Friday, September 29, 2006

When the history of climate change is written ...

I'm quite convinced that the citizens of the Earth will at some point band together and attempt to stabilize atmospheric CO2 abundances . If I were a betting man (and I am), I would bet that an international agreement will be reached during he first term of the next U.S. President (2009-2013). Let's hope it's sensible and successful.

When the history of AGW is written, I believe that three occurrences will have been crucial in setting the stage for CO2 emissions reductions:
  • Hurrican Katrina - we can argue about the effect of AGW on hurricanes, but there's no question in my mind that Katrina had an affect on how many view AGW
  • Drowning polar bears - images play a key role in policy debates, and images of so-called charismatic megafauna can quickly become iconic. These images appeal to the obligation many feel for stewardship of the planet.
  • Al Gore - Love him or hate him, his movie has had a huge effect on the debate --- not on the hard-core Gore haters, nor on the AGW believers, but on the undecided middle of the debate. And not necessarily because they went to see his movie, but because his movie has kept AGW in the news and on the public's radar.
Together, these three events have been crucial in generating the growing wave of awareness on the issue. In fact, I think we've recently passed a tipping point, where the question has changed from whether to take action to what form that action will take.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excuse my parochial American instincts but I see the three events you offered as merely signposts on the road to some remedy of the AGW. They point us in the direction to act but, at the end of the day, it will be the U.S. Congressional Senate that can muster 60 votes (filibuster-proof) to send a final House of Representative/Senate act to a president willing to sign into law a legally binding requirement that the U.S. decarbonize sufficient to compel China, India and the rest of the world to get with the program.

Nothing, in this life, will supercede the U.S. government’s agreement to reconfigure its economy and prepare its citizenry to adapt to the changes, we Americans have already committed to the earth’s climate. Then, we (Americans, et.al.) will be writing a proud history and not our epitaph.

John L. McCormick

GTW said...

If your history is about the global warming debate Gore's movie and books would be included. If your history is about global warming science and sound nalysis, these would not make the cut. They would be swept off the cutting room floor and dumped in the trash bin labelled propaganda. I would have thought someone from TAMU would have a pretty strong and sound set of criteria for what is science and what is not.

D. B. Paul said...

Let's take the three things you believe are making a difference in the GW debate. I disagree with all three.

1. Katrina. If we have more hurricane seasons like this one, Katrina will be forgotten. It just happened to be the right storm at the right time hitting the right place. If it had gone in along some relatively uninhabited part of the coastline, no one would have said anything. And it wasn't just Katrina, it was the fact we had to start using Greek letters to name the storms. Because of that, all the doomsayers were saying every year was going to be like 2005 because of GW. Well, they were wrong. If they can make the argument that 2005 was such an active year because of GW, someone could make the argument that 2006 was normal or below normal because GW doesn't matter. There is a lot more to hurricane formation than having warm water in the Atlantic basin and Gulf Of Mexico.

2. A well timed and executed picture of a drowning polar bear will cause all kinds of grief, and how many of those pictures are going around? From what I have read, most polar bear populations are doing just fine. Hopefully the American people are media savvy enough to realize a picture is just a picture and not a indication of future disaster. I'm sure the media will find many such pictures, whether they be of polar bears, brush fires, people sweating on a summer day, bare ski slopes in January or whatever and blame it on GW.

3. I have not seen Al Gore's movie, but from the reviews I have read he plays fast and loose with the facts, exaggerates and takes things out of context. I hope most people will seem him for what he is - a political opportunist and noisy mouthpiece for extreme environmentalism. I agree with the last post - this movie will be forgotten and relagated to the dustbin of history.

Dano said...

I have not seen Al Gore's movie, but from the reviews I have read he plays fast and loose with the facts, exaggerates and takes things out of context.

I haven't seen any review that says that. Then again, I don't read ClownHall.com, NewsMax, or any other denialist-attracting sites.

I would have thought someone from TAMU would have a pretty strong and sound set of criteria for what is science and what is not.

Evidence, plz, that the words spoken in the movie are something other than the scientific consensus.

Thank you in advance.

Best,

D

D. B. Paul said...

Dano - please be more careful with the word "denialist". What does it mean? Is it a person who denies the average earth temperatures are going up? Or is it a person who believes temperatures are going up and doesn't believe mankind has little or nothing to do with it? Or is it a person who believes temperatures are going up mainly because of mankind's influence, but doesn't see any reason to do anything about it?

This is one of my big beefs about the politicalization of the GW debate and using labels such as "denialists" to fit people neatly into one of two camps - one camp is the knuckle dragging moron who doesn't believe temperatures have been rising or the other camp, where man has screwed up his environment and if we don't make huge changes now, we all die. There can't be reasoned debate about GW with labels and only polar opposite positions. There are many levels of possibilities and rational positions in-between the poles.

