Climate Change & Blogging

by admin

Veeeerrrry interesting. I wrote a little post on Climate Change (a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail regarding Rex Murphy’s latest bit of climate idiocy). And I got two comments from people who have certainly never been to this site before. I presume there is a concerted blog/commenting effort, probably funded by PR companies, to troll through the blogosphere and make “grassroots” comments. I noted this kind of thing before on my Zune post a while back, and if I were a PR company, I would be doing this too. Good, cheap, and very direct way to get your message out. Even if you don’t reach the writer (in this case me) you might sow some doubt in other readers of the post.

I was going to answer these fellows in the comments, but it’ll take some links etc, so I’ll do it here instead.

First, Ken Ring from predictweather.com has explaned his position onglobal warming: here. He’s from New Zealand and predicts weather partterns using moon cycle analysis. Here is his comment, and my response below:

Instead of berating Murphy, how about listing the ACTUAL evidence that the world is warming. By the world I don’t just mean the tiny areas occupied by the cities, I mean the oceans, icecaps, swamps, craggy monutain ranges, deserts etc that comprise, without human habitation, 98.4% of the Earth’s surface. Oh bother, there aren’t any thermometers in those places. (Now aint that the inconvenient truth..)

Evidence coming, but first some propositions:
1. earth’s climate is a complex system
2. human civilization has developed in a period of relative warmth & climate stability (allowing for agricultural food production)
3. global temperature is directly correlated with CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere
4. if CO2 concentrations rise, there is a good chance that temperature will rise too
5. if the temperature rises significantly, the complex system of the climate will be destabilized
6. if the climate system is destabilized, our ability to manage a global agricultural system will be destroyed
7. if we cannot manage a global agricultural system, human civilization as we know it is finished.
8. CO2 is rising, partly due to human emissions of CO2

Now for some evidence, the most powerful piece of data I have seen in climate change science, from the Vostok ice core:

vostock ice cores

Note CO2 concentrations follow temperature. Note also that the past 10,000 years (far right of graph, blue) have seen something extraordinary: relatively warm, stable temperature, also the period when human civilization developed.

Now perhaps doubling or tripling or quintupling C02 concentrations is fine. But if I were a betting man, given a graph like that, I would say there is 50% chance that rising CO2 will raise the temperature. And knowing a little about the history of the earth, I would say we don’t want temperatures to go up, and we should do what we can to make sure they don’t.

If you want some more evidence, in counterpoint to climate-denial, a good place to start is this article from Realclimate.org: Wall Street Journal vs. Scientific Consensus.

Regarding Ken’s other comment about measurement of temperatures out of cities, I’m not sure that’s even worth responding to, but satelite data, and the Vostok ice core (from Antarctica) are a good start. For more reading, see: NASA’s GISS Surface Temperature Analysis. For less theoretical evidence (ie. the kind you can feel in your cold, wet toes) here’s an article about the melting Arctic.

I think that’s all for Ken.

Now for the other commenter, Jeff Jones, no URL. Here’s what he had to say:

Notice how the doomsayers claim, as the host does, that each year the scientific community gets more certain. Which scientific community? Certainly not the 19,000 who signed the Oregon petition.

It’s the kind of dishonest device that the Church used to deny Copernicus and Galileo.

Maybe you mean the scientific community made up of political scientists like David Suzuki whose goal is to destroy the corporate basis of Western democracy.

So, the famous Oregon Petition is widely regarded as bunk. There was no control on petition signers, no required proof of academic creditials, no stated affiliation with academic institutions. I did a cursory search through the signatories, and of 15 names I checked I was able to find three academics: Earl Aagaard, professor of biology at Christian creationist university; Arthur Ballato, an Electrical Engineer with the US Army; and Daniel J Cantliffe, a biologist at University of Florida. None of whom has any direct experience with climate science, as far as I can tell.

But rather than spend time on the discredited Oregon Petition, better to answer the question directly: Which scientific community does get more certain? Well, for one (sorry, for eleven) the National Academies of Science of the following countries: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK and the USA.

Say these Academies, in the following document (Joint science academies’ statement: Global response to climate change-pdf):

We urge all nations, in the line with the UNFCCC principles, to take prompt action to reduce the causes of climate change, adapt to its impacts and ensure that the issue is included in all relevant national and international strategies.

As for scientific literature, Naomi Orseskes did a random study of 928 peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, with the key-words “climate change.” Of the articles, about 75% of them deal with the question of causes of climate change, 100% support the view that a significant fraction of recent climate change is due to human activities.

And what exactly is the consensus? According to realclimate.org, the consensus is:

1. The earth is getting warmer (0.6 +/- 0.2 oC in the past century; 0.1 0.17 oC/decade over the last 30 years)
2. People are causing this
3. If GHG emissions continue, the warming will continue and indeed accelerate
4. (This will be a problem and we ought to do something about it)

So … as they say: who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?