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Posts Tagged ‘Acidic Oceans’

Climate Change: The Oceans Response

Mon ,22/05/2017

This guest article is a PowerPoint presentation given by Dr. Rick Cowlishaw in April at the Citizens’ Climate Education meeting in Wichita. Dr. Cowlishaw is Professor of Biology at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. He describes how the warming oceans, altered ocean currents, sea level rise, and ocean acidification are affecting the oceans, marine life, and eventually us.

Though you may miss some things without Dr. Cowlishaw’s guidance, the slides are mostly self-explanatory. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides –  you may  download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer. Please click on the link below to start the program.

Climate Change_The Oceans Response 

We greatly appreciate the work that Dr. Cowlishaw put into the presentation, and for his permission to post it here.

J.C. Moore


Thermodynamics Says There Is No "Hiatus "in Global Warming

Tue ,14/07/2015

During the 2008 Presidential Election,  John McCain proposed a pragmatic national energy policy based upon good stewardship, good science, and reasonableness. George Will attacked his proposal, claiming that “global temperatures have not risen in a decade”. He claimed the hottest year on record was 1998 and no year since has been hotter. His argument was simple, easily understood, and very wrong. While 1998 was an unusually hot year, NASA’s data shows that 2005 was warmer.

  • George Will’s claim resonated with those who wish to deny that the Earth is warming, so they extended the statement to “the Earth hasn’t warmed in 12 years”, 15 years, and finally 17 years – so far. Apparently truthfulness is not a criteria, as 2005, 2010, 2014, were warmer than 1998. Now they claim the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has confirmed their deception. That’s not right, either.
  • The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report  concluded that the global surface temperature “has shown a much smaller increasing linear trend over the past 15 years [1998-2012] than over the past 30 to 60 years.” The apparent slowdown was termed a “hiatus” and cheered by the Skeptics, although a “smaller increasing linear trend” is not a hiatus. The apparent slowdown intrigued the climate scientists, who immediately set about trying to discover where the energy went.
  • Scientist knew the energy had to go somewhere  because of the First Law of Thermodynamics, which says that energy is conserved. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was  still rising and, because of the greenhouse effect, the Earth was still absorbing more energy that it emitted. According to the conservation of energy, that extra energy has to go somewhere in the environment, and whether it warms the air, the land,  the oceans, melts ice, or evaporates water – the Earth was storing the energy somewhere. Claiming that “global warming has paused”, is badly misleading as the amount of energy in the Earth’s systems was still increasing. To claim a pause is to claim that the Law of Conservation of Energy is invalid. And, that is an extraordinary claim, requiring extraordinary proof. No Skeptic was up to that task.
  • What followed was a flurry of research by climate scientists,  trying to figure out where the energy had gone. It turned out that it really hadn’t gone  anywhere, because the missing heat has been there all along. It was an artifact from how the ocean temperatures were measured.
  • According to a recent NBC news report,”Global warming has not stopped or even slowed in the past 18 years, according to a new federal study that rebuts doubters who’ve claimed that that heating trends have paused. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration readjusted thousands of weather data points to account for different measuring techniques through the decades.”
  • Tom Karl, director of the National Centers for Environmental Information,  is the lead author of the  study published in the journal Science. He explained the discrepancy came from a change in how ocean temperatures were measured. “Global ocean temperatures are estimated both by thousands of commercial ships, which record the temperature of the water entering their engines and by thousands of buoys. The buoys tend to get cooler temperature readings than the ships, likely because ships’ engines warm the water. Meanwhile, in recent years, buoys have become increasingly common.”  The result, Karl says, is that the oceans did not appearing to be warming as much because more buoys are now being used instead of ships. So Karl’s team adjusted the buoy data to make them line up with the ship data. The corrected data,  in the graph below, shows that since 1998, the rate of warming is about the same as it has been since 1950: about two-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit per decade.



