Challenging the dogmas (more dogmas...)
Climate Change, or not - The politically correct storm driving Climate Change is still THE dominant funding source for scientists and policymakers in our department (and to a lesser extent Environment Canada, and "even lesser" at Industry Canada), so the "poor mining sector" of NRCan is trying to pry loose some funding from our rich Energy and Geological cousins in the same department, with extremely limited success.
However, in spite of the propaganda spewing out of the environmentalists, the UN and national governments' "communications" shops, policy groups, and research labs, it seems to me that it is still a very open question as to the quantification of anthropogenic effects on the natural variability in climate. The good news is that countervailing opinions to the "Climate Change Doctrine" are now surfacing more in the media and being heard (after almost being stifled for some time by Official Science, the media and popular beliefs). Even so, some scientists are apparently still afraid of expressing an opposing viewpoint, and many others are quite happy simply to go with the trend and get the funding (our lab sure needs it). The worst-case politically-correct estimates of the "anthropogenic Greenhouse effect" are "maybe" 3 to 6 times the "natural climate variability" over the last 800 years, and similar to swings on the 10,000 or 500 million year scale. However, many of the politically-correct estimates do not seem to be self-consistent (such as the "hockey stick" graph from Mann etc that was one of the key underpinnings of Kyoto). In other words, yes the climate is changing – but it may not be changing much more than it always has and always will. Moreover, more and more analysis cast a great pall of suspicion over the politically-correct model forecasts – but I haven't yet personally looked at the details of how the models may have been mis-applied and mis-interpreted.
In any case, anthropogenic effects or not, the natural swings apparently can be large and fast enough to justify continued studies of the climate (processes and models for what has happened and what is happening) and ways for us to adapt to it. Given the very serious loss of credibility of the whole Climate Change community (that's my opinion), it is not appropriate to spend huge amounts of money on reducing GHGs – consider that even Kyoto would not have had any substantial effect on GHG levels in 100 years time. Let's go for the "easy" reductions to start with (like, wear a sweater and turn your thermostat WAAYYY down., take the bus, and do winter camping for your January-through-March vacations to show if you are really serious <joke>), and wait for more clear information before we cause more damage than good with extreme actions. Nuclear power is ONE obvious key solution if we were really serious about climate change (or even if we don't even care about climate change), but politically correct thinking (but technically/ environmentally/ ?safetily? incompetent thinking) leaves it totally out of the solution set of the official programs. Emotion has almost totally displaced rational thinking on these issues. Garbage... but still good garbage if our lab can get more money <grin>. (Dec03 Xmas letter)
Cheats, Parasites, and Fools - As for a 25 cent theory, it seems to me that societies and organisations must be robust with respect to many things, but three simple basic requirements are often taken for granted or glossed over for politically-correct reasons (in increasing order of importance) [Howell]:
cheating theory – like theft, fraud, cutting corners. Normally this is really well taken care of, because people are so sensitive to, and critical of, it. But if cheats aren't nailed to the wall, they dominate.
parasitic behaviour – is far more costly than cheating. The problem is that it "flies under the radar screen" of human compassion, politically-correct action, motherhood and apple pie. (Moreover it is closely related another of my 25 cent theory of the socially negative effects of over-insurance, which promote the behaviours they seek to protect against, and which are totally underappreciated by our society. theft, health, etc... maybe some other year I'll write about that).
stupidity - by far the most costly of the three, and much more difficult to "fix". Unfortunately, the corollary is that we're all stupid – nobody can be well-informed and expert across all of the issues that we face. In spite of this, it's amazing how well our systems actually work! (fault tolerance to the extreme! - and this leads into behaviour-based programming and ultimately Mindcode ) (Dec03 Xmas letter)