MY VIEWS ON GLOBAL WARMING
By Robert A. Richert
Let me be clear; I don’t want global warming to be real! I don’t like the gloomy prospects that some scientists forecast for the future of our planet. I am unhappy that current conditions—more severe heat, fires, droughts, intense storms, floods, etc. — are exceeding predictions from sophisticated computer models. All of this doom and gloom is not what I want to hear. However, I respect science and this issue is important. I am unwilling to bury my head in the sand and ignore reality because it might make me feel better. I am also motivated by concern about the eroding public confidence in science and sad state of scientific literacy in our country.
In the spring of 2013 the press announced that the earth’s level of atmospheric carbon dioxide—measured by an infrared analyzer located at the summit of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii—reached 400 parts per million; that is the highest level in several million years! Increasing amounts of atmospheric CO2 is the primary cause of our current (last 150 years) episode of global warming. In what is commonly called the ‘greenhouse effect’, it traps heat radiating from the earth from escaping into space. The gradual build up of CO2 and its effect, trapping heat, causes warming. The planet Venus, which is permanently shrouded in massive clouds of CO2, is an example of the greenhouse effect gone amok. The surface temperature of Venus averages about 900 degrees Fahrenheit. No, the earth is not Venus, but most scientific institutions are alarmed by the rapid increase in CO2 in our atmosphere, the resultant warming, and its real and potential effects upon agriculture, wildlife, gulf stream patterns, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, melting glaciers, fires, floods, world economies, and more. Scientists worldwide have investigated every conceivable natural cause—for example, solar activity such as flares, various natural cycles such as the earth’s orbit around the sun, and historic cyclical weather patterns—and they have all been ruled out as the primary culprit. Today, there is no doubt in the scientific community that the burning of fossil fuels, which release CO2 into the atmosphere, is the principal cause of global warming. Here is a link to Wikipedia for more on this subject
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is our government agency responsible for monitoring and reporting global climate. This is a vital endeavor because our military, commerce, and other agencies and businesses are dependent upon the best and most reliable information about weather available. Here is a link that summarizes the evidence for global warming – http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cmb-faq/globalwarming.html. Once you read the NOAA article, “Frequently Asked Questions” you can press the back button for links to further information. You can also obtain similar information from NASA and other reliable sources; emphasis on reliable because many bogus anti-global warming websites pollute the internet! Here is a partial list of scientific institutions and organizations that agree that the earth is warming and human activity is the primary cause: NOAA, NASA, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, World Meteorological Organization, American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union, American Physical Society, Geological Society of America, American Chemical Society—the scientific journals Science, Nature, Scientific American, and Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology.
The media loves controversy. As a result, many in the media present the global warming issue, which is a public controversy, as though it were also a scientific controversy. However, human caused global warming is NOT controversial in the scientific community; not anymore. Thus, a need exists for a counter force to the propaganda campaign created by global warming deniers. If you agree, please pass my article along. Here is a link to an article written by Donald Prothero answering the most commonly circulated myths about global warming – http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/12-02-08/#feature. Professor Prothero is a highly respected paleontologist (who has done research on paleo-climate) and geologist; a real, working scientist with impeccable credentials. In May of 2013, I heard Dr. Prothero give a speech comparing the tactics of the Creationists, global warming and Holocaust deniers. These are the subjects of his book, Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten our Future. Prothero documents the quite similar shady tactics used by these three groups to deceive the public and promote their own social, religious, political, or economic agendas.
