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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Despite denials by right wing oil whores, global warming is key concern of 21st century humans

Global Warming: Denial is Insane

By mole333,

Global warming is the biggest issue of our lifetime. And our grandchildren will hate us for ignoring it. And yet ignore it we are...or at least America in general is ignoring it. We are a society in denial and it will bite us in the ass sooner rather than later.

Most likely, it already is biting us in the ass.

The Arctic is melting. The Antarctic ice sheet is thinning and breaking up. Glaciers are receding at a record rate...and that is record for all of known geological history, not just recorded history. And the Siberian permafrost is thawing...becoming only seasonally frozen. The scale and rate of these changes is mindboggling. You can find a summary of the myriad signs of global warming on the Union of Concerned Scientists website.

Climate change is always going on as solar output fluctuates, orbits wobble, etc. These changes can be slow or fast, but there is no evidence as far back as they can go with ice cores for a change as rapid as what we are seeing now on Earth. So we have an unprecedented phenomenon that requires explanation.

We know for a fact that carbon dioxide and other gasses have a greenhouse effect. That is physics and cannot be disputed. So, one hypothesis is that an increase in greenhouse gasses is to blame. So, to test this, scientists looked for an increase in greenhouse gasses.

And they found it. There has been a CLEAR and ACCELERATING increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere. For a while there was some uncertainty in this because two measurements disagreed. The gist of the debate was whether surface or tropospheric measurements were more accurate because these two measurements disagreed as to whether temperatures are rising. You have probably mostly seen the dramatic rise in surface temperatures. Satellite measurements had shown far less warming in the troposhere even though models suggest that the surface and troposphere should pretty much warm together. Obviously, the right wing oil whores have seized on this to claim global warming is still not known to be really happening.

Reinterpretation of the data has solved this by realizing that the interpretation of the tropospheric temperatures were inaccurate. So this disagreement has been resolved and BOTH increasing temperatures AND increasing greenhouse gasses are certain. What is more is that they VERY CLOSELY CORRELATE. That means a graph of the increased carbon dioxide has the exact shape and timing of the increased temperature. This is the famous "hockey stick" graph. So right here we know from physics what effect increased greenhouse gasses will have and we are seeing that predicted effect. This is not controversy, this is proof of principle.

So where are the greenhouse gasses coming from? There is NO natural source that can be identified. There are two main sources of increased carbon dioxide that can be found: deforestation and burning of fossil fuels.

From the Center for Earth Observing and Space Research website:

The global Carbon Dioxide budget is complex and involves transfer of CO2 between the atmosphere, the oceans, and the biosphere. Through the photosynthetic process, the land removes about 100 petagrams (10^15 g) of carbon in the form of CO2 per year. However, about the same quantity of carbon in the form of CO2 is added to the atmosphere each year by vegetation and soil respiration and decay. The world's oceans release about 100 Pg C in the form of CO2 into the atmosphere per year and in turn absorb about 104 Pg C each year. Most of the oceanic carbon is in the form of sedimentary carbonates. Burning of fossil fuels adds about 5 Pg C and biomass buring and deforestation add about another 2 Pg C to the atmosphere in the form of CO2 annually. By summing all of the fluxes of CO2 into and out of the atmosphere, we can find that about 3 Pg C in the form of CO2 is building up in the atmosphere each year. The average concentration of CO2 was about 290 ppmv in preindustrial times; now (1990) it is about 350 ppmv and increasing steadily at a rate of about 0.3-0.4%/yr. Since CO2 is chemically inert, it is not destroyed by photochemical or chemical processes in the atmosphere; either it is lost by transfer into the ocean or biosphere or it builds up in the atmosphere.

And if you graph the combined rate of deforestation and industrialization done by humans, you will get a graph with the same shape and timing as the increased greenhouse gasses and the increasing temp. What is more, if you look at the mixture of greenhouse gasses that we KNOW are at fault in warming, the only explanation to account for that mixture would be human activity.

Climate scientists are more than 90% agreed (and I get this from climatologists themselves, people working at GISS, the combined Columbia/NASA research institute in NYC) that global warming is in full swing and is due to human activity. But don't take my word for it. As Dr. Robert Watson, then Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said in 2001,

" The overwhelming majority of scientific experts, whilst recognizing that scientific uncertainties exist, nonetheless believe that human-induced climate change is already occurring and that future change is inevitable."

Anyone who argues otherwise is either lying, misinformed and/or has an agenda. Period.

And what about the consequences to us, our economy, and our society?

Do you live on a coastline...almost any coastline? Your home will be flooded, possibly within your lifetime. Tokyo, London, Amsterdam, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle...all face flooding of varying severity. Southern Florida? Gone. Forget New Orleans. To quote from the website that displays the map of global warming effects:

Warmer temperatures increase melting of mountain glaciers, increase ocean heat content, and cause ocean water to expand. Largely as a result of these effects, global sea level has risen 4 to 10 inches (10-25 cm) over the past 100 years. With additional warming, sea level is projected to rise from half a foot to 3 feet (15-92 cm) more during the next 100 years. On average, 50 to 100 feet (15-30 meters) of beach are lost for every foot (0.3 meters) of sea-level rise. Local land subsidence (sinking) and/or uplift due to geologic forces and coastal development will also affect the rate of coastal land loss.

Richer nations will have the resources to adapt, at least to some degree. Poorer nations will not. US agriculture will be devastated. Canada, Russia and the Scandinavian nations are most likely going to benefit the most, though it is hard to predict regional effects with certainty (local coolings can occur within the context of global warming). Tropical diseases will become common in the temperate zones...already are! West Nile? Yep, moving north just as predicted by global warming scientists.

We are in the midst of global warming. It is not something we are facing in the future. We face it NOW. It is not controversial any more than evolution is. It is HAPPENING. Predictions made 15 or 20 years ago are coming to pass. Some industries are starting to take very real hits from it. The insurance industry is facing the financial burden of increased storminess. We won't have a record number of hurricanes every year. But what we saw this year was phenominal. Hurricane ZETA!!! Unheard of! My wife, a climatologist, was amazed when we hit gamma. The insurance industry realized 10 years ago it had something to fear and was one of the first industries to start lobbying for real action on global warming. Some examples:

Franklin Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America has said:

"The insurance business is the first in line to be affected by climate change. It is clear that global warming could bankrupt the industry."

--from Eugene Linden, "Burned by the Warming," Time, 14 March 1994, p.79.

This and other analyses (both environmentalist and denial viewpoints) from the insurance industry can be found in the report: Climate Change and the Insurance Industry: Opportunities for Energy-Based Solutions (PDF!). Also see Insurance and Climate Change (also PDF) by David Crichton from the Conference on Climate Change, Extreme Events and Coastal Cities in Houston and London.

The American ski industry. They are starting to be scared. There are fewer and fewer days in the ski season on average, and that is lost money to the ski industry. So they are starting to act, trying to run their industry more ecologically and starting to lobby for real action on global warming.

One tiny industry, the New England maple syrup industry, is facing extinction as the conditions for maple syrup production are moving north into Canada. This industry may go extinct in the near future.

But of course the economic impact will be much greater than a handful of industries. Hurricane Katrina was a hint as to what can happen and WILL happen more and more. Agriculture will shift north. American farming may not survive as deserts expand, though it is hard to say exactly whether America will be drier or wetter.

Is it sane to ignore all this? A truck is barrelling down the road right at you. Do you say "let's study it more?" No. That is insane. Ignoring global warming is about as insane. Yet that is what America has been doing.

KEYWORDS: global warming, climatology, greenhouse effect

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