Climate Change Denial

March 14, 2007

STUFF AND NONSCIENCE

George Marshall @ 12:18 pm

gelpspan.jpgGuest blogger, Ross Gelbspan, Pulitzer award winning journalist, argues that the two main contensions in the “Great Global Warming Swindle” have been already been challenged and settled by science.

“The Great Global Warming Swindle” may make for good television. But it is based on a premise that has been disproved by more than 2,000 scientists from more than 100 countries reporting to the United Nations in the largest and most rigorously peer-reviewed scientific collaboration in history.

It does so by cherry picking a few selective facts which, by themselves, prove nothing — except the scientific illiteracy of a culture that takes “Swindle” seriously.

The film argues, for one example, that the planet’s rising temperature plateaued around 1940 and didn’t resume its upward thrust until 1970. According to scientists in “Swindle,” that constitutes proof that human activities don’t influence the climate.

Whether by intention or ignorance on the part of the film’s producers, that conclusion betrays a profound ignorance of atmospheric dynamics. During the years leading up to and through World War II, the nations of the world accelerated their industrialization — pumping out large amounts of carbon dioxide. At the same time, they also generated huge amounts of lower-level air pollutants which exert a temporary cooling effect by reflecting sunlight back into space. Eventually, the warming overwhelms the cooling — since low-level pollutants (sulfate aerosols) stay in the air for only a matter of months — while carbon dioxide has an atmospheric residency of about 100 years.

Sure enough, the increase in offsetting pollutants during the 30-year period did cause the temperature to plateau. (Some of that heat was also absorbed by the world’s oceans). Since that time, however, the planet has been heating faster than at any time in the last 10,000 years.

For another example, the film posits the hypothesis that the planet’s warming is due more to solar intensity than to heat-trapping carbon dioxide. But that assertion was long ago laid to rest by the mainstream scientific community. A number of different scientists (see below) found that the sun was the dominant external influence on the climate until the late 19th century. But with the rise of industrialization in much of the world, carbon dioxide became the dominant external influence on the climate. Today, scientists tell us, the sun exerts about 15 percent of the external forcing of our climate, while CO2 and the other gases are responsible for about 85 percent of the heating. In other words, the buildup of greenhouse gases has swamped the influence of the sun on the planet’s temperature.

None of this is to say that our climate is a benign, predictable beast. It was best characterized by the author, Dianne Dumanoski, as a “leaping dragon.” But the natural swings of the global climate have been exacerbated — and pushed far beyond any historical swings — but our relentless addition of heat-trapping gases

The most significant aspect of our changing climate is not the range of warming — but the rate of warming. It is unmatched at any time in recorded history. It exceeds any rate of natural climate change throughout prehistory. And it is leading us rapidly to a point of no return in terms of climate chaos.

“The Great Global Warming Swindle” is a program we can turn off at will. The changes that are occurring in our climate are threatening to become, in James Joyce’s words, “a nightmare from which [we] can not awaken.”

Ross Gelbspan is the leading US journalist on climate change. He is author of two books; The Heat is On (1998) and Boiling Point (2004). He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1984.

 

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Ross cites four major peer reviewed papers from the two leading scientific journals by 10 scientists from major institutions. Lets us remember that many of the contributors to Global Warming Swindle are not currently working for any recognised institution and most have not had any peer-reviewed research published for years in any reputable journal.

Dependence of global temperatures on atmospheric CO2 and solar irradiance,
Nature, 14 September 2006,
DAVID J. THOMSON, Mathematics of Communications Research Department, Bell Laboratories.

