T Nation

Climate Change...


#1

What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?

               -Thoreau

Warming debate shifts to ?tipping point?
Some scientists worry it?s too late to reverse climate change

By Juliet Eilperin

Updated: 11:31 p.m. ET Jan. 28, 2006
Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This "tipping point" scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

?We've got to do something?
The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would "imply changes that constitute practically a different planet."

"It's not something you can adapt to," Hansen said in an interview. "We can't let it go on another 10 years like this. We've got to do something."

Princeton University geosciences and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer, who also advises the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said one of the greatest dangers lies in the disintegration of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets, which together hold about 20 percent of the fresh water on the planet. If either of the two sheets disintegrates, sea level could rise nearly 20 feet in the course of a couple of centuries, swamping the southern third of Florida and Manhattan up to the middle of Greenwich Village.

While both the Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets as a whole are gaining some mass in their cold interiors because of increasing snowfall, they are losing ice along their peripheries. That indicates that scientists may have underestimated the rate of disintegration they face in the future, Oppenheimer said. Greenland's current net ice loss is equivalent to an annual 0.008 inch sea level rise.

The effects of the collapse of either ice sheet would be "huge," Oppenheimer said. "Once you lost one of these ice sheets, there's really no putting it back for thousands of years, if ever."

Small shift may key big changes
The report concludes that a temperature rise of just 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit "is likely to lead to extensive coral bleaching," destroying critical fish nurseries in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Too-warm sea temperatures stress corals, causing them to expel symbiotic micro-algae that live in their tissues and provide them with food, and thus making the reefs appear bleached. Bleaching that lasts longer than a week can kill corals. This fall there was widespread bleaching from Texas to Trinidad that killed broad swaths of corals, in part because ocean temperatures were 2 degrees Fahrenheit above average monthly maximums.

Many scientists are also worried about a possible collapse of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, a current that brings warm surface water to northern Europe and returns cold, deep-ocean water south. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who directs Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, has run multiple computer models to determine when climate change could disrupt this "conveyor belt," which, according to one study, is already slower than it was 30 years ago. According to these simulations, there is a 50 percent chance the current will collapse within 200 years.

Some scientists, including President Bush's chief science adviser, John H. Marburger III, emphasize there is still much uncertainty about when abrupt global warming might occur.

"There's no agreement on what it is that constitutes a dangerous climate change," said Marburger, adding that the U.S. government spends $2 billion a year on researching this and other climate change questions. "We know things like this are possible, but we don't have enough information to quantify the level of risk."

Scientists under scrutiny
This tipping point debate has stirred controversy within the administration; Hansen said senior political appointees are trying to block him from sharing his views publicly.

When Hansen posted data on the Internet in the fall suggesting that 2005 could be the warmest year on record, NASA officials ordered Hansen to withdraw the information because he had not had it screened by the administration in advance, according to a Goddard scientist who did not want to be identified. More recently, NASA officials tried to discourage a reporter from interviewing Hansen for this article and later insisted he could speak on the record only if an agency spokeswoman listened in on the conversation.

"They're trying to control what's getting out to the public," Hansen said, adding that many of his colleagues are afraid to talk about the issue. "They're not willing to say much, because they've been pressured and they're afraid they'll get into trouble."

But Mary L. Cleave, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Office of Earth Science, said the agency insists on monitoring interviews with scientists to ensure they are not misquoted.

"People could see it as a constraint," Cleave said. "As a manager, I might see it as protection."

?We will adapt to it?
John R. Christy, director of the Earth Science System Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said it is possible increased warming will be offset by other factors, such as increased cloudiness that would reflect more sunlight. "Whatever happens, we will adapt to it," Christy said.

Scientists who read the history of Earth's climate in ancient sediments, ice cores and fossils find clear signs that it has shifted abruptly in the past on a scale that could prove disastrous for modern society. Peter B. deMenocal, an associate professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said that about 8,200 years ago, a very sudden cooling shut down the Atlantic ocean conveyor belt. As a result, the land temperature in Greenland dropped more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit within a decade or two.

"It's not this abstract notion that happens over millions of years," deMenocal said. "The magnitude of what we're talking about greatly, greatly exceeds anything we've withstood in human history."

