I shudder when I hear “professors” Rush Limbaugh, George Bush, the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley and their friends spout off that there is no man-assisted global warming in the works. Rapidly rising CO2 in the atmosphere is just fine. The resulting ocean acidification is just fine too. On their off-days, they may admit the climate is changing ever so slightly due to some other natural factors such as sunspots or cosmic radiation, but not enough to need our attention.
Just what rock have they been living under? One of the incontrovertible facts is that the global average temperature has risen by about 0.7 degrees Celsius over the last 150 years, pretty much in lockstep with the growth of industry and CO2 emissions. While weather changes hourly, climate change is measured over decades and centuries. So the last local hot or cold year or even several years have no major effect on the average global temperature calculated over a century.
Is 0.7 degrees significant? Absolutely. If the trend continues – meaning if we do nothing to slow it down – we will see a temperature rise of up to 7 degrees over the next 100 years or so. And that would spell disaster. Al Gore made a number of mistakes in his film, but his main theme that we are in a severe warming trend is essentially correct. We may not be able to stop it, but we can learn to adapt to it.
So if the deniers are so wrong, why do I bother reacting to them? I usually ignore fools. Because this crowd of climate change deniers is either knowingly misrepresenting science and the scientific method or simply playing with a short deck. Or maybe both.
They’re somewhat like the earlier deniers of a link between smoking and cancer when it was pretty obvious to any thinking person that tobacco’s link to adverse health effects is undeniable. Some were on tobacco’s payroll, some wanted publicity and others may have been delusional for all I know. Whatever the reason, they were wrong, just as the climate change deniers are today.
The deniers say “but what about the studies which show that climate change is not occurring?” Or if it is then at a much slower rate than the vast majority of the scientific community says it is.
So they haul out one or two studies which, when severely stretched, may support the denier’s position. They choose to ignore the overwhelming majority that say the opposite. And, dare I say “oddly”, some of the denier studies have been funded by the oil industry… A coincidence?
They imply that there is a conspiracy of scientists who for some reason promote the mantra of global warming just to be one of the like-thinking bunch. They forget that scientific fame comes from not being one of a crowd but proving everyone else wrong. The key word is “proving”. Galileo, Copernicus, Einstein come to mind. Somehow, I don’t see Limbaugh, Bush or their ilk even close to that league.
Apart from the huge preponderance of studies supporting global warming and the fact that climate models don’t predict anything very well if CO2 emissions are ignored but work great when they are included, the simplest argument I know on the side of man assisted global warming is a very simple mathematical one.
Here’s a quote from Stephen Schneider, a senior fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University. He said this during a panel discussion on climate change sponsored, among others, by “Discover Magazine”:
“If you were a cynic and you asked about the probability of the ice sheet in the north going up, it’s 50 percent. Going down? Fifty percent. And the South Pole going up? Fifty percent. Going down? Fifty percent. Probability they are both going together? Twenty-five percent. What’s the probability of the stratosphere cooling while the earth gets warmer? Again, assuming we knew nothing, 50 percent. Troposphere warming? Fifty. The probability that one will go up while the other goes down? Twenty-five percent. Same thing for other patterns, like the way high-latitude continents are warming more than low-latitude ones are. With any single line of evidence, you can say, “Oh, well, there’s still a 25 percent chance it’s random,” but what happens when you put all these events together? The probability of all these events’ lining up the same way is pretty darn low unless we are dealing with global warming.”
So, again, why do I bother with the Limbaughs and Moncktons? Because they have influence, even while they spout garbage. They are ego-thumping stumbling blocks to an orderly adaptation to climate change which will have to happen or we will really be in trouble.
Monckton was on one of a local radio station’s (CKNW) talk shows. The host, Roy Green, is stubbornly against any suggestion of global warming. So at the end of the show he invited anyone on the pro side to debate Monckton on his show. He says that is an offer he has been repeating on the air from time to time without any takers. So he asks why is everybody afraid to debate Monckton? Honestly now, would you want to debate someone who could pass for the village idiot when it comes to climate science?
You will say, of course, that polls show that North Americans are split close to 50/50 when it comes to believing that global warming is really taking place. Can so many people be wrong? So let me remind you that at one time, had a poll been taken, the majority of the earth’s inhabitants would have said the sun revolves around the earth. The poll would not have made it so.
If you’re interested in backup to what I’ve said, here are two excellent websites on the subject. The first one also includes a “contrarian” link: http://climatechange.net/ and http://realclimate.org/