Global Climate Change Information
I wrote this in March 2010. It is already quite dated.
|The human impact on global climate will be one of the defining
issues of the 21st century. It will require the
world's peoples to navigate very complex issues in science and
extremely difficult questions involving economics, ethics and politics.
The science of global climate change is not a political issue.
It does not matter if you are liberal, conservative, libertarian or socialist.
The laws of physics are completely apolitical. There is a broad
consensus among climatologists that gases emitted by human industry -
principally carbon dioxide
CO2 - are causing rapid changes to Earth's climate. Over the next century
these changes will include rising average global temperatures leading to rising sea levels,
more frequent major hurricanes, and shifts in rainfall patterns that will disrupt agriculture.
Are scientists absolutely certain of all this? No, that is not possible. A series of
volcanic eruptions or a drop off in sunspots (as happened in the 1600s) could cool the
climate more than our greenhouse gases warm it. There is no basis for predicting such
events, but they can't be absolutely ruled out either. [Update: Reseach has shown such a solar minimum would only reduce global warming by 0.3oC by 2100. New research has also shown that the sun may indeed be going into cooling phase.] Maybe every computer climate model has the
same bug buried it in - all the programmers made the same mistake and no one has
caught it - but this is unlikely. We need to learn how to make decisions and plans based
on what is most probable recognizing that everything involves risks and trade offs.
In the 1900s we faced the very real possibility that we would destroy ourselves in
a nuclear war. People from all walks of life from all parts of the world worked very
hard to forestall this and we made it through with only two cities destroyed - so far.
I believe we will rise to the challenge presented by human caused global climate change.
The links and comments below are my effort to be a part of this. I hope you will do your part too!
Professor of Mathematics
Southern Illinois University
Statements from major scientific associations
Learn about the science of climatology
- Joint science academies' statement:
Global response to climate change: "There will always be uncertainty in understanding a system
as complex as the world's climate. However there is now
strong evidence that significant global warming is
occurring. (...) The scientific understanding of climate change is now
sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action. It
is vital that all nations identify cost-effective steps that they
can take now, to contribute to substantial and long-term
reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions. (...) The task of devising and implementing strategies to adapt
to the consequences of climate change will require
worldwide collaborative inputs from a wide range of
experts, including physical and natural scientists, engineers,
social scientists, medical scientists, those in the humanities,
business leaders and economists."
American Association for the Advancement of Science: "The scientific evidence is clear: global climate
change caused by human activities
is occurring now, and it is a growing
threat to society."
- American Meteorological Society: "There will be inevitable climate changes from the greenhouse gases already added to the Earth system. (...) For the next several decades there is a clear consensus on projected warming rates from human influences among different models and different emission scenarios. (...) Prudence dictates extreme care in managing our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life."
American Physical Society: "The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth's physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now."
- For more follow this link.
Climate Models. Complex computer models are used to understand the likely changes Earth's climate will go through in the next 100 years or so. These links give information on how they work and how accurate they are.
- RealClimate is a website maintained by climatologists. It is an excellent source for background information as well as the latest debates.
- The Discovery of Global Warming is a history of the scientific discover of human caused climate change by Spencer Weart.
- The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD has put together
an online course on climate: "Confused about the global warming Debate? This is your chance to get the story straight from scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. This introductory on-line course presents Earth's climate system and explores the science and politics of global climate change."
- Union of Concerned Scientists: Global Warming 101:
"Global warming is one of the most serious challenges facing us today. To protect the health and economic well-being of current and future generations, we must reduce our emissions of heat-trapping gases by using the technology, know-how, and practical solutions already at our disposal."
- The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: http://www.ipcc.ch/
- The American Denial of Global Warming, a one hour video by Dr. Naomi Oreskes.
Weather verses Climate. It is a surprising fact that it is easier for computers to
model global climate over a few decades than to predict regional weather over a few months.
This is because many random factors that affect local weather are averaged out over longer
time periods and global expanses.
Environmental Impacts. While there is general agreement that climate change will
produce serious environmental disruptions there is still a great deal that is not known.
This is a very active area of research and you should expect to see contradictory studies
and debate among scientists. Some media talking heads will exploit this to claim global
warming itself is not settled science. They are wrong.
Economic Impacts. Economics is very far from being a rigorous science.
Estimates of the economic impact of global climate change are varied. But the
dollar figures are in the trillions.
