July 28, 2016

Global Cooling – Yes, I Said Global Cooling

As governments around the world consider more rigorous controls on carbon emissions to fight the effects of global warming, I’ve noticed that many critics of these measures are quick to cite the fact that many scientists during the 1970’s were talking about global cooling and the beginning of a new Ice Age.

At first, this seems like a compelling argument against regulating carbon emissions, but that was the 1970’s and this is 2007. Climate change is extremely difficult to predict and a climate study in 2007 is going to be much more accurate considering the advances technology during the last several decades. Plus, there were more pressing problems then the carbon dioxide emissions that trap heat in the lower atmosphere. Scientists, politicians, and public were focused on particulate and sulfuric acid pollution because of problems like acid rain. In addition, it was feared that all this particulate matter in the atmosphere would block some of the sun’s energy and cause the surface to cool down. Finally, there was evidence that the planet was entering into the ice age part of the planet’s climate cycle. (This is a big topic that deserves a lot of articles, so stay tuned for that.)

Anyway, as laws that mandated cleaner air were (for the most part) a success, more and more attention was directed towards carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists began to realize that warming effects were overwhelming the trend of global cooling!

So, the moral of the story is that bringing up climate science from the 1970’s isn’t really an effective argument because of the advances in technology.

Stay tuned for more on climate change on our planet: look for articles about the past, present, and future of our climate.

Posted by Tim Roth, author of the political blog Think Anew and Act Anew

1. “Remember Worries About Global Cooling?”

Doomsday Clock – 5 Minutes to Midnight

Ever since atomic weapons were invented, the scientific community has been acutely aware of humankind’s growing power to do great harm to itself and the planet. Starting in 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) has maintained a Doomsday Clock to remind the public and political leaders what’s at stake. This clock was recently advanced two minutes to read 5 minutes to midnight. [1]

When the clock was first established, the time was 7 minutes to midnight. In 1949 the clock advanced to 3 minutes to midnight as the Soviet Union conducted their first nuclear test and Cold War began to escalate. The closest to Doomsday was 2 minutes to midnight in 1953 after both the United States and Soviet Union tested thermonuclear bombs. The time went up and down as the Cold War continued and the two superpowers conducted arms reduction talks. The most encouraging time for the clock was in 1991 when the clock read 17 minutes reflecting the official end of the Cold War when ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missles) and bombers were no longer at hair-trigger alert. [2]

The last time the clock was moved was in 2002 in response to 9/11 attacks and the possibility of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction. The recent movement was prompted by the obvious: North Korea’s nuclear test and Iran’s progress in developing nuclear technology. What was very significant about this recent movement was that for the first time, climate change was part of the BAS decision to move the clock up. The famous Stephen Hawking, a BAS sponsor and professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge explained at the Doomsday Clock press conference: “As scientists, we understand the dangers of nuclear weapons and their devastating effects, and we are learning how human activities and technologies are affecting climate systems in ways that may forever change life on Earth. As citizens of the world, we have a duty to alert the public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and to the perils we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and to prevent further climate change.”

Posted by Tim Roth, author of the political blog Think Anew and Act Anew

1.“5 Minutes to Midnight”, press release
2. Doomsday Clock Timeline

Repositioning global warming as theory, rather than fact

As mentioned in yesterday’s article, the report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wasn’t exactly breaking news. There have been an abundance of scientists and journal articles saying the same thing for a while now. The IPCC is simply a review body that has actually been criticized for being too conservative in its concerns over global warming.

As the scientific community comes to an even great consensus on the issue of global warming, a section of Al Gore’s book and movie An Inconvenient Truth comes to mind.

When discussing the scientific consenus, Gore quotes Jim Baker, the former head of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration): “There is a better scientific consensus on this issue than any other…with the possible exception of Newton’s Law of Dynamics.”

Gore goes onto to discuss a peer-reviewed Science magazine study published by Dr. Naomi Oreskes at the University of California at San Diego where all 928 of the peer-reviewed science journal articles on global warming published between 1993 and 2003 were analyzed. Dr. Oreskes and her team choose a large random sample and determined if these papers agreed on the scientific consensus on global warming.

Percentage of articles in doubt as to the cause of global warming: 0%

Then it gets interesting:

Due to well-funded special interest groups, a very coordinated disinformation campaign is being conducted to raise doubt about global warming. (Big surprise: these groups happen to receive funding from the oil and coal industry). Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ross Gelbspan wrote a book called Boiling Point and discussed this information campaign. In this book, he describes an internal memo from one of these groups that stated their goal was to “reposition global warming as theory, rather than fact.”

Al Gore then proceeded to draw a compelling comparison to the reaction of the tobacco industry in the 1960s when the Surgeon General released a landmark report linking cigarette smoke to lung cancer.

“Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.” – Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company memo from the 1960s.

Then it gets really interesting:

Similar to the study of the peer-reviewed journal articles, another study was done of the mainstream media coverage of the global warming issue. No formal citation was given for this story, but as avid news reader I have zero doubts about the study’s conclusion.

They studied articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, and the Wall Street Journal over 14 years (roughly 1990-2004). They took a 18% sample of the 636 articles and analyzed how they depicted the global warming issue.

Number of articles that gave equal weight to the “scientific articles” (translation: not peer-reviewed) that claim global warming isn’t due to human activity: 53%

Posted by Tim Roth, author of the political blog Think Anew and Act Anew

Humans are “very likely” causing global warming

“Friday, 2 February 2007 may go down in history as the day when the question mark was removed from the question of whether climate change has anything to do with human activities” — Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) [1]

In an important report published yesterday in Paris, France the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) declared that human are “very likely” a cause of global warming. While this isn’t exactly breaking news, what is significant is that in a 2001 report the IPCC said humans are “likely” a cause of global warming. In more concrete terms, the IPCC definition for likely is a 66-90% probability. This means the probabilty of a human effect is now greater than 90%. [2]

Another interesting paragraph of the IPCC Executive Summary read the following:
“The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past fifty years can be explained without external forcing, and very likely that it is not due to known natural causes alone.” [3]

Other highlights from the IPCC report:
1. By the end of the century, temperatures will probably rise 1.8-4C (3.2-7.2F) and could possible rise between 1.1-6.4C (2-11.5F)
2. Sea level likely to go up by 28-43 cm (11-16 inches)
3. By the second half of the century, Arctic sea ice will disappear entirely during the summer months.
4. Eleven of the last 12 years are some of the warmest on record
5. Changes in weather patterns will lead to longer and more intense droughts, heatwaves, and tropical storms.

The IPCC will release a full report later this year and will release reports on how to adapt to climate change and suggestions towards reducing greenhouse gases. Stay tuned for more updates.

Posted by Tim Roth, author of the political blog Think Anew and Act Anew

1. “Analysis: Through the climate window” by Richard Black, BBC News
2. “Humans blamed for climate change” by Richard Black, BBC News
3. IPCC report (PDF), released on February 2, 2007