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The Politicizing of Science is Killing Our Planet

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A category 5 hurricane annihilated
Galveston, Texas, September 8,
1900. Get used to seeing this.
You may not live to see the worst of it, but your kids born today and their grand children born twenty years from now will be the ones to pay the price for our sins against the Earth.

Global Temperatures Are Rising
I begin with the rise in global average temperature over the past twenty years, which is clearly visible on this chart, as well as this one. All charts showing global average temperatures agree without exception: Over the past 20 years, Earth has been heating up at an unprecedented rate, setting records in ten of the last fourteen years. Just because Al Gore said it doesn't make it untrue, in fact, no one has once argued while also providing evidence that it is not.

Many people who mock global warming do so because they don't comprehend the damage a simple three or four degree rise will do to the planet. People in Canada are looking outside their windows at the snow, ice, and freezing cold and saying "hey, it wouldn't bother me a bit of the temperature went up three degrees here, we could use it."

The environment is in a far more precarious position than many people realize. With local temperatures ranging between 13F during the cold nights of winter and 103F during the dog days of summer, it's hard to comprehend a three degree increase doing much more than making those summer days 106F instead of 103. Some years are hotter and cooler than others, but you rarely take into account how those changes are balanced in other parts of the world. While it may be colder than usual in a given year in Canada, it may be hotter than normal in South America or Africa.

When you average the global temperature, you'll tend to find that the Earth will balance itself out, but when that average does begin to change, it will amplify that 13F to 103F swing wildly in ways we cannot possibly counter once they have begun.

If you have a tire that is perfectly balanced, it'll work just fine. If you welded a simple one pound weight to the rim, the unbalanced wear and tear will accumulate until something reaches the breaking point. This is a good analogy to our global environment in that it can take a lot of unbalanced pollution before breaking, but eventually the cumulative effects will pass the breaking point and our planet will simply snap.

In fewer places is that wear and tear more visible than in polar ice melt.

Perennial Ice Is Leaving
NASA data show that Arctic perennial sea ice, which normally survives the summer melt season and remains year-round, shrunk abruptly by 14 percent between 2004 and 2005. According to researchers, the loss of perennial ice in the East Arctic Ocean was even higher, nearing 50 percent during that time as some of the ice moved from the East Arctic to the West.

The overall decrease in winter Arctic perennial sea ice totals 720,000 square kilometers (280,000 square miles) — an area the size of Texas. Perennial ice can be 3 or more meters (10 or more feet) thick. It was replaced by new, seasonal ice only about 0.3 to 2 meters (one to seven feet) thick that is more vulnerable to summer melt. (Source)
As has been said, perennial Arctic ice is a good indicator of abnormal melting patterns because this is the ice that we know typically survives periods of regular warming. The rate of loss for 04-05 is simply stunning, and if it continues at that rate, the predictions of substantial raising of sea levels could happen within decades, rather than the currently predicted centuries.

The idea that Arctic ice melt is due to global warming is not a new one that leapt into the spotlight with Al Gore, in fact, the scientific community has been aware of this phenomena since early 2000.

In a CNN article from January of that year, we read the tale of how measurements performed by Navy submarines as far back as the 1950's showed that predictions of melt based on those measurements came up disturbingly short.
About a year ago, Rothrock convinced Navy brass that measurements taken in the 1950s could be helpful in figuring out whether the data from the '90s was statistically significant. Armed with a pile of new numbers, Rothrock guessed that they might show that the polar cap had shrunk perhaps 18-20 inches over the past half century.

He was wrong. The actual shrinkage left him astonished.

On average, the University of Washington team found that ice had thinned by four feet (1.3 meters) -- a 40 percent decrease since 1953. The "trend" of the 1990s seemed to be an indisputable fact. (Source)
This melt while different from coastal melt in that it does not raise the level of the sea, can pollute the oceans with fresh water, which in term negatively effects the Atlantic current. While Rothrock wouldn't go so far as to pin the tail on global warming in 2000, many people are doing precisely that today.
Josefino Comiso of NASA’s Cryospheric Sciences Branch in Greenbelt, Maryland, US, has used satellite data stretching back to 1979 to show that less of the melt water is refreezing in the wintertime. “It is the strongest evidence yet in the Arctic of global warming” Comiso said.

Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist for the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado agrees. "There is a lot of natural climate variability – it is a complex science – but the best explanation of what we are seeing is the emerging signs of greenhouse warming,”

Comiso found that from 1979 to 2004, the extent of winter ice in the Arctic remained virtually the same – despite reductions in the summer cover. He believes the recent decline is due to a reduction in the length of the Arctic ice season and unusually warm wintertime temperatures in the region. “If the winter ice retreat continues, the effect could be very profound – especially for marine mammals,” Comiso says. (Source)
The Arctic regions aren't the only ones to show signs of global warming, however, as droughts and decreasing rainfall will choke off already arid regions.
Scientists warn that the Kalahari dune fields, which are presently stable and covered by vegetation, will undergo widespread reactivation this century as a result of declining rainfall, increasing droughts, and rising wind strengths.

"This could have major consequences for several states and for the people who farm the land in these areas," said David Thomas, a physical geographer at Oxford University in England. Thomas led the study, which is published tomorrow in the academic journal Nature. (Source)
The important thing to note here is that this study is published in a peer-reviewed journal. This is a difficult process by which your work must be reviewed for accuracy and methodology by an anonymous panel of your own peers to insure what you've done actually qualifies as a work of science, and does not exist as a propaganda piece for somebodies agenda.

While many nay-sayers point to natural climate shifts in the past as an indicator that todays warming is simply a consequence of a planet that exists in a constant state of change, none of them account for the unnatural levels of pollution that man has been dumping into the atmosphere for the past half century.

We know for a fact that pollutants we generate will cause the planet to warm because those pollutants are the same gases that are responsible for our planets ability to retain heat in the first place: CO2.

We are putting far more of these gases into the environment than it has ever experienced before yet some simply ignore what we are doing in favor of blaming nature. It simply defies logic. You can't blame warming on natural cycles while still not taking into account the added damage of greenhouse gases. Even if we're in the midst of a natural cycle, these gases are only going to amplify these changes and we're only going to encourage the onset of warming followed by cooling and the next ice age will be here even sooner.

At best, we're simply making a natural problem far worse. At worst, we're actually causing it. Either way, we have to stop.

Scientific Consensus
The National Academy of Sciences produced a study at the request of the Bush Administration that concluded that rising global temperatures is the likely result of environmental pollution. The executive summary doesn't waste any time in getting to the heart of their findings.
Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability.
I left in the last part even though I could have left it out, and I have little doubt that many people would have done exactly that. I feel that the people on my side of this issue have no agenda that guides them and hence we have no fear in acknowledging that nothing in science is ever a certainty.

That said, a lack of total certainty is not in and of itself evidence that the consensus is not true.
The committee generally agrees with the assessment of human-caused climate change presented in the IPCC Working Group I (WGI) scientific report, but seeks here to articulate more clearly the level of confidence that can be ascribed to those assessments and the caveats that need to be attached to them.
The IPCC is a United Nations working group of scientific interests within the various governments and has fully supported the determination that man is causing global warming.
Climate change simulations for the period of 1990 to 2100 based on the IPCC emissions scenarios yield a globally-averaged surface temperature increase by the end of the century of 1.4 to 5.8°C (2.5 to 10.4°F) relative to 1990. The wide range of uncertainty in these estimates reflects both the different assumptions about future concentrations of greenhouse gases and aerosols in the various scenarios considered by the IPCC and the differing climate sensitivities of the various climate models used in the simulations. The range of climate sensitivities implied by these predictions is generally consistent with previously reported values.
A rise of three to four degrees is the threshold for catastrophic climate shift.
Higher evaporation rates would accelerate the drying of soils following rain events, resulting in lower relative humidities and higher daytime temperatures, especially during the warm season. The likelihood that this effect could prove important is greatest in semi-arid regions, such as the U.S. Great Plains. These predictions in the IPCC report are consistent with current understanding of the processes that control local climate.
Changes in yearly rainfall can have devastating effects on agriculture across the globe. Deserts will spread in all directions while wet regions will be flooded mercilessly. Atlantic and Pacific storms will increase in frequency as the ocean temperatures begin to rise which will wreak havoc on undersea currents and the ecological balance of marine life.
In the near term, agriculture and forestry are likely to benefit from carbon dioxide fertilization and an increased water efficiency of some plants at higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The optimal climate for crops may change, requiring significant regional adaptations. Some models project an increased tendency toward drought over semi-arid regions, such as the U.S. Great Plains. Hydrologic impacts could be significant over the western United States, where much of the water supply is dependent on the amount of snow pack and the timing of the spring runoff. Increased rainfall rates could impact pollution run-off and flood control. With higher sea level, coastal regions could be subject to increased wind and flood damage even if tropical storms do not change in intensity. A significant warming also could have far reaching implications for ecosystems. The costs and risks involved are difficult to quantify at this point and are, in any case, beyond the scope of this brief report.
The IPCC group represents the very best the world has to offer in intergovernmental consensus on climate shift, and the Academy has vetted and supports their most recent 2001 report. This is the vaunted "overwhelming scientific consensus" you always hear about but never end up seeing. (Source)

