May 2009

It is how you approach an issue that determines what you see.



(Click thumbnail to download 640×480 version to do with as you please)

It’s a pity that Leo Laporte didn’t save his Michael Wehner interview for until after the new podcast, Dr. Kiki‘s Science Hour, had been officially launched. It would have been good to have pointers to this episode from the official Twit site, but as it stands one has to do a bit of Googling to find the video. Leo and Dr. Kiki originally asked Michael Wehner, a climate modeller at Laurence Berkeley Labs, to be interviewed to discuss his recently released analysis of the temperature record and why one could not conclude that global warming had stopped based on a short terms cooling trends. Wehner also did an excellent job explaining why there is scientific consensus on global warming being anthropogenic. Of course, this being a Twit interview, the chat room was populated by a strongly opinionated geek community whose familiarity with all things tech did not exactly translate to a likewise grasp of science. The comments from the chatroom that Leo passed to Wehner reflected this. But on the whole, Wehner did stick to the science of climate modelling while steering well clear of politics and policy making. His succinct explanation for why climate change is most likely due to CO2 and not to changes in the sun was particularly impressive — observed cooling of the stratosphere is consistent with a CO2 heat trapping blanket. If the sun was causing it, the stratosphere should warm up. Though I do wonder what the cosmic ray theory of climate change would predict for the stratosphere.

Things did get a bit repetitive towards the end where Wehner seemd to be answering the same denialist challenges he had already given answers for earlier in the hour. Just goes to show that some geeks only hear what they want to hear. Denialism is not reserved solely for the ignorant, but apparently highly intelligent technology fans can sometimes succumb to its lure.

Update: I now realise what Leo was refering to when he alluded to his own personal experience of a heated public exchange with someone on the subject of anthropogenic climate change. Perhaps this was part of the reason he has now teamed up with Dr. Kiki Sanford to produce her new science oriented podcast. There is a strong denialist bias that seems to thrive in theĀ  Libertarian segment of the geek community. Given Dr. Kiki’s views on the matter, it will only be a matter of time before Leo alienates this segment of geeks, although I do wonder why libertarians in particular so easily fall victim to denialist arguments. Leo Laporte is also a fan of the Skepticality podcast and the scientific skepticism movement features quite a few Libertarians such as Michael Shermer, whose views on climate change are now consistent with the IPCC report. So there is hope yet for denialist geeks and hats off to Leo for at least trying to bring scientific enlightenment to the Twit Army, and for his continued engagement with denialist geek celebrities.