Part 4: Notes on man-made climate change, global warming, the ‘sceptics’ etc.
[This section is also in part 8 of: Power and Protest/”People Power” (Social Movements in the 20th Century)]
Other parts of the section Natural Environment:
Part 1 Introduction and overview
Part 2 The Environmental Movement
Part 3 Environmentalism as a political philosophy
1. Summary #summary
2. Brief History of Climate Change (from Earthmatters, published by Friends of the Earth, Summer 2009) #history
3. From the press (most recent first) #press
4. Response to a sceptic’s points on Global Warming as a ‘disaster myth’ (2012): #response
(i) No scientific consensus?
(ii) Sun spots etc.
(iii) Earth’s tilt/wobble.
(iv) CO2 is heavy.
(vi) Famines not caused by climate change.
(vii) ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’
(viii) Polar ice is not melting.
(ix) The coalition government’s position. The role of the oil industry and other interests.
(x) A response: who is saying what?
(xi) Conclusion: the ‘big picture’.
References for ‘Response’: #references.
5. Notes on climate sceptics #sceptics
David Bellamy (2011) - including arguments about ‘bias’ at the
“The Great Global Warming Swindle” (TV programme, 2007): responses by Robin McKie and George Monbiot: #Great Global Warming Swindle
Many observers believe that the most serious threat
facing the earth today is climate change as a result of global warming. The aspect of air pollution that is involved
here is “the greenhouse effect”. When
sunlight warms the earth, some of that heat is lost through radiation (as it were, bouncing off the earth) back into space. This is
another example of the precise balancing phenomenon at work in the ecosphere, since
there are some gases in the atmosphere that retain or reflect the heat back to
earth – like the glass in a greenhouse. Most notable of these is carbon dioxide. Again, in itself this is a
harmless gas: we breathe it out all the time, when the oxygen we breathe in has
been used in the lungs. However, human industrial
activity - especially the burning of fossil fuels - including cars, has
resulted in an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide, which has been carried
up into the atmosphere and now keeps in some of the sun’s heat. Other
contributing gases are CFCs (see notes on the ozone layer...) and methane: the latter is naturally produced by rotting
vegetation, in ponds etc, but the amount we produce has actually increased with
the industrialisation of farming, since cows’ flatulence contains the gas! With regard to carbon dioxide emissions in
1750 – 1800 start of industrial revolution – rises in average global temperatures are measured as from pre-industrial level.
1896 Swedish Chemist Svente Arrenhuis describes how greenhouse gases work and predicts a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could increase global temperatures by 5 degrees.
1977 FoE persuades Dept of Energy to set up domestic insulation scheme.
1979 first World Climate Conference highlights CO2 levels.
launches global warming campaign in
1990 IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (established by United Nations Environment Programme, and World Meteorological Organisation) 1st Report says human activity likely to be contributing to climate change. Details of working methods etc. of IPCC at: http://www.ipcc.ch/index.htm
1992 Rio Earth Summit – UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (George Bush senior decides not to go).
1995 2nd IPCC Report.
1997 Kyoto Protocol signed by 141 countries to come into force in 2005.
2001 3rd IPCC Report.
2001 George W Bush opposes
2002 Larsen B ice shelf breaks
up – a piece of ice a quarter the size of
2003 estimated 35,000 Europeans die in extreme summer temperatures.
2004 sudden cold temperatures
cause cracks in
2005 Hurricane Katrina hits
2007 IPCC Fourth Report.
2007 IPCC and Al Gore share Nobel Peace prize. Gore’s film/powerpoint presentation An Inconvenient Truth wins an Oscar.
2008 Ed Miliband
climate change minister,
2009 Barack Obama becomes president and puts billions into renewables.
– e-mails hacked from Climatic Research Unit at
2010 Reports by Lord Oxburgh, Sir Muir Russell and Commons Science and Technology Committee find no malpractice, no withholding of evidence and no suppressing of dissenting views. Public trust in climate scientists drops from 60% to 40%.
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/19/rohingya-andaman-sea-refugees-migration - there will be more migration
as temperatures – and the level of the sea – rise. ‘Already in
Weds 13th May 2015 Kari Mathiesen, Guardian reports (p 17) that the British Antarctic Survey has measured ice loss in the Antarctic – the largest ice shelf (Larsen C) is thinning, because of warmer water underneath as well as warmer air temperatures. Between 1998 and 2012 it has lost four metres in depth. The danger is that glaciers and ice built up behind the ice shelf would collapse. Larsen C is two and a half times the size of Wales. It is losing about 28cm every year. Although the glaciers behind this shelf would only raise the sea by a few centimeters if it collapses, the whole Antarctic contains so much ice that a melt-down would raise sea levels by metres.
13th May 2015 Guardian article (Damian Carrington and Harry Davies) (p29): US tax payers subsidise fossil fuel companies. For example, proposed Shell petrochemical refinery in Pennsylvania is in line for a $1.6 billion state subsidy... (See Guardian ‘keep it in the ground’ campaign).
3rd May, Observer p 9, Mark Townsend on Garden Bridge project: mining giant Glencore (linked to environmental and human rights abuses, and one of the largest exporters of seaborne coal in the world, so contributing to climate change) is involved, making a metallic lining – encasing the underside in cupro-nickel. The London Mining Network is protesting, as is Greenpeace. Each tree on the bridge would cost 636,000 gbp, as against 4 gbp a tree in a tree-planting scheme. RSPB and Wildlife Trust have withdrawn support.
11th March 2015: Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, warns that climate change is one of the biggest risks facing the insurance industry. Paul Fisher, a senior ban policymaker, also warned that insurers could take ‘a big hit’ if they invest in fossil fuels, which we may have to leave in the ground. (Guardian Financial).
Interesting that very young children (as young as 3) can distinguish intention from accident – problem is that climate change is caused without intention... We construct social narratives to deal with the issue e.g. we find someone to blame (e.g. oil industry, capitalists etc whilst for denialists it is the leftist conspiracy etc). We need a narrative of shared common purpose.
Gray is his (usual?) pessimistic self: Klein’s argument is that corporate elites are in denial (in fact the opponents of climate change are more on the ball when they reject the predictions of catastrophe)
The first of the book’s three sections details how the environmental movement has been derailed by the financial crisis and the aftermath of austerity, together with the corporate promotion of climate denial. In the last of the three Klein deals with the movements that are springing up in a wide variety of contexts to challenge the neoliberal order. The second section, dealing with what Klein calls “magical thinking”, is in many ways the core of the book. Here she considers technical fixes for climate change, including schemes of geoengineering. In one of the more grandiose schemes, dimming the rays of the sun with sulphate-spraying helium balloons has been proposed in order to mimic the cooling effect on the atmosphere of large volcanic eruptions. The risks of such technical mega-fixes are obvious. As any climate scientist will tell you, we simply don’t know enough about the Earth system to be able to re-engineer it safely. Yet as Klein notes, such madcap schemes will surely be attempted if abrupt climate change gets seriously under way. [Does this means she accepts them?]
Gray’s conclusion: The Earth is vastly older and stronger than the human animal. Even spraying sulphuric acid into the stratosphere will not trouble the planet for long. The change that is under way is no more than the Earth returning to equilibrium – a process that will go on for centuries or millennia whatever anyone does. Rather than denying this irreversible shift, we’d be better off trying to find ways of living with it.
From ? Sunday Times end Sep: by Camilla Cavendish: over-determined to make everyone a villain (even charities and some ‘greens’ – also the reinsurance industry, who have actually been warning about climate change for decades according to Cavendish) so gives the impression that climate change is a ‘leftist conspiracy.’ Not as shocking as her previous books, though it ought to be; good on why we find it difficult to accept (we move fast, climate change moves slowly) – and on mindless consumerism (but why do we crave material goods? We are not just victims of multinationals surely? Cavendish: ‘humans are deeply competitive, acquisitive beings who might retain those characteristics even if all corporations were abolished’ [not so!!].
