Sunday, October 9, 2011

Relativity more settled than climate science

A lot of science blogs were upset about this paragraph in a Robert Bryce op-ed in the WSJ:
5) The science is not settled, not by a long shot. Last month, scientists at CERN, the prestigious high-energy physics lab in Switzerland, reported that neutrinos might -— repeat, might -— travel faster than the speed of light. If serious scientists can question Einstein's theory of relativity, then there must be room for debate about the workings and complexities of the Earth's atmosphere.
I think that his point is that relativity is much more settled that global warming theory.

I was more disturbed by the next two paragraphs:
Furthermore, even if we accept that carbon dioxide is bad, it's not clear exactly what we should do about it. In September, Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder published a report that determined "switching from coal to natural gas would do little for global climate." Mr. Wigley found that the particulates put into the atmosphere by coal-fired power plants, "although detrimental to the environment, cool the planet by blocking incoming sunlight."

If Mr. Wigley's right, then using sources that emit no particulates, like nuclear and natural gas, will not make a major difference in averting near-term changes in the climate caused by carbon dioxide.
The trouble with this argument is that carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere many times longer than particulates, and nuclear power does not emit carbon dioxide at all. So using nuclear power reduce carbon dioxide, and be better for the environment.

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