182. The truth about global warming

The sun is out again in London, after an unusually cool spring. It’s been a cold winter across much of Europe and North America, too. But the year is turning now, as it always does eventually.

Cooler weather will come and go. Floods, droughts, disasters, snowstorms and heatwaves, too. That is the nature of living on the Earth. You’ll see reporters referring unusual weather events to climate change, but that’s largely misleading, and it’s misinformed as well.

So let’s not get confused. That is only weather, and it’s not the same as climate. Reports like those just serve to confuse the public.

The urgently pressing fact is that climate change is real. And it’s happening.

There’s a clear scientific consensus here, except amongst a tiny minority of scientists who are funded by the very worst elements of the fossil fuel industry. This 2004 article explains the point.

The truth is that just a few vested interests have supported an entirely misguided public belief that real scientists are divided on the issues.

So let me tell you now – they are not.

This delusion of differing scientific opinions is peddled enthusiastically by a small number of isolated but vociferous so-called ‘researchers’, many of them funded by big oil. The tragic legacy of this cynical manipulation of public opinion began with the systematic undermining during the late 1980s and 1990s of the global negotiations leading up to Rio and Kyoto (for details, I recommend the dramatic account within Jeremy Leggett’s book The Carbon War).

A decade on, the scale of misinformation (the denial industry) remains breathtaking, as explored in George Monbiot’s excellent book Heat).

Al Gore’s 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth did much to draw worldwide attention to the critical role of manmade carbon emissions in driving recent climate change. But the involvement of a political figure is in some respects distracting, since this is a debate which we simply can’t afford to politicise.

And whilst the science is straightforward, Gore is guilty of some simplifications. We need to appreciate that global temperature variations reflect the superimposed effects of both anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions (increasing, and accelerating) and a lower amplitude natural cyclicity in solar insolation (currently entering a relative low).

The solar effects are presently counteracting the influence of rising carbon dioxide, but that is only a temporary reprieve, and it’s not really a reprieve at all.

There’s an excellently-framed analysis here: Climate change in the public debate. A basic appreciation of the science along these lines clearly refutes the oft-cited red herring that global warming stopped in 1998.

That’s a view you’ll hear from the climate change sceptics. They’re good at propaganda, since they’re well funded and well versed in the manipulation of public opinion. But that inference isn’t just misleading – it’s tragically inaccurate.

The point is that inside a decade, the insolation budget will fall again, and carbon dioxide levels will have risen even further, with dangerous effect.

So let me reprise Monbiot, just for a moment. He has four simple questions for anyone who might be inclined to a sceptical view of global warming.

1. Does the atmosphere contain carbon dioxide?

2. Does atmospheric carbon dioxide raise the average global temperature?

3. Will this influence be enhanced by the addition of more carbon dioxide?

4. Have human activities led to a net emission of carbon dioxide?

Monbiot continues, “If you can answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, you should put yourself forward for a Nobel Prize. You’ll have turned science on its head.”

182. The truth about global warming : : 182. The truth about global warming : : 182. The truth about global warming : : 182. The truth about global warming : : 182. The truth about global warming : : 182. The truth about global warming

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29 responses to “182. The truth about global warming

  1. A useful, erudite post Roads. The waters in which the Carbon Debate swims are indeed muddied. Ironic that the politicians and their nefarious supporting scientists lining up to support Big Oil are themselves generating a good deal of hot air.

    I’ve just signed my company up with CO2BALANCE, an outfit that set up web-based carbon calculators for businesses involved in ‘unavoidable’ carbon generation. I’m in time-critical shipping; everything I do has a carbon impact, involving as it does trucks, fork lifts, aircraft and/ or those man-made leviathans, container ships.

    In a few short weeks my customers, the owners of the goods I ship to events and exhibitions around the world, will be invited to visit our Zero Carbon website, calculate the emissions created by their shipment and commit to offsetting the carbon emitted.

    As with many actions in the battle for the future of Earth this is a tiny, tiny step. But as you of all people know add a few tiny steps to a few more, and more and yet more, before you know where you are you’ve run a marathon.