Too simplistic to say ‘the elites have stolen all the power’? She praises the public sector (but Cavendish: the private sector innovates, invents and invests), and needs to explore what is meant by ‘a completely different economic system’. .
Interesting that very young children (as young as 3) can distinguish intention from accident – problem is that cc is caused without intention... We construct social narratives to deal with the issue e.g. we find someone to blame (e.g. oil industry, capitalists etc whilst for denialists it is the leftist conspiracy etc). We need a narrative of shared common purpose.
VANDANA SHIVA quotes from an interview on women and the environment/climate change etc (from Democracy Now! By Amy Goodman http://www.alternet.org/environment/jane-goodall-and-vandana-shiva-why-women-are-key-solving-climate-crisis?akid=11269.1136917.uAbe6M&rd=1&src=newsletter935975&t=16&paging=off¤t_page=1#bookmark) :
‘You know, a lot of the power of the rulers comes from what Bacon said, the marriage of knowledge with power, a particular kind of knowledge, a very mechanistic knowledge that defined nature as dead—and, on the other side, women as passive. So, the exception to the rulers, in this case, is about resurrecting the knowledges that are about the living Earth and our tradition.’
On the legacy of the First Nations: ‘To me, this is the United States of America, traditions that are totally submerged. So my commitment has been, first and foremost, to really, you know, do a resurrection of hidden knowledges and world views, which is what women bring to this discussion’.
On ‘corporate patriarchy’: ‘People have knowledge. It might not be recognized by the dominant system, which I call "corporate patriarchy" now. It was "capitalist patriarchy" when Chipko happened, because the corporations weren’t such big players in our lives. They were contained by all the rules of democracy. And they’ve knocked those rules off bit by bit. The other thing I always do is build the movement simultaneously, because I don’t think you can fight these battles top to top. You just can’t. So, for every study we’ve done and every piece of research we’ve done, one, we’ve counted a paradigm. I mean, all my work on the green revolution—it was assumed the green revolution produces more—found out, no, it doesn’t. Produces more commodities, but commodities are not food. And then we build the movement. When I came to know about how intellectual property rights were being put into the World Trade Organization, I traveled the length and breadth of the country sitting and holding workshops with farmers, who then rose, and 500,000 came to the street. We’re talking about '92, before Seattle.
And I think the challenge of this summit is to put forth another paradigm about how to live on the Earth—what the Earth is first, she’s not a—you know, she’s not there to be engineered, she’s not bits of dead rock; she is the living Earth that we were reminded about—and also, through that, bring forth another leadership for another world, because we don’t want leadership in that rotten world of destruction. It’s not worth it anyway. It’s not going to last too long. We want the seventh generation, cultivation of leadership for the future. And it’s interesting, the seventh generation logic that Janice talked about, that every action we take should bring to our minds the seventh generation, in India we have the same, seventh generation. That was what civilizations took care of. Uncivilized people rape the Earth for today.
The first thing is to bring it down from the stratosphere. I think one reason the climate movement on the grassroots has taken longer to grow than movements around biodiversity conservation or water, etc., is because everyone got so overwhelmed with the parts per million, and everyone was looking at the graphs and how they climb and the hockey stick. And looking at the hockey stick is something that is out of control. There’s nothing you can do. But every emission begins on the ground. And every mitigation and adaptation action is on the ground. That’s why I wrote my book, Soil Not Oil. I was starting to feel worried that not only were we only dealing with the IPCC reports, that had kind of become the only place you could act, and go to the climate summits, but we were missing the biggest piece of where do greenhouse gas emissions come from.
You might remember the Kyoto Protocol was supposed to reduce emissions by 5 percent, and by the time we went to Copenhagen, emissions had increased 16 percent, because the solution in Kyoto was allow the polluters to trade in emissions and buy credits from those who don’t pollute. Not only did this make big money for the polluters, I know Arcelor—the Mittal family, which bought up all the steel plants, including the ones in Eastern Europe and France, he made a billion a year just through these emissions trading. But worse, because it all became such a racket, all kinds of really devastating activities started to be treated as Clean Development Mechanisms. One example is the fact that this year, 15th, 16th, 17th of June, we had the most intensive rains, and a glacial lake burst, and flooding like I’ve never seen in my life took place. Twenty thousand people have died in my region, the region where the Chipko movement started. The damage was accelerated by hydro projects, which were all getting Clean Development Mechanism money, in addition to all the benefits government gives.
Agriculture, industrial globalized agriculture is 40 percent of the greenhouse gases. We can do something about it today. If you notice, the official agenda is biochar. Biochar is burning biomass without oxygen, basically how charcoal is made. That’s not what the soil lives on. The soil lives on humus. But biochar is another place to make huge profit, whereas humus is just giving back to the Earth what we’ve received from her. And I think the word "humus" has such power, because I think humanity comes from it, humility comes from it, humidity comes from it—everything that gives life and creates our humanity comes from it. So, even though it might look a bit strange, but I think creating organic farms and organic gardens is the single biggest climate solution, but it’s also the single biggest food security solution. And given the economic crisis, both in this country—you watch southern Europe, you see the riots in Greece and Italy and Spain, and I work with youth, unemployed youth, in all of these places, one of the things I’m telling them all is go back to the land. You know, the banks messed up your lives. The governments have given up on you with their austerity programs. But the Earth will never abandon you. She is inviting you to be co-creators and co-producers so that we can solve all these multiple problems, which are interconnected.
And I think if there’s one thing women can bring to this discussion, in addition to those beautiful words that Jane used of love and compassion, the capacity to have compassion is the capacity to see connections. That’s the disease that the deeply patriarchal mindset has not been able to overcome, that they can’t transcend fragmentation and separation and thinking in silos, and, worse, thinking as if we are separate from the Earth, and therefore, as masters and conquerors, there’s just another experiment of control that you need the freedom to have. And I think we need to give a message saying, no, the Earth was not made by you, therefore you can’t fool around further. You’ve already messed up enough. Stop these geo-engineering experiments. We had a discussion on Democracy Now!, I remember, once about this. We need to tell them this world is about life, not just about your profits and your bottom line, so don’t reduce everything to a commodity, and don’t financialize every function of the Earth and all her gifts. So I think this is really the moment for another discussion, another thinking. And in all of this, the beautiful thing is, the concrete solutions are the most radical ones. The abstract has had its day.
(From Alternet) London, 3 December - Governments have set the wrong target to limit climate change. The goal at present - to limit global warming to a maximum of 2°C higher than the average for most of human history - “would have consequences that can be described as disastrous”, say 18 scientists in a review paper in the journal PLOS One.
With a 2°C increase, “sea level rise of several meters could be expected,” they say. “Increased climate extremes, already apparent at 0.8°C warming, would be more severe. Coral reefs and associated species, already stressed with current conditions, would be decimated by increased acidification, temperature and sea level rise.
The paper’s lead author is James Hansen, now at Columbia University, New York, and the former NASA scientist who in 1988 put global warming on the world’s front pages by telling a US government committee that “It's time to stop waffling so much and say the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here.”
Hansen’s fellow authors include the economist Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University and the biologist Camille Parmesan, of the University of Plymouth in the UK and the University of Texas at Austin, USA.
Their argument is that humanity and nature - “the modern world as we know it” - is adapted to what scientists call the Holocene climate that has existed for more than 10,000 years - since the end of the Ice Age, the beginnings of agriculture and the first settlement of the cities.
The scientists case is that most political debate addresses the questions of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but does not and perhaps cannot factor in the all potentially dangerous unknowns – the slow feedbacks that will follow the thawing of the Arctic, the release of frozen reserves of methane and carbon dioxide in the permafrost, and the melting of polar ice into the oceans.