These kinds of concerns have spurred some governments to make major cuts in the carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming. Britain has slashed its emissions by 14 percent, compared with 1990 levels and aims to reduce them by 60 percent by 2050. Some European countries, however, are lagging well behind their targets under the international Kyoto climate treaty.

Speeding toward an iceburg?
David Warrilow, who heads science policy on climate change for Britain's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that while the science remains unsettled, his government has decided to take a precautionary approach. He compared consuming massive amounts of fossil fuels to the strategy of the Titanic's crew, who were unable to avoid an iceberg because they were speeding across the Atlantic in hopes of breaking a record.

"We know there are icebergs out there, but at the moment we're accelerating toward the tipping point," Warrilow said in an interview. "This is silly. We should be doing the opposite, slowing down whilst we build up our knowledge base."

The Bush administration espouses a different approach. Marburger said that while everyone agrees carbon dioxide emissions should decline, the United States prefers to promote cleaner technology rather than impose mandatory greenhouse gas limits. "The U.S. is the world leader in doing something on climate change because of its actions on changing technology," he said.

Stanford University climatologist Stephen H. Schneider, who is helping oversee a major international assessment of how climate change could expose humans and the environment to new vulnerabilities, said countries respond differently to the global warming issue in part because they are affected differently by it. The small island nation of Kiribati is made up of 33 small atolls, none of which is more than 6.5 feet above the South Pacific, and it is only a matter of time before the entire country is submerged by the rising sea.

"For Kiribati, the tipping point has already occurred," Schneider said. "As far as they're concerned, it's tipped, but they have no economic clout in the world."

? 2006 The Washington Post Company

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11079935/


#2

or is it something man has no control over? i hear the polar caps on mars may soon be gone and we have no suv's there.

The truth about global warming - it's the Sun that's to blame
By Michael Leidig and Roya Nikkhah
(Filed: 18/07/2004)

Global warming has finally been explained: the Earth is getting hotter because the Sun is burning more brightly than at any time during the past 1,000 years, according to new research.

A study by Swiss and German scientists suggests that increasing radiation from the sun is responsible for recent global climate changes.

Dr Sami Solanki, the director of the renowned Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Gottingen, Germany, who led the research, said: "The Sun has been at its strongest over the past 60 years and may now be affecting global temperatures.

"The Sun is in a changed state. It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently - in the last 100 to 150 years."

Dr Solanki said that the brighter Sun and higher levels of "greenhouse gases", such as carbon dioxide, both contributed to the change in the Earth's temperature but it was impossible to say which had the greater impact.

Average global temperatures have increased by about 0.2 deg Celsius over the past 20 years and are widely believed to be responsible for new extremes in weather patterns. After pressure from environmentalists, politicians agreed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, promising to limit greenhouse gas emissions between 2008 and 2012. Britain ratified the protocol in 2002 and said it would cut emissions by 12.5 per cent from 1990 levels.

Globally, 1997, 1998 and 2002 were the hottest years since worldwide weather records were first collated in 1860.

Most scientists agree that greenhouse gases from fossil fuels have contributed to the warming of the planet in the past few decades but have questioned whether a brighter Sun is also responsible for rising temperatures.

To determine the Sun's role in global warming, Dr Solanki's research team measured magnetic zones on the Sun's surface known as sunspots, which are believed to intensify the Sun's energy output.

The team studied sunspot data going back several hundred years. They found that a dearth of sunspots signalled a cold period - which could last up to 50 years - but that over the past century their numbers had increased as the Earth's climate grew steadily warmer. The scientists also compared data from ice samples collected during an expedition to Greenland in 1991. The most recent samples contained the lowest recorded levels of beryllium 10 for more than 1,000 years. Beryllium 10 is a particle created by cosmic rays that decreases in the Earth's atmosphere as the magnetic energy from the Sun increases. Scientists can currently trace beryllium 10 levels back 1,150 years.

Dr Solanki does not know what is causing the Sun to burn brighter now or how long this cycle would last.

He says that the increased solar brightness over the past 20 years has not been enough to cause the observed climate changes but believes that the impact of more intense sunshine on the ozone layer and on cloud cover could be affecting the climate more than the sunlight itself.

Dr Bill Burrows, a climatologist and a member of the Royal Meteorological Society, welcomed Dr Solanki's research. "While the established view remains that the sun cannot be responsible for all the climate changes we have seen in the past 50 years or so, this study is certainly significant," he said.