    We have many hundreds of thousands of marathons to run to slow this crippling process, let alone reverse the damage if indeed we ever can. Reminds me of something I read by Annette Thompson, a 2006 inductee to the LPGA T&CP Hall of Fame and a top golf professional. She refers to a wonderful Japanese phrase that says “A bridge was not built to take its life’s load all in one day.” Using this in her teachings she goes on ‘We often try to pack the needs (of a whole round) into a very small set of circumstances. We say “On this hole I gotta . . . I really need a . . . next hole I gotta . . . ”

    Well, the Needas and the Gottas can’t play golf; they self-destruct. Remember this:
    A single bridge. A moment’s load. Here and Now.’

    The analogy with golf is perhaps a little trite but you can see the point. All the baloney offered up by The Man In The Street about not using efficient light bulbs or not recycling because the Chinese aren’t doing this or the Indian manufacturers are doing that just adds to the hot air.

    We can all do it, little by little, bit by bit. There’s no harm in selling votes to politicians with green credentials or lobbying your local administration to do more. But you have to start at home, and you have to do it every day. Drive less, wear an extra layer when its cold, unplug your telly at night – simple stuff, no-brainer stuff. You’ve said it all before right here Roads but you’re right to say it again. And again.

    And to remind us of the difference between weather and climate.

  2. We’re about to install a condensing boiler at Chez Sweder. After much deliberation (and some outlandish quotes fromn good old British Gas) we’ve selected a make that threatens to lower our gas consumption by a whopping 37%. We took advantage of a cavity wall insulation initiative two years ago and our brick and tile house, set on top of a hill and exposed to the elements, is like a greenhouse. Last winter I spent half my waking hours turning down the central heating – a joy both in my heart and in my wallet.

    There’s a chap on Facebook/ YouTube who profers a simple argument on climate change that basically says you know what? – so what if we’re all wrong? The cost of making positive change is insignificant when measured against just about anything else. And if we’re right and the planet is in terminal decline, the cost of inaction is a price no-one can afford to pay.

    Any deniers or naysayers should watch the clip.

  3. Do you know, Mick – if I ever once came across a climate change denier who didn’t resort to personal abuse in place of an argument, then I might take them more seriously.

    ‘Eco fascist ?’ Eco fascist ?.

    That’s like, so 1973.

  4. Thank you, Sweder, for your comment – an excellent contribution to the discussion, and worth several blog posts in itself.

    It’s interesting that as the scientific evidence for global warming becomes more and more unassailable, so it seems to me that we are witnessing something of a stubborn backlash within recent months.

    I suspect that one of the biggest, and hardest changes that we will all have to make is to cut down on our flying. The environmental impact is an order of magnitude higher than anything else we ever do, which is unfortunate since travel is so much fun and so enriching. Yet even here there are anomalies to fix which can change mindsets quite quickly – since there is no tax on aviation fuel, it currently costs around a fifth as much to fly from London to Scotland as it does to travel by rail.

  5. Regarding the pros/cons of a liberal political figure such as Al Gore bringing awareness to this issue … it’s a difficult balancing act. What authority would be acceptable to all on this issue, and carry convincing weight? The Dalai Lama? Oprah? The Pope? Bono? A scientist, or group of scientists, highly respected in their own circles but virtually unknown outside those circles? Seems it’s a trade-off between credibility and popularity. Should it be?

    It would be more potent for a high-profile, non-polarizing conservative political figure to partner with Gore on this issue, but probably political suicide for whomever that might be.

    All things considered, Gore was probably one of the better choices to lead the charge — not that anyone was asking him to lead it. But regardless of who’s leading it, the public probably isn’t going to become galvanized until this issue begins to negatively affect their daily lives in very immediate and tangible ways.

  6. Yes, Sweder, that’s well put indeed.

  7. Good for you, Sweder. Now you can be green and toasty, all at the same time…

  8. Very good point, BB.

    For my part, I don’t have any problem with Gore leading the charge. My only concern would be if that gives opponents the slightest chance to say this must be viewed as a liberal political issue, when it’s a cross-party and a far more wide-ranging problem than that.

  9. Brown was never the new green though was he Roads? Tony threw him a hospital pass and he knew it; now Blair’s grinning all the way to the stand-up-circuit-funded bank whilst Gordon sinks in a glooping pool of ever-warming dung.

