If we ignore the atmosphere, can we make it go away?

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Sandra Porter

Some of us walk by the bus stop and nervously glance at the scruffy-looking man carrying the ragged sign. I try not to breathe through my nose while I read the sign, carefully pretending all the while that I'm not really interested. Ah, it says "Repent! The world will end tomorrow!"

I smile since I always love a testable hypothesis. Tomorrow morning, I will wake up and I will know the scruffy street preacher got it all wrong.

It is "An Inconvenient Truth" that global warming presents us with another testable hypothesis.

But this one doesn't make me smile.

Al Gore has described some horrific events that are likely to happen if the earth continues to warm. If we wait long enough and let the experiment run it's course, we will know with certainty if the dire predictions of floods and storms turn out to be correct.

As Tim Lambert, from Deltoid, brought to my attention, the 19 climate researchers, who saw the movie, say that Al Gore got it right.

According to the Yahoo News story that Tim described:

...those who have seen it had the same general impression: Gore conveyed the science correctly; the world is getting hotter and it is a manmade catastrophe-in-the-making caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

Seth Borenstein's article also notes that some climate scientists think the movie is too optimistic!

While some nonscientists could be depressed by the dire disaster-laden warmer world scenario that Gore laid out, one top researcher thought it was too optimistic. Tom Wigley, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, thought the former vice president sugarcoated the problem by saying that with already-available technologies and changes in habit -- such as changing light bulbs -- the world could help slow or stop global warming.

[snip]

They are quite literally afraid to know the truth," Gore said. "Because if you accept the truth of what the scientific community is saying, it gives you a moral imperative to start to rein in the 70 million tons of global warming pollution that human civilization is putting into the atmosphere every day."

I've been depressed ever since I saw the movie. But unlike the public officials discussed in the Yahoo News story , I don't think that avoiding the movie is going to make global warming go away.

Climate scientitsts have proposed a number of dire scenarios that may occur as a consequence of CO2 emissions. We can test the accuracy of the predications. We can wait, wake up twenty years from now, and find out if the scenarios are correct.

But is this really a hypothesis that we want to test?