"It shows that there is enough happening on the solar front to merit further research. Perhaps we are devoting too many resources to correcting human effects on the climate without being sure that we are the major contributor."

Dr David Viner, the senior research scientist at the University of East Anglia's climatic research unit, said the research showed that the sun did have an effect on global warming.

He added, however, that the study also showed that over the past 20 years the number of sunspots had remained roughly constant, while the Earth's temperature had continued to increase.

This suggested that over the past 20 years, human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation had begun to dominate "the natural factors involved in climate change", he said.

Dr Gareth Jones, a climate researcher at the Met Office, said that Dr Solanki's findings were inconclusive because the study had not incorporated other potential climate change factors.

"The Sun's radiance may well have an impact on climate change but it needs to be looked at in conjunction with other factors such as greenhouse gases, sulphate aerosols and volcano activity," he said. The research adds weight to the views of David Bellamy, the conservationist. "Global warming - at least the modern nightmare version - is a myth," he said. "I am sure of it and so are a growing number of scientists. But what is really worrying is that the world's politicians and policy-makers are not.

"Instead, they have an unshakeable faith in what has, unfortunately, become one of the central credos of the environmental movement: humans burn fossil fuels, which release increased levels of carbon dioxide - the principal so-called greenhouse gas - into the atmosphere, causing the atmosphere to heat up. They say this is global warming: I say this is poppycock."


#3

Global warming is an unproven theory from everything that I've read. There's just as many(if not more)scientists that say it's not true. I'm gonna chalk global warming up with the rest of the wacko environmentalist predictions we've had.


http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=18526

The Global Warming Hoax
By Alan Caruba
National Anxiety Center | June 23, 2005

On June 13, USA Today declared, "The Debate's Over: Globe Is Warming." That's another headline you can ignore.

The world has been warming ever since the last Ice Age, but it is not rapidly warming in ways that threaten our existence, nor warming in a way that requires the industrialized nations to drastically cut back on their use of energy to avoid the many scenarios of catastrophe the Greens have been peddling since the 1980s.

Global warming is a classic scare campaign initiated by the Greens after a previous effort in the 1970s to influence public policy by declaring a coming Ice Age failed to generate any response. What we are seeing now is yet another worldwide coordinated campaign by the Greens to rescue the global warming theory from the junk heap to which it should be consigned.

In early June, the National Resources Defense Council, one of the large Green organizations, declared that, "Global warming is fast becoming the number one environmental problem of our time."

It has organized an Internet campaign led by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Sen. John McCain, and other so-called environmental leaders to drum up the fears of people who know little of the real science of the Earth in order to force the US to implement the United Nations Kyoto protocol on "climate control." Anyone who thinks humans have any control over the Earth's climate is willfully ignoring the evidence that we have none.

The NRDC declared, "The world's leading scientists now agree that global warming is real and is happening right now. According to their forecasts, extreme changes in climate could produce a future in which erratic and chaotic weather, melting ice caps and rising sea levels usher in an era of drought, crop failure, famine, flood and mass extinctions."

Scary, eh? One huge volcanic eruption could do this. As to the weather, it is the very definition of chaos and has been for billions of years.

The good news is that leading climatologists and meteorologists are actively debunking this nonsense. One of them, Dr. F. Fred Singer, president of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, is in the forefront.

He debunks a June 7 statement issued by several national academies of sciences just before Britain's Tony Blair arrived for talks with President Bush, saying, "The Statement simply regurgitates the contentious conclusions of the (UN) International Panel on Climate Change report of 2001, which has been disputed by credible scientists. The so-called scientific consensus is pure fiction."

Among the data he cites is the fact that, "Since 1940, there has been a 35-year-long cooling trend and not much warming in the past quarter-century, according to global data from weather satellites."

Moreover, "an extrapolation of the satellite data gives at most a fraction of a degree rise for the 2lst century," adding that, "The IPCC further claims that the 20th century was the warmest in the past 100 years, but this myth is based on a seriously flawed publication. The IPCC also claims that sea levels will rise by up to nearly a meter by 2100; but every indication is that they will continue to rise inexorably and much less, as they have for nearly 20,000 years since the peak of the last Ice Age."