With only a few unorganized exceptions, the weight behind these conclusions is damning. I have never seen a peer-reviewed paper that disagrees with these views, though I certainly welcome them should they ever make an appearance.

I feel ashamed that I have only been able to touch just a fraction of what there is to learn and understand about global warming and the consensus that we are causing it, but space and time are limited.

I sincerely hope that anyone who reads this is convinced of one thing: the problem of global warming is extremely serious, and has a lot of solid science behind it, and it is more than worth a few hours of your attention.

The Rebuttal
I have written this as an op-ed to GoReporter's musings on outgoing Senator Inhofe's propaganda and media hit piece that represents only the latest of many lies our pro-corporate anti-environment government has been telling us for quite some time.
Global Warming is a bad phrase, and it's not even accurate. The southern hemisphere is not experiencing any warming, only the northern hemisphere has.
'Global warming' refers to the rising average temperature of the planet, which makes it perfectly accurate. It's a mean average that gives the pulse of every region we can map.
Also, the oceans are showing signs of cooling.
The most recent IPCC report that I quoted from above shows rising temperatures in the oceans. This is simple ignorance of the facts or based on useless information from rouge elements that is not supported by empirical science.

The oceans temperature, especially in the Atlantic, is tied directly to the temperature on land in Europe. If you look on a map, you'll notice that London, which has a warm and pleasant climate, is actually at the same latitude as parts of Canada that see permafrost. This is because warm water from the equatorial regions is flowing north along the west coast of Europe in what is called the Atlantic Current.

That warm water heats the air and makes that region a rather nice place to live, but if that current shuts down, which is exactly what will happen when the warmer waters and air start dumping cold ice melt into the mix (along with loads of fresh water), the climate will change dramatically. Due to its position on the globe, London will be frozen for up to two-thirds of the year.

This isn't a joke, or supposition, or theoretical. If and when that Atlantic Current shuts down, London is going to freeze, and it will only get worse for the rest of the planet from there.
The hurricane trend has not materialized, and droughts have been less frequent.
Not this year, anyway, but I was suspicious of those predictions to begin with, because global warming is about (as you've said) climate shifts, which don't happen in a years time. Over the next decade, we probably will end up seeing some increased hurricane activity, and there are already signs of increasing drought in arid regions.

As for what Bob Carter had to say, here is my proof that he's either lying, or just stupid.
"Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero)." - Bob Carter
This is completely untrue. I have the data sheet from UEA sitting right in front of me. The global average temperature dropped in 1998 and 1999, and then began to rise again from 2000 all the way through 2005 -- the last year data is available for. There is a five year (about to be six year) trend of global rising temperatures that cannot be ignored. (Chart, Data)

This is one of the reasons people have such great ignorance of the reality of global warming. People read this guys unqualified opinion and simply took him at his word, and the man was lying to you right in your face.

Let's also remember that Bob Carter is a marine geologist, not a climate expert. His skepticism in global warming are purely a personal interest, which perhaps explains why the man cannot even read a simple temperature chart.

He may have something to contribute to the overall picture and I am not dismissing him simply because he's talking authoritatively about something well outside his field of expertise. I am saying that he can't even get something as simple as this right and this isn't his profession.

If you want to learn something from the experts, read these reports. If very long stuff did better on Newsvine, I would provide something much more comprehensive than this. I regret that is not the case, and I hope you will learn to stop taking people at their word when they have nothing to back it up with.
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The text of this article is Copyright © 2006,2007 Paul William Tenny. All rights reserved. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Attribution by: full name and original URL. Comments are copyrighted by their authors and are not subject to the Creative Commons license of the article itself.