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February 2, 2007

Those 'Scientists' Are Saying Global Warming Is Man Made And Will Continue: So What The Hell Am I Suppose To Do About It? (Updated)

earth.jpgScientists say man made global warming is a problem, while other scientists say man has little to do with it, and other scientists say ... , etc. There are in fact differing opinions from respectable scientists about global warming and the risks it may pose.

However, the news that's getting all the media attention on February 2, 2007 is the AP report that scientists from 113 countries issued a supposed "landmark" report Friday saying they "have little doubt" global warming is "caused by man," and predicting that hotter temperatures and rises in sea level will "continue for centuries" no matter how much humans control their pollution. The report that the AP is refering to but doesn't cite is actually a 12-page "Summary for Policymakers" of the a semi-political "Fourth Assessment Report" of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change negotiated by delegates from 150 governments. But the political nature of the report is ignored in the AP hipe:

The 21-page report represents the most authoritative science on global warming as the panel comprises hundreds of scientists and representatives. It only addresses how and why the planet is warming, not what to do about it. Another report by the panel later this year will address the most effective measures for slowing global warming.

One of the authors, Kevin Trenberth, said scientists are worried that world leaders will take the message in the wrong way and throw up their hands. Instead, world leaders should to reduce emissions and adapt to a warmer world with wilder weather, he said.

"This is just not something you can stop. We're just going to have to live with it," said Trenberth, the director of climate analysis for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "We're creating a different planet. If you were to come up back in 100 years time, we'll have a different climate."

The scientists said global warming was "very likely" caused by human activity, a phrase that translates to a more than 90 percent certainty that it is caused by man's burning of fossil fuels. That was the strongest conclusion to date, making it nearly impossible to say natural forces are to blame.

It also said no matter how much civilization slows or reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and sea level rise will continue on for centuries.

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level," the scientists said.

The report blamed man-made emissions of greenhouse gases for fewer cold days, hotter nights, killer heat waves, floods and heavy rains, devastating droughts, and an increase in hurricane and tropical storm strength -- particularly in the Atlantic Ocean.

A different perspective than the one glorified by the AP is offered by Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and former director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service. He writes at the NY Sun that it appears evident (at least to him) the IPCC, which prides itself on being strictly scientific and policy-neutral, wants to make its report politically correct. Pointing to the political nature of the report he notes:

This (the political nature of the document) raises legitimate doubts about the scientific credibility of the IPCC's conclusions. The "cleansing" of the report -- and the attendant delay in publication -- is also feeding wild speculation about climate catastrophes, with many leaks to compliant newspapers.

Compared to earlier reports, the "Fourth Assessment" is really quite sober, perhaps because a real scientist less given to ideology heads the effort. The summary projects slightly lower temperature increases than previous reports, for example. Also, the last report, in 2001, featured the Hockeystick, a graph that purportedly illustrated that the 20th century was "unusually warm." The IPCC ignores contrary evidence.

Its underlying science was flawed by incorrect statistics, and apparently the IPCC now implicitly agrees, for the Hockeystick does not appear in the summary.

The IPCC's estimates for sea-level rise are about half of previous values given. The IPCC is under attack by extremist scientists who think it is too optimistic and that the numbers should be more catastrophic. NASA scientist Jim Hansen's sea-level value is about 20 times higher than that of the IPCC. I suppose that makes him, as well as Al Gore, a climate "contrarian."

Notwithstanding these more restrained points, the IPCC fails to provide any real support for its key conclusion: "It is very likely that anthropogenic greenhouse-gas increases caused most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century." The IPCC ignores contrary evidence The whole question of anthropogenic, or human-caused, global warming is central to setting any policy of climate mitigation and therefore warrants closer examination.

A commonly cited "proof" for human-caused global warming claims there is a scientific consensus. This claim is based mainly on a flawed essay by Naomi Oreskes of the University of California, San Diego, which appeared in the journal Science in December 2004. But even if a majority of scientists had voted for human-caused global warming, that's not how science works. Unlike in politics, the majority does not rule. Rather, every advance in science has come from a minority that found that observed facts contradicted the prevailing hypothesis. Sometimes it took only one scientist; think of Galileo or Einstein.

Another so-called "proof" offered for human-caused global warming is that glaciers are melting and Arctic sea-ice is disappearing. But this is a necessary consequence of warming and says nothing about its cause. Any warming -- whether man-made or natural -- will melt ice. Confusing cause and effect is faulty logic, not proof.

Some cite the fact that the climate is currently warming and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing. This is true, but correlation is never proof of causation. In Europe, the birth rate is decreasing and so is the number of storks. Does this correlation prove that storks bring babies? Besides, the climate cooled for much of the 20th century, between 1940 and 1975, even while carbon dioxide was increasing rapidly.