    DC? I know you know he’s spinning so much his head’ll probably fall off but I agree; whatever his motivation it’s good to see Cameron dragging green issues to the fore amongst a group who formerly considered environmental protection meant ensuring there were enough Grouse to shoot on the Glorious Twelfth.

    And again I agree with you RoS: political affiliation must take a (tandem) back seat in this debate; it must remain pan-doctrinal, untainted by the sticky fingers of vote-plundering politicos. Gore is well-intentioned and I applaud him for sticking his head above the parapet. Capitol Hill has more shady figures than that other grassy knoll down in Texas; prominant US politicians take a big risk when they speak out against the Barons.

    And yet . . . Gore is not the right man to lead the fight. Thank goodness he is but the cynics will point to his becalmed career and snigger in ugly fashion. BB’s right; it’s so tough to nail the right figure for this job. So let’s not worry about that; get the thinking dripping into every day consciousness. Lace the masses’ opiate with green tinges. I don’t know what’s floating their boats in the US of A these days but for an example (when it was THE show on TV) say the Fresh Prince brought up a few issues. Uncle Al investing in some Solar Panels or replacing all the light bulbs in his monstrously large house with energy efficient models.

    I know it’s tacky but the majority of the population – the people we need to reach with this message – don’t understand half of what their politicians ramble on about, much less care or take notice. TV stars, sports stars, musicians. These are the leaders Jo Public listens to. They sell trainers, they sell hair products, watches, ipods, soft drinks.

    And if you want to say ‘there’s no money in it’ – the mighty greenback drives all of the aforementioned – let’s find us some benefactors who will fund those kind of placements. Wealthy ultruists keen to make their mark. Amongst the Millionaires and Billionaires there are bound to be green sympathisers.

    Hats off to Big Al for a stand-up job. It’s time for some heavy hitters to come of the sustainable wood bench.

  10. 1) Is there argon in the atmosphere?

    2) Does argon cause temperatures to rise?

    Argon probably does raise temperatures very slightly by reflecting a few joules of radiation back at the earth every year. But does that compare the radiative forcings of the sun itself?

    Thats why your questions are absurd. Of course carbon dioxide reflects some radiation, but to suggest that this is enough radiation in comparison to solar variation and resulting ocean currents is ludicrous.

    http://www.spaceweather.com

    Notice that solar cycle 24 has not become active yet, a year and half late!! This is a inconvenient truth when explaining the recent cold spell.

    Remember that none of the IPCC models predicted this cold spell, but then oh so inconveniently, the sun decided not to cooperate and now for a little chill on your eco fascist parade.

  11. Eco fascist? That’s a new one on me; I’m an ordinary Joe with no party or organisational affiliations . . . and not a jackboot in sight.

    What’s the likely cost of eco fascism? Even if the ecological protagonists have majorly cocked all this up, why is it such a big issue to basically keep a clean and tidy house?

    My 19 yea-old son calls me a fascist when I have a go about the piles of unwashed crockery in his room or the Xenomorphic balls of dust, spiders’ webs, old crisp packets and the occasional fossilised pizza slice. It’s about basic respect for your environment as much as high-fallutin’ science Mick. Ever stood on a London street when the traffic’s backed up? Hard to breath through all the shit pumping out of those exhausts eh?

    It’s not rocket science; it’s common bloody sense.

  12. … It is somewhat discouraging when one TRIES to live a simpler, cleaner, less consuming Life when just about EVERY factor and face around one is doing the EXACT opposite. … I listen to ‘concerned’ people hopping on flights and jettisoning themselves all over the world for ‘weekend’ conferences … Hello???? I hear of people travelling great distances to take advantage of ‘the weak dollar’ States side, and what are they DOING over there? Bulking up on consumables, power guzzling electronics, ‘designer’ clothes etc…. I watch as people purchase ‘exotic’ food wares imported from half way round the world … O’ woe , when will it stop? Certainly this ‘activity’ reflects a supposedly ‘healthy’ capitalist econmy … but is it really that ‘healthy’? We are killing the planet.

    What is NEEDED is a complete, dare I say, ‘spiritual awakening’ to a) the beauty of this globe (that we pillage and rape daily and that SUSTAINS us), and b)a complete re-evaluation of TIME, ie. ‘he who has the most when he dies wins’ …. it’s all so outta whack.