The Skeptics, of course, were not happy that the missing heat had been discovered and their ” hiatus” was exposed as a myth. So, they have now gone back to their familiar theme, that “scientists adjust the data to get what they want.” Saying that is certainly easier than disproving The First Law of Thermodynamics.

(C) 2015 – J.C. Moore

PowerPoint Presentation: The Science of Climate Change

Tue ,14/07/2015
This was taken from Apollo 11 as the Earth rose over the disc of the Moon.

This was taken from Apollo 11 as the Earth rose over the disc of the Moon.




2015x-(3) The-Science-of-Climate-Change with notes

Please click on the link above. You will need a PowerPoint program to view the slides – or you may  download a free viewer here. The slides will display as set in your viewer. Explanations of the slides are in the notes section.

Climate Change: A Letter to Congressman Lucas

Sat ,07/12/2013

This is a letter I sent to Congressman Frank Lucas (R – OK) on August 5, 2013. I asked him at his town hall meeting on November 7, 2013 if he had received it, and he could not recall it. It was a 15 page letter which contained anecdotal evidence plus the latest evidence from climate research in full color pictures and graphs. In case he misplaced it, I have reproduced the letter here in hopes he might run across it while looking for my write-up on his town hall meeting. It would seem that this information would be of vital interest to him as he is Chairperson of the Agriculture Committee, charged with the security of our food supply. 


Dear Congressman Lucas,

I’m sure you’re aware of the Pearson drought index which shows that most of Oklahoma, much of the Southwest United States, and much of the Earth’s land area where food is grown  is under moderate to severe drought conditions. It seems that lately the coastal areas of continents have been receiving more rainfall while the interiors have been experiencing more drought. I’ve lived in Oklahoma most of my 70 years and in my recollection, it seems that we are now seeing heavier rains in the spring and longer and more frequent droughts in the summer.

  My family has lived in Oklahoma since statehood and I have a number of anecdotes about how the climate is changing. Our Thanksgiving family photo in 1998 was taken in front of one of my Dad’s apple trees, which still had green leaves. He remarked at the time that he had never seen frost come so late, and he was 88 at the time. A few years ago our plant hardiness gardening zone was changed from a 6 to a 7, acknowledging later frosts and warmer winters. Armadillos are now abundant in Oklahoma, though there were none here when I was growing up.

 Anecdotes do not serve as proof, but they do raise questions about what the theories and evidence is saying. The greenhouse gas theory is solidly based upon the laws of physics. Though greenhouse gases comprise only 1 to 3% of the atmosphere, depending on the humidity, they are responsible for the Earth being about 33°C warmer than its would be without them. It seems reasonable that an increase in the greenhouse gases would cause the Earth to warm. Though water is by far the most abundant greenhouse gas, its concentration in the air is limited by its saturated vapor pressure. Carbon dioxide, though less abundant, absorbs strongly in the infrared and is not restricted in concentration as water is. Studies of the ice ages have identified carbon dioxide and changing solar irradiance as being the main factors in determining the Earth’s temperature.

 We are now putting about 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year and measurements show that the concentration in the air is increasing. The increasing partial pressure of CO2 is causing more to dissolve in the oceans, decreasing their pH by about 0.1 pH unit.  That doesn’t sound like much, but the oceans are a carbonate buffer system and that translates into the oceans now being more than 20% acidic, threatening, shellfish, corals, and the plankton which convert much of the ocean’s carbon dioxide back to oxygen.

Biologists have observed that some species are migrating northward and to higher altitudes. There is evidence that glaciers are receding and that ice at the poles is declining. The declining extent of sea ice in the Arctic seems to be affecting the jet stream, which greatly affects our weather patterns. Though it is not possible to prove that global warming is the cause of any one weather event, it likely has an effect on most of the weather events that do occur, since the amount of energy and moisture in the air are the main determinants in weather events.

