For those who feel more needs
to be done to curb climate change, there’s
good news coming from the top branch of government.
On March 31, aproposal was introduced by President Obama to reduce US-produced greenhouse gas emissions by about one-third by 2025. Submitted to the United Nations, the plan was part of a greater global climate change accord that expects to be assembled for a December summit in Paris.
The tangibles include promises of halting construction of new coal-fired power plants, increasing fuel economy of automobiles, and closing methane leaks from oil and gas production.
The President could not have expressed his stance on the subject any clearer when he said in January’s State of the Union address, “There is no greater threat than climate change.” And last June, speaking at the commencement at UC Irvine, Obama said that “global warming is the most urgent crisis of our time.”
A month earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry also echoed this message, during his Boston College commencement address: “If we do not act, we are risking nothing less than the future of the entire planet… [It’s an] immediate threat to your job, your communities or your family.” He said that 97 percent of scientists say climate change is urgent, and “will lead to food and water insecurity and will change for the worse in a hurry.”
One of the scientific bodies most referred to in the climate change discussion, and debate, is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), set up in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and UN Environment Programme at the request of member governments.
In 2013, the Panel released its Fifth Assessment Report, which maintains that humans are largely responsible for global warming, due to fossil fuel burning and cutting down trees. In the study, hundreds of scientists and experts from around the world, referencing 9,200 scientific publications, suggest the situation is getting worse, threatening mankind.
“It is extremely likely,” said the report, “that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
The consequences, according to researchers, are and will be increased temperatures, diminishing snow and ice, warmer oceans, rising sea levels, and higher frequency of extreme weather events.
Many experts say that fossil fuel burning is causing the bulk of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2), a contributing factor in global warming. According to the US Geological Survey, manmade CO2 amounts to more than 130 times as much as volcanoes produce, and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels have risen 35 percent since 1832.
The IPCC said it was 95 percent certain that fossil fuel burning is driving global warming. In 2007, the Panel wrote: “Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20thcentury
is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic GHG [that is, human-generated greenhouse gas] concentrations.”
And Professor Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist of the U.K. Meteorological Office, said in a recent interview, “We’re 90 percent certain that what we’re seeing is manmade.”
Inaccuracies & Miscalculations
But, critics will say: doesn’t that leave a five to ten percent margin of error?
So-called global warming “deniers” say there are many ways to interpret scientific data, or there’s no correlation between climate change and burning fossil fuel, or that the results are inconclusive.
Additionally, many sceptics allay concerns by noting inaccuracies and miscalculations which have been found in studies written
in support of the global warming theory, rendering the entire
Judicial Watch, for example, says they caught errors in NASA climate change numbers that appeared to have been tweaked in favor of rising temperatures and sea levels.
Science has been wrong not just in the present, but also in the past, assert sceptics. It was actually global coolingthat was the emphatic scientific consensus in the 1970s, and thought to be an imminent catastrophic danger, as reported by well-known publications such as the The New York Times (May 21, 1975, Sept. 14, 1975), Science News(March 1, 1975), Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976), International Wildlife(July 1975), Science Digest (Feb. 1973), and Newsweek(cover, Apr. 28, 1975).
According to many researchers, there may also be current support for the idea that temperatures are actually getting lower – a blow to the premise that the planet is rapidly heating up.
“In the U.S. there has been little temperature change in the past
50 years, the time of rapidly increasing greenhouse gases – in fact, there was a slight cooling throughout much of the country,” NASA’s top climatologist James Hansen has said.
Additionally, NASA satellite data shows that new records are being set for coldestrecorded temperatures.
According to the High Plains Regional Climate Center, 71 percent of the USwas below normal temperatures in 2013, and South America is in a deep freeze. In fact, the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that from December 2014 to March 2015, the US experienced some of the coldest days on record. It also noted that roughly five millionmore than average square miles of snow fell between 2010 and 2014 in the Northern Hemisphere. And in 2008, the NCDC reported, “The heavy snowfall during the winter prompted more than 4,700 new daily snowfall records and several new seasonalrecords across the contiguous U.S.”
Professor Mojib Latif, a climate expert at the Leibniz Institute at Kiel University in Germany, and member of the IPCC, said that recent fluctuations in ocean currents in the North Atlantic could indicate cooler temperatures ahead, perhaps for the next three decades.
In fact, most of the rise in temperature during the 20thcentury occurred before 1940 – prior to mass industrialization, according to a BBC report citing NASA figures. Temperatures, in theory, should haveshot up after the post-war economic boom. According to the theory of manmade global warming, the rapid rise in industrial growth should have caused the temperature to rise. But they did not. They actually fell for four decades, according to Professor Tim Ball of the Department of Climatology at the University of Winnipeg. Similar findings were published by Professor Patrick Michaels of the Department of Environmental Studies at University of Virginia.
For a 16-year stretch – from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012 – there was “no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures,” reported the British Meteorological Centre.
Dr. David Whitehouse of the Global Warming Policy Forum says there has been no statistically significant warming trend since 1997, as any increase was smaller than error margin.
Greenland, for example, was “significantly warmer thousands of years ago” than now, according to Professor John Christy of the Department of Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
Who’s Afraid of CO2?
If CO2 is a major contributing factor in causing global warming, and many experts contend there’s more of it as a result of increased fossil fuel use, then why, sceptics ask, isn’t the Earth heating up?
In recent years, therefore, the terminology has adjusted accordingly, from “global warming” to “climate change.”
