Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Does Don Aitken Take Aspirin?

The blogosphere today resounds with plaudits for Professor Don Aitken, eminent historian and political scientist, and respected academic, after this report in the Opposition Orifice that Professor Aitken doesn't believe that the science of global warming stacks up:
The eminent historian and political scientist said in a speech called A Cool Look at Global Warming, which has received little public attention, that he was urged not to express his contrary views to orthodox thinking because he would be demonised.

He says critics who question the impact of global warming are commonly ignored or attacked because "scientist activists" from a quasi-religious movement have spread a flawed message that "the science is settled" and "the debate is over"...

Although not a scientist, he has brought his critical approach as an experienced academic accustomed to testing theories to a debate he says so far lacks clear evidence.
Aitken hits all the usual "skeptical" talking points - the computer models are crook, it's all a beat-up by those "activist scientists" who silence critics with the threat of Soviet style demonisation then very late in the article declares one of his own misgivings about the science:
[Aitken] says an increase in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide over the past century is agreed, some of it due to fossil fuels, cement-making and agriculture. However, normal production of CO2 is not known, and it makes up only a tiny part of the atmosphere. "How does a small increase in a very small component have such a large apparent effect? The truth is that no one has yet shown that it does." (emphasis added)
Which brings us to the question of aspirin. When I get a headache - a really bad headache - I usually resort to a taking a couple of aspirin tablets, at 250 milligrams to 300 milligrams a tablet. I'm of about average weight for my height - let's say 80 kg. That's 80,000,000 milligrams. How can such a tiny amount of aspirin diffused through all that body mass possibly cure my headache?

A similar question that might trouble Professor Aitken in his sleep is how can he be sure that he will wake up in his bed tomorrow, and not floating around in outer space, when the gravitational constant is so damned small?

The real risk Professor Aitken has taken in declaring his skepticism isn't that "activist scientists" will call him a madman; it's that they'll take him for a fool.