I am Neuroscience PhD, a humanist, skeptic, feminist, avid reader, science enthusiast, woolly-liberal über-nerd, and, as of October 2015, father to the Lykketroll.

I moved from England to Norway in January 2012 and live in Lørenskog with my wife, the Lykketroll, and our two aging rescue cats, Socrates and Schrödinger. 

I am on paternity leave from the 4th of July to the 18th of November. 

The job I am on leave from is as an  Associate Professor and Head of Studies at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences. My background is in child neurodevelopment (my PhD looked into the relationship between fatty acids like omega-3 and cognitive development in young children) but I now work on a hodge-podge of things roughly within the field of Universal Design of ICT 50% of the time, the other 50% of my time I am Head of the 'General' Studies (Allmenn in Norwegian) Unit, which is comprised of around 24 academics within a range of fields, including mathematics, physics, Norwegian, and technology and leadership.

In between working and doing the usual dad things,  I like hiking and running in the beautiful Norwegian outdoors, cooking and playing video games. 

If I believed in souls I would say that mine was born in Norway. 

I plan to sleep when I'm dead.

Human-Etisk Forbund Open Meeting: Weaknesses and Strengths in the Climate Debate

On Wednesday the 25th  of January I attended the talk Åpent møte: Svakheter og styrker i klimadebatten (Open Meeting: Weaknesses and Strengths in the Climate Debate) given at the Humanismens Hus by Pål Prestrud, director of CICERO, the Centre for Climate Research at the University of Oslo.

It was my first time at a Human-Etisk Forbund (HEF) open meeting and I had no idea what to expect. My plan was just to turn up, hopefully make some friends, learn a little more about climate change given that I am woefully uninformed, and practice my Norwegian a little, too.

The talk was attended by about fifty people, most of them of that age or older. By my reckoning, it's no exaggeration to say that I was the youngest there by about fifteen, twenty years. Age was absolutely not a barrier though, and after a few furtive glances I was making small talk with a couple of people and settling into my new 'spiritual' home.

I have done my very best to make sure that my write-up of the talk is accurate, but my note-taking was pushed to the limit by my less than fluent Norwegian. I really wish I could have taken better notes, especially so I could post things like links to the sources cited, but it was already too much to follow the talk in Norwegian as it was – sorry folks! Any corrections and feedback are, of course, very welcome!

The talk started with some general background information and references to Royal Society, AAAS and G8 reports stressing the strength, validity and consensus of research showing the contribution of human activities to global warming and climate change. Pål avoided preaching to the converted, however, by quickly moving on to how and why the idea that it's a 'debate' even arises.

Photo Credit:

http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/environment/ig/Environment-Cartoons/Global-Warming-Myth.htm

It was refreshing that Pål was not afraid to discuss academic papers in depth or show and dissect some pretty complicated graphs displaying various tren

ds in 

CO

2

 levels, g

lobal temperatures and the like.

Access to raw, unfiltered data is a privilege that few members of the general public get to have (or might even want), but you can find lots of climate science data at places like the excellent

http://www.climate4you.com

. The graph on the left, for example, is a superimposed plot of five global monthly temperature estimates.

Visualising raw data helps make the problem more tangible; a picture is worth a thousand words and all that. The importance of seeing raw data was emphasised by Pål through discussion of a graph, presented earlier this year at a climate science meeting in Oslo, that reported to show a negative correlation between 

CO

2

 and global temperature (contrary to the scientific consensus of a positive relationship), but that on closer inspection, and taking into account inherent noise in the data, showed nothing of the sort (again, I'm really sorry I don't have a link to it – I'll try to hunt it down and post it up if I can). The data is what it is, but the point is that our general understanding of climate change is made more complicated than it already is by people who should know better muddying the waters with spurious interpretations.

Coincidentally, I was catching up on a backlog of

Skeptics Guide to the Universe

podcasts and happened to listen to

Eugenie Scott

of the National Center for Science Education (

NCSE

) talk about the NCSE recently having to expand their interests to include climate science (their principal focus used to be defending the teaching of evolution) given the dire consequences of man-made

climate change denialism

on public understanding and practices. You can download the whole podcast

here

, where Eugenie is on from around 37 minutes. The parallels that are drawn between the tactics used to oppose the teaching of evolution and that of climate change science in the States makes for a thought-provoking, and not a little frightening, listen.

Pål, like Eugenie, summarised three well-recognised ideological barriers that lead people to deny the role of human activity in global warming: economic barriers, national politics and fear of Big Government (which is something that both Eugenie and Pål stressed was a major problem in the States, where any regulation by the state is taken a direct impingement on individual freedoms). Also touched on was the power of academic 'scandals' to completely overshadow scientific consensus in the public consciousness. The media furor over '

Climategate

' was mentioned as an example of how public confidence in climate science was affected, leading to things like reports of 

decreases in support for tackling climate change

.

This excellent cartoon summarising the situation is from 

http://www.goingonabearhunt.com/2010/02/209/

Given that the talk was in Norwegian, some of the witty asides were lost on me (and he must have been witty as their were quite a few chuckles), but Pål deserves a great deal of credit for giving a fascinating, complicated talk in such a an uncomplicated way that a non-native Norwegian speaker could not only follow but also learn a lot from.

I'm gutted that I won't be able to make the next talk at the Humanismens Hus on

Konsparanoia

 (conspiracy theories), but I will definitely be going to as many of these talks as possible.

Book review: How We Are Hungry by Dave Eggers

A quick update on my new life in Norway