Well, what about some 20 greenhouse climate models, all predicting warming -- all the way to 11.5 C from as low as 1.4 C, for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide? Yet no one can tell us which of these models is correct -- if any. And none of these models can explain why the climate cooled between 1940 and 1975 -- without special assumptions. In any case, model results are never evidence. Only actual observations count.

Crucially, greenhouse models cannot explain the observed patterns of warming -- temperature trends at different latitudes and altitudes. These data, published in a U.S. government scientific report in May 2006, lead us to conclude that the human contribution is not significant. Most of current warming must therefore stem from natural causes. It may well be part of an unstoppable solar-driven 1,500-year cycle of warming and cooling that's been documented in ice cores, ocean sediments, stalagmites, and so forth -- going back a million years.

If indeed most of current warming is natural rather than from greenhouse gases, there is little point in reducing carbon-dioxide emissions. Further, carbon dioxide is not an atmospheric pollutant. Programs and policies for carbon dioxide control should therefore be scrapped -- including uneconomic alternative energy sources, carbon-sequestration efforts, and costly emission-trading schemes. All of these waste money and squander scarce resources, without in any way affecting the atmosphere or climate. Humans have adapted to major climate changes in the past, and we should have no problem doing so in the future.

So on the one hand we have the "distinquished scientists" agreeing on a negotiated position that the sky is falling, or some semblance thereof, and on the other hand it may not be falling very fast and if it is we can live with it anyway, and besides, there's nothing we can do about it in the first place. This of course brings up the question that if it is indeed the case that we can't do anything about it, to what extent, if any, is climate change really subject, in a significant way, to what man has done and does or does not do - in other words, is climate change really man made?

Inasmuch as I'm an immunopharmacologist and not a climatologist I'll leave the evidence of one side or the other to the climatologists, but not the politicians. As for how we should look at the report and what we should do about it, I'm all for assuming a "what if the report is right" stance and take what actions that we can all 'reasonably' take, and at the same time prepare ourselves to "live with it," in a rational and reasonable manner. Notice I used the words rational and reasonable.

Regarding the latter stance, Blue Crab Boulevard has a nice "living with it" piece that suggests we take a look at the reality of the situation instead of the extremist positions and points to Patrick Michaels article in today's USA Today.

The increasingly hysterical warnings about global warning continue to take on an almost surreal air. Global warming being blamed for gingerbread houses collapsing in Sweden; grim warnings of enormously overweight moose, the list of dire predictions becomes sillier with each passing day. With the release of the latest news that man is "likely" involved in the warming trend and that the trend cannot be stopped, it is about time to take a look at the reality of the situation instead of the extremist positions, ...

... Despite what many people insist, the evidence of how much of global warming is tied to human activity is marginal at best. There are strong arguments that a lot of the warming trend is natural and has nothing to do with man at all. But even if we start with a presumption that this trend will continue no matter what we do in the short run, then it is time to look at dealing with the changes intelligently. Not by throwing money away.

You'll find both Blue Crab Boulevard's and the USA Today pieces to be worthy reads.

Other coverage: Outside the Beltway and Democrats.com and State of the Day (why is it that the Dems just can't help themselves - there's absolutely nothing that they can't politicize. If it's not the evil Joooz it's the evil corporations or administration. Oh well, another day in lala land. We need Joe Friday back with just the facts)

Update: In Critics seek to deflate hype surrounding global warming report we hear another argument that the United Nations report on global warming was not approved by scientists but rather by politically motivated U.N. bureaucrats, and assigns an agenda behind it:

The report released by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says it is "very likely" the burning of fossil fuels by humans is linked to rising temperatures, sea levels, and extreme weather. Marc Morano with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee says while the U.N. may claim the summary speaks for 2,500 scientists, it is written by U.N. political delegates.

Morano contends scientists have to alter their work to meet the U.N.'s political agenda as laid out in the summary. He notes that in 2000, French President Jacques Chirac called the Kyoto Protocol the first step to "authentic global governance."

"So the U.N. has that agenda," Morano contends. "[It] wants to be able to tax, regulate, and essentially be an international governing body over the developed world, particularly the United States. This is seen by many as an opportunity to get their hands on United States taxpayer wealth."

Morano says all the U.N. has to make its dire predictions are unproven computer models of the future. According to Morano, "You can't prove a prediction wrong today of 2100 or 2050."

And according to the Committee aide, the U.N. represents "all scientists" the same way labor unions in America represent "all workers" - that is, they don't.

Posted by Richard at February 2, 2007 11:57 AM

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