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/global-warming-is-very-real-20130912 - includes an interesting series of comments. One has a diagram showing CO2 levels and temperature going back into prehistoric times, and apparently showing temperatures going down while CO2 rises etc. I am sure there must be an answer to this...
Nature Geoscience 28th July reports that clouds scatter light back into space (as well as down to earth, which is why they look bright). On Venus, CO2 built up so much that became a hot, barren planet (a runaway greenhouse effect in other words). We are a wet planet and so our clouds could prevent this. A leaked IPCC report, which was publicised in the Economist, says the clouds may slow down global warming. Whereas they had previously said that 445 – 490 ppm of CO2 were likely to lead to a temperature rise of 2 to 2.4 degrees, they now say the likely rise would be 1.3 – 1.7 degrees.
However, while the Economist says that ‘some IPCC scientists think the projected rise in CO2 levels might not have a big warming effect as was once thought,’ Brooks points out that we have now discovered that methane is leaking from gas pipes in urban areas in the US. Boston has 3,000 leaks in their pipelines – methane is 25 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.
2nd Sep 2013. Guardian editorial on climate change – ‘There is no serious argument within climate science about the link between carbon dioxide levels and temperature. Between 1970 and 1998 the planet warmed at an average of 0.17C per decade, and from 1998 to 2012 at 0.04C per decade. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, however, continued to rise and are now higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years.
Twelve of the 14 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000; the last two years have been marked by catastrophic floods in Australia and record-breaking temperatures in the US; and the loss of north polar ice has accelerated at such a rate that climate modelers expect the Arctic Ocean to be routinely ice-free in September after 2040.’
These points are made in the light of the suggestion that the recent slowing in the rate of warming is due to cyclic cooling of the oceans. It may be that the deep oceans are warming. But there is no room for complacency: the greenhouse gases emitted 20 years ago have still to make their effect – and the energy in heated water in the oceans has to come out eventually.
The comments following this are both fascinating and depressing. Some fascinating specific points, plus some (plenty of!) abuse and childishness. One good i.e. serious piece has the following link: http://blog.chron.com/climateabyss/2013/08/learning-from-the-hiatus/
1st June 2013. Book: The Burning Question: we can’t burn half the world’s oil, coal, and gas, so how do we quit? By Mike Berners-Lee and Duncan Clark (Profile). Reviewed Guardian 01.06.13. Share prices in oil etc are still high, even though we ought to be stopping production – shareholders are gambling that we won’t. Global carbon emissions are increasing by about 3% a year – and non-carbon substitutes are having no effect. Solutions? Prof David McKay, chief scientific advisor at DECC says ‘You need almost everything, and you need it very fast - right now.’
These authors support nuclear (and the reviewer says the French cut 80% of their carbon emissions by nuclear in the ‘80s) and CCS, and to work out a way of doing photosynthesis to produce fuel (leaving natural photosynthesis for food growth).
30th April 2013. CO2 likely to reach record levels, according to US government’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory in Hawaii. Current readings are 399.72 ppm, at peak, and average 398.5. Hourly readings above 400 ppm have been recorded 6 times in the last week. Levels have been rising for 200 years – they were about 280 ppm at the start of the industrial revolution, and 316 ppm when the Mauna Loa observatory opened. We could hit 450 in a matter of decades.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/apr/04/world-bank-chief-poverty-hiv The two biggest problems facing the world he says are poverty and climate change. He expressed alarm that global temperatures could increase by 4 degrees by 2060, and asked the leaders of the environment movement “where’s the plan?”
“We need to present [a plan] to the population and say there are going to be trade-offs and life is going to change a bit, but how much do you love your kids. The scientific evidence on climate change is overwhelming, and if you believe the science it is about family values. It’s not about your great grandchildren, it’s about your children.”
Aug. 2012: CCS - Carbon capture and storage – article by Simon Neville, Guardian 6th Aug tells how this no longer looks viable because the price of carbon is too low, owing to the credit crunch... Hey Ho, another success for marketisation!!!
August 2012 – excellent account by George Monbiot of how the melting of the Arctic sea ice (which is happening much faster than expected – and faster than IPCC predicted) is probably affecting the weather: the north polar jet stream normally functions as a barrier between the cold wet weather to the north and the warmer drier weather to the south; its meandering (the Rossby waves) is made steeper and wider by arctic heating (see a paper in Geophysical Research Letters). Thus we get stuck with either wet weather or warmer weather for longer periods than usual. See: http://www.monbiot.com/2012/08/27/the-heat-of-the-moment/ - for fully referenced version of the Guardian article of 28th Aug. 2012.
This piece does need updating itself, though, since the Russian company Gazprom has decided not to try to extract shale gas in the Arctic after all. Victory for Greenpeace!! However, one of the reasons given is that US gas from shale is making the price drop... (You win some, you lose some?)
Update: Monday May 7th 2012 from Guardian, Leo Hickman reports on Diageo (the drinks company) withdrawing support from the Heartland Institute because of its advocacy of climate scepticism, when it ran a series of adverts comparing people concerned about climate change to mass murderers such as the Unabomber... General Motors has also withdrawn support, and Microsoft (which has provided software) has rejected its stance. See:
14.06.11: John Vidal on extreme weather – we had the warmest spring for 100 years followed by the coldest winter in 300 years. In 2010 Eastern Europe and Russia scorched – an extra 50,000 people died as temperatures stayed 6 degrees above normal for many weeks – crops devastated, wild fires broke out – the hottest summer in 500 years. Freak weather events are occurring more frequently.
26.12.10 Robin McKie article – we have known about the danger of CO2 since David Keeling (climate scientist) installed measuring devices on Mauna Lee in 1958. He found rising and falling corresponding to trees in winter or summer – when he started the levels were around 315 ppm, and today they are nearer 390 – and will touch 400 around 2015. Climate sceptics have never refuted the Keeling curve. In 1990 we reached 350, which many scientists believe was the most the planet could take without suffering climate change. We have seen the average global temperature rise by 0.8 degrees C, and if we stopped all emissions tomorrow they would still rise another 0.2. If 2 degrees is reached then 3 billion people will suffer water shortages, and global food production will be disrupted (says the UN).
Dec 2010: James Hansen, NASA scientist, in defence of 114 activists who planned break into Eon coal-fired plant near Nottingham last Easter: the UK is the biggest polluter per person because of its early industrialisation, so the onus is on UK to lead the way and phase out coal-burning plants. ‘’We are going to have to leave fossil fuels in the ground. The biggest one to leave in the ground is coal.’ (Tim Webb, G 30.11.10)
Nov 2010: (John Vidal, G 24.11.10) UN report by 30 leading scientists says the pledges made by 80 countries to reduce CC emissions fall far short of what is needed to reduce temperature rise by 2 degrees C. If they do all they promised (i.e. best case scenario – things could work out worse), would still be a 5 bn tonne per year gap (equivalent to emissions from all the world’s vehicles in one year).
More than half the world’s countries are pressing for max 1.5% rise – which would need annual cuts of 4 – 5% after 2010 (UN environment programme chief scientist Joseph Alcamo). Above a 2 degrees rise would mean more loss of icecaps, and more extreme weather events.
Oct 2010 (NY Times): Carbon neutral city: ‘Self-sufficient and carbon-neutral city’: Masdar, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi in UAE: see New York Times 031010, Nicolai Ouroussof: like a gated community, excluded from the rest of the world. ‘Ever since the notion that thoughtful planning could improve the lot of humankind died out, some time in the 1970s, both the megarich and the educated middle classes have increasingly found solace by walling themselves off inside a variety of mini-utopias.’