 There are always uncertainties in scientific measurements, and even greater uncertainties in predictions about the future. It is always possible to dispute any one piece of evidence based upon those uncertainties, but when a large number of independent measurements lead to a similar conclusion, the confidence level increases – but never reaches 100%.  I hope you will examine the evidence presented in the rest of this letter and agree that the preponderance of the evidence shows that we should take some action to address climate change.

 Republicans have a history of being strong advocates for science, environmental responsibility, and sound fiscal policy. Nixon created the EPA, Reagan signed the Montréal protocol limiting fluorocarbons and used cap-and-trade to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blowing into Canada, and archconservative Barry Goldwater once said that, ” The persistent myth that conservation and environmental protection are liberal causes continues to be perpetuated by the media, liberals and many self-professed ‘conservatives’. The truth is that conservation and environmental stewardship are core conservative values”.

 I hope you will examine the evidence presented in the rest of this letter and consider taking a leadership role in addressing the climate change issue in a manner that is consistent with Republican principles. In many ways, the world’s food supply is at risk.

The rest of the letter contained the images and descriptions from this article: http://jcmooreonline.com/2011/08/31/bits-and-pieces-10-global-warming-in-pictures/.

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

C-SPAN Video: Sen. Bernie Sanders Quotes This Website in Debate with Sen. Inhofe

Mon ,06/08/2012

Some time ago, the author posted a review of Sen. Inhofe’s book,” The Greatest Hoax” and the Tulsa World published a shorter version of the review. Recently, Sen. Bernie Sanders used quotes from the book review in a Senate debate with Sen. Inhofe. You may find a C-SPAN clip of Bernie Sanders comments below:

Recent research has linked the heat waves, droughts and wildfires we have been experiencing to climate change. It is imperative that Congress take action to mitigate the damage we are doing to the environment. Please contact your representatives about this issue.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

Bits and pieces 10: Global Warming in Pictures

Wed ,31/08/2011

Science is about using observation and reason to understand the physical world. Some people are suspicious of computer models and theories; so here is some of the the basic data in pictures and graphs.

Ice Ages: In the past, the Earth’s temperature has varied from the Ice Ages to the much warmer temperatures of the interglacial periods.  Ice core data gives a good picture of what has happened to the Earth’s temperature in the last half million years, as shown by the blue line. The changing temperatures are attributed to the  Milankovitch cycles,  small variations in the Earth’s orbit that cause the Earth to receive different amounts of sunlight. The Earth becomes slowly warmer during the periods where the solar energy increases. As the Earth begins to be warmed by sunlight, CO2 becomes less soluble in the ocean and the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere increases, which further amplifies the warming since CO2 is a greenhouse gas.  The CO2 did not rise above 300 ppm in any of the the warmer interglacial periods but it is now 398 ppm and rising.



  CO2: Man is now putting about 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. About half of it dissolves in the ocean, making them 20% more acidic, and the rest increases the concentration in the air.


Temperature: CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, and NASA’s graph shows how its increase is changing the Earth’s temperature:

.                            NASA GISS Data.


The Sun: The current global warming is often wrongly attributed to an increase in intensity of the sun. The sunspot activity does not show up above the noise in the temperature record above – and the solar irradiance increased slightly until 1960 and has declined slightly since then.


Arctic Ice: Many of the changes in the Earth are subtle but this NASA picture clearly shows  how the Earth is changing:



Arctic ice:  The next two graphs show quantitatively how both the extent and the volume of the Arctic ice is changing.



Arctic ice volume at each years minimum.


Antarctica: Research by Steig and by O’Donnell  show that Antarctica is warming. The warmer oceans result in more snowfall which increases the inland glacier mass, but the erosion of ice by the warmer oceans is causing an overall loss of ice mass.


Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.

Antarctic ice mass from GRACE satellite data.



Greenland: The Greenland ice sheets are also beginning to decline.


Ocean Level Rise: The melting ice sheets, melting glaciers, and thermal expansion are causing the oceans to rise by about 3 mm per year which, though it seems small, amounts to an increase in ocean volume of 1190 cubic kilometers/yr.