    Consider how MILLIONS all over the world live, think about how you live … what’s to be done? Consider your daily ‘take’, and what you ‘give’ back. Are you a ‘Taker’ – or a ‘Giver’? Kind of a fundamental question, in more ways then one.

    Some have suggested that Nature will naturally right her course. Unsuccessful species who WON’T adapt are eliminated, think trilobytes, [dear Roads, pls double-check that spelling....] and they had an extremely good run.. several hundreds of thousands of millions of years … but even so, poof. We are not indispensible.

    Caretaking this precious planet should be our PRIMARY concern. We MUST adapt. It is extreme hubris to believe that ‘she’, Mother Nature cannot take care of her Self. Rest assured, that if we ‘over-calibrate’ and try to play ‘Almighty God’, and keep poking and prodding where we DON’t BELONG, she’ll STILL take care of it, one way or the other …

    … anyway, that’s what I’m thinkin’…

    Maybe a good place to start would be the moral centre – ie. what are you? A Giver or a Taker?

  13. p.s. VERY good article this weekend in Toronto’s Globe & Mail about the ‘squeeze’ on/of the international commodities market that are now clearly affected the global food crisis … Who is Responsible ? Well, ultimately, WE are …

    Strongly recommend it to your readers, and advise trying to get to it as quick as possible before the Globe ‘vaults’ it for ‘subscribers only’ … Cheers, c

    http://www.reportonbusiness.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080530.wcover0531/BNStory/Business/home

  14. Thanks for the interesting link, c. It’s a challenging view that speculation is responsible for all of the world’s economic ills, but actually I don’t hold that to be the case.

    It’s true that at least three times the world’s daily consumption of oil is traded on the global markets, every single day. But exactly the same was true when oil was only $10.

  15. Both sides seem so convincing so I can’t tell who is right. To say that certain scientists are funded by big oil seems unfair unless you balance it with the other side is funded by Greenpeace, Governments or the IPCC and a “tiny minority” of 31000 scientists have just signed a petition disagreeing with man made causes of global warming. Remember the predictions by scientists in the 70′s when there was going to be an ice age !

  16. Add Bio Fuels into that heady mix . . .

    . . . and you come up with a raging, swirling torrent of opinion. I’m currently helpin set up the Bio Fuels International conferecne in Rotterdam, one of three similar events in the next seven days. They’re expecting protesters here – against world hunger and deforrestation mainly. In the headlong blind rush for a green future we may leave starving millions in our wake. Ecology with brains, please. Indiana Jones and the Loss of Common Sense – in bio-degradable cinemas soon.

    Whilst we’re looking at eassing the buden on our planet we should consider global birthrates and the elevation of longevity. Can IVF be morally justified when we’re headed for record food shortages? The tabloids celebrate multiple births even as a hundred babies die a few thousand short miles away. Not related? Really? Walt was right; it IS a small world after all.

    As my rum-soused hero Hunter S Thompson liked to say the hog is well and truly out of the tunnel on the environment. The crowd is gathered brandishing sticks and burning torches and things are getting ugly. Clear thinking and straight shooting are in short supply; the man in the street has whiplash trying to keep up with the barrage of opinion and counter-point.

    It’s good to see the position of the environment on the political agenda. Even amongst the smoke and mirrors of international political posturing the debate is raising awareness amongst the masses, at least in the western world where we’re less worried about where our next meal is coming from. The small steps we comfortable bloggers take to conserve energy are at worst saving us money and at best contributing to positive if creeping change. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your back yard tidy even if the neighbours are junk-yard gypsies with black hearts burning old tyres to keep warm. You never know, it might catch on.

    Recycling in parts of North America is way advanced compared with we knuckle-draggers in the UK. We’re just now getting around to monitoring how much garbage we shovel into landfills; trash tax is on the horizon, another coffer-sweller for the government for sure, but let’s not lose sight of the benefits.

    I just hope that even as our politicians look to jump greedily aboard the fast-rolling green(-back strewn) bandwaggon they check to see what fuel it’s running on.

  17. Thanks for your comment, Kevin, and I’m glad for the point you raise here about ’31,000 scientists disagreeing with global warming.’

