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  • Largest climate-change experiment in the world

    by Sunny
    21st February, 2006 at 1:13 am    

    BBC Four will broadcast a series of programmes about climate change starting tonight at 7pm, along with the largest climate experiment in the world. Like SETI@home, they hope to use thousands of computers around the world to compute data and tell more about how the climate is changing.

    More on the experiment here. Download and start helping folks!

                  Post to

    Filed in: Environmentalism,The World

    15 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. Sunny — on 21st February, 2006 at 3:19 am  

      The Asian angle is… *cough* that one of the producers of the programme is Asian.


    2. Chris — on 21st February, 2006 at 8:43 am  

      The BBC is becoming even more obsessed with “climate change” than the Independent.

      Did anyone spot the Intelligence Squared debate featuring sceptical Bjorn Lomborg?

      Big swing towards his viewpoint in the vote at the end of the debate.

      Mind you, debating against Michael “property empire” Meacher is probably like shooting fish in a barrel…

    3. Nush — on 21st February, 2006 at 10:40 am  

      I am taking part in this experiment, I guess its the scientist in me coming out!

      As for the issue, The Climate, is to me a massive issue that needs to take priority.

      so come on folks, if you care about the planet at all at least turn the taps off when brushing your teeth…yaDDA yadda…you have had the lectures before.

    4. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 11:37 am  

      Chris, I like the Indy but by God they are obsessed aren’t they? Millions dead in [insert tragedy] and they lead with GLOBAL WARMING IS LIKE TOTALLY BAD DUDE on their front page.

      It’s funny, but I can at least appreciate their sentiments - I am (very) green and I wish more people were.

      j0nz will now lambast me for saying I like them. But I do, they have some good writing (OK, not Johann Hari), good international news, quite a balanced perspective and they’re not as fucking annoying as the Grauniad.

    5. Chris — on 21st February, 2006 at 11:53 am  

      Crikey - the hubris / hype of this “experiment”.

      “…we can carry out the largest climate experiment ever, and work out what is really going to happen to our climate over the next 50 years. ”

      Well it does rather depend on the underlying assumptions doesn’t it….?

    6. Francis Sedgemore — on 21st February, 2006 at 1:57 pm  

      Well it does rather depend on the underlying assumptions doesn’t it….? [Chris]

      And science progresses through testing assumptions. One of the values of running self-contained climate models on many, many computers is to do the calculations using different boundary conditions (i.e., starting inputs) and physical assumptions. The results won’t necessarily reflect reality, but they should help us narrow down on the physics at work in climate change, and point us in the right direction in terms of what to look for in the data, as we collect them. Theory and experiment feed into each other. It’s called science, and the project is good science.

      As for Bjørn Lomborg, I’m on record as defending him against Tom Burke and his headline-grabbing environmentalist friends, but in case readers here don’t know the details, I should point out that Lomborg is not a climate change denier, or even a sceptic when it comes to the science. He is sceptical about some of the proposals that the environment lobby have put forward to deal with the problem, and is opposed to the Kyoto Protocol. I think he’s dead right on the latter (it will have the same level of effect as pissing in the ocean), and partly correct when it comes to what our economic priorities should be in an era of climate change.

      Lomborg et al. are of the opinion that fighting climate change is largely a waste of time, and that we should instead turn our attention to ameliorating its effects. And so we should, but Lomborg is not a scientist, and it doesn’t seem to have got through to him that climate change due to our pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere could lead to a runaway greenhouse effect. That is, the positive feedback that we already see at work in the system could get totally out of control, with the end result being a planet unfit for human life. We do need to act against climate change, radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are needed, and if that impacts negatively on “economic growth”, so be it.

      Adapting to climate change is also necessary, and that’s where the environmental economics propounded by Lomborg et al. have a valuable part to play. Environmentalists often don’t like it, but Lomborg is right to talk money and risk. How much is a human life worth? Well, we don’t know for sure, but it is calculable, and we shouldn’t shy away from doing the necessary arithmetic.

      One challenge I would like to set the environmental economists is this: how do we deal with the massive social upheaval that would ensue if, for example, a landmass such as Bangladesh became uninhabitable owing to rising sea levels? We’ll need a lot more than economics to deal with that kind of scenario!

    7. sonia — on 21st February, 2006 at 2:24 pm  

      does everything have to have an asian angle? isn’t that somewhat self-obsessed.

      anyhow, it might be useful if there was a little bit more on distributed computing in the post.

      i think its a great idea and very interesting!

      and yeah.. someone needs to be ‘obsessing’ with climate change.

    8. sonia — on 21st February, 2006 at 2:31 pm  

      and if people aren’t concerned with bangladesh then think closer to home - e.g. the east of england, or London - what happens if/when the thames barrier doesn’t work anymore…

    9. sonia — on 21st February, 2006 at 2:33 pm  

      of course we know what will happen - it will be on the news for about a week and then everybody else ( apart from x y z place affected) will forget about it.

      like new orleans…so does anyone know what’s happening to mardi gras this year?

    10. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 2:44 pm  

      Yeah, it’s become a FEMA piss-take festival. I like the people of New Orleans, they have a lot of heart. They’re pretty brutal in their criticism of FEMA and the gov’t.

      I don’t think this will be in the news much - it was first announced months ago.

    11. Tesh — on 21st February, 2006 at 2:50 pm  

      I too am part of this important study! Many organisations cannot afford supercomputers or computers powerful enough to calculate such models - Anyone with a computer should be part of distributed computing, especially something this important -

      But remember - don’t leave your computer on for the sake of running this project that kind of defeats the object.

    12. sonia — on 21st February, 2006 at 2:56 pm  

      aha! thanks Rohin.. it had been on my mind..

    13. Sunny — on 21st February, 2006 at 3:46 pm  

      I love distributed computing too…. there are untold untapped solutions to come from that…

      Sonia - everything doesn’t have to have an Asian angle, I was just taking the piss…. though initially I did harass my writers to try and stick to an Asian angle on stories, I’m not really enforcing that now.

      Back to the issue… Francis you make some interesting points.

      As an economist I would say the answer has to lie in a mixture of economics and govt regulation… however economics would have done the job long time ago if it wasn’t for the fact that many of the negative externalities associated with industrial production these days are not counted as part of the product cost.

      if the government forced companies to pay for that cost, there wouldn’t be environmental problems.

      BTW, I like Johann Hari thanks :P
      and I love the fact that the Indy has always been leading on environmental issues and the others are only slowly catching up and taking notice.

    14. Rohin — on 21st February, 2006 at 4:58 pm  

      I like a lot Hari has written - some stuff in his archive section on his personal blog/site is really great. But so often I find him irritating.

      Francis, I demand you change your name. At school we were known by our surnames, so reading “Francis you make interesting points” or anything similar is rather confusing to me. Change it now! By deed poll!

    15. ziz — on 24th February, 2006 at 12:02 am  

      “Well it does rather depend on the underlying assumptions doesn’t it….?” spot on Chris. … and not only that the range for each parameter.

      Totally pointless exercise - we cannot be certain of all the factors - all models leave out clouds (e.g because they are not understood).

      A Monte Carlo method too far… anybody who takes part is wasting their electricity - One PC running this will consume something like 300 Watts per hour - multiply that by 20K for 2 years. If it doesn’t warm the globe it will keep your bedroom well toasted.

      Pensions are multi variant - the world and his wife swallowed the actuarial models … happily and then ka fucking blam the models don’t work any more.

      Ah well people lived longer , better medecine etc., precisely we don’t know the parameters on the basic assumptions.

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