Perhaps CO2doesn’t do what some think it does – or not
Denis G. Rancourt, professor of physics and an environmental science researcher at the University ofOttawa, has written that “even doubling the present atmospheric CO2concentration, to the unattainable value of 800 ppm
(parts per million) say, without changing anything else in the atmosphere, would have little discernable effect on global temperature or climate.”
In what may surprise many, carbon dioxide actually comprises very little of Earth’s atmosphere: .05 percent (half of a tenth of a percent), in fact, and most of that is naturally occurring. Volcanoes, animal waste and dying vegetation compete for CO2output just as much as factories, planes and automobiles, according to a recent BBC report. And Professor Eigil Friis-Christensen, director of the Danish National Space Center, notes that solar activity, as unpredictable as it is, can also warm up our planet.
Supposing, though, the Earth has begun heating up faster than normal, because of human activity. Then what?
“There is no known case of a sustained warming alone having negatively impacted an entire population,” Professor Rancourt contends. “If it were not for the global greenhouse effect, the planet would on average be 33 Cocolder and inhabitable. As a general rule, all life on Earth does better when it’s hotter.”
“Nothing to be Alarmed About”
For many scientists and experts in the field, the answer to whether there’s manmade global warming is “maybe, but maybe not.”
In Sept. 2014, Steven E. Koonin, a computational physicist, wrote in The Wall Street Journalthat “climate science is not settled; we’re far from the knowledge needed to make good climate policy. The climate has always changed and always will. Human influences are physically small in relation to whole climate system.”
James Lovelock, scientist and environmentalist, conceded last year that in the past he was too certain about the rate of global warming, but now doubts the science used the back it up. Lovelock is the inventor of the microwave oven and the atmospheric tester used to detect pollutants.
Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, and now global warming sceptic, told the BBC that the rhetoric behind the climate change movement has ramped up unnecessary fear and chaos.
This was evidenced in 2007, when the IPCC predicted that rising global temperatures would kill off many species. But their newest report backtracks, and admits there is a shortage of evidence. Humans have shrunk habitats of many animals – but through unsustainable agriculture, fishing or hunting.
In Sept. 2013, climate scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen said of arecent IPCC global warming report: “[it was filled with] incoherent contortions… to keep the international climate agenda going. It fails to point out that warming has been small, and totally consistent with there being nothing to be alarmed about.” For its part, the IPCC had conceded that their computer models did not take into consideration the exchanges of heat in the oceans, a major factor in climate variations.
Lindzen is an atmospheric physicist who is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2009, he wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “It is generally accepted that a doubling of CO2will only produce a change of about two degrees Fahrenheit if all else is held constant. This is unlikely to be much to worry about.”
Another scientist, Professor Frederick Seitz, corralled his peers and others who dispute the climate change thesis, with an Internet petitioncalled “Global Warming Petition Project.” It was signed by 9,029 PhDs, 7,157 with a Master’s of Science, and 12,715 with a Bachelor of Science degree. If that wasn’t enough, in 2012,
49 former NASA astronauts and scientists wrote to protest about NASA’s alarmist position on climate change.
Taking Al Gore to Task
One of the most famous and household-name champions of the global warming theory, former Vice President Al Gore, released a controversial documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth, that brought the issue to the fore, and into the classrooms.
But the Nobel Prize winner, who won the hearts of global warming activists everywhere, will have to remove some footage of his documentary if a British judge has anything to do with it. That is, at least if students in England are forced to watch it.
In 2007, a London judge ruled that if schools in Great Britain require a screening of An Inconvenient Truth, the students must also be advised of its factual errors. Another option is to vet about
25 minutes of the 98-minute film. The remainder includes Gore personal drama, images of Gore in his limousine, shots of the 2000 presidential election, and other scenes that have nothing to do with science.
Of the many factual errors contained in the film, says the judge, was Gore’s blaming global warming for: Hurricane Katrina, coral reef bleaching, receding glaciers, and the melting of Antarctic and Greenland. The judge ruled that these events are categorically unrelated to global warming, and the actual Antarctic datum in the film “do not establish what Mr. Gore asserts.”
The judge ruled that science didn’t support Gore’s claim that global warming was at fault for Lake Chad drying up, or that it will cause Europe to be sent into an ice age, or that it caused polar bears to drown because they have to swim farther to find ice on which to rest. The judge found that the bears had in fact drowned – but because of a storm.
As for the oft-cited concern of sea levels rising seven meters in the immediate future, the judge ruled, “it is not in line with the scientific consensus.”
The former Vice President was making a leap when he said, “[Global warming’s] why the citizens of these Pacific nations have all had to evacuate to New Zealand.” There is no evidence, in fact, of anysuch evacuation having yet happened, the ruling explains.
Whether one aspires in these instances to contest the judge’s findings, or Gore’s, there still remain unresolved contradictions, such as Gore’s assertion in the film that 2005 was the hottest year on record. NASA data shows that 1934 holds that distinction. Moreover, 2005 doesn’t even make it on to the top 10 list of recorded hottest years, say NASA scientists.
Making the case for global warming even more questionable was a recent expedition by scientists to the South Pole. In January 2014, a Russian ship brought scientists and tourists to the South Pole to document global warming and shrinking ice caps – but the ship got stuck on ice that was thicker than it had been at any time since records started being kept in 1978!
Herein lies the core of the climate change conundrum: the need to distinguish fact from fiction, statistics from agenda-driven analysis, and proven scientific truth from hysterical apocalyptic predictions. Hopefully, with time, science will advance and improve so it can give us a more definitive prognosis of our planet’s sustainability, and clearly determine which cultural adjustments, if any, are necessary for our continued presence on our beloved Earth.