    The truth is that the petition you cite is completely discredited and it carries no scientific weight whatsoever. The so-called ‘Oregon Petition’ was put together by Frederick Seitz, who is Chairman of a rather grandiosely-titled group called the Science and Environmental Policy Project. To quote The denial industry

    “In 1998, he [Seitz] wrote a document, known as the Oregon Petition, which has been cited by almost every journalist who claims that climate change is a myth.

    The document reads as follows: “We urge the United States government to reject the global warming agreement that was written in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997, and any other similar proposals. The proposed limits on greenhouse gases would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind. There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

    Anyone with a degree was entitled to sign it. It was attached to a letter written by Seitz, entitled Research Review of Global Warming Evidence. The lead author of the “review” that followed Seitz’s letter is a Christian fundamentalist called Arthur B Robinson. He is not a professional climate scientist. It was co-published by Robinson’s organisation – the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine – and an outfit called the George C Marshall Institute, which has received $630,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. The other authors were Robinson’s 22-year-old son and two employees of the George C Marshall Institute. The chairman of the George C Marshall Institute was Frederick Seitz.

    The paper maintained that: “We are living in an increasingly lush environment of plants and animals as a result of the carbon dioxide increase. Our children will enjoy an Earth with far more plant and animal life than that with which we now are blessed. This is a wonderful and unexpected gift from the Industrial Revolution.”

    It was printed in the font and format of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: the journal of the organisation of which Seitz – as he had just reminded his correspondents – was once president.

    Soon after the petition was published, the National Academy of Sciences released this statement: “The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal. The petition does not reflect the conclusions of expert reports of the Academy.”

    But it was too late. Seitz, the Oregon Institute and the George C Marshall Institute had already circulated tens of thousands of copies, and the petition had established a major presence on the internet. Some 17,000 [now 31,000] graduates signed it, the majority of whom had no background in climate science. It has been repeatedly cited – by global-warming sceptics such as David Bellamy, Melanie Phillips and others – as a petition by climate scientists. It is promoted by the Exxon-sponsored sites as evidence that there is no scientific consensus on climate change.”

    The construction of the petition proved successful, in that it duped intelligent people like yourself, and many others, into believing that the scientists are divided about global warming. But the facts are that they aren’t, and that the petition was, and still is, an utterly flawed fabrication.

  18. Sweder
    Thanks for your comment, too. As you rightly say, a number of issues are focusing our minds on the environment right now, from higher fuel prices to higher food prices to climate change.

    However, it’s incorrect to call global warming ‘a debate’, because it sadly isn’t any more. To make an analogy, I’m sure that some people still think the world is flat, but actually there ain’t no debate about it.

    The circulation and recirculation by the so-called climate change sceptics of flawed and misleading arguments and false information (I euphemise here – many would call these ‘lies’ ) is one of the most depressing aspects of the present situation.

    The completely unfounded success of this misinformation campaign over the past decade has caused enormous damage to the environment and must be held responsible for great delay in tackling the causes of climate change.

  19. Ah yes, but . . . debate it is my friend, for as long as two sides are presented to any argument, however apparently obvious or spurious the stance, there shall be two sides for consideration.

    And that’s how I would have it; deniers in the open, unfettered by weight of popular opinion, unhindered by cold hard fact. Where would you have your bitterest enemy? Sniping from the silos or out front offering you out for a straight-up, knock-em down, drag-em-out scrap?

    Debate – for surely we have one, like it or not. You can’t force-feed chickens without tasting bile in their flesh; so it is with climate change and the flat Earth society. The media will give them oxygen in any event, no matter how at odds with reality their standpoint or stoic they remain in the face of irrefutably well-argued evidence.

    The purveyors of the ecological status quo are those with most to gain; shares steeped in history (and oil), investments dripping with unassailable surety. For my part, I’ve no love for the ecoblind; I deal with ugly prejudice and a blatant lack of care for the future every day. Yet I welcome the arguments, be they rational or otherwise, since that is how the facts emerge, as they finally and so belatedly are doing today.

    I for one subscribe to a future for my children; I hereby forfeit the opportunity to wager their legacy on the advancement of my own ego or position. But only by engaging allcomers in dialogue like this can we hope to inform and persuade. Slamming the door won about as many maidens as faint hearts.