Rise in Sea Level.


Severe Weather: Warmer temperatures increase both the rate of evaporation and the energy and moisture in the air. This has doubled the incidence of severe weather, floods, droughts, and wildfires.


Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.

Permission Courtesy of Munich Re.



Economic Costs: Large insurance companies such as Suisse Re now consider global warming a risk factor as there has been a fivefold increase in billion-dollar weather events in the last 30 years.



Droughts: The Palmer Drought Index below includes most of the continental areas used for food production. Zero represents average rainfall and -4 represents extreme drought. Since 1980, drought conditions have grown worse worldwide, and no one disputes the effect of droughts on food production.


Food Production: The increasing CO2, temperatures, and droughts are expected to decrease food production worldwide.
Extreme Temperatures: Climate scientists now have enough data and computing power to estimate the probability of extreme weather events. The figure below, from a paper by  Hansen et. al.,shows how the distributuion of temperature have varied over the past 60 years. Extremely hot temperatures, those over 3 standard deviations from the mean,  are now over 20 times as probable as for the 1950 – 1980 period and 10 times as probable as for the 1980 – 2010 average.  That means that extreme temperatures that affected less than 1% of the landmass in 1980, now affect almost 10% of the landmass annually.

Note : This was posted on 08/31/2011 and  updated on 04/03/2012,08/11/2012, and o2/12/2013.

(c) 2011  J.C. Moore

The Problem with Coal and Politicians

Thu ,17/03/2011

The EPA has been charged with reducing the pollutants released into the environment, but they are meeting opposition from power companies, politicians, and people who want cheap energy, though other people  and the environment may suffer the consequences.

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking a 95 percent reduction in emissions at three of Oklahoma’s coal-fired power plants. This has brought howls from the utility companies and from Oklahoma’s politicians. Utility companies claim that installing scrubbers or converting to natural gas will cost them billions of dollars and drive the rates for electricity up by 10 to 12%. The utility companies have defined the costs for the plant conversions or upgrades in the worst possible terms, without considering the long-term savings.  Conversion to natural gas would eliminate the problem of  coal combustion products such as acidic gases, mercury vapor, fly ash, and bottom ash. Although coal is cheaper than other fuels, it delivers less energy per unit of CO2 produced. Coal  produces 314 kJ/mole while natural gas produces 890 kJ/mole, almost 3 times that of coal. Considering Oklahoma’s abundant supplies of natural gas, it would make sense for Oklahoma to begin switching power plants to natural gas.

The power companies and the politicians have tried to define the problem as the cost of the  “elimination of haze”, as if there were no other environmental damage done by burning coal. That is because the elimination of haze under the Clean Air Act is all the EPA is presently empowered to do. Coal is 65 to 95 % carbon. What about the rest? Coal contains small amounts of mercury, chromium, lead, cadmium, arsenic, sulfur, particulates, and radioactive isotopes. Man burns 6 billion tons of coal each year, releasing millions of tons of pollutants into the air and leaving several hundred million tons behind in the coal ash. Some pollutants eventually find their way into the water, the food chain, and into us. Oklahoma has adopted limits on fish consumption because of high levels of mercury. For comparison, mercury is 100 times as toxic as cyanide, arsenic is 20 times as toxic, and chromium(VI) is 4 times as toxic. These three are also are carcinogenic and accumulate in tissue. Even exposure below the allowed levels increases the chance of cancer over time. The small town of Bokoshe, Oklahoma is located near an unregulated fly ash disposal site. The incidence of cancer among the residents of the town is extraordinarily high, though the power company claims there is no link between that and their fly ash.

