Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How do you define success?

Some people define it in terms of Nobel Prizes or election to the National Academy. But I define success as being interviewed by The Houston Chronicle's SciGuy, Eric Berger.

At any rate, I've made it!!! You can check out the interview here and listen to a recording of the entire interview here.


Bill F said...

"I had one commenter argue that the increase in CO2 (carbon dioxide) wasn't caused by humans. I mean, there's no doubt that that's true. People are also arguing that it's heat conduction from the core that could be driving climate change."

Man Dr. D...I am kinda bummed to be called out in the interview as disappointing you. I hope you weren't referring to me as the one saying humans didn't cause the CO2 rise. I have pointed to some uncertainty in how much we may have contributed, but I think I have pointed out at least twice that I believe humans are the largest source of GHGs.

As for the core heat, I know you think it is insignificant, but I haven't seen anybody give a definitive source for that assumption that includes up to date information on what we know about the core and the geodynamo. My point in bringing it up initially wasn't to propose it as a theory to supplant GHGs as a cause, but as a means of showing a process where recent research has changed our understanding of it and where we may find that it is more important than we once thought. The main reason I feel that way about it is that it seems awfully coincidental for excursions in the paleomagnetic field strength to so closely track paleo climate without having any relationship between the two. The change in trend recently discovered to have occurred in the mid 1800s just reinforces my suspicion that the tracking between the climate and the intensity is not coincidental. However, as I stated the first time I brought the subject up, it may be that climate causes the changes in magnetic intensity and not vice versa. The fact is that nobody really knows right now.

Either way, congrats on hitting the big time!

Andrew Dessler said...


Don't be bummed. The comment came our harsher than I intended, and I apologize.

The problem with your argument can be summarized with this analogy. Imagine someone's on trial for murder, and the prosecution shows evidence of motive, opportunity, an eye witness, etc. The defense lawyer says, "but there are 6 billion other people ... how do you know one of those people didn't do it?" Obviously, that's a terrible defense and the defendant would be convicted.

But that's basically your argument: we have all of this evidence that CO2 is guilty of driving a temperature increase, as well as evidence suggesting that it's not core heat flux (sorry I cannot think of the source, but the argument is that the heat flux is small, less than a W/m^2 if I remember correctly, and there's no reason to expect any trend in that number).

In fact, the problem is even harder than that: if it does turn out to be core heat, then we have to explain why adding all of this infrared-active gas to the atmosphere is NOT having an effect when we think it should.

As a scientist, I'm not going to waste any time chasing down core heat flux because it's I don't think it's right. And as a policymaker, I cannot wait for every theory to be disproven --- just like as a juror, I am not going to worry about whether they've looked at all 6 billion people as suspects.

This could, of course, change if someone comes up with a theory or data that suggest otherwise ... but until then, CO2 looks guilty to me.


Bill F said...

I know you didn't mean it harshly, I was just giving you a hard time. I think your analogy would be better if you said your eyewitness had seen another guy at the scene of the crime, and the police detectives testified that they had seen the second guy at every local crime scene in the last 20 years. You don't have evidence that the second guy has a motive or opportunity for any of the crimes, but he always seems to be there. Maybe the 2nd guy is just a crime scene reporter, or maybe he is a mob boss who has been ordering the murders...but his presence at every recent murder should at least make you wonder why he is there, even if you don't think he is the murderer.

Peter K. Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter K. Anderson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dano said...

Keep up the good work, sir.