    In the meantime, to those who’d claim me a scaremonger I’d say this:
    If it’s a fight you’re after, then I’m your Huckleberry.

  20. Outstanding, as ever, Sweder. You’re a marvel, and no mistake.

  21. Thankfully, it’s not a ‘small number of isolated but vociferous so-called ‘researchers’, many of them funded by big oil’ as you put it. There are a growing number of scientific and political figures now prepared to stand up and condemn this global warming religion for the hysterical nonsense it is. Their public stand – courageous in the face of an almost biblical persecution – is greatly supported by the fact that there has been no warming for the past decade. Hopefully the whole bandwagon will have run out of steam in a few years, and will be quietly forgotten like all the other environmental scares that preceded it. In the meantime, no doubt, many ‘climate scientists’ and bogus environmentalists will have made their fortunes out of it.

  22. Er, thanks, Ed. Brave heroes standing against the wicked tide of environmentalism? That sounds dramatic, especially if there are a growing number of them? What, like one or two?

    Including Nigel Lawson – the hopeless economist and erstwhile British Chancellor of the Exchequer who knows nothing about science and couldn’t find his way out a paper bag, let alone a recession. It’s great to see his book on global warming. What a fine and totally useless contribution that is.

    David Bellamy? That clod who was forced to admit that he ‘inadvertently mistyped’ the misinformed and flawed statistics on glaciers (which he stole from ‘Junk Science’ in the first place) and then found his own wrong numbers exploding around the internet, proving they were true?

    And as for the others, well – who are they, exactly? You don’t name them, so I’m forced to wonder really. Joe Bloggs (that’s Joe Schmoe to you, I think) who’s fed up with paying $100 to fill the tank for his SUV every hundred miles or so? Sure. That’s not exactly a courageous stand in the face of almost biblical persecution, is it?

    But what is the nature of this ‘persecution’ exactly? The poor, downtrodden huddled mass of petrolheads, forced to crawl along, all helpless and starving in the gutter, whilst a multitude of wicked, conspiring and conniving scientists and meteorologist fat cats live callously off the gravy? Informed and thoughtful souls so inexplicably having the jolly fine cheek to request that you and I might use the train a little more?

    And what exactly do you mean by ‘bandwagon’ here? Honestly, I just can’t think of a less appropriate word for the compiled results of painstaking research by the entire scientific community, backed up by a comparison with rigorously studied evidence of climate change stretching back over the whole of geological time.

    Perhaps gravity is a bandwagon? What about electricity? Nuclear physics? Plate tectonics? Thermodynamics? Evolution?

    You say some of those things might not be all they’re cracked up to be, eh? Come on, let’s get a grip – you could apply for that Nobel Prize right now. And you never know, you might just win…

  23. The quote from Monbiot is rather clever..of course all the answers are “yes” BUT the missing ingredient is quantification. The overwhelming concern is that CO2 is just one of a number of drivers and possibly not the major one. Public understanding is of the basic climate drivers is miniscule. Australia is embarking on an emissions trading crusade which will certainly erode the vitality of both our economy and our society. As 20 m people in a 6000m+ world our actions will have little effect on world CO2 . However our politicians are going to ask us to sacrifice a lot for little or no overall gain. So if anyone out there can explain ,in terms of quantified basic physical processes how an extra X ppm of CO2 increases temperature by Y deg C then please broadcast such info. It is certainly lacking in any of the carbon trading propositions that are being put forward in Australia at present.

  24. Hi John, and many thanks for your comment.

    Yes, there are a range of different contributors to the world’s climate, and they each have different effects. This reference discusses the relative roles of solar and greenhouse gas effects.

    Quantification is difficult, primarily because there is debate about the speed with which climate change will occur in response to rising carbon dioxide concentrations.

    The measurements of global warming to date vary according to the methods used. The analysis is complicated by the fact that land masses heat faster than the oceans, and so the northern hemisphere (which has relatively more land) also warms faster than the southern hemisphere.

    Thus we have European weather stations presently recording relatively rapid increases in mean surface temperature, whilst satellite measurements of the ocean surface show much more modest increases.