3rd Oct 2010 (Obs.) Stewart Brand: Whole Earth Discipline (Atlantic Books) – compiled Whole Earth catalogue in ‘60s; founded one of the first online communities the WELL in 1985. Suggests we need more cities, nuclear power, GM food, planet-wide geo-engineering to avoid disaster from global warming. Says the green movement may be going this way. More people should get involved in technology to ensure we use good technology to undo the harm of bad tech.
Climate summit to be held in Cancun, Mexico: not likely to produce any results – ‘still huge differences between developed and developing countries’ (Chinese official). Kyoto (only agreement so far) expires in 2012 – it took 5 years to negotiate and 8 more years to come into force. ‘Sandbag’ estimates carbon saved during second phase (supposed to really get going in this phase) will be 1/3 of 1%.
Damian Carrington adds: Only 32m tonnes of pollution permits will need to be surrendered to meet the cap – a tiny fraction of the 1.9bn tonnes of emissions covered by the ETS each year. This saving is the result of the economic crisis having driven down economic activity while the caps remain at the same level.
(GM): Recession has led to rise in number of carbon permits waiting to be used. No likelihood of lowering the caps either. Targets achieved are unreal anyway, since exclude net emissions that arise from outsourcing (and buying back manufactured products), also exclude tourism, shipping and aviation!!! If these were included our emissions would have risen by 48%. Govt claims we have reduced emissions since 1990 by 19% when really we have increased by about 29%.
Need agreement on funding of ‘mitigation and adaptation’ (effects on developing countries, and how to avoid in future). Britain, via EU had agreed cut CO2 emissions by 34% by 2020 (on 1990 levels). EU govts have promised 22 – 50 bn euros (£20 – 45 bn) a year for developing world, as part of a global 110 euro package (though costs may be four times that…).
Investment in clean technology: need clear signal to markets, otherwise development and investment will not happen says head of UN environmental programme Achim Steiner. EU has offered $110 bn a year (£60 bn) by 2020 but this is at bottom end of what needed. Need $50 bn by 2015.
Review by Philip Ball of book (Obs 15.11.09) by Christopher Booker ‘The Real Global Warming Disaster’ – rounds up criticisms of majority scientific view of global warming – some of it is true, but much is bunk… stratagem of introducing climate sceptics with no comment, but attacking non-doubters. Attacks ‘hockey-stick graph’ which now accepted not reliable anyway. Devil is in details, so too much to cover in review, but does e.g. use cold winter of 2008 as grounds for attacking global warming (one swallow…) – also slight cooling since 2003, which doesn’t refute longer-term changes. See http://tiny.cc/mpjJB (says Philip Ball). Crucial point: either the world’s scientists have conspired to prove with computer graphs etc that something is happening which isn’t – and only Bush and the oil industry have not been foiled… or: they’re all wrong!
16/09/09: Jonathan Friedland on UN summit on climate change, preparing for Copenhagen in December: to prevent a 2 degrees warming, world temps. need to peak in 2015 and decline after. Americans produce ave. 19 tonnes CO2 p.a., which more than double our own.
George Monbiot, G 031109 on Clive James’ scepticism: surveys suggest number of people sceptical is increasing: Pew Research Centre: proportion of Americans accepting global warming has fallen from 71% to 57% in 18 months. Rasmussen: 44% American voters believe global warming is due to natural causes, as against 41% that is result of human action…Science Museum computer poll has had 1,006 endorsing ‘evidence for man-made climate change [mmcc]’ and 6,110 rejecting. Top books at Amazon are vs mmcc. Clive James claimed on radio 4 that there is a shift in scientific opinion – none, says Monbiot – and that there is no consensus – rubbish… M speculates that mainly older people are sceptical, and this due to ‘vital lies’ and ‘character armour’ which protect us from fear of death (Ernest Becker, 1973) – we engage in immortality projects and projects which boost our self-esteem… Recently Janis L. Dickinson, in Ecology and Society, suggests mmcc reminds people of death, and leads to strengthening of character armour in ways that reduce chances of survival. Others eat/consume more!!!
Recently Brown and Stern have recommended we reduce CO2 by 80%, not 60%, by 2050, to prevent 2 degree rise – previous figures based in 1995 paper. Monbiot 04.12.07 calculates reduction needed is much greater (95 – 98%)!!! Currently ave prodn per person is 3.58 tonnes. See below on value/cost of carbon etc.
Nov 2008 Contraction and Convergence, and carbon rationing: (from Ecologist mag,): Western countries must reduce (contract) their CO2 emissions, while some developing countries can be allowed to increase theirs until the world converges on a sustainable carbon footprint (between 1 and 2 tonnes annually [per person?] at current population levels.) The website for CRAG (Carbon-Rationing Action Group) has table showing how the average footprint of its members has reduced: www.carbonrationing.org.uk there are 650 members (2008) and a wiki-based site also…
Feb 2008: Climate Change is killing people… says Dr Simon Lewis (G260208): but there is no monitoring, so we don’t know how many. He was an expert witness at a trial of activists who shut down an EON power station to “prevent deaths” – judge said this could not be proved. WHO estimates 150,000 die each year but this from a 2002 study, including only 4 impacts/causes: malaria, malnutrition, diarrhea, flooding. Need to work out ways of measuring and to publicise!
Jan 2008: Tom Burke, founding director of E3G (not-for-profit sustainable development organisation) (G 160108): scale of problem must be recognised: need avoid 2% increase but have already increased 0.7, and cannot prevent another 0.7… Must cut all CO2, including agriculture, deforestation, etc – no time to learn from our mistakes, and dwarfs anything we have faced before. Agrees must move to electricity, as CO2 from oil/gas cannot be stored (especially cars, also home boilers?). Only 3 sources: renewables, nuclear, fossil + CCS. Wind added 15 GW last yr – nuclear added only 2GW. Coal is main fuel world-wide, China plans 40 nuclear reactors, but this will only give 4% of its electricity. Must install CCS on all new and existing plants.
21.01.2008: Caitlin Fitzsimmons, mediaguardian: The Advertising Standards Authority criticised Shell for claiming its waste CO2 was used to grow plants when only 0.5% of its waste was CO2. “Green marketing” one of the fastest growing areas of consumer/marketing: 61% of marketers agree a company’s sustainability practices affect customers’ buying decisions (Marketing Trends Survey Autumn 2007). Proctor and Gamble (Ariel), Innocent Drinks, Head of Eurostar: green marketing an imperative now, or cies will be left behind… Pitfall: accusations of “greenwash...” To avoid this accusation, companies have to follow up on their claims. Social marketing is now part of the profession. Makes a company good to work for, too. [see notes on ethical marketing in csr notes]
04.12.07: George Monbiot: recently Brown and Stern have recommended we reduce CO2 by 80%, not 60%, by 2050, to prevent 2 degree rise – previous figures based in 1995 paper. Monbiot calculates reduction needed is much greater (95 – 98%)!!! Currently the average production per person is 3.58 tonnes.
Problem of feedback: as climate warms, sea and soil may produce more CO2, also tropical forests may die so the environment may be less able to absorb CO2. Taking CO2 from air is possible but expensive: @ £256 – 458 per tonne, 3 x cost of wind turbines, 2 x cost of nuclear power, slightly cheaper than tidal power, 8 x cheaper than domestic solar panels (government figures). Kyoto has failed, as there has been an increase in emissions - the rate now exceeds the IPCC’s worst case scenario, and “no region is de-carbonising its energy supply” (Proceedings of US National Academy of Science)
Also Prof Rod May, Imperial College: the rate of growth of the economy causes a greater rate of growth of consumption of resources (each doubling period leads to as much consumption as all previous periods!!!).
Guardian letter (07.11.07): How to measure emissions, and who pays? Letter suggests that there should be “four protocols for green firms carbon footprint”: direct emissions (by the organisation), indirect emissions (purchased from electricity generators etc) other indirect emissions (supply chain e.g. transport, waste disposal), and what about emissions caused by use of the product? At present, this is down to the consumer, but products should be manufactured in such a way that there is minimal CO2 used.