Bear in mind that the IPCC is a creation of the United Nations and we have all seen how corrupt that institution has become, failing to fulfill its mandate for a more peaceful world while seeking to become a world government that would destroy the sovereignty of the United States and all other nations.

Other scientists have joined Dr. Singer to dispute the global warming claims. Paul Knappenberger of the University of Virginia, says of the claims made by the science academies that, "What is missing is the scientific assessment of the potential threat. Without a threat assessment, a simple scientific finding on its own doesn't warrant any change of action, no matter how scientifically groundbreaking it might be."

What passes for a threat assessment is simply the claim being made. Knappenberger noted, "The fact of the matter is that there does exist a growing body of scientific evidence that the climate changes in the coming decades will be modest and proceed at a rate that will lie somewhere near the low end of the IPCC projected temperature range."

Here's what you must keep in mind; the IPCC claims are based on what virtually every scientist knows to be seriously flawed computer models for its projections. In short, we are being asked to believe what computer engineers are telling us, not what credible climatologists and meteorologists are telling us.

There isn't a computer model for the world's weather that can reliably predict the future by more than a week at best. This is why tracking the routes of hurricanes proves so difficult. This is why blizzards often turn out to be better or worse than initial projections.

Iain Murray, another scientist, laid into the statement of the national academies for having committed the sin of advocacy. "Climate alarmists in the scientific community now face a long retreat, while the victory of President Bush's position on the issue seems assured.

Even the hopes of European intervention are dashed." The U.S. Senate unanimously rejected signing the Kyoto protocol many years ago. "Rational nations will not take action if the costs of the action outweigh the benefits," said Murray of the protocol's demand for energy caps on emissions while exempting nations like China and India, each with more than a billion people.

Meanwhile, in Congress we have people like Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, the ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, seeking to introduce legislation that would put "caps" on emissions of greenhouse gases and implementing what is essentially the Kyoto protocol that the Senate rejected long ago.

The Department of Energy has estimated that a cap-and-trade program such as Bingaman proposes would cost $331 billion in lost GDP between 2010 and 2025. Other Senators like McCain and Lieberman have similar strategies. In my view, caps are idiotic.

There is no scientific consensus. There is only the manipulation of public opinion and the effort to influence public policy. There is no rapid global warming and no way that any limits on energy use could have any effect on it if it did exist. Global warming is a classic scare campaign and we may well be witnessing its last desperate gasps as more and more scientists step forward to debunk it.


#4

I would challenge the assertion that 'most scientist now believe that human factors are responsible for the warming of the Earth."

I think several plausible explanations are out there.

The Earth's climate has gone through cycles for eons. The dinosaurs came and went and I think it a bit naieve to assume we will be around for all eternity.


#5

I do think it is probably true. It is irrational to think that our actions don't affect the environment around us-especially all of the things that have been spewed into the air since the Industrial Revolution.

I recall hearing about a volcano...somewhere in the Pacific (name escapes me at the moment) which, when it erupted, dimmed the Earth for a full year...I understand that pollution is not volcanic ash, but I can't just discount everything by thinking that its a big conspiracy.

I don't know many scientists, but the professors of sciences I do know seem pretty convinced.

I'm not going to listen to a politician over a scientist, or a group of scientists. I will find more on this, specifically a massive study that I read about long ago which really came as close as you can to proving global warming is happening at a faster rate because of manmade pollution.


#6

Good luck trying to persuade anyone here on this issue. I have started two Global Warming threads in the past, but I would say 90% of replies were of the 'We don't know what causes it, so why worry about it,' nature. Re. that statement, I agree with the first part- it is possible that man is not responsible, but the second part seems foolish to me.


#7

I don't think many would challenge a statement that man has had some effect on our climate. What percentage would be the issue.

Your post implied that we are a decade or two away from irreversible global meltdown BECAUSE of the human factor. I think that can be argued and would be most difficult to quantify.


#8

Irish,

Just curious, why would you believe one scientist over a group of scientists? Possible political affiliation?


#9

I knew I should have thrown another comma in there.

I meant that I wouldn't trust a politician over a scientist, and I certainly wouldn't trust a politician over a group of scientists, as those who generally agree that global warming is actually happening.


#10

I agree that it should be of concern. But if in fact, the cause is not man made, what course of action could we then take?


#11

Yea, I didn't mean to bust your chops, just curious.

