Ogmius Newsletter

Recent Publications

Dilling, L., 2007. A call to global action, Chemistry & Industry, 9 April.

Excerpt:  The documentary on global warming featuring former US vice-president Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth, was a box office hit, at least by documentary film standards. Scientists lauded its accuracy, and praised Gore for elevating awareness of an issue that they feel has not yet reached a tipping point of public action in the US. I have seen the movie three times, and agree that it uses science to make a compelling case. But, I am among the ‘choir’.  But what about those who do not see the issue as urgent? Like Gore, many scientists believe that if the public could just be convinced of the science, they would take action. But, information by itself is not enough. And, because of this, the temptation is often there to emphasise dire, scary consequences to get attention.

This might get notice, but it does not necessarily result in effective action. Fear, especially of a global scale problem, is often just as likely to result in denial, apathy, despair and resignation as it is to result in feelings that we should ‘do something’… Read more.

Pielke, Jr., R. A., 2007. When the numbers don’t add up. Book review of Useless Arithmetic: Why Environmental Scientists Can’t Predict the Future by Orrin Pilkey & Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, Nature, Vol 447, pp. 35-36, May 3.

Excerpt:  The central thesis of Useless Arithmetic, by the father-and-daughter team of Orrin Pilkey and Linda Pilkey-Jarvis, is “the virtual impossibility of accurate quantitative modelling to predict the outcome of natural processes on the Earth’s surface”. This is sure to cause cognitive dissonance among many readers — it simply does not seem to accord with our lived experience.

As I write this review, I’m sitting on an aircraft safely crossing the United States.

The plane was created with quantitative aeronautical engineering design models, its flight path dictated by quantitative routing models, and the snowy weather I experienced at takeoff was predicted by quantitative weather forecasting models. Such experiences in successfully predicting and managing natural processes would seem to indicate that without mathematical models our twenty-first-century lives would simply be impossible. What could have influenced the authors to make claims so strongly contradicted by experience?… Read more.