Thursday, May 19, 2016

Proving the negative

Climate change may well be the most challenging thing that humanity has faced since the plagues of the middle ages. The map above is a guesstimate of water levels around the UK in the year 2100; let's hope this turns out to be wrong, but even if it's only 10% correct then we're still looking at a massive upheaval of people and resources in the face of rising sea levels and retreating shorelines.

The detractors of course will say things like "science can't prove it", which is a lot like the age old religious argument that rationalists like me get all the time, i.e. "you can't prove God doesn't exist". Both miss the point by a country mile, and the point is that nothing in the real world is "provable", science works with models and probabilities, both of which provide the best method we have for finding out what's true and what's real and for attempting to predict what might happen in the future. Climate models, like models of disease transmission and models of how formula one cars travel through the air give us hugely valuable insights into what happens in the real world given certain initial conditions; people that deny the findings of this essential research do so at their own peril, but unfortunately as this map shows, climate, unlike the EU, isn't something that can be opted out of.

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