Monday, March 19, 2007

Warming Shwarming

Originally posted at Spanish Phrase of the Day:

I've been stewing over this issue for a little while, and it's finally time to get up on the soapbox. I am going to do my best to back up my points with good information, so follow the links if you want more detail. It's a long one so hang in there.

There are a few major viewpoints on the issue of Global Warming. I'll do my best to outline them here, but I may leave some aspect out:

  1. Global Warming is caused in large part by man, is a grave crisis, and man must act immediately to prevent disaster (Al Gore).
  2. Global Warming is real, may be caused by man and could be problematic for the future.
  3. There is no "Global Warming," aside from the normal cyclical changes in climate that have occurred many times in history.
  4. There is no warming. There may even be cooling.

My own opinion is closest to #3. But my purpose is not to convince you of my viewpoint. My purpose is to provide, at the very least, a healthy skepticism for #1. #2 does not pose the danger that #1 does as it fails to cross into the realm of ideology. Here goes:

A major premise behind the Global Warming alarmism espoused by Al Gore is that coming worldwide climate change will have cataclysmic effect. First we will deconstruct the idea of "global temperature," a necessary component of Gore's warming. From ScienceDaily:

"It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth", Bjarne Andresen says, an an expert of thermodynamics. "A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate".He explains that while it is possible to treat temperature statistically locally, it is meaningless to talk about a a global temperature for Earth. The Globe consists of a huge number of components which one cannot just add up and average. That would correspond to calculating the average phone number in the phone book. That is meaningless. Or talking about economics, it does make sense to compare the currency exchange rate of two countries, whereas there is no point in talking about an average 'global exchange rate'.

So it is impossible to make blanket predictions of global phenomena based on a supposed "Global Temperature." Therefore it is also impossible to blame recent warming trends, or some kind of man made warming, on recent climatological events. That hasn't stopped Gore and the Hollywood machine, something that is of concern to scientists:

Professors Paul Hardaker and Chris Collier, both Royal Meteorological Society figures, criticised fellow scientists they accuse of "overplaying" the message.
They sparked controversy after saying statements made by the highly respected American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) were not justified. The AAAS said last month: "As expected, intensification of droughts, heatwaves, floods, wildfires, and severe storms is occurring, with a mounting toll on vulnerable ecosystems and societies. "These events are early warning signs of even more devastating damage to come, some of which will be irreversible." Professor Collier said that while he is not sceptical that such events could happen, it is important to be "honest" about the scientific evidence behind projected future impacts.
Professor Hardaker warned against the "Hollywoodisation" of weather and climate seen in films such as the 2004 smash hit film The Day After Tomorrow, which depicts terrifying consequences after the melting of the Arctic ice shelf. Such films, he said, only work to create confusion in the public mind. "I don't think the way to make people pay attention is to make them afraid about it," he said.

OpinionJournal's John Fund reports on the controversy surrounding this issue:

The New York Times last week interviewed many scientists who say they are alarmed "at what they call [Mr. Gore's] alarmism on global warming."
...Even James Hansen, a scientist who began issuing warning cries about global warming in the 1980s and is a top adviser to Mr. Gore, concedes that his work may hold "imperfections" and "technical flaws." Other flaws are more serious, such as Mr. Gore's depiction of sea level rises of up to 20 feet, which would cause Florida and New York City to sink below the surface. Sober scientists privately say such claims are exaggerated. They point to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations body that released its fourth report on global warming last month. While it found humans were the main cause of recent global warming, the report also indicated it was a very slow-moving process. On sea levels, the U.N. panel reported its s best high-end estimate of the rise in sea levels by 2100 was three feet. The new high-end best estimate is less than half the previous prediction, which was still far below Mr. Gore's 20 feet. Similarly, the new report shows that the panel's 2001 report overestimated the human influence on climate change since the Industrial Revolution by at least one-third.

So the alarmism promoted by Al Gore may not be justified. The science on warming is not "settled" as some have claimed.

Another part of viewpoint #1 is that man must do something to counteract climate change or face dire results. Assuming that reversing a warming trend is a good thing, is it even possible? From the National Review:

These are the sources for the notion that we have only ten years to “do” something immediately to prevent an institutionalized tsunami. And given that Gore only conceived of his movie about two years ago, the real clock must be down to eight years!It would be nice if my colleagues would actually level with politicians about various “solutions” for climate change. The Kyoto Protocol, if fulfilled by every signatory, would reduce global warming by 0.07 degrees Celsius per half-century. That’s too small to measure, because the earth’s temperature varies by more than that from year to year.The Bingaman-Domenici bill in the Senate does less than Kyoto — i.e., less than nothing — for decades, before mandating larger cuts, which themselves will have only a minor effect out past somewhere around 2075. (Imagine, as a thought experiment, if the Senate of 1925 were to dictate our energy policy for today).

Assuming that warming IS occurring, IS man made, and IS a solvable problem, the prescription is much more complex than what the average person understands. The threat of international terrorism and rogue state nuclear opportunism is of much greater concern to me. I just wanted to try and punch some holes into an ideology that is counterproductive and that threatens to take much of our attention from where it belongs.


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