The constancy of change and the new catastrophism: a personal reflection on crisis-driven science

This will upset many climate change “activists”

Speaking of Geoscience

by Nick Eyles and Andrew D. Miall – Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto

Disclaimer: This post is a guest reflection piece and is not intended to represent the Society’s official position on climate change.

In 2010, we published what is now a best-selling (and award-winning) book Canada Rocks-The Geologic Journey aimed at telling the dramatic story for a public audience of how Canada (and North America) has evolved over the last 4 billion years. It was a milestone in our professional and personal lives as we went on many field trips to fill in gaps in our own understanding and in the process stepped well beyond our own areas of expertise. We learned much about this fantastic country and its geology.

What is patently obvious from reviewing Canada’s ancient history is that scientists still do not have an adequate understanding of Earth’s complex systems on which to…

View original post 1,104 more words

1 thought on “The constancy of change and the new catastrophism: a personal reflection on crisis-driven science

  1. Paul Braterman

    This is a concatenation of zombie arguments. Let me deal with was just two of them.

    “It has to be said that the natural variability of the last few thousand years or hundreds of years or tens of years has formed almost no part in the ongoing discussion of climate change which in some circles assumes that any change since 1940 is largely man-made.” I do not think this is true. The National Academy of Sciences has published an extensive series of studies comparing past climate variability with what is happening now, and one need look no further than they Skeptical Science website ( for a reasonably detailed analysis of past climate change, and the implications of this comparison for the present day.

    Then consider the suggestion that we should relax because climate science is uncertain. At one level, this is like the argument used by creationists when they refer to the existence of missing links. However, the situation is rather more serious, because, as a paper in Science (I forget the details) showed I think around 10 years ago, the noisiness and complexity of the climate system is such that further research is unlikely to lead to a major reduction in uncertainty, although of course it can lead to deeper understanding of the implications of each possible level of change. Paradoxically, such uncertainty gives us more, not less, reason for concern. An exact predicted temperature rise of 2 degrees is very much less worrying than a predicted rise of 2 +/- 2 degrees. This is because the damage done by a rapid temperature change is more than linear. And a 2 +/- 2 degree change also implies a 15% chance of a rise greater than 4%, and a one in 40 chance of rise greater than 6 degrees, which would lead to a major reduction in the carrying capacity of the planet.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s