Climate Change

If you are a paraglider pilot then you should be concerned about climate change, because the changes that our impact on the climate will bring ,will in some cases, adversely effect our flying for the worse and not for the better.

But wait, isn’t this Climate Change, and global warming all a bit of a scam?

Lets for one minute just remove the political and media aspects of climate change that you have heard or read. Lets just focus for a little bit on the science and how this is collected and interpreted and not the policy.

Oh scientists I now hear you cry they are just as bad as the politicians, however the way science works is to remove any bias that humans bring to the table. To make my point a little thought experiment for you.

Imagine your wife, partner, mother, daughter, son or close friend is ill , seriously ill and you both go to the doctors and are recommend some medicines. Naturally you ask what the success rate of the medicine is, the doctor tells you that 97% of doctors are sure that medicines will work in your case and there is only 3% of doctors who disagree that a separate treatment is better.

What would you do?

Go with the 97% or the 3%?

I know that many times some treatments are proved to be wrong, but the way they are proved to be wrong and the way are proved right is key here. Research be it physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, and yes even climate science is progressed by using the peer review methodology to undertake research.

In a nut shell it goes like this.

You think of a great idea, ummmm say vanilla ice cream cures cancer. You then test this idea trying to be as fair as possible and there are published proven procedures to ensure fairness that all branches of science use. Say after all this you find out that wow, ice cream really does cure cancer, I mean who knew?

By this time you are dreaming of your Nobel prize and global stardom, but wait before you can pick up your tux from the dry cleaners for that glitzzy award ceremony in Stockholm you submit your results to a panel of  other experts in ice cream and cancer who will read and in some cases try to replicate your results. If lots of people get the same result then your idea is accepted and you can buy the glass cabinet for the Nobel prize to sit in.

If they can’t find the same results as you did, then you are not getting near to a patient with a scoop and a tub of Ben and Jerrys. In fact you make your reputation in science trying to over turn the consensus, so all climate change scientists are mainly trying to disprove their orginal and also other’s ideas.

The peer review process simplified above, is used in many fields, nursing, medical, law, engineering, physiology, biology, psychology, physics, and climate change science.  Yes there are failures in the process and  improvements to be made. However my point about the 97% above is that 97% of scientists surveyed working in climate science agreed with the position that Man is responsible for climate change. 97% that is more than you find in many other scientific fields, including medicine.

Could they all be in cahoots? To answer this question I normally ask people, how many people would they trust a secret with? One? Two? Three? How about 20? 30? 1000s? And people you have never met? People that are different nationalities, don’t even speak the same language?

It really doesn’t make sense does it? That lots of scientists are secretly making this up to get money for research or working with the government. In fact government funding  is normally the least lucrative means of funding your proposal.

Lets face some facts, the average temperature of the globe is getting higher, this isn’t hard science to work out, many agencies can track the planet’s temperature, in fact even a famous  climate skeptic gave evidence that his “independent” project found similar trends to many other sources.

So lets look at the recent temperature chart.

Global Temperatures

Source: http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/ds_resolveuid/6B6B19CD-D52E-4BF0-A3F4-C7CADB94310A

You can see it is going up, and yes it does swing from year to year up and down, due to many factors, but there are many lines of evidence that support the planet is warming and not just sticking a thermometer out the window.  We see continuing sea level rise, we see that the oceans are warming, we see that glaciers are retreating, and even seasons are changing  .

So if you can accept the evidence that the planet is warming how do we know it is CO2 that is the culprit, and then how do we know that it is us?

In fact CO2 has been recognised as an agent that traps heat long before climate change came on the agenda, it is, in the end simple physics and physics that we were all taught in school. We can measure the amount of heat that the earth absorbs and then how much is radiated back into space, and how much of the heat being trapped is due to CO2.

We have multiple lines of evidence that CO2 causes warming, and that the planet is warming. So if CO2 causes warming pumping it into air is a bad thing, plain and simple. We are pumping over 30 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere every year.

Of course the planet itself releases CO2, but the planet’s Eco system has been fine tuned and balances over millions years, the forests and oceans soak up CO2 and for us they actually take away 50% of the CO2 that we produce. There is a limit to how much CO2 the ocean can take before they are full, think of what happens when you put 4 teaspoons of sugar into your coffee, how much do you have left at the bottom?

We only have to look at the effects of rebalancing eco systems when we introduce new predators into island nations. It never works out well for the cute animals that were there before a new agent came into the system. We are rebalancing the climate system every second of every day, and yet we seem happy to do this despite the clear issues that it will cause us and our paragliding offspring.

The effects on paragliding? These are general but is understood that we will see large precipitation changes as hot air holds more water, think about how much more humid it feels on a summer’s day compared to a sunny winters day, this increase will be seen in the upper and lower pole regions, UK and the Scandinavian countries, maybe this will lead to less days flying, water-logged and flooded areas mean less access. Humid air means more storms and stronger storms.

More heat released by the land, may mean better thermals, but stronger thermals, maybe unflyable conditions will manifest earlier in the day, shortening our flying windows. Heat waves will make flying uncomfortable and possibly even dangerous, drought conditions and dry lands may lead to more sites being closed in summer due to fire risks.

In the end we can’t predict the impacts on paragliding with certainty, but it is well known that the negative impacts on the environment outway the positive, do you want to give up our Eco systems on the hope that we get better thermals?

I don’t.

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