Thomson concludes that “changes from CO2 over the last century are about three times larger than those from changes in solar irradiance”.Link…

Causes of 20th Century Temperature Change Near Earth’s Surface,
Nature 399, 569-572, 10 June 1999.
SIMON F. B. TETT, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research; PETER A. STOTT, WILLIAM J. INGRAM, JOHN F. B. MITCHELL UK Meteorological Office; MYLES R. ALLEN, Department of Physics, University of Oxford

They conclude that: “Solar forcing may have contributed to the temperature changes early in the century, but anthropogenic causes combined with natural variability would also present a possible explanation. For the warming from 1946 to 1996 regardless of any possible amplification of solar or volcanic influence, we exclude purely natural forcing, and attribute it largely to the anthropogenic components”. Link…

Causes of Climate Change Over the Past 1000 Years,
Science, 14 July, 2000 v. 289.
Thomas J. Crowley Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University.

Crowley concludes that : “As much as 41 to 64% of (pre-1850) temperature variations was due to changes in solar irradiance and volcanism…[There is] a very large late-20th-century warming that closely agrees with the response predicted from greenhouse gas forcing. The combination of a unique level of temperature increase in the late 20th century and improved constraints on the role of natural variability provides further evidence that the greenhouse effect has already established itself above the level of natural variability in the climate system. Link…

Modern Global Climate Change,
Science, Dec. 5, 2003, Thomas R. Karl, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Climatic Data Center ; Kevin E. Trenberth National Center for Atmospheric Research.

They conclude that: “Modern climate change is dominated by human influences, which are now large enough to exceed the bounds of natural variability. The main source of global climate change is human-induced changes in atmospheric composition. We are venturing into the unknown with climate, and its associated impacts could be quite disruptive. Link…

Draft Report Affirms Human Influence,
Science, Vol 288, April 28, 2000 , Richard A. Kerr,

“For the past several years, an international panel of climate scientists has examined climate’s natural variability, changes in solar radiation, and volcanic outpourings, among others. But none of those factors fit the past century’s observed warming as well as the explanation they suggested in 1995: an increase in greenhouse gases generated by human activity”. Link…

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10 Responses to “STUFF AND NONSCIENCE”

  1. Channel Four should give this man a programme in which he cross-examines the programme makers…

  2. Mark Ritzenhein says:

    This is the most concise and lucid synopsis of the GW debate I have read anywhere, including Real Climate. Gelbspan cuts through the scientific nitpicking and hesitancy, as well as the disingenuous, agenda-driven obfuscation of the moneyed interests.

  3. Brian Orr says:

    “Today, scientists tell us, the sun exerts about 15 percent of the external forcing of our climate, while CO2 and the other gases are responsible for about 85 percent of the heating. In other words, the buildup of greenhouse gases has swamped the influence of the sun on the planet’s temperature.”

    What does this mean? Without the sun the greenhouse effect comes to nothing. All of our heat, apart from a small contribution from the Earth’s core itself and a small amount from the heat released by the combustion of fossil fuels and wood, comes from the sun.. “All” that greenhouse gases do is trap a significant amount of solar energy which would other wise be ‘lost’ in space.

    Perhaps what the above statement means is that 15% of the sun’s energy falling on the earth is absorbed by the earth’s surface and 85% is trapped by greenhouse gases. Presumably to this account should be added the small amount of heat radiated by the earth that escapes to space and the larger amount of heat that manages to get past the greenhouse gases.

  4. Rob says:

    Brian, it just means “the buildup of greenhouse gases has swamped the influence of fluctuations in solar energy on the planet’s temperature”.

  5. Mark says:

    This article is so “concise” it says virtually nothing. It references only four (4) supposedly peer-reviewed papers. There is no analysis of the authors of these papers, or of the peer reviewers. The author should do that, and present his findings as completely, factually, and honestly as possible, and let the public decide if these questions have been answered so “convincingly”. I, for one, am getting tired of having my questions about global warming answered with a simple, dismissive, “That’s already been conclusively proven.” with no citation of how, when, where, and by who.

    Until then, I guess I’m supposed to just believe the author because he cites four papers from a branch of science where that many papers are likely published daily, if not hourly.

