Sunday, March 7, 2010

Climate Change & Contrarians

The following has been printed in the March 2010 issue of the
Four Corners Free Press

For this blog I've included links to various worthwhile information sources, please do explore those links.

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Snow Doesn't Mean No Global Warming

What a tough winter. Every time I look at the news there’s another extreme weather event happening. Vicious arctic cold fronts playing crack-the-whip across portions of the northern latitudes, then massive East Coast snow storms. Now I have contrarian friends laughing at me saying: “See there, the Earth is cooling. Your talk about Anthropogenic Global Warming is a hoax.”

What contrarians refuse to appreciate is that our planet is huge and temperatures do vary. Consider for a moment, our climate as the global heat engine which redistributes energy, heat and moisture. Temperature and barometric differences provide the throttle behind this weather machine. Inject extremes into the system - as society has been doing - and it will react in kind, it makes no difference to the engine.

It does however, make a big difference to us and the biosphere that has nurtured our civilization. For example, currently the jet stream has been moving further north at the same time warmer ocean’s are evaporating extra moisture into the troposphere. In light of our globe as a “heat engine” current wild winter weather IS consistent with AGW.

Another thing contrarians ignore is the depth of scientific understanding supporting the influence of CO2 upon global temperatures. It goes back to the 1860s and the pioneering days of chemical thermodynamics. In the 1930s the basic physics of atmospheric CO2 was puzzled out, with constant study refining that earlier knowledge. As early as 1957 scientists made it clear that “A great geophysical experiment was underway.” (For more CO2 & climate science history log onto UCTV, watch the lecture by Naomi Oreskes PhD: The American Denial of Global Warming.”)

Since 1958 atmospheric CO2 levels have been meticulously recorded. While it’s true nature produces much CO2, nature is always recycling it, meaning this volume is in balance. It’s society that is currently injecting 30 billion tons of extra CO2 into the atmosphere of a planet of less than 200 million square miles - each year! That’s 130 times as much as volcanoes.

Claiming CO2’s influence is unproven or insignificant is pure delusion - the evidence is there, one only needs to be willing to look at all of it. These are simple and well-understood facts climate contrarians refuse to consider. Check out The National Climate Data Center website.

Then, contrarians ridicule climate models, yet never acknowledge the accumulating improvements to those models, computers and data collected. Everything about the contrarian approach lacks any serious willingness to examine, or learn, from our growing knowledge. What contrarians offer is short nasty jabs to foster confusion.

Even more offensive are contrarians pretending climate scientists working the problems aren’t aware of inconsistencies and questions and aren’t actively working towards resolving and understanding them. Actually, even more contemptible, are contrarians implying climate scientists are dishonest manipulators and money grubbers.

As for what’s actually happening on this planet. The threats aren’t even academic as during my high-school days, four decades back. Things being hypothesized (if society ignored the climate science) are happening before our eyes. The website “Skeptical Science” has a list of studies that document changes occurring in our biosphere. They include: satellites measuring Earth’s energy imbalance (less is going out than is coming in) ~ distributions of animals and plants are shifting towards poles ~ Arctic Permafrost is degrading ~ sea level is increasing ~ Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica ice loss is accelerating ~ glaciers are shrinking ~ lake ice is freezing later and thawing earlier ~ height of troposphere is increasing ~ jet stream is moving northward ~ tropical belt is widening ~ rain patterns are shifting ~ oceans are warming.

Each topic is accumulating scientific observations that should be taken seriously.

Yet, instead of honestly examining such evidence, contrarians shamelessly ignore all that proves them wrong. They seem to forget that part of being skeptical means being able to admit to mistakes and to learn from new information.

Just as disturbing, contrarian arguments always fall back on financial considerations, as if that makes it OK to ignore physical reality. “Business As Usual” seems their only objective. Contrarians seem terrified of ending energy companies’ stranglehold on power. They refuse to give up any nationalistic sovereignty to international agreements. In fact, some contrarians proclaim we have no right to worry about the climate “outside” of our own borders. Trouble is, there are no borders to Earth’s climate processes!

One last contrarian ploy worth exposing: “Science isn’t done by ‘consensus’!” That’s pure misdirection. Research isn’t done by consensus. But, claiming science isn’t a matter of consensus is silly. Climate science consensus was spotty when information was new and sparse. But, science learns and grows, as has our voracious consumption of energy and resources. The simple fact is, anthropogenic global warming “consensus” is not something formed by scientists. The global warming “consensus” IS formed by the data being gathered.

This isn’t to say that some serious AGW skeptics don’t possess genuine grains of truth, points worth examining, perhaps new pieces to the puzzle. But, contrarians are so fixated on denying AGW altogether, they toss out the baby with the wash water. Unfortunately, this leads to the only thing contrarians are actually accomplishing, which is, diminishing our children’s chances for a healthy future. Shame on them.

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