I still believe that it's not nearly as credible as the greenies like to portray. I wish the scientists that think global warming is an unproven theory at best, and an overinflated hoax at worst, would step up and publicly debunk this stuff more.

http://www.theforbiddenknowledge.com/hardtruth/global_warming_myths.htm

[i]Yet there is no scientific consensus that global warming is a problem or that humans are its cause. Even if current predictions of warming are correct, delaying drastic government actions by up to 25 years will make little difference in global temperature 100 years from now. Proposed treaty restrictions would do little environmental good and great economic harm. By contrast, putting off action until we have more evidence of human-caused global warming and better technology to mitigate it is both environmentally and economically sound.

Much of the environmental policy now proposed is based on myths. Let's look at the four most common...........[/i]


#12

The politics have overwhelmed the science of this issue.

Most people do not have the faintest idea what the scientists are talking about.

Everytime I hear the term "greenhouse gas" I cringe. It is a horribly inaccurate analogy.


#13

It may seem strange, but I think we need an apocalyptic event around here. There are way too many people on this planet. Something needs to come along and wipe out a few hundred million of us.
Why not a polar meltdown? At least that way, the people smart enough to move to higher ground live, the dumb ones drown and the next phase of human developement can begin with a little cleaner gene pool and plenty of room to grow.


#14

It does seem strange. I hope that was sarcasm.


#15

I like global warming. Too damn cold up here!! :slightly_smiling:


#16

I'm always amazed by the head in the sand responses.

There are so many good reasons to avoid this issue. Well, it would cost money to do something about it. Well, we can't be certain exactly what effect we've had, it is hard to quantify. Well, there could also be non-human causes for this.

One of the things the human race does best is rationalize their actions or lack of actions.

I do believe that the majority of real scientists are truly concerned about this issue. The fact that certain gases reflect infrared radiation is not in question. The fact that we, as humans, release megatons of these gases every year due to industrial processes is not in question.

We are having an effect.

This risk is huge. However, like the problem of social security, it is likely to impact people other than us, so we'll (future generations) probably never do anything about it until it is too late anyway.


#17

Dude, so called global warming theory states that it is caused by carbon dioxide, not chemical into the air. Carbon dioxide is what you are breathing out right now. It is also what trees take in to live.

So it is not some strange chemical that they say is causing the warming, it is the very natural, needed for life, substance, C02!

So the more mammals on the earth would increase C02 without any other factor.


#18

I understand what is causing it. I never said it was a strange chemical- its just another way of saying greenhouse gases.

Plants take in C02 though. There are more than enough of them to balance out co2 emissions by...people.

You aren't blaming global warming on the fact that there are more people in the world, right?

Global warming isn't really a theory anymore (I mean, it is because science doesn't classify things any other way, but not in the way you are using it).

It is happening. The only question at hand is 1)whats causing it and 2)If it can be slowed or reversed. There are seriious consequences to ignoring this issue.


#19

Global warming is not necessarily the result of mankinds carbon dioxide emissions.

There are so many other variables (such as sun spots in the above article) it is hard to quantify what is happening.

The computer models have been so far off they are not worth discussing.

The term greenhouse gas is so deceptive I have a hard time taking seriously anyone that uses it.

The way it works is not the same way a greenhouse works. The term greenhouse is used because it sounds hot and any author that uses it is trying to generate fear.

I would rather we drop the fear-mongering and the politically motivated bullshit and try to figure out what is happening, if our actions have anything to do with it and if we should do anything about it.

I am wholly dissatisfied with what is happening now. The IPCC proved itself completely dishonest by the way they changed the report in 1995 after the scientist left the conference.

They are the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.

There is a huge global market developing in carbon trading as a result of Kyoto. This is shameful.

There is so much money involved on both sides of the issue it is impossible to figure out the truth.


#20

Well, I would challenge the idea that it is not a theory as sciences has not been able to record the earth's temp for that long. In other words, the temp has not been recorded for that long in history to know if this warming in the last 100-200 years is a cycle or an anomaly. So without having actual data, not theory, to show a pattern, it really is a theory.

Now I also believe that regardless of whether there really is an issue with warming or not, we should strive to reduce all pollution and live with a recycle/ reuse attitude, because with the population ever increasing we are going to be living on one big skinny landfill if we don't change our ways.