    As I tell anyone who tries to attack me personally for not having made up my mind on the topic of man-made global warming, it’s fine to have beliefs, just don’t try to turn your beliefs into facts that I’m supposed take at face value. If you’re unwilling to face questioners, you probably don’t have the facts and are trying to hide something.

  6. Mark Hadfield says:

    Mark, it’s a bit strange to complain about “no citation of how, when, where, and by who” when the article has cited five papers. (It says four, but there are five listed.)

    I agree that it’s a challenge for anyone, let alone a non-specialist, to read those papers and understand what they do and don’t mean, how reliable they are, etc. They are various things you (and I) can do. One is to read the articles about these issues on the RealClimate blog. Another is to read the IPCC report, which also covers this ground. Another is to ask questions in appropriate forums–I think the Google globalchange group is a good one. I guess another is to believe TV programs produced by people who stretch and mislabel the graphs to make them support their argument.

  7. Pearl says:

    It seeks to answer a question that has puzzled me for years: why, when the evidence is so strong, and so many agree that this is our greatest problem, are we doing so little about jews?

    I just replaced climate change by jews in order to show the absurdity of the argument. General consensus does not determine the degree of truth. I’m not a climate change denier nor a climate change apologist, but it seems really problematic to take always the “general consensus”-argument as a justification, considering all the stupidity that has spread in the name of “general consensus”.

    [George write- this is a baffling comment Pearl. Jews are not a problem and never have been one- but there is an overwhelming consensus that many millions were brutally murdered and that we should not forget the crime. Isn't it sometimes worth going with the consensus?]

  8. Pearl says:

    Ok, during the rise of National Socialism, it was a general consensus in Germany that Jews are a problem. During a time span in history, it was a general consensus that the earth is flat, etc. Just two of millions of examples. As I already mentioned above, general consensus is not an indicator of truth. Thus, in my opinion, it can’t be considered as an argument or whatsoever. You can say that climate change due to human activity is real because of X and Y, but to say that the majority believes it and that’s why it is true, is imho not appropriate. Scientific truth is not a democratic decision process.

  9. Leila says:

    Pearl- It is also generally acknowledged that when you let go of something in the air it falls down. Gravity is both a scientific and a public consensus…

    As to the more problematic question, of why (if it is so well understood and known about) ‘nothing’ is being done about climate change. How many people with the ability to get a global shift and change will gain by doing so? Who wants to give up their cars, cheap flights, and new gadgets every year? Those who will lose most and suffer are the majority of the worlds population without these things – the same people who have the smallest voice.

  10. richard says:

    Leila,

    ‘Gravity’ is a concept which corresponds to a variety of phenomenological observations; the theory of gravity is not in any way proven by the evidence which you give (‘when you let go of something in the air it falls down’). As you correctly imply, ‘gravity’ is the outcome of a consensus shaped around empirical induction; that does not mean it is ‘true’, merely that it’s our most established theory to date as to why when we drop things they tend to fall down.

    Objects could feasibly be released in air and not fall down: inside a space station for instance. Would this mean there’s no such thing as gravity? Well, no, not in itself, but the process of analogising in this fashion points out that our speculative horizons can revolve around concretisations of inductive methodology.

    One well-known example of such concretisation is atomic theory. ‘Bracketing theory’ is used by many physicists to re-articulate what the rest of us call ‘atomic theory’. The notion that atoms are tiny little balls that comprise bread and plastic alike is a legacy of the Greek philosopher Demokrites. For physicists it is fiction.

    In the case of climate change, we have records of varying temperature levels across the globes, and a consensus-driven postulate that certain consequences of human behaviour explain these varying temperature levels. On the basis of that, we strive to change our behaviour; but some will argue that this is all in vain, inasmuch as there are other causal agents at work.

    For the record, I believe loosely in anthropogenic climate change — as a species we’re doing something which could prove highly problematic, even deadly — but I know highly qualified meteorologists who don’t, if only because they reject orthodoxies of Greenhouse gas emissions.

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