- Global warming threatens agriculture, Dr. Dennis Keeney, The Topeka capital-Journal, February 10, 2007.
- Impacts of [Climate] Change, Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences.
- World Agriculture Faces Serious Decline from Global Warming, Center for Global Development, September 13, 2007.
- The economic impact of global warming, OilPrice.com, Dec. 10, 2009.
- The economic impact of global warming, BBC, October 14, 2002.
- Oxfam Details Economic Impact of Warming, by James Kanter, New York Times, July 6, 2009.
- Global Warming Could Significantly Impact World Economy, Study Says, PBS News Hour, October 30, 2006. "The 700-page report, written by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern, said hundreds of millions of people could suffer from hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the Earth gets warmer."
- Center for Integrative Environmental Research report (A 52 page report - long download time.)
War and Peace. When resources diminish, people tend to fight over them.
How to respond to human induced global climate change is a political issue.
Even though there are many different ideologies, religions and cultures
in the world we have to find a common solution. That's just the way it is. The major ideas
are taxing greenhouse gas emissions, often called a carbon tax for short,
a cap and trade system for greenhouse gas emissions, and technical innovation.
Energy conservation is of central importance and should be at the top of everyone's
to do list.
Cap and Trade.
Is ethanol part of the solution? Should current production technologies by subsidized?
I'm skeptical that ethanol production as currently practiced actually reduces greenhouse
gas emissions. Ethanol production uses a great deal of land and other resources. But,
research should continue especially into producing ethanol from cellulose.
Nuclear Power. Personally I favor the expansion of nuclear power as a
means of reducing CO2 emissions. But nuclear power plants are expensive take many
years to build so other measures are needed now and many environmental groups
still have safety reservations.
- Is Nuclear Power The Solution to Global Warming?, A 2004 radio debate sponsored by Democracy Now, Sept. 24, 2004.
- Questioning Nuclear Power's Ability To Forestall Global Warming, Science Daily, Apr. 22, 2008.
- Union of Concerned Scientists Position on Nuclear Power and Global Warming
- Nuclear power regains support, by Anthony Faiola, Washington Post, November 24, 2009.
- The Future of Nuclear Power, 2003 MIT studt with a 2009 update.
This an edgy idea. Can you pump CO2 emissions from power plants deep
underground, sequestering the CO2 there more or less permanently?
I doubt this technology will be workable in the short term if ever. But you never know.
Geo-engineering. Some have proposed schemes to manipulate Earth's climate artificially.
These ideas include injecting massive quantities of sulfur dioxide SO2 into
or positioning giant mirrors in space to regulate the amount of sun light reaching Earth.
These are unlikely to be realized in the short term, but may be important a hundred years
from now. There are a handful of "visionaries" who believe such schemes can circumvent
the need to reduce CO2 emissions.
- Geoengineering the climate: science, governance and uncertainty, The Royal Society, September 1, 2009.
- Geo-Engineering - Giving us time to act? Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
- Geoengineering - Climate Cure? Or a Cure Worse than the Warming Illness? By Bill Dawson, Yale forum on Climate Change & the Media, May 5, 2009.
- Benefits, risks, and costs of stratospheric geoengineering, Robock, A., A. Marquardt, B. Kravitz, and G. Stenchikov, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, 2009.
Solar, wind, geothermal, etc. You can Google these.
What you can do
What you can do - personal
What you can do - political
- Contact your U.S. House representative (http://www.house.gov/) and your U.S. senators (http://www.senate.gov/).
- Write to your local newspapers when climate change issues are covered.
- Join or otherwise support an environmental group of your choosing.
Some of these do have leftist views, but many stay politically
neutral on non-environmental issues.
- If you don't like the groups that exist in the area, start your own.
Many conservatives recognize the seriousness of this issue and play a constructive
role in the debates over how to respond.
- Dick Durban - D - is currently the only elected senator from Illinois.
- You can find the Illinois congressional delegation here.
You can see all the votes on HR 2454, the House version of the cap and trade bill.
- Jerry Costello - D - 12th Congressional District.
"that climate change is occurring, and that increased greenhouse gas emissions have profoundly impacted our climate and our resources."
He supports the
expanded use of ethanol as a renewable fuel.
Costello opposed the 2009 Cap and Trade bill (H.R. 2454) because in his view
"it does not provide a bridge for coal and other fossil fuels to develop and demonstrate new technologies to provide reliable energy and meet the necessary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions."