Consumer/marketing: 61% of marketers agree a company’s sustainability practices affect customers’ buying decisions (Marketing Trends Survey Autumn 2007). “Green marketing” one of the fastest growing areas of the sector, (Caitlin Fitzsimmons, mediaguardian 210108) Proctor and Gamble (Ariel), Innocent Drinks, Head of Eurostar: green marketing an imperative now, or cies will be left behind… Pitfall: accusations of “greenwash” and ASA critd Shell for claiming its waste CO2 was used to grow plants when this only 0.5% of its waste CO2. To avoid accusation, have to follow up on claims. Social marketing now part of the profession. Makes a cy good to work for, too. [and see on ethical marketing in CSR…]
Contraction and convergence. Devised by Global Commons Institute – see Mayer Hillman letter G 090707. Greenpeace, FOE, WWF not agree? “Requires contraction of global carbon emissions to a safe level and convergence towards sharing them equally among the world’s population.”
25.07.07: CO2: Climate science: not true that no proof that CO2 can cause global warming: can demonstrate in lab that CO2 absorbs infra-red radiation – satellites measure emissions, etc. Just because the solar magnetic cycle etc can influence the earth’s temperature - as Piers Corbyn of Weather Action says - (and as accepted by climate-scientists) this does not mean it is the only factor. Keith Shine, University of Reading, letter Guardian
Also: Martin Durkin, Director of The Great Global Warming Swindle (see below!): claims that the average global temperature peaked in 1998, then fell, then was static from 2001 – 2005, then fell slightly in 2006 (according to the Climate Research Unit, UEA, as used by the IPCC); also: when CO2 emissions rose during the post-war boom, global temperature fell… (letter Guardian)
“The report released on Friday was shorn of the warning that “North America is expected to experience locally severe economic damage, plus substantial ecosystem, social and cultural disruption from climate change related events.”
Accusations from “climate change deniers” (Dominic, Lawson, Tom Utley, Janet Daley among others) that the environmentalists are trying to shut down debate are thus the reverse of the truth! Martin Durkin (The Great Global Warming Swindle see link below) claims he was subject to “invisible censorship” because the Independent Television Commission found that he had misrepresented the views of four complainants! Professor Carl Wunsch, when he complained that he had been misrepresented, received a legal letter from Durkin’s production company threatening to sue him unless he retracted this statement!
The Union of Concerned Scientists carried out a survey to find out about constraints that had been put on them – 279 climate scientists working for federal agencies responded: 58% felt that they had been subject to pressure to remove the words “climate change” “global warming” etc from reports, their work had been edited by superiors to change the meaning, their findings had been misrepresented by officials, reports on the web about climate change had disappeared or been delayed. They reported 435 incidents of political interference over the past five years.
Jan 2007: Carbon footprint: carbon reduction action groups (crag) aim to get members to reduce carbon footprint – can be penalized by the group if go beyond [how?!]. Andy Ross (in FoE) set one up in Warwickshire (Obs 21.01.07 – Cash section!). Targets UK personal average is 5 tonnes (or 11 if include industry emissions...). Groups go for e.g. 10% less per annum. Government target (in 2007?) 60% reduction over 40 years. Crags nay trade allowances between groups.
To measure footprint: take a year’s gas and electricity bills, estimate annual car mileage, divide by number of people in household. Sites that give methods to calculate: www.climatecare.org or www.carbonrationing.org.uk (more complex) – also see www.cred-uk.org (carbon reduction project – national and in US). Royal Society website has figures so you can compare with others: www.rsacarbonlimited.org
Oct 2006: Stern Report – cheaper to tackle issue than wait to deal with consequences – Global warming could swallow up 20% of world’s GDP whereas cost of preventing global warming could be limited to 1% of world’s GDP provided starts seriously in next 10 – 20 yrs. Critics e.g. Richard Tol of Economic and Social Research Institute Dublin, and William Nordhaus professor of economics at Yale, say warnings are alarmist (and wrong…). Main issue is effects of current policy decisions on future generations. Took into account small probabilities of effects being much worse than most likely – e.g. temp rise could be 3 degrees or 6… and positive feedback: mechanisms are poorly understood…
George Monbiot’s criticisms: G 190208) the Stern Report uses a formula where he attaches a price “equivalent to a reduction in consumption” to measure the costs of climate change (some of which are quantifiable e.g. food prices, flood damage; but what about destruction of ecosystems, loss of life, refugees, disease?). Consumption is not just of material goods, food etc but education, health and the environment, which he admits “raises profound difficulties”. Still, he comes up with a figure of between 5% and 20% “equivalent reduction in consumption” should global temperature rise by 5 – 6 degrees. Apart from the absurdity of putting a money value on health and wellbeing in this way, it also follows from all this that the poor are less valued than the rich, since the “equivalent reduction in consumption” is lower!!!
Stern then calculates a “social cost of carbon” – but the government has simply turned this into a price, currently £25 a tonne: it then weighs up the savings from a new airport runway, by calculating passengers’ time saved, against the cost of damage to the environment in terms of CO2 at £25 a tonne. But we have to note that it is the poor, especially in the third world, who are most likely to be damaged as a result of climate change – and against their “value” the government puts the savings to wealthy travellers’ time!!!
2001: (?) IPCC has revised its estimate for rise in temp of globe by 2100, because of positive feedback, from + 5.8C to + 6.4C. Melting ice-sheets: these reflect nearly 80% of sunlight – if become soil/darker water, role decreases. Oceans, soils and trees absorb half CO2 that humans produce. Oceans: phytoplankton dying off as oceans warm. Soil will reach maximum absorption levels. Siberia thawing, and releasing methane.
NASA has a graph on their website: http://climate.nasa.gov/keyIndicators/ which takes a mean temperature between 1951 and 1980 and plots the changes since 1880. It shows that around 1880 the temperature was 0.4 (degrees Celsius) below the mean, and now it is approaching 0.6 above. You can either say this is a 0.6 rise or I guess you could say it is 1 degree. I have seen other figures of 0.8 (Robin McKie – science editor of the Observer newspaper) or even more... and if, as many argue, the warming is a trend, then mean temperatures are likely to carry on increasing. There is a great danger if the upwards curve is, as Al Gore and others argue, exponential (see below).
(a) only a few degrees (5 – 10) drop would produce an ice age, and Robin McKie, drawing on UN sources, says that an increase of 2 degrees would lead to 3 billion people suffering water shortages, and global food production being disrupted:
(b) taking a global average, the 20 warmest years have occurred since the 1970s, and the 10 warmest years have occurred in the last 12 years (NASA) – the rate of change seems to be accelerating (see the point below on exponential growth). However, an increase in global temperatures does not mean that everywhere gets warmer! There is a difference between weather and climate, and the weather effects of global warming are not easy to predict – though Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth, Bloomsbury 2006 – see point 9 below) lists not just glaciers melting but also some places getting more rain, some having droughts, more hurricanes and other extreme weather events; the more frequent closing of the Thames flood barrier etc. The Association of British Insurers has pointed out that claims from storm and flood damage doubled between 1998 and 2003 (to over £6 bn) (sorry, I forget my source for this!).
A piece in New York Times (Sat Apr 15th 2012) asks whether the more variable weather we now see in the northern hemisphere is a result of climate change. In March parts of the US were very cold, after a freak heat wave – in France it was the other way round...
An IPCC report issued in late March suggested there is a link, and that climate change is leading to increased frequency of heat waves, and of heavy rainfall, and coastal flooding. The most likely explanation is that this is connected to the melting of Arctic ice, which has shrunk 40% since the early ‘80s – an area the size of Europe is now water, which does not reflect heat away from the surface as ice does. Dr Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University (quoted in the NYT article) says the question is ‘how can it not be’ (how can the loss of sea ice not be affecting atmospheric circulation). In particular, the heat is probably affecting the jet stream, producing ‘kinks’ which disrupt the normal temperatures.
