The following information was written for Mapawatt by the folks over at HowToSaveElectricity.net and is an interesting look at the Climate Change debate. I've expressed my feelings on the topic in my post, "I've solved Climate Change!". Read the article below for a take on the topic you may not expect to be posted on a site whose whole purpose is to promote using less fossil fuel energy and live more sustainably!
What’s the Real Motivation Behind Climate Change Alarms?
Contrary to what you will hear on the evening news, the controversy over the reality of man-made global warming is far from settled. Recent events have seriously called into question the “science” behind climate-change claims. These same events have also illustrated the lengths to which scientist will go to preserve their funding, and brought to light the relationship between global warming and the emergence of a new commodities market.
In November and December 2009 a hacker disclosed information obtained from emails in the files of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit. The correspondence revealed a pattern of behavior from 1996 to 2000 showing that climate scientists filtered the data they released to preserve their funding on projects intended to prove the reality of man-made global warming. In the wake of the scandal, Phil Jones, the CRU director, resigned.
At the United Nations Climate Change Conference held from December 7-18, 2009 in Copenhagen, the 45,000 delegates were unable to arrive at a binding accord for emissions limits. The meeting was marked by conflicts between representatives from developed and undeveloped nations and did not adequately address discrepancies in existing climate models. Although many pundits predict catastrophic disasters if global warming is not held to 2 degrees C, the fact remains that in spite of record high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, the planet is, on average, no warmer than it was in 1998.
(Mapawatt note: I had to do a little digging on this last fact because I'm not a fan of sites that post facts but don't show their data. Turns out that they're right on. Data from the NOAA does indeed show that since 1998 the ground temperature, as well as the stratosphere and troposphere have gotten slightly cooler. I will say that 1998 was El Nino, and this skews the data. )
A 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change included an assertion that the Himalayan glaciers will disappear by 2035. Although cited to a 2005 WWF study, “An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts on Nepal, India, and China,” the original claim was nothing but a speculative comment included in 1999 magazine article. The prediction, made by an Indian scientist, Syed Hasnain, was never formally published or subjected to peer review.
Disputed Sea Levels
Just before the Copenhagen Conference, Stefan Rahmstorf, professor of ocean physics at Potsdam, published a prediction that the world’s oceans would rise six feet by 2100. He based his claim on a recorded 7-inch sea level rise between 1881 and 2001.
Glaciologists pointed out that if the glaciers in the Alps and Himalayas were indeed gone by 2035, or even by 2050 as others claim, the remaining water to account for such a dramatic increase would have to come from the Antarctic and Greenland where melt is negligible at best. Critics dismissed Rahmstorf’s methods as “simplistic” and denounced the timing of his publication as designed to “attract headlines.”
The Elephant in the Middle of the Room
In the midst of all this controversy, an undeniably huge elephant settled in the middle of the room. Calls to create a cap and trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions depend on the belief that man-made global warming is real and that catastrophic climate change is imminent.
In the United States, the House of Representatives has proposed reducing such emissions 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050. Regional carbon markets have already evolved in the U.S. where carbon credits are bought and sold. The idea is that companies unable to meet emissions caps purchase credits from cleaner entities to offset their own “bad” behavior. Europe already has a fully functional carbon trading market. Essentially, we are seeing the evolution of a new, highly lucrative commodities market completely predicated on worst-case climate scenarios.
None of this, however, detracts from the validity of renewable energy efforts like residential wind power or the need for solid energy conservation tips for average households. It is not necessary to engage in alarmist tactics to illustrate all the good reasons to work for cleaner air and water, to protect endangered ecosystems, or to liberate ourselves from a dangerous political dependence on foreign oil. Alarmism is required, however, to justify new climate taxes and to create a new class of commodities traded on the basis of emission limits.
So there you have it. My worries, which are expressed in the above piece, are that the public will tire of endless debate about Climate Change and lose focus of the big picture: Clean Energy is good for society no matter what the outcome of the Climate Change debate is!
We need more intelligent discussion on this topic because I'm sick and tired of politicians who aren't engineers or scientists talking about something they aren't qualified to talk about! Instead of politicians arguing about what to do about climate change, they need to focus on why clean energy makes us all healthier, more prosperous, and happier; and then sell all those reasons to the voting public. It shouldn't be a hard sell. I'd love to see your thoughts on this topic in the comments below.
***Update 2/12/10 - Warning: I like to play devil's advocate. I have to hand it to RePower America and their great page, "Climate Change causes more severe weather". Not only do they provide a really great clip from the Daily Show that mocks Global Warming deniers, but they also cite their facts, which include:
Climate change causes more frequent and severe snowstorms
We can expect more extreme weather
The world is warming at a quickening pace
I only mention this to show that this is a complicated debate, and continuing to just debate it will only slow efforts to move to a clean energy future. I think we all can agree that fossil fuels dirty our air, pollute our land and water (during extraction) and oil keeps us reliant on the middle east. Let's us all get behind getting off fossil fuels for this reason!