NewScientist on Climate change: A guide for the perplexedMay 16, 2007 at 4:06 pm | Posted in Climate change, TGGWS | 6 Comments
A quick cut&paste is all I have time for now, sorry. Enjoy!
- 17:00 16 May 2007
- NewScientist.com news service
- Michael Le Page
Our planet’s climate is anything but simple. All kinds of factors influence it, from massive events on the Sun to the growth of microscopic creatures in the oceans, and there are subtle interactions between many of these factors.
Yet despite all the complexities, a firm and ever-growing body of evidence points to a clear picture: the world is warming, this warming is due to human activity increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and if emissions continue unabated the warming will too, with increasingly serious consequences.
Yes, there are still big uncertainties in some predictions, but these swing both ways. For example, the response of clouds could slow the warming or speed it up.
With so much at stake, it is right that climate science is subjected to the most intense scrutiny. What does not help is for the real issues to be muddied by discredited arguments or wild theories.
So for those who are not sure what to believe, here is our round-up of the 26 most common climate myths and misconceptions.
There is also a guide to assessing the evidence. In the articles we’ve included lots of links to primary research and major reports for those who want to follow through to the original sources.
• Human CO2 emissions are too tiny to matter
This polar bear climbing into a rowing boat is doing both: reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and preparing for the impacts of climate change!
Since I wrote this yesterday, I came home today to a NewScientist wrapped in its recyclable Polyprint Mailing Film on my doormat. (Yes, kids in CA, I know you think it is highly amusing that we have letterboxes slap bang in the middle of in our doors here in the UK. Our post is delivered and falls through right onto the mat, which means we either skip for joy or groan as we open our front door to the sight of our welcome home bundle of post.) Well, look what else was in that issue No. 2604 of New Scientist ~ this letter:
[Cartoon: “Global warming arguments always raise the temperatures.”]
From Martin Durkin
Alan Thorpe, attacking my film The Great Global Warming Swindle, tells us not to “play games with the evidence” (17 March, p 24). Right ho. Let’s not.
He says: “There is no question that the more CO2 there is in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet becomes.” Perhaps Thorpe is too young to remember the post-war economic boom. To remind him, it was the biggest explosion of economic activity in the history of human civilisation up to that point; an unprecedented volume of CO2 was pumped into the atmosphere from lots of factories. What happened to the temperature? It went down. According to most temperature records, it went down from 1940 to about 1975.
Coincidental with the post-war cooling was a marked downturn in solar activity. Yet Thorpe boldly asserts, without any supporting evidence, that solar variations have an insignificant effect on the Earth’s climate. I refer interested readers to the work, published in 2005, by Jan Veizer (GeoScience Canada, vol 32, p13) and Willie Soon (Geophysical Research Letters, vol 32, L16712).
Then Thorpe admits, reluctantly, that in the ice core data, the temperature variation is followed, rather than preceded by changes in the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. So carbon dioxide is clearly not driving climate. Awkward. So what is driving it? Thorpe says it’s the sun (mighty powerful thing, the sun), but then he tries, feebly, to salvage his CO2 argument by suggesting that maybe the resulting changes in CO2 amplify the temperature changes still further.
Oh really? As it happens, there is no evidence at all that this is true. Very often in the ice cores CO2 rises like a rocket, while the temperature plummets. So who is playing games? Thorpe implies that I think there is a global warming conspiracy. I don’t. But I know that lots of scientists (like Thorpe), and journalists too, have staked their reputations on this theory being true. Many have built their careers on it. I sympathise with them.