Hawking's Hyperbole Not Helpful

Thu, 2006-06-22 09:12Jim Hoggan
Jim Hoggan's picture

Hawking's Hyperbole Not Helpful

As much as we despise the deceptive comments and PR trickery of the industry-funded automatons bent on denying climate change, we are equally offended by muddle-headed environmentalists who skew the conversation through intentional or emotional overstatment.Renowned scientist, Stephen Hawking (who is not generally muddle-headed) said at a recent conference in Beijing that global warming may eventually turn the earth into a Venus-like planet, baked by 250-degree centigrade temperatures and plagued by Sulphuric acid-rain.

There isn't a shred of scientific evidence to suggest that this is likely to happen and throwing it out as a threat is counterproductive: it damages the credibility of everyone who is working in good faith to achieve public understanding and practical solutions.

It also plays into the hands of those who want to make the “debate” about climate change seem ridiculous. Look for the likes of the George C. Marshall Institute and Dr. S. Fred Singer to come out swinging on this one, claiming “fear-mongering” and “extremist left-wing” rhetoric as they continue in their efforts to frame climate change as a silly conspiracy by the world’s scientific community.

Comments

The runaway greenhouse effect is entirely within the realm of possibility. Please do not dismiss this possiblity. You are doing exactly what the skeptics have been doing on climate change for the past 20 years. Look closer at the history of Venus, and perhaps learn more about astrophysics and planetary science before you dismiss such a possibility.

Earth has has life on it for nearly it’s entire 4.0 billion year history.  Liquid water is required.  Go out and look at the planet that is covered 7/10 with water in liquid form and has life forms like algae that have not changed because their niches have not changed over that span, or look at the The Coelacanth, Living Fossil, a fish living today that has survived in deep cold water since the Devonian period.  Earth has had liquid water since the beginning and you have salty blood because you lived in it during your phyllogeny.  It’s cannot boil away because of it’s latent heat.  So put a smile on, tell your kids it’s OK and get a good night’s rest.

Kant presaged the effect of the moon on the earth’s tides 200 years before it was ‘proven’ by scientists.  Hawking’s statement on the eventual effect of global warming and projected comparison to the surface of Venus is based on several seminal solar analyses in recent years and displays an acute mastery of associative thinking. Before leveling your uninformed journalistic critiique against a genius who occupies the same Chair at Cambridge University as did Newton, you might educate yourself on astrophysics and learn a little humility.  
Dr. G. Heath King

We’re not challenging Dr. Hawking’s genius, nor his mastery of associative thinking. We’re saying that his leap from a damaged earth eco-system to a virtual Venus is, as the least, an overstatement and perhaps plain wrong. That would be the opinion of Dr. Tapio Schneider, who was asked exactly this question at the Skeptics Society conference at CalTech a couple of weeks ago.

Could the earth ultimately end up like Venus, given a couple of thousand years of bad management and bad luck? You’re right: we’d be over our heads to speculate.

Are we planning for a multi-thousand year horizon? No, at this point, we’re trying to engage policy makers on what actions are necessary in this decade.

Will Hawking’s associative leap help keep this conversation on track? Likely not. It is, again, the kind of broad and highly debatable comment that contributes to the impression that there is still a lot of uncertainty as to what is the immediate risk of failing to act on this issue.

The point stands. Even if he could ultimately be proved right, at this point, he’s just giving ammunition to the other side.