Deniers claim that global warming is a ‘hoax’ and is funded by ‘trillions’ of dollars. That’s laughable! Understand that most scientific research not conducted by industry is funded by our government. In recent years, government funding has been shrinking in many areas of scientific research. Also, research on climate is conducted by scientists throughout the world. To imply that a vast international conspiracy exists to perpetrate a massive hoax strikes of paranoid lunacy! In fact, the deniers complaint is a classic case of ‘misdirection’ – direct your audience toward what you want them to see so you can conceal what you don’t want them to see. The truth is that millions are being spent by big oil, the Koch brothers, and other economic and politically conservative groups and individuals to undermine the solid science behind global warming. This fact has been documented. The following paragraph from Wikipedia stands as an example:
In one of the first attempts by industry to influence public opinion on climate change, a 1998 proposal (later posted online by Greenpeace) was circulated among U.S. opponents of a treaty to fight global warming, including both industry and conservative political groups, in an effort to influence public perception of the extent of the problem. Written by a public relations specialist for the American Petroleum Institute and then leaked to The New York Times, the memo described, in the article’s words, a plan “to recruit a cadre of scientists who share the industry’s views of climate science and to train them in public relations so they can help convince journalists, politicians and the public that the risk of global warming is too uncertain to justify controls on greenhouse gases.” Cushman quoted the document as proposing a US $ 5,000,000 multi-point strategy to “maximize the impact of scientific views consistent with ours on Congress, the media and other key audiences,” with a goal of “raising questions about and undercutting the ‘prevailing scientific wisdom’.”
As a group, the global warming deniers have not earned any respect or credibility in the scientific community; especially by the people that actually do the relevant research. Deniers are not part of mainstream science; not by a mile! Many of the scientists denying global warming are funded by the special interests mentioned above. Yes, a few credible scientists not connected to special interest groups still deny human caused global warming, but their numbers have continued to shrink. The current situation is eerily similar to the tobacco industry’s 1970’s campaign to counter the growing body of evidence that cigarette smoking causes cancer. They funded scientists willing to compromise their scientific integrity to do ‘research’ to undermine the real science confirming that smoking causes or contributes to lung and other cancers.
It cannot be repeated enough that over 97% scientists working in various disciplines related to the earth’s climate agree that global warming is real and human caused http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/8/2/024024/article. Deniers tout the few dissenters as if this somehow adds credibility to their argument and means that a real controversy exists. This is called confirmation bias. Cherry pick only the bits of data or experts that are in agreement with one’s point of view and ignore the majority that is not in agreement. It is nearly impossible to get universal agreement on almost any issue, inside and outside of science. This only demonstrates human fallibility. The fact that human caused global warming is supported by such a high number of scientists throughout the world should be seen as impressive and as a clear signal! Most of the industrialized world accepts the scientific consensus on global warming; including Japan, China, Russia, most of Central and South America, and almost all countries in Europe. Unfortunately, a large and financially powerful right wing coalition in America is behind the denier movement. However, there is reason for optimism. The latest public opinion polls show increasing public acceptance of the science on climate change. About 60% of Americans agree that global warming is real and human caused.
America can no longer afford to ignore the strong body of evidence that our planet is warming and that humans are the primary cause!
GLOBAL WARMING AND CALIFORNIA
A recent 250 page document compiled by 51 scientists from the University of California, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, US Geological Survey, NOAA, and other agencies and institutions states firmly that climate change is “an immediate and growing threat”. The report goes on to say that global warming threatens our state’s water supplies, farm industry, forests, wildlife, and public health. Although California is a leader in reduction of greenhouse gasses, because of our large size and if we were a country, we would rank as the 13th largest contributor of greenhouse gasses in the world! Here some alarming figures:
- Since 1950, our three worst fire years occurred in the past decade – 2003, 2007, and 2008.
- Since 1895, annual average temperatures in California increased about 1.5 degrees and they continue to rise.
- The sea level at the Golden Gate has risen 8 inches over the past century.
- At Lake Tahoe there are 30 fewer days a year when temperatures average below freezing than a century ago.
- In 1910, 52 percent of Lake Tahoe’s precipitation fell as snow. Today it is 34 percent.
- Depending upon their location, California’s glaciers have shrunk 22 percent to 69 percent over the last century.
- Over the last 100 years spring runoff from the Sierras to the Sacramento River has decreased by 9 percent.
Any one of the above statistics viewed as an isolated event might not be significant. However, climatologists look at combined data and patterns. It is the convergence of many bits of data and evidence that demonstrate a clear trend of escalating warming.