Archive for May, 2011

Climate change skeptics will love this

Some examples of the material the climate change skeptics use to fuel their cause and spread doubt among those who probably don’t want to know.


“Key facts about climate change

  • Burning fossil fuels releases gasses such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a ‘greenhouse effect’ and trapping heat.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are at their highest in 150,000 years.
  • The last decade has been the warmest decade in history.
  • If our greenhouse gas emissions are not brought under control, the speed of climate change over the next hundred years will be faster than anything known since before the dawn of civilization.”

from  The Green Providers Directory

Bullet (1) 

Burning fossil fuels does not “create” a greenhouse effect.  The greenhouse effect is absolutely essential for the  maintenance of life as we know it on the planet.  It is naturally occurring and anthropogenic causes only ‘enhance’ or strengthen the effect.  Be that as it may, too much of a good thing often, and in this case, turns nasty.  So please, let us not claim that humans ‘cause’ the greenhouse effect. 

“If an ideal thermally conductive blackbody was the same distance from the Sun as the Earth is, it would have a temperature of about 5.3 °C. However, since the Earth reflects about 30% (or 28%) of the incoming sunlight, the planet’s effective temperature (the temperature of a blackbody that would emit the same amount of radiation) is about −18 or −19 °C, about 33°C below the actual surface temperature of about 14 °C or 15 °C. The mechanism that produces this difference between the actual surface temperature and the effective temperature is due to the atmosphere and is known as the greenhouse effect.”

Bullet (2)

This statement might appear to be silly to some.  Of course, CO2 is higher than it has been for this period.  Why?  Simply because average global temperature and CO2 concentration in the troposphere follow roughly the same pattern.  Their graphs look almost the same.  So, naturally, CO2 has not been this high since the last warm cycle of the glacial/interglacial temperature/CO2 cycle which occurred around 120,000 years ago.

Bullet (3)  “The last decade has been the warmest decade in history” NO.  History goes back a long way.  This statement is inaccurate.  It would be better to say recent history and even better to say the warmest recorded in the present interglacial period.  It is certainly the warmest recorded with thermometers and arguably the warmest as reflected in various ice core samples of the present interglacial period.  Regardless who’s readings you cite, 10 years is not appropriate for climate analysis.  Also, there are several abrupt temperature change phenomenon that affect short term temperatures.  They interact and make short-term temperature predictions difficult.  The primary one is the El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.  It comes and goes with no predictable period.  In other words it is not synchronous thus unpredictable.  Another is the  Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.  It is associated with droughts in the US Midwest and Southwest – the “dustbowl”  in the 1930’s for instance.

So it is best to remain calm and relatively quiet about global warming when looking out the window and noticing more rain or less rain or when it is colder or hotter.  Whatever you see or feel, it has probably occurred before in living memory.  Far better to stick with the findings recorded and reported by credible scientists such as James Hansen.

Bullet (4)  Sweeping statements such as this are dangerous and invite derision.  We just don’t know.  We have not been here before.  Even looking at the ice cores of the last two or three interglacial periods give us only probability.  Better stick with what we do know and act on that.  CO2 is increasing by 2ppm’s per year. Temperature and CO2 correlate.  Humans definitely contribute to carbon content in the air.  Sea ice and glaciers are melting.  If the tundra thermafrost all melts, tons of methane will enter the troposphere.  That’s enough to justify action to lower our contribution.

The Need for Certainty

I think many of us are great seekers of certainty. We press our spiritual and religious leaders for universal truth, always yearning for the definitive answer. Yet all around us we find ourselves immersed in a world where change seems to be everlasting and the only real constant. We expect our scientists to give us certainty, and often they collude with claims that it is only the scientific method that holds the format for certainty. In some scientific research results there appears to be a very solid bulk of certainty, however in quantum physics, the answers seem to just bring up more questions. Unsatisfied and frustrated, we thrust this way and that for answers to life’s mysteries as if not knowing was a huge problem. For all who seek, there will always be a few ready answers and there has never been a shortage of spiritual guides. But we are talking about doubt. Let me form another question and pose an answer if I can. Can we hold both doubt and enough certainty such that we can be comfortable in saying “I have some doubt but I pursue my path discarding the need to be certain”? Can we weigh up certainty and uncertainty and make a decision based on which way the scales tip? I doubt it!
I think we act on the basis of what works for us whilst continually there is awareness of certainty and doubt in a continually changing mixture. One last question: Can we reach the joy in being without certainty or to put it another way, can we reach the joy in being and still have doubts?

Amazon rainforest deforestation rises sharply

Brazil: Amazon rainforest deforestation rises sharply

“Deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest has increased almost sixfold, new data suggests.”

“Last December, a government report said deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon had fallen to its lowest rate for 22 years.”

“Proponents of change say the law impedes economic development and contend that Brazil must open more land for agriculture.”

Trees are the primary trigger mechanism for a reverse trend in global warming.  The earth’s orbit and tilt provide the background conditions but are not enough to provide the tipping point on their own.  Yes, this is theoretical but the best information we have at the moment and the moment for action is rapidly slipping away.  Actually, it may have already passed and we may have missed a whole glacial/interglacial period. 

Waiting for certainty is not a solution.  Think about it.  When the medical doctor suggests a treatment based on his/her judgement, you don’t disregard it because there is no certainty.  We are dealing here with Gaia, a living organism.  There are so many aspects of living organism behaviour that just don’t fit into the scientific instrumentation parameters.  That doesn’t make them invalid.

On another note, isn’t it about time that we get together and consider planetary rights?  Does a sovereign nation have the right to destroy that which is shared and that which is vital to the welfare of all lifeforms in the planet?  Personally, I don’t honour the rights of another country to poison the air I breathe and the water needed for my body and the food I must consume.