Bobby Rush - D - 1st Congressional District.
"North American forests
will suffer from
a warming climate
and increases in
diseases could cost
wood and timber
users up to $2 billion
dollars by the
end of the century."
Jesse Jackson Jr. - D - 2nd Congressional District.
He called HR 2454
"landmark legislation ushering in a new age of American ingenuity, independence and leadership." He is a big believer in green jobs.
- Dan Lipiniski - D - 3rd Congressional District.
"America has lost roughly two million manufacturing jobs since the start of the recession. ... I'm not about to put more of our jobs at risk by making it harder for the industry to compete with China, India, and other countries. Manufacturing is too important to my district, the economy as a whole, and our national security. That's why it is essential that the final version of the American Clean Energy and Security Act include - at a minimum - the carefully crafted tariff provisions that are currently part of the Act. If no such measure is included in the final legislation, I won't be able to support the bill."
- Luis Gutierrez - D - 4th Congressional District. Issued this very strong statement on the
global warming crisis.
- Mike Quigley - D - 5th Congressional District.
Watch his statement in this video. (His conclusion is correct but his sense of how science is done is a bit simplistic. If you are a scientist in his district, ask to meet with him. His heart is in the right place, but he needs our help.)
- Peter Roskam - R - 6th Congressional District.
"While Roskam has
said that global warming is an 'issue worthy of the attention of policy makers,'
he has argued that agreements like the Kyoto Protocol would put American businesses
at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis their global competitors."
- Danny K. Davis - D - 7th Congressional District.
Supported the cap and trade bill and posted some interesting information on the
- Melissa Bean - D - 8th Congressional District. Supports energy alternatives mainly to
gain independence from foreign oil. See more here.
Janice Schakowsky - D - 9th Congressional District.
"Climate change is the most serious threat to our environment, our health, and our way of life."
- Mark Kirk - R - 10th Congressional District. He claims to be the "greenest Republican." On global warming he "was a skeptic and spent hundreds of hours on the subject of 1990s climate science." He now recognizes that there is "a growing scientific consensus that the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide affects average temperatures."
Read more here.
He is one of a few Republicans to vote for HR 2454. (He is running for the U.S. Senate.)
- Debbie Halvorson - D - 11th Congressional District. She is a strong supporter of action to stop global climate change. Read her statement on HR 2454 here.
- Judy Biggert - R - 13th Congressional District.
She seems to oppose all energy conservation measures.
Read why she voted against HR 2454 here.
She has expressed concern about the CRU e-mails.
(But see below.) Earlier she said:
"The science behind climate change is sound."
- Bill Foster - D - 14th Congressional District.
He says "global warming is dangerous and real" and that "at least half of the observed
global warming is man-made, so action is imperative."
He says he supports a cap and trade process but he voted against the cap and trade bill.
Read more here
- Tim V. Johnson - R - 15th Congressional District.
"Citing a dependence on foreign oil and growing concern over global warming, a group of moderate Republicans including Rep. Timothy V. Johnson today [01/25/2007] introduced legislation that would raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars, sport utility vehicles, minivans and pickup trucks that are sold in the United States."
- Don Manzullo - R - 16th Congressional District. He opposed the
Cap and Trade bill that passed the House. But, "Manzullo supports alternative legislation
that promotes innovation, conservation, and responsible production of energy as a way to
achieve America's energy independence and a cleaner, healthier planet."
Read more here. I don't know his views on global warming per se.
Phil Hare - D - 17th Congressional District. "I strongly believe that climate change is an urgent threat. I stand committed to putting measures in place to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases."
- Aaron Schock - R - 18th Congressional District.
He voted against cap and trade because he thinks it would be
bad for the economy but believes, apparently, in global warming since he use it to justify support for expanded ethanol use.
"There has been no evidence to demonstrate that the switch to the E-l5 blend will cause damage to vehicles, regardless of the vintage. Further, changing to a higher-level ethanol blend has the potential to create an additional 136,000 U.S. jobs while also cutting greenhouse gases."
- John Shimkus
- R - 19th Congressional District.
He lacks even a basic understanding of the science behind global climate change. Write to him.
Skeptics and Deniers
Some people are skeptical that climate change is real or that it is caused by humans.
