Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New information tends to refine models

One of the criticisms made by climate change deniers is that 'scientists don't know everything.' The premise of this is that as we learn more then what we thought to be true becomes false. In this particular instance, deniers claim that as we learn more we will learn there is no such thing as climate change. This, of course, is a totally false argument and there is a bit of recent research that illustrates this.

A new report came out showing how human use of water is contributing to sea level rise. This, of course, makes sense. We are pumping huge amounts of water out of aquifers and other land-based sources of water for use in agriculture, industry and for home use. Much of this water finds its way into the oceans, via one path or another. Measurements have shown this has added .7 mm/year worth of sea level rise.

Of course, deniers at this point will be going, 'Ah, ha! See! You were wrong about those climate change claims!' Actually, no. We were right and this study shows that. The problem has been that our calculations and measurements always came up with a shortage of about .7 mm/year in the sea level rise. When we did the calculations of sea level rise due to melting ice and thermal expansion our results were about .7 mm/year short of what was actually measured. There had to be an extra source for sea level rise that was not being factored in. Now, that source has been accounted for and the numbers add up very nicely.

The point of this is that the more we learn, the more we confirm and refine what we already know. And, the reason for this is simple. Any hypotheses or theory we come up with in the future must take into what we already know. We will not come up with a new theory that throws out everything we have already discovered. It may add a whole new dimension to it or change the way we look at things, but it will always include the discoveries that have already been made. It has to because those discoveries are properties of the natural world and the natural world does what it does with or without our understanding.

As we learn more and more about climate change the new discoveries are not going to refute climate change discoveries. They are rooted rock-solid in massive amounts of scientific evidence that is not suddenly going to go away. What we learn will merely refine what we already know and help us understand what is going on.

Those are the kinds of discoveries we need, ones that help us understand what is going on better.

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