Oh dear, another climate change post

I had a bit of a vehement chat with a few people at work yesterday about climate change. You see, a colleague of mine was saying that “of course the climate is changing, it changes all the time! We only just had the little ice age. The change has certainly got nothing to do with us though, and what a great big waste of money all this business is. “

Another added: “besides, it’s all based on dubious modelling anyway, there’s no actual evidence that any of this is happening. We don’t have reliable temperature records and the satellites have only been up for the last 30 years or so. What about all that time before modern temperature recording?

Al Gore got it all wrong, and there’s been a cooling trend for the past 20 years. Europe and the US have just had some of the coldest winters on record!”

Meanwhile as you can see above, Arctic sea ice is at record lows this year. 2010 looks set to be one of the hottest years on record. As of the end of May, the previous 12 months to May 2009 are the hottest globally in the past 130 years. 2009 ends Australia’s hottest decade on record. Very few scientists with credentials still disagree with the notion of anthropogenic climate change. At least one of those remaining appears to have been caught cooking the books.

It’s time to ignore the popular debate, it’s chock full of misinformation. Look at the fundamentals. Go back to the basics, and read about climate. I’m so sick of strong opinions backed by nothing but talking points!

beyond conspiracy and one world government

There are a few succinct explanations of the nature of climate change around and I thought it might be nice to spread the word a little bit further. The waters have become so muddy on the issue that we’re getting beyond “the climate isn’t changing,” “it’s just part of a natural cycle” and “even if it’s getting hotter, it’s not a bad thing.”

It’s now strange conspiracy theories of grant money hungry scientists and a complicit media manipulated by huge green companies’ agendas. All of them chasing riches, and some attempting to bring about a new world order.

Sometimes it’s worthwhile to take a step back from the current debate and get back to some fundamentals. Here’s a condensed version of a fairly science-heavy article entitled “The CO2 problem in 6 easy steps” from realclimate.org. It aims to explain why increasing CO2 is a problem without using models:

  1. There is a natural greenhouse effect. This is illustrated through calculations based on the mean temperature of the earth, the amount of energy arriving at the earth and the fact that the planet is in radiative equilibrium.
  2. Trace gases contribute to the natural greenhouse effect. Remember high-school chemistry – spectrometry? IR spectra from space show absorption lines associated with CO2, H2O vapour, CH4 etc. The effect of CO2 in the mix has been calculated from these spectra, and it’s significant.
  3. The trace greenhouse gases have increased markedly due to human emissions. We know CO2 has increased by more than 30% and methane has more than doubled.
  4. Radiative forcing is a useful diagnostic and can easily be calculated. This one involves some scary maths for the layperson, but the conclusion is that a change in the radiation budget at the top of the atmosphere is a pretty good predictor of future surface temperature change. Read the original article for more detail.
  5. Climate sensitivity is around 3ºC for a doubling of CO2. By analysing the climate’s response to known forcing changes from the past, it is possible to derive a sensitivity figure of ~3ºC.
  6. Radiative forcing x climate sensitivity is a significant number. Current forcing from trace gasses implies an equilibrium of around 1.2ºC – since we aren’t there yet (~0.7ºC of warming to date), we’ve still got another 0.5ºC in the pipeline. Additional forcing from additional emissions as per BAU is calculated to result in 2ºC  to 5ºC warming – significant, right?

And if you want more information about this stuff, check out “Is Global Warming Still Happening?” and “Empirical evidence that humans are causing global warming” from Skeptical Science.

climate scientists talking climate science

I don’t profess to be particularly well informed on the science of climate change. I read people’s opinions of the science and have read a couple of papers here and there. I guess like many people, I’m reliant on the trust I have in the many, many reputable scientific bodies that have shared their assessments on the matter.

However, I’ve kept seeing in the news lately various claims about the state of scientific consensus on climate change that don’t really fit with the stuff I’ve read directly from groups of scientists. So, while I know this site’s been around for a while and all, I’ve enjoyed reading the opinions of well informed people on the Real Climate blog. It’s good for actually giving some data on oft-raised objections to the science of climate change.

Check it out: http://www.realclimate.org/