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Posts Tagged ‘ipcc’

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.

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1)http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/spm.html
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

George Will: Blinded by Science of Climate Change

Tue ,23/02/2010

When we were kids, we used to spin ’round and ’round until, when we stopped, the horizon would appear to keep spinning. That is how I felt after I read George Will’s article “Blinded by science on climate change” (1). He thinks scientists are bad guys, selling cars is more important than clean air, polluters are good guys, and global warming is a religion. The Washington Post once had an ombudsman to handle complaints from scientists about George Will’s cherry-picking, misconstruance of data, spinning of facts, and ignorance of science. The opinion of most scientists is that George Will is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

Mr. Will does not get quotes right, either. He claims that Phil Jones, in his BBC interview, admits there has been no statistically significant global warming in the last 15 years. However, what Jones said was “I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level.” Jones also presented data to show that from 1975-2009 ( the last 15 years) the Earth warmed by a statistically significant +0.16 0C per decade and said “most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity. “(2) Mr. Will apparently misquoted Jones in an attempt to back up one of his mistaken and much criticized claims. He keeps saying that there has been no global warming since 1998 even though a number of scientists, the author included, have written him to tell him he is misconstruing the data. (3)

Mr. Will started his good guys are bad guys diatribe by criticizing Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the International Panel on Climate Change, for denouncing those who deny the effects of climate change on the planet. Dr. Pachauri earns very substantial consulting fees by advising governments on environmental issues but he takes only a $49,000 salary and donates the rest to those less fortunate. Does he sound like a bad guy? For his work, Dr. Pachauri shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, a great honor- except to George Will who, by comparison, has been nominated for a Newsvine Environmental Hall of Shame award. Mr. Will also criticizes California’s Arnold Schwarzenegger for participating in the Western Climate Initiative and “trying to fix the planet on his own”. The WCI is made up of seven Western states and four Canadian provinces and their goal is to curb greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.

Not to be inconsistent, Mr. Will then praises Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer for suspending participation in the WCI agreement because “she is afraid that strict emission rules may raise the cost of new cars”. It apparently is more important to sell cars than it is to have clean air and water. He also thinks it’s great that the Utah State Legislature, who wishes to exempt Utah from Federal emission standards, is considering a similar action. Mr. Will also praises BP America, Conoco/Phillips, and Caterpillar for withdrawing from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a coalition of companies and environmental groups. Mr. Will claims they withdrew because the cap-and-trade legislation is stalled and they are no longer worried about restrictions. Oops, wrong again. Those companies helped draw up the blueprint for Congresses’ cap-and-trade legislation and they still support the original cap-and-trade legislation. They withdrew because they felt the amendments added to the bill would unfairly penalize the petroleum industry. (4) Perhaps they object to the huge financial incentives added to the bill for the coal industry to develop the oxymoronic “clean coal”.

Mr. Will also ignores qualifiers. In his BBC interview, Phil Jones said that the Medieval Warm Period (circa 800 to 1300 A.D.) “may” have been warmer than today. Mr. Will apparently ignored the word “may” in Jones’ response as he claims Jones admitted to the MWP and went on that the MWP “complicates the task of indicting contemporary civilization for today’s supposedly unprecedented temperatures”. Jones said “may” as there is anecdotal evidence of a MWP in Europe but there is little evidence in the proxy data that it was worldwide. It is recorded that the Nile froze over in 1010 A.D., right in the middle of the MWP.(5) Mr. Will wants to save the MWP as he thinks he has a potent argument, but even if the MWP existed, his argument is mostly irrelevant to the documented environmental changes that have occurred in the last century.

Finally, Mr. Will claims (half seriously, he says) that Tom Stern, America’s Special Envoy on Climate Change, has violated the First Amendment which forbids the government from undertaking the establishment of religion. Mr. Will can say that because he claims, “a religion is what the faith in catastrophic man-made global warming has become.” Perhaps Mr. Will is unaware that there is a Christian environmental movement, sponsored by the National Council of Churches and made up of practicing Protestants and Catholics, that promotes good stewardship and respect for the Earth.

(1) http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2010/02/21/blinded_by_science_104494.html
(2) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8511670.stm
(3) http://que2646.newsvine.com/_news/2009/10/11/3372180-george-wills-climate-deception
(4) http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/politics/stories/oil-firms-drop-out-of-group-lobbying-for-us-climate-bill

(5) Lamb, H. H. (1977) Climate: Present, Past and Future: Climatic History and the Future. Vol 2, Methuen and Co. Ltd