I first became interested in the subject of climate change after reading Bjorn Lomborg’s ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ and watching him get dragged through the mud by a concerted attack on him by environmentalists.
I started to read more about the subject, starting with the environmentalists’ attacks on Lomborg. (At the time I was evaluating which of two areas–energy or healthcare–that I would dive into in an attempt to become a subject matter expert for career purposes. I had been specialized in high technology since 1996 but felt the need to add a vertical sector, very much in the same way that a lawyer might branch out from dispute resolution to include family law. Both healthcare and energy are rapidly becoming high technology enterprises and I wanted to watch the effects of high tech as well as its development.)
After two years of reading I opened a short-lived weblog called The Liberal Skeptic, which quickly morphed into a column written for Examiner.com. Climategate happened as did a physical move back to the U.S. and career changes. I co-authored a book on Climategate, abandoned the Examiner column and spent a couple of years commenting and guest posting on skeptical weblogs. In January of 2012 I opened a weblog on energy consumption called 3000 Quads and in December opened this weblog focused on putting forth the rather nebulous ‘Lukewarm’ message.
I’m describing the timeline of my involvement in climate issues to highlight a specific point–there was not enough time for a decent learning curve in there.
I started off fairly skeptical of the climate conventions, because the nature of the attacks on Bjorn Lomborg were so… well, underhanded is the politest term I could use, that I really thought that climate science must not have anything else on the shelf to offer humanity if they had to resort to such tactics.
But the U.S. Navy had taught me physics and enough ‘higher’ math to understand the equations and some acquaintances I made walked me through the various equations needed to understand the basics of climate change and, more importantly, to see how the inputs to those equations were arrived at.
Climate change caused by human factors was clearly more than possible–it seemed all too probable. The real questions turned to how much, how long, the effects and our policy options.
But again, this was a forced learning curve, with lots of hurried reading and decisions on what books, papers and articles I would put off for another day. At the end of the day I would estimate that I’ve read about 10% of what I marked out as needed reading. Maybe at some point I’ll make a list of what I have read so far–it ranges from popular literature from Al Gore and Ian Plimer, equally unhelpful, to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s AR4, which is an extremely useful document.
This year will mark the publication of the IPCC’s AR5, but also a large number of other papers and compendia on the subject. Preceding AR5 is the very recent publication of an 1,100 page draft report by the National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee on climate. As the AR5, leaked and available here, is also a long document, this will be a reading–and hopefully learning–year for me. (I will also report here on what I read and how it changes my thinking, if at all.)
Don’t get me wrong–I stand by 99% of what I’ve written with regards to climate change, and have hopefully apologized for the errors I have made in print already. I’ve interviewed the late Stephen Schneider, John Christy, both Pielkes and a number of other climate scientists. I’ve read dozens of books and hundreds of papers and thousands of blog posts. But I recognize that I want to learn more.
This is the right year to learn more. (Is there a wrong year for that?)