It is a complex issue and it is understandable that people don't want to make changes
in their lifestyle because of something they don't understand. If you are in this camp
give yourself time and read up on the issue as best you can. It still makes sense to
support greater fuel efficacy for cars, better insulation for homes and energy efficient
appliances for many other reasons.
Skeptical scientists? Yes there are a few. The term scientific consensus does not
mean absolute unanimity. Just as creationists can trot out an occasional biologist who
believes in intelligent design and there a few medical doctors who don't believe AIDS is
caused by HIV, there are a small number of climatologists that are skeptical that humans
are causing global climate change. It should also be pointed out that there are
climatologists who think the consensus view is overly optimistic.
Some people will go to doctor after doctor until they hear what they want. If the first nine
doctors tell you to lose weight, eat better and get more exercise but the tenth one says
not to worry, it is tempting to go with the tenth doctor, but this is not wise.
A few people think that the whole thing is a hoax perpetrated by scientists who want grant
money or environmentalists who want worldwide socialism. This is insane. How on
earth would the activities of thousands of scientists from many different countries be
coordinated into such a scam? Did Ralph Nader and
strong arm the Chinese Academy of Sciences into going along? How did the far left trick the
major oil companies into agreeing that climate change is real, serious and caused by humans?
Such idiocy boggles the mind. It is as ludicrous as the belief of some creationists that
the world's biologists are part of an atheist plot or the view of some on the left that
George Bush and the C.I.A. planned the 9/11 attacks. Sadly, the editor of our local newspaper,
The Southern Illinoisan, Gary Metro, is in this camp. See his
editorial; you can read my response in the discussion afterward.
Many denier groups are based around blogs. As you might guess blogs are interesting to
read sometimes but are not a reliable source for scientific information. None-the-less,
here are a few of them.
University of East Anglia CRU Hacked/Leaked E-mails
In November 2009 someone got hold of private e-mails of scientists with the Climate
Research Unit of University of East Anglia. Many deniers latched on to these as
"proof" that climate change is all a hoax. People who have taken the time to study
the e-mails have concluded otherwise.
Global Cooling??? Deniers bring this term up in two different contexts. In the
1970s some studies appeared that projected a global cooling trend. These got a lot of
media play. But, there was never a scientific consensus. Science academies did not endorse
these tentative findings. Deniers ignore this and claim scientists are flip-flopping and hence cannot be relied upon as though this was a political campaign.
See these two articles.
More recently deniers have been claiming that the climate has been cooling since 1998.
This is flat out false. 1998 was an especially hot year, but the trend line has not reversed.
You can read more on this
Statements from Big Oil companies!
- Shell: "For us the debate on climate change is over. We are tackling the challenges of a new energy future. We continue to develop technologies to reduce CO2 from our operations and to produce more efficient fuels and lubricants for customers. We are calling on governments to establish policies that will encourage a reduction in CO2 emissions." Also see this video.
- ExxonMobil: "[T]he risks to society and ecosystems from increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are significant."
- "BP accepts the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global warming is unequivocal and 'very likely' due to human activity. We accept that in order to avoid the dangerous consequences of climate change, temperature increases will probably need to be limited to about two to three degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels."
- Chevron: "The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states in its Fourth Assessment Report that most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to manmade GHGs. Chevron is working to be part of the solution to the energy and climate challenge facing the world."
Other Big Businesses
GE: "The urgent challenges of climate change and energy security demand a concerted response from the public and private sectors. Governments must provide stable, long-term policies on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with transparent, predictable, and accountable support for technology transformation and transfer. This would enable businesses such as GE and our partners to develop and roll out innovative solution and to do it rapidly and effectively, in a way that is both economically competitive and affordable."
- "Microsoft recognizes that climate change is a serious challenge that requires a comprehensive and global response from all sectors of society."
"In one of the strongest statements on climate change ever made by a U.S. auto industry executive, Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally said Monday that global warming is real, man-made and caused in part by the auto emissions." - Denver Post
|Do you really think a few tree huggers could trick
Newt Gingrich and Shell Oil into supporting a socialist plot?|
I am going to set up a section on the money behind the denier campaign.
Here are get a couple of links.
The next are activists sites. They seem pretty solid but do sometimes
resort to hyperbole and occasional name calling. They are not run by scientists.
New from GreenPeace. Dealing in Doubt:
The Climate Denial Industry and Climate Science
A Brief History of Attacks on Climate Science,
Climate Scientists and the IPCC