The sulfur and nitrogen oxides released by coal combustion harm plants and produce acid rain. A recent article headlined “Pecan growers say coal-fired plant killing trees” described the plight of orchards downwind from a power plant with inadequate pollution controls. One farmer said his pecan crop dropped over the years from 200,000 to 8,000 pounds. The combustion of coal  also releases 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. Because  CO2 in 3water is an acidic, the oceans have become over 20% more acidic in the last century. That has led to the destruction of coral reefs and endangered crustaceans and the phytoplankton that convert CO2 to oxygen. Without phytoplankton, life in the oceans would be impossible. The concentration of CO2 in the air has increased 38% as well.  As a potent greenhouse gas, it is causing the Earth to warm, glaciers and polar ice to melt, and the climate to change in ways we will not always like. The Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, ordered the EPA to make a determination as to whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant. The EPA has found, based on the best scientific evidence, that CO2 is an endangerment to public health and has moved forward to regulate it.

Oklahoma’s politicians, such as Sen. Jim Inhofe and  Congressman Dan Boren, are working on a solution- for the power companies benefit. They want to strip the  EPA of  its power to regulate pollution.  They also claim it is a states rights issue, and that the EPA has no business regulating Oklahoma industries. However, the pollution generated by Oklahoma’s power plants does not stay within its borders, nor is all the pollution in Oklahoma from Oklahoma sources. Much of it blows up from Texas, the state with the highest number of power plants out of compliance. Acidic gases released by coal combustion, and even mercury vapor, can travel for thousands of miles before being brought to Earth by precipitation, and much of the CO2 will stay in the air for centuries. Regulation of carbon emissions needs to be done on a national and even international level. It is a bad idea to focus on short term economic costs while ignoring the environmental costs, such as polluting the Earth and letting rural Oklahoma become a dumping ground for the power companies’ waste.

(C) 2011 J.C. Moore

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Should the EPA Limit Carbon Emissions?

Wed ,29/12/2010

The U.S. Republican leaders are blocking climate legislation, leaving the EPA in the position of having to regulate carbon emissions. Many Republicans in Congress are unhappy with the EPA and are now claiming the EPA regulation of CO2 is a “power grab”.

Progress has been limited at the climate meetings in Copenhagen and in Cancun because the U.S. has not acted to restrict its carbon emissions. The U.S. is second to China  in emissions but emits six times as much CO2 on a per capita basis. If the U.S. is not willing to reduce its emissions, why should other countries?  The U.S. came very close to passing cap-an-trade but it failed when John McCain (R Az) backed out of the deal because of a challenge from a far right candidate in the last election. Reducing CO2 emissions has been cast as a liberal issue and many conservatives oppose it for that reason. The wins by Republicans in the last election almost insure that action on a responsible policy will be delayed by at least two years. That is a shame as many Republicans in the past have been strong supporters of the environmental issues.

The Republican leadership adopted opposition to environmental regulations as a campaign strategy. They sent out propaganda based on slick reports produced by conservative think tanks, rather than science, and they inflated the cost of environmental legislation by a factor of twenty – while not mentioning any of the benefits. The propaganda has been passed along to voters in town hall meeting and press releases. The EPA has used science as a basis for its decisions and has moved to limit CO2 emissions as an air pollutant under existing regulations in the Clean Air Act. This has infuriated many Republicans anfd they have challenged the EPA’s right to do, calling it a “power grab”.

My Congressman,  Frank Lucas (R-OK), has spoken disparagingly of environmental regulations in his town hall meetings and in opinion pieces he has sent to the states major newspapers. He also writes a column that goes to many small town newspapers called “Frankly Speaking”. In his column, he has  labelled the EPA’s actions to limit carbon emissions as  “the EPA power grab” . That is hardly the case. The Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, found the Environmental Protection Agency could make a determination as to whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant. The EPA has found, based on the best scientific evidence, that CO2 is an endangerment to public health and has moved forward to regulate it.

If Congress had acted to develop a sound energy policy and to curb pollution, the  EPA would not be forced to act in the matter. Regulations passed to limit carbon emissions would fall mainly on the coal industry and would favor a shift in the short term to petroleum and natural gas, both abundant in Oklahoma. Many from the petroleum and gas industries originally supported the cap-and -trade bill. However, all the OK Republican Congressmen sat out the process and let the Democrats from coal producing states load up the cap-and-trade bill with perks for coal producing states. Some of  Oklahoma’s industrial leaders see that limiting carbon emissions could be favorable to the Oklahoma economy, but apparently, the elected representatives have not caught on yet.