However, some scientists dispute the link with climate change (loc cit): John R. Christy, University of Alabama, says it is simply down to the very dynamic nature of weather. Martin P. Hoerling, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyst, says what is happening in the Arctic is mostly staying in the Arctic, and some researchers are in too much of a hurry to establish a link between weather and human causes.
But please note: these are arguments about the exact effects of climate change/global warming, not about the underlying trends. The same point needs to be made with reference to the criticisms of the IPCC report which claimed glaciers would melt quickly: this section was written by a separate group to the scientists who measured temperature change etc, and whose task was to speculate about the impact. No errors have been pointed out in the scientific summaries.
(c) the crucial point is that previous rises/falls (going back 600,000 years – see below) have correlated very clearly with the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, and the vast majority of scientists believe the major cause of the increased global temperature is increased CO2, not other factors you note such as:
There has been a low level of sunspot activity between 2005 and 2010 – the lowest levels recorded during the satellite era. This means that the earth has been absorbing less energy from this source – recent (2011/12) calculations by the Goddard laboratory for NASA (cited on the NASA website – see References below, and in Hansen’s book) show about 0.25 watts per square kilometer. But the earth’s ‘energy imbalance’ (the difference between energy absorbed by the earth and energy returned to space) is 0.45 watts per square kilometer, that is: there is more energy generated inside the system than the amount that exits (a positive imbalance). Temperatures have been going up – but solar activity cannot be a cause of this.
There are of course natural cycles which affect the climate (including variations in solar irradiation etc) – and no proponents of man-made climate change would deny this! The point is that these are natural changes, and pretty much predictable (because their patterns are usually regular), which work over long cycles – whereas the pumping of CO2 into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels is not natural, and can be shown to have affected the composition of the atmosphere dramatically in a short time:
CO2 levels are now at 392 ppm (parts per million) according to NASA. This is the highest they have been for 650,000 years – previous highest levels have been around 300 ppm. The increase was first measured by David Keeling in 1957 (Hansen p 116) – and he also noticed a 24 hour cycle as trees and plants absorbed CO2 during the day and gave off CO2 during the night. He also found that there were variations near to human habitation – which is why he then made more measurements at a remote spot at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. His measurements, which have never been refuted, (Robin McKie) show that CO2 increased from around 310 ppm to over 390 between 1957 and 2010. (*) There is no doubt that the levels will continue to rise unless major changes are made in the way energy is generated. Moreover, CO2 remains in the atmosphere for some time so that there is a time-lag: even if we start reducing our output now, the results will not be noticeable immediately.
(*) This is a rapid change over a short period of time – and the rate of change seems to be accelerating. This is probably what is called exponential growth – like a compound interest savings account where the amount of increase each year goes up if the interest is left in. However, in nature exponential growth is very dangerous: nothing serious seems to be happening at first, but when the change gets more rapid we get to a ‘tipping point’ beyond which it is impossible to reverse the change. (The example I usually use to illustrate this is a pond in a garden: if weeds, say, are growing exponentially this means that the time in which it takes them to double the space they take up gets shorter and shorter. It is quite possible for weeks of growth to occur before the weeds cover half the pond, but they will then fill it entirely overnight! Your fish will suffocate before you have done anything about it.)
There is a CO2 or ‘carbon’ cycle – described by Hansen on pp 118 ff: plants, the oceans and the land act as ‘reservoirs’ for CO2 (plants/trees hold 600 billion metric tons [gigatons or GtC] primarily as wood in trees, soils contain 1,500 GtC, and the ocean holds 40,000 dissolved GtC – the atmosphere holds about 800 GtC as CO2). Again, we know there are natural cycles such as the glacial to interglacial periods due to the movement of the earth in space, and when the ocean becomes colder it holds more CO2, so the atmosphere then holds less and this leads to more cooling. When snow and ice melt, due to the earth’s changing orbit or tilt, then more CO2 is released, leading to more warming. These are examples of positive feedback – and Hansen says they account for nearly half the interglacial global temperature change.
Yes Mount Pinatubo erupting in 1991 had an effect on global temperatures, by the aerosols it put into the atmosphere: it ‘reduced solar heating of Earth by almost 2%... this... however, was present only briefly – after two years most of the Pinatubo aerosols had fallen out of the atmosphere.’ (Hansen: Storms of my Grandchildren, Bloomsbury 2009, p 5). If there were a series of volcanoes continually erupting we would see a longer-term change.
Hansen gives precise quantifications for the different amount of effect each has... and concludes that CO2 is the most significant. This is neither a ‘myth’ nor what you call ‘denial’ (!) but scientific work based on real, detailed and thorough measurements.
(i) I am not aware of any environmentalists who would say climate change is the only factor in food shortages. UNEP (UN Environmental Programme) did suggest that the Darfur problem originated in climate change, and it seems to me incontrovertible that failure of rainfall causes crops to fail. Of course, civil conflict is a crucial factor as well in these crises, and in some parts of the world civil war has aggravated food shortage, (see John Vidal, Guardian 22.07.11, on the contribution of climate change + war to famine in Somalia) but would you want to rule out climate change altogether?
(ii) Please remember that ‘climategate’ originated when the computer at EAU’s Climate Research Unit was hacked into (by whom?) in order to release emails, which then were publicised by Fox News and other anti-global warming media. Eight committees have since investigated the CRU emails, and no evidence has been found of fraud or scientific misconduct. The scientific findings are not in doubt. The researchers did ‘fail to display the proper degree of openness’ in responding to queries about their data. I suspect they were bombarded with requests from would-be deniers and simply lost patience. Every time I encounter a climate-change sceptic I get the same feeling!
BBC (online) News 11th Oct 2007: ‘the judge said he had no complaint about Gore’s central thesis that climate change was happening and was being driven my emissions from humans.’ He had reservations about 9 specific points which were not backed up by sufficient scientific agreement, and said the film should have guidance notes accompanying it to draw pupils’ attention to these points. ‘The government has sent the film to all secondary schools in England, and the administrations in Wales and Scotland have done the same.’ A 60 page guidance document now goes with it.
A campaign to stop the government sending DVDs to all secondary schools as part of a climate change package was started by a parent governor Stewart Dimmock (a member of the [right-of-centre] New Party). The judge found 9 errors including: the claim that polar bears have drowned because they have had to swim further (some have died in storms); the claim that sea levels would rise by 6 metres in the near future (it would take millennia said the judge); there was also ‘not sufficient evidence’ that global warming caused hurricane Katrina; the melting of snows on Mt Kilimanjaro, or evaporation of Lake Chad.
You can check out details of all this on the NASA website, which has a ‘Global Ice Viewer’ that illustrates dynamically the changes that have been taking place - e.g. the annual minimum amount of Arctic ice (it shrinks in the summer and grows in the winter) has been decreasing by 11.2% per decade over the past 30 years, and in 2007 reached the lowest recorded level.
Greenland’s glaciers are losing 100 – 250 billion tons of ice each year and 400 billion tons has been lost from all glaciers per year since 1994, W. Antarctica has been losing up to 150 billion tons of ice per year). It seems to me that even if (as you claim) the ice is thickening - which the NASA figures at http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/ deny – still the area occupied by the ice has shrunk, and so less heat is reflected back into space and the warmer the planet gets (positive feedback).
Yes, governments say what they think will get them votes, and then renege on their promises! The question is why? In this instance the interests of the energy industry have obviously out-weighed scientific opinion. It is fairly clear that behind much of the ‘climate scepticism’ there are voices backed up by the oil, coal, gas and electricity generating industries...
