Science of climate

Where do you stand on climate change? A question you may have been asked, and you may have asked yourself, too.

Me? It’s clear changes are occurring and the natural environment is being affected by the very large amounts of CO2 and other stuff we humans pump out at an unprecedented rate. Stuff that took millions and millions of years to be created, used in a relative blink-of-the-eye. Stuff that will run out, in it’s rawest (and, on one level, cheapest) form.

I’m often told by people I’m talking to in the course of work, especially by older people, “I don’t believe in climate change.”

The language intrigues me. Is it a belief? I guess, for some, it is. But for most people with a scientific background or at the very least an appreciation of science, it’s not about belief or believing. It’s about facts, information. The belief stuff is a very different line of thinking, and I’ll steer well clear of it here! It’s never black and white, or ‘settled’ – a point which comes across loud and clear from this article in the Spectator, talking about a new paper.

And so for mainstream media and members of the public, it’s about evidence and trust. Trusting those proclaimed as ‘experts’ to handle evidence, interrogate data and information, and report on their findings. In all of this, the unknowns are just as important as the knowns. The known unknowns can become the focus of research. The unknown unknowns may emerge over time, they may creep up and throw a curve-ball. But what is clear is that being definitive about science is really, really tricky territory.

But what has always been clear to me – a known known, if you will – is that whilst the dinosaurs weren’t wiped out in vain, the dinosaur juice that they and other biota inadvertently and unwittingly generated is being used up a lot faster than it is being created. And what amazes me is that in millennia to come, future historians and scientists and commentators (perhaps other life forms, bear with me…) might be digging their holes and observing those cliff formations and find evidence of our human impact on the environment, commenting on “the thin layer of organic material which we now call the ‘plastocene’ and seems to corroborate the evidence we’re observing that, during the same period, there was a huge spike in CO2 levels in Earth’s atmosphere which was caused when the planet was overrun by an ancient civilisation, the Concretians.”

In actual fact, in some quarters the current geological period is being called the Anthropocene, which is more accurate given we know what’s causing it, but imagine if you arrived at it in 65 million years’ time, and that storage device with all your human evidence on it had been inundated and buried and heated and mangled and turned into rocks and humanity juice? Just sayin’…

Whichever. The point being that even if you don’t ‘believe’ in climate change or climate science and so on, accelerated or otherwise by the impact of humans, in ever-increasing numbers, mining and using natural resources at an ever-increasing rate, the known known is that this stuff – oil, metals, minerals and the like – will run out in its rawest, most accessible form. And that’s the bit that provides exciting opportunities for innovation, invention and introspection.

So keep an open mind on the things that you – we – don’t know enough about yet, but think hard about the convenient stuff you can currently get your hands on. Maybe that £2 t-shirt from Tesco is worth a bit more than the cover price.