    There is an interesting quantification in this primer, which provides some of the background to the IPCC estimates of an increase in global temperature of between 1 and 6 C by the end of this century.

    That is a wide range, but there is a concentration of predictions within the 2 to 3C range.

    To gain an appreciation of the effects which would/will be produced by such temperature changes, I would recommend Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, which recently won a Royal Society award.

    As for the role of Australia, I wouldn’t underestimate the importance of your country’s actions to the outcome of global climate change. According to this analysis from CSIRO, Australia has 0.32 per cent of the world’s population, but contributes 1.43 per cent of global carbon emissions. So much for Australia’s actions having little effect.

    Furthermore, Australia’s carbon footprint is growing at twice the world’s average rate, and Australians currently produce 4.5 times the global per capita CO2 emissions.

    We’re not blameless in Britain either (far from it) but pretending that the actions of individual nations (and even of individuals for that matter) will have a limited effect is sadly a very convenient excuse for robbing the bank because everyone else is doing it.

    Australia is also an interesting place to look at the issues because of the critical choices it currently faces in energy usage. Your country surely has just about the most reliable solar energy resource of any country in the world, making Australia an excellent candidate to be one of the first nations in the world to be entirely powered from renewable sources, and given commitment and investment, surely one of the future world leaders within a rapidly expanding global market for solar technology.

    But significantly, Australia also has considerable coal resources (as I recall in the past this has conditioned a certain level of economic self-interest which deterred Australia from signing up to Kyoto).

    The carbon emissions from coal-fired energy sources are worryingly high in comparison even with power generation from oil and gas, and the same logic applies here to Australia as to China – if countries are intent on continuing down this route, regardless of all advice on the consequences, then the outlook for controlling climate change within manageable levels looks miserably bleak.

    Thanks again, and do give my best regards to the Old Coat Hanger,
    Roads

  25. The problem with this debate is that some people have been too quick to take the alarmist global warming side because it suites their ideals and lifestyle choices, blindly digging in to fight the cause without looking at a healthy cross section of scientific givens and ideas, so called ‘deniers’ (which by the way was a term used in respect of the holocaust and is quite disrespectful) are being marginalized and science is being made a mockery of by being projections lead rather than by cold facts. Time to cool our heads and seek the truth. By the way Al Gore was the biggest disaster for the pro climate change movement because he is a complete con man as are most politicians, being manipulated by an elite group of families to suite their own agendas, probably to manipulate stock market fuel costs to line their own pockets. Real conservation issues are being sidelined by this histeria, seas are still being overfished, deforestation, chemical dumping and polution, not to mention rewilding projects that need support and publicity to raise awareness.
    Wake up people……lets put our efforts into creating our own small plots of heaven as suggested in “Anastasia” by Vladimer Megre, a book everyone should read if the want to connect back with nature.
    Peace x

  26. Thanks, Liz, and Merry Christmas to you.

    I’m sorry, but you’ve been duped. The notion that there is a mix of scientific views on this is a myth which was cynically peddled by ExxonMobil and supported by the outgoing US administration.

    The scientists aren’t divided. A few junk pseudo-scientists and ill-informed fatcats are trying to proclaim that it isn’t, because they want to keep on driving their SUVs and flying in their corporate jets, but actually no one is stopping them from doing so. We’re just saying they’re being selfish and irresponsible, and if that makes them mad, then I’m very glad to hear it.

    As for the word ‘deniers’ being applied in this sense, I disagree with you completely since I do think it’s entirely appropriate.

    Because if blithe and wilful disregard for the accumulated wisdom and knowledge of practically the entire scientific community isn’t denial, then I don’t know what is. It’s not an insult. It’s a factual description of a belligerently ignorant mindset.

    Where I do agree with you is that it’s a mistake to politicise global warming. The scale of the issues facing us all is such that we need to look at them apolitically and across party lines.

    I don’t remotely see the efforts we need to make to address global warming as implying an end to global economic prosperity. I’m not calling for a return to a pre-industrial economy — far from it. Rather I’m suggesting that we must make much more concerted use of the technologies we already have available for renewable power generation.

    It’s also clear from the economic analysis carried out in the UK government-commissioned Stern Report that the costs of ignoring global warming far outweigh the investment required to mitigate and alleviate it.

    Many thanks again.

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