S.W.A.G. An Introduction

SWAG is an acronym from my youth, a scientific wild ass guess.  Gather all the information you can about a subject and take your best shot.  Science  is a SWAG process.  There will always be much we do not know and yet we must make assumptions (guesses) about all sorts of things if science is to progress.  Many of these guesses will prove to be wrong.  The SWAG mistake of today is discovered tomorrow by the process that is scientific research and science advances.

The less we know, the more guessing we must do.   And what we know is subject to change with time.  I fear the notion of scientific guessing has been lost by our population.  The latest theory is presented as a fact, some sort of absolute known quantity.   Somehow the public has come to believe that long range worldwide weather forecasting (climate science) is an exact science.

Climate scientists SWAG a lot.  Some, I fear, skip the science and just WAG.

There are four big misconceptions (or beliefs or perhaps lies) often repeated by former Vice President Gore whenever he talks about global climate change.  They have infiltrated global warming science as it is perceived by the public.

  1.  The science is simple.
  2. There is a consensus among scientists.
  3. We know all we need to know to act right now.
  4. It is urgent that we act immediately.

The science is extraordinarily complex.  We know very little scientifically about the oceans, clouds or the sun; and all are important variables when attempting to predict climate.

Well qualified scientists from all around the world have publicly disagreed with the consensus Mr. Gore touts.  There never has been and there probably never will be consensus.  And as Mr. Gore notes in his film, the conventional wisdom that generates consensus is frequently wrong.

The warmest year in recent memory was 1998.  2008 was a particularly cool year and 2010 was about as warm as 1998.  1877-1878 was another relatively warm period in recent history and 1964 was among the coldest in the last 100 years. There have been warm years and cool years and there is a trend of gradual warming that began with the end of the little ice age about 250 years ago.

Consider this contrarian thought: global warming is good, or at least preferable to the alternative, global cooling.  The world does not have static climate. One need only look at the data prepared when evaluating Antarctic Ice cores to see that periods of stable warm climate are rare.  We know much colder is awful, and if history can be used as a guide, much colder is probable within 10,000 years, maybe sooner, maybe much sooner.

Allow me to repeat what I just said, the world does not have static climate. Anything man does to alter the climate alters a moving baseline.  We as a society are making changes to a climate ecosystem that varies wildly all by itself.  This fluctuation makes global climate change prediction extraordinarily difficult.  We do not have sufficient knowledge to accurately differentiate between normal ecosystem changes and man made changes.

If we cannot accurately quantify the moving baseline and we can’t, how do we know what and when action is warranted?   Things we do today will impact climate tomorrow and in the future.  Exactly what that impact might be is a very difficult science problem.

S.W.A.G. is everywhere in climate science.


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