Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Remember Conservation of Matter?

I’ve been puzzling over how it is that the most educated population humanity has ever known can have such a high percentage of people incapable or unwilling to accept the results of the largest, most important and urgent globally coordinated scientific inquiry humanity has ever conducted.

It turns out I’m not the only one wondering.

I found a study entitled "Understanding public complacency about climate change: adults’ mental models of climate change violate conservation of matter" here.

From the abstract:

"Surveys show most Americans believe climate change poses serious risks but also that reductions in green house gas (GHG) emissions sufficient to stabilize atmospheric GHG concentrations can be deferred until there is greater evidence that climate change is harmful. US policymakers likewise argue it is prudent to wait and see whether climate change will cause substantial economic harm before undertaking policies to reduce emissions. Such wait-and-see policies erroneously presume climate change can be reversed quickly should harm become evident, underestimating substantial delays in the climate’s response to anthropogenic forcing. We report experiments with highly educated adults – graduate students at MIT – showing widespread misunderstanding of the fundamental stock and flow relationships, including mass balance principles,that lead to long response delays. GHG emissions are now about twice the rate of GHG removal from the atmosphere. GHG concentrations will therefore continue to rise even if emissions fall, stabilizing only when emissions equal removal. In contrast, most subjects believe atmospheric GHG concentrations can be stabilized while emissions into the atmosphere continuously exceed the removal of GHGs from it. These beliefs – analogous to arguing a bathtub filled faster than it drains will never overflow – support wait-and-see policies but violate conservation of matter. Low public support for mitigation policies may arise from misconceptions of climate dynamics rather than high discount rates or uncertainty about the impact of climate change."

Remember the law of conservation of matter?

Admittedly this paper presumes the science of anthropogenic global warming to be essentially correct.

That there are people who think the science was fabricated all over the world by tens of thousands of scientists and technicians in order to enable a socialist wealth redistribution scheme is another mystery for which I have yet to find any rational explanation.

Other than that they’re all conservatives as I’m sure John Stuart Mill would observe.

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