of the very substantial contribution from conventional, shore based, energy sources required to both establish and maintain the "renewables" systems I depend upon to allow me to enjoy a reasonably comfortable lifestyle afloat for the last thirteen years, I am of the conclusion that the "renewables" experiment
will fail and that you cannot run a modern civilization from these energy sources.
The existing sources of our energy requirements are fossil fuel
, renewables and nuclear. Their unknown effect upon climate and the moral dimension of their wastage makes it desirable to significantly reduce dependance upon fossil fuels for energy. Renewables are limited in energy density and have serious environmental deficiencies - their is a serious moral dimension in that if you have farmed the valley for generations in an idyllic rural lifestyle, being hunted out so that city folks can enjoy the water
and power from the dam is not particularly respectful of your rights as a community. The remaining practical source at this time is some aspect of nuclear.
The two great nasties in the history
of nuclear power are Chernobyl and the ongoing Fukashima incidents - Three Mile Island and Selafield were relatively minor and in retrospect comparatively harmless incidents.
On the other side of the ledger from a viewpoint of accidents and incidents is the fact of the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, both those designed as explosives and those as transportation systems, which have existed or been in use since WW2. Considering the vast plethora of these devices and the intimacy of thousands of service men
and women in handling living with and operating these devices one is obliged towards the opinion that in the proper settings we can safely handle nuclear technologies.
There is a need to allow the scientists to gain a proper understanding of the science related to climate change so that a true consensus, rather than a politically driven one, can be developed regarding the probable outcomes of fossil fuel
generation of the energy civilization requires.
There is also a need to allow the nuclear scientists and engineers to further develop safe, efficient nuclear power and to establish knowledgeable and authoritative bodies and organizations to be responsible for the development of the philosophies, laws regulations
and manpower organization to allow ongoing exploitation of safe nuclear power generation technologies.