I do not agree with everything George Monbiot writes (he’s pro nuclear power, and went over the top in criticising the East Anglia CRU scientists) but he has done a thorough job on looking into who is behind climate change denial e.g.: US coal companies have set up a lobbying organisation called ICE; and Dr Patrick Michaels is often quoted as an expert, but is paid by the industry; the Heartland Institute, which also argues against climate change, was founded by Exxon (*).
(*) This is not to mention the well-known climate expert Nigel Lawson, who served as Chancellor under Mrs. Thatcher and who represents right-wing pro-market economics. Pro-market economists and others have always resisted the idea of climate change, since to deal with it would require government intervention... Are you happy to be in this kind of company – along with the Republicans and the Tea Party in the USA? Another well-known writer with no scientific credentials who nevertheless feels himself qualified to debunk climate change is Christopher Booker, author of ‘The Real Global Warming Disaster’. The book is reviewed by Philip Ball, (Obs 15.11.09), who says that much of the book is ‘bunk’, and refers to another website concerning temperature changes: http://tiny.cc/mpjJB
It is sometimes argued that TV companies etc are biased towards those who make the case for climate change, but it is in fact the case that these scientists are often subject to political pressure not to publicise their views. For example (drawing on George Monbiot’s work again – article in the Guardian 10.04.07): the film “The Great Global Warming Swindle”: Broadcast on Channel 4, Thursday 8th March, Directed by Martin Durkin, was not only full of errors, but misrepresented the views of four scientists, including the oceanographer Professor Carl Wunsch, who, when he complained that he had been misrepresented, received a legal letter from Durkin’s production company threatening to sue him unless he retracted this statement!
In America, the Union of Concerned Scientists carried out a survey to find out about constraints that had been put on them – 279 climate scientists working for federal agencies responded: 58% felt that they had been subject to pressure to remove the words “climate change” “global warming” etc from reports, their work had been edited by superiors to change the meaning, their findings had been misrepresented by officials, reports on the web about climate change had disappeared or been delayed. They reported 435 incidents of political interference over the past five years.
Al Gore in his book cites a study done by Dr Naomi Oreskes of University of California, which was published in Science magazine. She took a random sample (about 10%) of all the peer-reviewed science journal articles on global warming from the previous 10 years. There were 928 articles in the sample, none of which raised any doubts about the cause of global warming (though only three-quarters addressed the 'central elements of the consensus' and the rest were about specific issues not to do with CO2). Another study was done of all the articles in the previous 14 years from what were considered as the four most influential papers in the US (New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times and Wall Street Journal). Again a random sample was taken, amounting to almost 18% of the articles, and this time 53% gave equal weight to the 'consensus view' and to the opposition (sceptics/deniers) - thus giving the impression there was disagreement in the scientific community about the issue.
He follows this up with points about how the tobacco industry adopted exactly the same tactics when the link with cancer was identified: a memo was uncovered from the Brown and Williamson Tobacco Company, written in 1960: "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 best means of establishing controversy."
In my (previous) lecture, on 'Environmentalism,' I pointed out that we do not simply face one environmental problem (global warming), but a series of inter-connected problems of pollution, resource depletion, population growth, and land shortage – not to mention the evil that is the mal-distribution of wealth and wellbeing, resulting in so many people throughout the world starving (and which requires solutions in the field of politics).
In fact, the crucial questions really do not concern the science (though that has to be right – which I believe it is), but the understanding we have of our place in the universe, and, building on this, the strategy to be adopted to deal with a range of interconnected environmental problems in order to make the world a place worth living in for the foreseeable future.
The Berkeley Earth project has compiled more than a billion temperature records dating back to the 1800s, and found the earth is warming – and has warmed by around 1C since the mid-1950s. This report should put an end to the queries from some sceptics (probably only from the more serious ones – others will remain in denial). In particular the report shows that several issues that sceptics claim can cause global warming have no meaningful effect. (Ian Sample 21.10.11)
There is still some controversy over global warming, and some uncertainty as to the exact results, but the majority of scientists now believe that something must be done to reduce carbon dioxide emissions before the changes in the temperature bring about climate change. One part of the problem is that the north and south poles are covered in ice, and if the temperature of the earth rises this will begin to melt: low-lying areas of land will be flooded. Already Bangla Desh suffers damaging floods, and these could become worse. In Britain the Thames Barrier has been raised more often recently (19 times in 2003, as against 3 times in 1983) – there is even talk of building another flood barrier. Just as worrying is the possibility that weather conditions will change so that there are more storms, hurricanes etc. Or, temperature changes (e.g. to the Gulf Stream which warms Britain’s coast line) would affect crops and even turn some areas to desert.
We have already had freak weather conditions in Britain – the floods in Cornwall, at Boscastle in 2004 for example – and scientists such as John Schellnhuber, of the Tyndall Centre, warns that things could get worse (Observer 7/11/2004). Apart from the damage, Schellnhuber and others argue that a point will come when insurers will not be able to pay for the damage: Insurers Munich Re believe that by 2060 the “cost of our changing weather will outstrip the total value of commodities and services produced by the global economy” The United Nations reports that the number of natural disasters has doubled over the past decade, and resultant economic losses have more than trebled. (Observer loc cit)
“The lobby group American Enterprise Institute, (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded think-tank, has offered scientists and economists $10,000 each for articles questioning the report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…. The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil, and more than 20 of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration.
The IPCC report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. (World governments were given a draft in 2006). It says that there is a 90% chance that human activity is warming the planet, and that global average temperatures will rise by another 1.5 to 5.8C this century, depending on emissions.”
“The IPCC is the world’s leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the issue.”Robin McKie, Observer, 04.03.07(?), points out that those who contest the scientific consensus have often got a political agenda. To deal with global warming, says McKie, quoting philosopher John Gray, will require government action and intervention in our lives – and probably bureaucracy – all of which is anathema to the sceptics, several of whom have pronounced pro-market views. (We are told, for example, that Europe will ban the inefficient fluorescent light bulb: I wonder if the Daily Mail will start a campaign to save it?!)
The names that McKie gives: Phillip Stott, Piers Corbyn, Nigel Calder, Nigel Lawson – are of people who regularly can be heard on Today and seen on Newsnight (so they cannot claim, as they do, that there is a conspiracy of silence over their views!).
And yet, as McKie points out, the problems caused by CFCs were dealt with – by government and industry agreeing to phase them out and to find alternatives. All done with no sacrifices or suffering on the part of the consumer. Global warming is such a huge and widespread problem it simply has to be dealt with in the same way.
5.2.1 Martin Durkin, Director of The Great Global Warming Swindle Broadcast on Channel 4, Thursday 8th March 2007: claims that the average global temperature peaked in 1998, then fell, then was static from 2001 – 2005, then fell slightly in 2006 (according to the Climate Research Unit, UEA, as used by the IPCC); also: when CO2 emissions rose during the post-war boom, global temperature fell… (Letter, Guardian, date?)
Robin McKie, Observer, 04.03.07(?), points out that those who contest the scientific consensus have often got a political agenda. To deal with global warming, says McKie, quoting philosopher John Gray, will require government action and intervention in our lives – and probably bureaucracy – all of which is anathema to the sceptics, several of whom have pronounced pro-market views. (We are told, for example, that Europe will ban the inefficient fluorescent light bulb: I wonder if the Daily Mail will start a campaign to save it?!)
The names that McKie gives: Phillip Stott, Piers Corbyn, Nigel Calder, Nigel Lawson – are of people who regularly can be heard on Today and seen on Newsnight (so they cannot claim, as they do, that there is a conspiracy of silence over their views!).
And yet, as McKie points out, the problems caused by CFCs were dealt with – by government and industry agreeing to phase them out and to find alternatives. All done with no sacrifices or suffering on the part of the consumer. Global warming is such a huge and widespread problem it simply has to be dealt with in the same way.
