Friday, December 10, 2004

Not If, but When

At Slashdot a couple days ago, I ran across an entry called "Consensus on Global Warming"

It turns out that Science Magazine went back through a bunch of peer-reviewed journals culling articles related to climate change. The results were quite interesting. From The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change:

The American Meteorological Society (6), the American Geophysical Union (7), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) all have issued statements in recent years concluding that the evidence for human modification of climate is compelling (8).

The drafting of such reports and statements involves many opportunities for comment, criticism, and revision, and it is not likely that they would diverge greatly from the opinions of the societies' members. Nevertheless, they might downplay legitimate dissenting opinions. That hypothesis was tested by analyzing 928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords "climate change" (9).

The 928 papers were divided into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. Of all the papers, 75% fell into the first three categories, either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change. Remarkably, none of the papers disagreed with the consensus position.

A number of geologists in the UK sound a warning as well. Here is Global Warming: A Perspective from Earth History:

The problem can only be marginally (i.e. ineffectually) addressed by increases in alternative energy and energy efficiency, any likely savings being offset by population and economic growth. And, given the huge energy and material demands in the construction of, say, wind farms, the ultimate value of these is debatable. More radical solutions to humanity's dilemma are necessary, and these might include:

  • massive underground sequestration of CO2. This is not yet a proven method on anything like the scale needed, but needs to be pursued with urgency.
  • large-scale capture of CO2 from the air and its conversion into a mineralized form, perhaps as carbonate minerals.
  • a large-scale switch to civil nuclear power. This has the benefit of being proven technology. We are aware of the problems, and current public unpopularity of this route, but we consider the dangers posed by global warming to be orders of magnitude greater than those likely to be caused by the controlled use of nuclear power. This energy source, additionally, could lie at the heart of future hydrogen-based transport systems.

We urge serious, and immediate, consideration of these issues. The dangers posed by climate change are no longer merely possible and long-term. They are probable, imminent, and global in scope.

Scientists in the physical and natural sciences dealing with climate change are in total or nearly total agreement, even if the rest of us aren't that we are undergoing human-caused global warming. The severity and consequences can be debated. The existence is only debated in political circles and by media eager to provide a conflict to raise ratings. The geologists are proposing solutions that many environmental advocates are going to resist. The impact and costs for industry are aspects that industrial advocates are going to resist.

Will we learn about climate change through hard experience? Probably. However, there are people such as the folks at the Rocky Mountain Institute who advocate for both the environment and industry in ways that we should all embrace. If we can rally around these types of groups, good things could happen.


The Moody Minstrel said...

All I know is that this is the third year in a row in which we still have gnats and mosquitoes more than a week into December. (Ten years ago, you could skate on the rice paddies by now.)

The exponential increase in the number of typhoons hasn't been much fun, either.

Meanwhile, people like Rush Limbaugh dismiss anyone mentioning global warming as a "whacko" and go on and on about their SUVs and jet boats.

Yes, folks, it's the f**k you solution to global problems!

Anonymous said...

Whacko-hater: UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ever seen the movie "The Day After Tomorrow"? Talk about whacko!!

Don Snabulus said...

I spoke with a climate researcher who went to that movie with some colleagues and they laughed and laughed. Who says global warming can't be fun?

Of course, it didn't change the fact for them or anyone else that the warming trend exists and that there will be consequences of some kind. They were laughing at the over-the-top-ness of the film which it shared with movies like Deep Impact (Strong Bad has three copies of this courtesy of Homestar). Even the movie "Mt. St. Helens" starring Art Carney had some really crummy geology in it. That fact didn't change the truth that the mountain is an active volcano either.