And, it is not just about the CO2 or climate change. Along with the 30 billion tons of CO2 we put into the air annually are large amounts of mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates, and radioactive isotopes of radon. Those end up in the air, the water, and the food chain. We are now finding mercury in fish and some places, even in Oklahoma, have limits on consumption. The oceans are now 20% more acidic and economically important fisheries are threatened. Whether we cap pollution, tax it, or strictly regulate it – something must be done and soon. The EPA regulation is a stop gap meaure and the U.S. Congress needs to stop the politics and pass a sound energy policy and meaningful environmental regulations.

(C) 2010 J.C. Moore

George Will: The Earth Doesn't Care What We Do to It

Wed ,29/09/2010

And, of course, the Earth does not care if man becomes extinct.

George Wills latest excursion into climate science (1) was inspired by the American Scholar which had on the cover  “The Earth Doesn’t Care if You Drive a Hybrid” and  Robert B. Laughlin’s essay inside “What the Earth Knows.” (2) George Will likes to look at things in terms of geologic times as it obscures the damage man is doing to the Earth. He summarizes Laughlin’s article as:

“What humans do to, and ostensibly for, the earth does not matter in the long run, and the long run is what matters to the earth. We must, Laughlin says, think about the earth’s past in terms of geologic time.”

George Will is also afraid that environmental regulations will inconvenience him, so he loved the quote from the article:

“Buy a hybrid, turn off your air conditioner, unplug your refrigerator, yank your phone charger from the wall socket—such actions will leave the end result exactly the same.”

I can imagine Mr. Will beaming as he was able to quote  a Nobel Prize winning physicist, albeit in theoretical physics, who agreed with him. Yet, you might wonder, what will that “end result” be?

And, Laughlin says:

“Someday, all the fossil fuels that used to be in the ground will be burned. After that, in about a millennium, the earth will dissolve most of the resulting carbon dioxide into the oceans. But most models, even pessimistic ones, envision a thousand-year carbon dioxide pulse followed by glacially slow decay back to the pre-civilization situation.”

Oops! Wait. Do we want to return to “pre-civilization”? There must be more that Mr. Will missed.  Oh yes, Mr. Will would never quote this:

“Carbon dioxide from the human burning of fossil fuel is building up in the atmosphere at a frightening pace, enough to double the present concentration in a century. This buildup has the potential to raise average temperatures on the earth several degrees centigrade, enough to modify the weather and accelerate melting of the polar ice sheets. Governments around the world have become so alarmed at this prospect that they’ve taken significant, although ineffective, steps to slow the warming. “

Laughlin offers a reason for the ineffectiveness:

“Experts are little help in the constant struggle in this conversation to separate myth from reality, because they have the same difficulty, and routinely demonstrate it by talking past each other. Respected scientists warn of imminent energy shortages as geologic fuel supplies run out. Wall Street executives dismiss their predictions as myths and call for more drilling. Environmentalists describe the destruction to the earth from burning coal, oil, and natural gas. Economists ignore them and describe the danger to the earth of failing to burn coal, oil, and natural gas. “

He left out columnists like Mr. Will who help spread the myths and some of our politicians who  spread misinformation and  refuse to take timely action – while somehow finding time to take large donations from those who are profiting from the status quo.

Laughlin goes on:

”And the damage to the environment is exacerbated by the real problem, which is human population pressure generally – overharvesting, habitat destruction, pesticide abuse, species invasion, and so forth. Slowing man-made extinctions in a meaningful way would require drastically reducing the world’s human population. That is unlikely to happen”.

