Well, it's a New Age, Faithful Reader. While browsing through customer reviews of On the Razor's Edge on Amazon.com TOF discovered the following nugget by Gregory N. Hullender:
After reading "Lion's Mouth" I checked out the author's web site. On his web site, I learned that the author is a climate-change denier who thinks human beings cannot influence the climate and that the Earth is headed for another ice age. It's not important to the story, but it does turn up in the book that no human technology in all of history was capable of preventing an ice age. Really? Even though the Commonwealth was able to change the Earth's rate of rotation, they couldn't stop an ice age?If it's not important to the story, why bring it up? Why, to wave the bony finger of heresy at the detested Other, of course. It is distressing how often such reactions mimic those of religious zealots. TOF notes the infamous use of "denier" in order to create a subliminal link to Holocaust Deniers. Tsk, tsk. Alas, Mr. Hellender could not have checked out the author's web site too closely or he would not have made three errors in one sentence.
- TOF does not deny that the climate changes. Change is in fact the one constant in the material world. We might even say that change defines the material world. We need not look far to find Little Ice Ages, Climatic Optima, and other such conditions in our past. It would be foolish to suppose there would never ever be further changes. All too often people think that the way the world was in their youth is the way the world should always be, and so they panic at the thought that it might differ in the future.
- Nor does TOF think that humans cannot influence the climate. "Influence" is such a supple word that it can mean almost anything, so what fool would write it off? The extent of human influence is another question, and one that is subject to a lively debate within what is charmingly called "the climate science community." "Extent" is one of those words that escape the relentlessly binomial thinker.
- Finally, TOF is not convinced we are headed for another Ice Age, although a new "Maunder Minimum" is not beyond possibility, given the current solar situation. Granted, such a new ice age was scientifically touted back in TOF's storied youth, when "global" temperatures showed a long-term decline; but the general trend for the past 300 years has been upward, despite zigs and zags. (However, see Greenland ice cores, below.) The world is still colder than is normal for an interglacial, and we can only hope it warms up some more. Cold kills. Warmth lengthens growing seasons. However, astrophysicists, esp. in Russia and Scandinavia, have been predicting a cold interval that may last into the 2030s or 2040s.
|John Gribbin's 1977 book|
about the coming ice age.
A fourth error of course is the presumption that in the story framework the Commonwealth could have halted the Ice on earth if they had wanted to. But the text makes quite clear that
a) the Commonwealth was in decline,It is a common mythos among those to whom Science!™ is a form of Magic!™ to suppose that it can accomplish anything. But that may not be the case. There may be a gap between what folks can do and what they are interested in doing. The gods Cost and Benefit play their tug-o'-war; and often there are limits to human hubris. Who likes to see their deeply-held beliefs called into question, even by implication?
b) the colony worlds were revolting, and
c) they just didn't care enough about Terra to do so.
Climate is Long Term; Weather is Short TermWHICH RAISES THE QUESTION of what is "short term"? The 30 year recent increase? The 60-year MDO oscillation? The 300-year rebound from the Little Ice Age? Here is the past 10,000 years since the end of the Pleistocene as reconstructed from Greenland ice cores:
Turn, Turn, Turn...
|Note reverse scale on left: More rapid solar heartbeat|
means shorter sunspot periods.
TOF was startled at the rising temperature at the tail end, since the incipient ice age was de rigeur at the time. Perhaps that appealed to his inner skiffy. Gribbin had written a nice SF novel about the sudden-onset ice age. A second look at the chart suggested a long-term cycle increasing from c.1910 to c.1940, decreasing from c.1940 to c.1970, then increasing from c.1970 to... TOF guessed at thirty years. ...to c.2000. This wild-ass guess has proven curiously accurate, and the Northern astrophysicists predicting a cooling trend out to c.2030 seem to be carrying the 30-year ball for another first down. (The MDO is thought to have a cycle length of 60 years.)
Astute Reader will note that the warming and cooling swings are nonetheless ratcheting upward. How can this be (TOF hears you ask)?
On the Simultaneity Walking and Chewing GumTHE ANSWER IS that there may be more than one thing happening. In industrial quality control, different causes will often make different footprints in the data. Some causes result in sudden shift of mean, others in gradual trends, still others in cycles, and so forth. When two or more causes are present, we can get such things as a cycle riding on the back of a trend.
In this sketch a simple sine wave has been hired to play the role of the Multi-Decadal Oscillation (MDO) and a linear trend portrays the rebound from the Little Ice Age. By adding the two together, we get a pattern very similar to that of the Danish researchers shown above. It is easy to see that when the MDO is on the upswing, warming is "accelerated" while when it is on the downswing, there is a "pause" in the warming. In the present situation, one side cries that temperatures have never been higher in the past thirty years! The other side, cackles that there has been no global warming for the past decade or so. Our little simulation shows how -- and why -- they can both be correct. It's called an inflection point.
Spanking Bad Data Won't Make Them BehaveBut TOF! (we hear you cry) where do they get the temperatures that they use for the analysis? Well, for one thing, they are not what you think: reading thermometers and plotting the readings.
But that is a tale for another time.