Sunday, April 18, 2021

COVID & Climate

Dear Editor,

Dr. Jowett’s thought-provokoing juxtaposition of these two areas of public concern begs the question: are we nervous of these issues because we lack enough facts or is it about contradictory conclusions drawn from the facts that we do have?

Medicine and climate are areas of soft science where numbers can be used to suggest statistical correlations (e.g. CO2 and warming, or AstraZeneca and blood clots), but correlations by themselves are not enough to provide solid scientific proof of cause and effect; it might just be coincidence and we wouldn’t know it. In cases like this the scientist relies on mathematics-based theory to support the empirical evidence, but it is here that we have trouble, as neither medicine nor climate can be easily quantified.

Faced with this we turn to fact-based logic. In the case of Covid, if tests show that a vaccine is 80% effective in preventing infection and has only a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing a serious side-effect, then logic says go for it. If history tells us that periods of global warming have always gone before increases of atmospheric CO2, and there is a logical explanation for this (e.g. heat drives CO2 out of the oceans), then that should be explained before building computer models that assume the reverse.

If we want to make forecasts of what the climate might do, we need computer programs using hard logic rather than untested assumptions and, possibly, coincidental associations, or the results will be drastically wrong.

Norman Paterson Ph.D., P.Eng (ret’d), Clarksburg

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