So, Robert Laughlin says that the Earth will likely get warmer, the oceans more acidic, and we will exhaust our fossil fuel supplies – and then the Earth will return to the equilibrium upset by man’s activities. Man’s effect will be but a mere blip in the geological history of the Earth. The Earth will not care if we return to pre-civilization or even if  man becomes extinct. The only lasting change we may leave in Geologic time may be the loss of the species we take with us. Still, shouldn’t we try to preserve civilization and as many species as we can? Especially, ours?

(c) 2010 J.C. Moore

(1) http://www.newsweek.com/2010/09/12/george-will-earth-doesn-t-care-what-is-done-to-it.html?gt1=43002

(2) http://www.theamericanscholar.org/what-the-earth-knows/

A New Tactic in the Climate Change Debate

Tue ,27/04/2010

The old tactic in the debate on climate change was denial. Some skeptics claimed that the Earth’s temperature was not rising while others claimed that any increase observed was not from man’s activities. However, the mounting scientific evidence from many fields of science can no longer be effectively denied. The latest IPCC report (1) shows that the Earth’s mean temperature is rising, that the temperature increase is changing the environment, and that the changes are caused by man’s activities. Scientists are concerned that politicians are not getting the message and every major scientific organization in the world has endorsed a statement concurring with the IPCC’s conclusion. Clearly, denial was no longer an effective option and a new tactic was needed by those profiting from the status quo.

The new tactic is being championed by Lord Nigel Lawson, a British politician who fought for years to keep British Parliament from supporting the Kyoto Treaty (2). His new book on the subject, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, admits global warming is occurring and that man is responsible. However, he claims that it is impossible to do anything about it, that to try would cost too much, and that a little global warming is actually a good thing. That might be true for those who live in damp, dreary England, but the book overlooks or minimizes many of the problems associated with climate change. Lord Lawson says that we shouldn’t worry as we and the Earth will adapt: “Over the past two-and-a-half-million years, a period during which the planet’s climate fluctuated substantially, remarkably few of the earth’s millions of plant and animal species became extinct. This applies not least, incidentally, to polar bears, which have been around for millennia, during which there is ample evidence that polar temperatures have varied considerably.”

The book is highly touted by some but it blithely ignores the work of many scientists and ecologists who conclude: “Many plant and animal species are unlikely to survive climate change.” (3) A recent study at Harvard “suggests quite decisively that non-native and invasive species have been the climate change winners. Invasive species can be intensely destructive to biodiversity, ecosystem function, agriculture, and human health. In the United States alone the estimated annual cost of invasive species exceeds $120 billion.” (4) As to polar bears, they have recently been put on the threatened species list because their habitat, the Arctic ice, is disappearing. Polar bears have become uniquely adapted over many thousands of years to survive and hunt on the pack ice. It is unlikely that they, and many other species, will have time to adapt to the climate changes predicted to occur over the next century.

Even if a warmer Earth were a good thing, it is not good that our oceans are becoming more acidic, that the glaciers and polar ice caps are melting, that species are becoming extinct and invasive species are proliferating. Our use of fossil fuels is putting 30 billion tons of CO2 into the air annually along with mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates, and radioactive isotopes of radon. Those end up in the air, the water, and the food chain. We are now finding mercury in fish where there are no natural sources and many places have limits on consumption. The oceans are now 20% more acidic and the coral, fisheries, shellfish, and oxygen-producing plankton are threatened. Ignoring those problems will not make them go away.

So, the new tactic is just a call to inaction. Rather than addressing climate change, Lord Lawson wishes for us to ignore it and adapt to it. He does miss one small thing that might become important to England. The large amounts of fresh water from the melting ice sheets may cause the Gulf Stream to shut down. Without the heat being brought across the Atlantic by the Gulf Stream, England may plunge to glacial temperatures with average winter temperatures of -25°C. England might have a little trouble adapting to that. No one knows the future, but we will be better off fashioning it rather than just letting it happen to us.

2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigel_Lawson
3) http://www.nature.com/nature/links/040108/040108-1.html
4) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100203111626.htm