It is easy to tell when something has been politicized - there are labels and two extreme positions. Take the immigration debate. That has been politicized. One side is characterized as wanting no borders whatsoever and the other side is characterized as wanting to build a 3000 mile wall with machine guns and a 12,000,000 person roundup in the US. No middle positions allowed. That is what has happened to the GW debate.

D. B. Paul said...

OK, some evidence of exaggeration and fact distortion in Al Gore's movie.

Gore says there was a survey of 928 scientific articles and not one questioned man-made GW was a real problem. Someone went back and found that only 13 of those papers held that position, and 34 others rejected it.

Gore shows slides of Lake Chad vanishing and blames it on GW. Lake Chad is a shallow lake that went dry in 1908 and 1984 as well. And today, much more of the water is drawn for irrigation. But does Gore bother to tell you that? If he did, he certainly couldn't blame the disappearance of Lake Chad on GW.

George Landis said...

Dano, you are such a partisan it is little trouble proving you wrong, perhaps you missed this review of Algore's "propaganmercial"

http://www.slate.com/id/2142319/

Oh, but wait, this is another of the right wing conspirators out there coming to get the poor AGW believers, right? Anyone who disagrees with you on Algore's movie must be in that camp I suppose.

Dano said...

Someone went back and found that only 13 of those papers held that position, and 34 others rejected it.

No.

Really now. Poor Benny Peiser has few analytical skills. None of the abstracts he highlighted said what he thought they said.

His thing was a joke. A. Joke.

Lake Chad is a shallow lake that went dry in 1908 and 1984 as well...certainly [gore can't] blame the disappearance of Lake Chad on GW

No.

I don't see Gore blaming the disappearance on AGW. Can you quote that passage for me? And provide some context please, esp. wrt recognizing environmental catastrophes. Thank you in advance.

Best,

D

D. B. Paul said...

I said in an earlier past that I hadn't seen Gore's movie, just heard all about it. So, I can't quote the passage. Even I had seen it, I couldn't quote the passage unless I had a copy of the movie or script right in front of me. There are other things in the movie I have read about that I could use to show my point below if anyone wants to read about them.

However, the point I want to make is this, being that this is blog for "Science and the politics of global climate change": In a SCIENTIFIC debate, if someone noted that Lake Chad had disappeared, showed pictures of an empty lake bed and blamed it on AGW, they would be admonisished for not mentioning that it had been empty before AGW could have possibly had any affect on it, and anyone making such a statement would be remiss not to explore other factors that could have explained the lake's emptiness, such as increased usage for irrigation or other human induced factors unrelated to AGW.

In a POLITICAL debate, one does exactly what Gore has done, and that is use images of an empty lake out of context and ignores any other inputs or facts that could explain it in order to advance his political agenda. This is the norm for politics and is of course done for any political subject. The debate moves to two extremes, with one side labelling the other and each side attacking the other. One side labels the other as a bunch of idiots, and anyone supporting the opposition is suspect with devious motives. Good facts and arguments are thrown out with the bad, and the only purpose in a POLITICAL debate is to advance your side regardless of the cost or correctness.

The GW debate has been completely politicized. So many are in their entrenched positions that neither side listens to or repects anything the other side has to say.

Anonymous said...

How is this for scientific consensus on global warming?

In preparation for the 2007 G8 summit, the national science academies of the G8+5 nations issued a declaration referencing the position of the 2005 joint science academies' statement, and acknowledging the confirmation of their previous conclusion by recent research. Following the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, the declaration states:

It is unequivocal that the climate is changing, and it is very likely that this is predominantly caused by the increasing human interference with the atmosphere. These changes will transform the environmental conditions on Earth unless counter-measures are taken.

National and international science academies and professional societies have assessed the current scientific opinion on climate change, in particular recent global warming. These assessments have largely followed or endorsed the IPCC position that "An increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system... There is new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities".

* 1 Statements by concurring organizations
o 1.1 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007
o 1.2 Joint science academies’ statement 2007
o 1.3 Joint science academies’ statement 2005
o 1.4 Joint science academies’ statement 2001
o 1.5 U.S. National Research Council, 2001
o 1.6 American Meteorological Society
o 1.7 American Geophysical Union
o 1.8 American Institute of Physics
o 1.9 American Astronomical Society
o 1.10 Federal Climate Change Science Program, 2006
o 1.11 American Association for the Advancement of Science
o 1.12 Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London
o 1.13 Geological Society of America
o 1.14 American Chemical Society
o 1.15 Engineers Australia (The Institution of Engineers Australia)

It is not surprising that the only dissenting voice was by the
American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).