Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The amateur professional

I've been able to become far more educated since getting the internet, and basically like having access to all the libraries in the world, and being able to learn far more in the subjects of interest indefinitely. And believe me, I can show quite definitively that no one needs to be qualified in most areas to follow any of them, they just wouldn't be employed in them. But 100 plus years ago it was different. Few professionals studied at college but did articles or apprenticeships. They watched the existing professionals and gradually allowed to try more and more themselves until the time was up and they qualified. Not an element of examination as far as I know. But they carried on, in fact professions like accountancy, dentistry and medicine were practiced by many people possibly into living memory if learnt early enough.

So the point is there is more than one way to learn a subject, and if anyone with a little help now and then wants to teach themselves then the actual reliance comes from the source material plus the possibility of a mentor to explain problems directly. You may not be able to become a professional directly but can guarantee you will be able to understand a good deal of what they say. That is like an amateur version, not qualified or able to practice, but fully able to follow the work and carry out some of the basics, a bit like Patrick Moore, considered one of the greatest astronomers of the time, and totally unqualified. He even became the president of the British Astronomical Association, hardly a soft profession either.

Climate is pretty much on a par. Like driving a car we don't need to know the details under the bonnet besides self preservation for breakdowns, but know what all the buttons do. You don't need to know the bios level to operate a computer when it goes wrong to do many fixes, it's just the programming levels few people can do without proper training. Climate does not need an ability to do the equations required, just to understand the results. They are free to produce the data and work out where the atmosphere collects certain gases, how much heat they react to (they don't hold it in, they heat up and absorb it temporarily) and why our planet is 33C above the temperature of space solely due to the sun's heat. Now even a primary school pupil can follow if you introduce a gas into the atmosphere at a few hundred parts per million then unless it has almost explosive properties (compare to methane which is one of the most absorbent gases to rising heat from the surface) as the existing qualities are known then adding a little more is a massive median point of what a reasonable person would expect to happen, 11 year olds included.

11 year olds can still keep up, as it's easy to see through tricks at that age as you don't tend to trust others as much as haven't developed such a mystical view of professionals and much happier to trust their own judgement. So if professor sir doctor Albert Gore (dammit, he's not a scientist!) tells you unlike the first 260ppm the second will raise the water from the ocean and form a warm blanket to melt the atmosphere and kill all the bears many children and adults will cautiously say (or should) well it hasn't happened before, why don't we wait and see. That is not just the reasonable conclusion, but the only scientific one.

I would invite 7 and 8 year olds to the party now. IF you increase the CO2 by 50% and temperature then rises by under a degree, then what is the conclusion? I'll hand that over to the audience.

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