- the claim is made that warming is due to sun-spot activity, as discovered by Dr Friis-Christensen in 1991. But a paper published in Eos in 2004 shows that the Danish astronomer made incorrect use of the data: in fact the length of the sun-spot cycle has declined recently, while temperatures have risen
- the same astronomer then published another paper (with Henrik Svensmark) claiming it was due to solar radiation, which he said correlated with cloud cover – but the problem with this was they had used satellite information which did not in fact measure cloud cover, and a paper in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-terrestrial Physics shows no correlation when the right data is used
- then Svensmark published an article claiming that cosmic rays could form tiny particles in the atmosphere – but the press release that accompanied took the argument way beyond what the paper actually showed – see Dr Gavin Schmidt, of Nasa, at www.realclimate.org
- it then quotes Professor John Christy’s view that there are discrepancies in temperature at different levels in the atmosphere. This was shown to be incorrect by three papers in Science magazine in 2005. Christy himself has accepted he was wrong
- oceanographer Carl Wunsch on the other hand says the film “completely misrepresented” his views – not the first time the programme-maker, Martin Durkin has done this, and Channel 4 had to apologise after the ITC found he had (in a previous series of programmes) misled interviewees and distorted their views through selective editing.
5.2.2 George Monbiot, G 031109 on Clive James’ scepticism: surveys suggest number of people sceptical is increasing: Pew Research Centre: proportion of Americans accepting global warming has fallen from 71% to 57% in 18 months. Rasmussen: 44% American voters believe global warming is due to natural causes, as against 41% that is result of human action…Science Museum computer poll has had 1,006 endorsing ‘evidence for man-made climate change [mmcc]’ and 6,110 rejecting. Top books at Amazon are vs mmcc. Clive James claimed on radio 4 that there is a shift in scientific opinion – none, says Monbiot – and that there is no consensus – rubbish… M speculates that mainly older people are sceptical, and this due to ‘vital lies’ and ‘character armour’ which protect us from fear of death (Ernest Becker, 1973) – we engage in immortality projects and projects which boost our self-esteem… Recently Janis L. Dickinson, in Ecology and Society, suggests mmcc reminds people of death, and leads to strengthening of character armour in ways that reduce chances of survival. Others eat/consume more!!!
5.2.3 Review by Philip Ball of book (Obs 15.11.09) by Christopher Booker ‘The Real Global Warming Disaster’ – rounds up criticisms of majority scientific view of global warming – some of it is true, but much is bunk… stratagem of introducing climate sceptics with no comment, but attacking non-doubters. Attacks ‘hockey-stick graph’ which now accepted not reliable anyway. Devil is in details, so too much to cover in review, but does e.g. use cold winter of 2008 as grounds for attacking global warming (one swallow…) – also slight cooling since 2003, which doesn’t refute longer-term changes. See http://tiny.cc/mpjJB (says Philip Ball). Crucial point: either the world’s scientists have conspired to prove with computer graphs etc that something is happening which isn’t – and only Bush and the oil industry have not been foiled… or: they’re all wrong!
The best known “sceptic” is Bjorn Lomborg (2001) – and the United States has taken the position that there is no crisis, by pulling out of the Kyoto agreement (see below). However, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change, and Sir David King, scientific advisor to the UK government, are in do doubt about the dangers of climate change. King warns that, amongst other effects, many species of animal will become extinct (Guardian 24/11/04).
David Bellamy, the well-known television personality and president of the Wildlife Trust, argues that nuclear power is the best option to reduce gases, and he seems to play down the extent of the problem in comparison to, for example, campaigning journalist George Monbiot, with whom he has had a public debate.
5.2.4 3rd Oct 2010 (Obs.) Stewart Brand: Whole Earth Discipline (Atlantic Books) – compiled Whole Earth catalogue in ‘60s; founded one of the first online communities the WELL in 1985. Suggests we need more cities, nuclear power, GM food, planet-wide geo-engineering to avoid disaster from global warming. Says the green movement may be going this way. More people should get involved in technology to ensure we use good technology to undo the harm of bad tech.
5.2.5 ‘Rational optimist’ - Science writer Matt Ridley - The Rational Optimist 4th Estate May 2010 L20 – also author of: The Red Queen, about the evolution of sexual reproduction; The Origins of Virtue, 1996, on evolution of society in genes, animals and humans; The Genome: the autobiography of a Species in 23
In the Rational Optimist he argues that it is exchange of ideas, as well as artifacts etc that has made humans able to progress (animals don’t do it). Culture is the result of exchange, and this is what makes it evolve (while biological evolution depends on sex – bringing together different genes). (‘Sex is to biology as exchange is to culture’.) Consequently argues we have become better off over time, and doesn’t like ‘doom-mongering’ – yes there are limits to resources, but we can find ways round this if we exchange ideas. Is against regulation of commerce (things, services, etc) because it stifles progress; but admits that exchange of capital and assets is different and can cause bubbles. Shopkeeper has no interest in short-changing you if he wants you as a customer – this effect doesn’t happen in a market of capital and assets. Prosperity is a bottom-up thing – governments tend to see it as top-down.
Note: he was a non-executive chairman of Northern Rock, and got into trouble for not preventing the crisis… (people without expertise were wanted on the boards at the time…) but started off as a naturalist, then science editor for the Economist, then its Washington correspondent; is nephew of Thatcher’s cabinet member Nicholas Ridley, and owns Blagdon Hall… Also set up Centre for Life (life sciences centre) at Newcastle.
5.2.6 Attenborough, David vs Nigel Lawson: in Observer Magazine, 28.10.12 talks about the environmental crisis – size of the world’s population is the main problem, but also working on a film on damage to the oceans (waste plastic especially). Has been criticised for not speaking earlier about global warming, but now has run up against Nigel Lawson for his arguments about melting polar ice (in an episode of his TV film Frozen Planet) – Lawson shows a complete misunderstanding of the global nature of the crisis we are facing (by picking on spots where the world has got colder!). He is ‘up a gum tree’.
Paul Kingsnorth argues this group tries to combine business, advanced technology, globalisation etc, with a post-modern outlook (nature as human construct) to solve the environmental dilemma. Groups: the Breakthrough Institute, Long Now Foundation, Copenhagen Consensus. Typical spokesperson Stewart Brand. Favours megacities, GM crops. Mark Lynas promotes nuclear power; Emma Marris argues there is no real wilderness to protect; Peter Kareiva: nature should be managed for our benefit. Kingsnorth argues greens have ‘asked for’ this – as they have avoided the intuitive, emotional relationship with the wild world. Explore and value the local, he says (see books below). http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/01/neogreens-science-business-save-planet
(ii) The science: I haven’t followed up his specific points about African lakes or Russian use of water from lakes for growing cotton – he may be right; but his general attack on global warming is a fringe view not supported by the vast majority of scientists – see the latest ‘meta-study’ by a group of scientists at the university of California, Berkeley, who were originally sceptical.
Here is a Guardian article which includes a graph from the report – and makes the point that since global temperatures fluctuate in the short term (up to 15 years) we need to take a long-term view. This the graph does:
(iii) The real reason no one listens to Bellamy? According to Wikipedia, in 1997 Bellamy stood for the Referendum Party against John Major, and acknowledged afterwards - in 2002 - that this was probably why he was not asked to appear on TV any more “it was probably the most stupid thing I ever did…”
- in which he says they do not appreciate the nature of science, and fail to distinguish between ‘well-established fact and opinion’ and so they end up giving publicity to marginal beliefs such as anti-MMR activists. Brian Cox made the same point in a televised lecture (I think it was the annual Royal Society lecture). The reason for this is probably that the media like a controversy – which is understandable, but they need to get things into proportion surely?