Today I saw the cover of this week's TV Preview from the Chicago Sun-Times. GLOBAL WARMING, it says, "What You Need to Know with Tom Brokaw". A little text box in the middle left of the page says, "Did Hurricane Katrina awaken national consciousness to the grim reality of a climate crisis?"
...and it is all, 100%, utter
I want to refer to these quotes from the inside article:
"The film 'An Inconvenient Truth,' in which former Vice President Al Gore presents some unsettling and sobering facts about the alarming steady rise in Earth's temperature...."
"...the special takes viewers to melting ice fields and glaciers in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, where rising temperatures are causing dangerous elevations in sea levels around the world, and to tropical rainforests, where heavy logging has begun to tip the planet's delicate balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide." [SIC, I say, SIC.]
"...Brokaw himself, a longtime environmental activist in his personal life...."
"'Two things surprised me,' he says. 'One was the rapidly expanding consensus about the science (of global warming).... The other surprising fact is the pace of the change...now the physical manifestation of it has become so dramatic in the ice cap and other places."
And there's a cute picture of a polar bear with the caption, "Global warming threatens the future of polar bears, one of the dangers noted...." in the special this article is about.
The article does a nice job of encapsulating all the current memes in the global warming movement, and I expect that the special this article refers to is two hours of alarmism, showing all of the data which supports their thesis...and nothing which seriously refutes it.
The Alarming Steady Rise in Earth's Temperature
In the last century, the global temperature has risen 1°C. And most of that rise took place before 1940. The inconvenient truth of this fact is that a rise of one degree in a century, with most of it taking place in the first forty years of that century, is neither "steady" nor "alarming". Earth has been much warmer than it is now; we refer to the most recent such period as the "Medieval Climate Optimum". That's when you had Englishmen making wine--the weather in England was warm enough throughout the year that grapes could grow, and grow well. We are nowhere near that level of "global warming".
Melting Ice Fields and Glaciers
The inconvenient truth in this case is that not all ice fields and glaciers are melting. In fact, there are just as many glaciers which are growing as melting. The favorite is the ice cap on Mount Kilimanjaro; but it's been demonstrated that the ice cap on that mountain has been melting off for centuries and it's mainly due to a decrease in water vapor at high altitudes. The reason for this lowered level of water vapor at high altitude has not been explained.
Dangerous Rise In Sea Levels
Sea level is rising; this is a fact. It's been happening for a long time, too. The inconvenient truth is the magnitude of the rise: about 1 to 2 millimeters per century.
Heavy Logging Has Begun to Tip the Planet's Delicate Balance Between Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide
This is my favorite part of the whole article. It's a textbook example of how to fold three issues into one hyperbolic phrase while utterly ignoring all the inconvenient truths which render it utter nonsense.
First: "heavy logging"--the inconvenient truth is that deforestation in the Amazon Jungle is not persistent. In other words, men go in and chop down trees and sell the lumber, and then go on to other tracts of land where there is more wood. The land isn't worked; it's not farmed, it's not developed; it is just left bare. But the jungle doesn't just die; it comes back. New plants and trees sprout and grow. Animals and insects come back. It may not be "old growth jungle" but the plants and animals don't really give a rip. In short, the "deforestation" is temporary, not permanent. The places which this is happening don't have the money to develop the land; that's why they're chopping down trees and selling the wood! It's not like the Amazon Jungle is being cut down and replaced with shopping malls and office buildings, after all.
Second: "the planet's delicate balance". Earth's ecosystem is a complex system. It has numerous feedback mechanisms which keep it in an approximately steady state--there is plenty of variation, but it's not a wild oscillation. Things which act to drive the Earth's ecology away from that steady state are eventually mitigated. If the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is increased, it doesn't just sit around; plants make use of this bounty. They grow faster and stronger. Cutting down a few hundred square miles of forest per decade is not sufficient to offset this; you would have to kill off a significant percentage of Earth's plant life--and by "significant" I mean tens or scores of percentage points--in a relatively short period of time in order to have any serious effect on the annual amount of carbon dioxide uptake by plants.
Third: "balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide". Oxygen is around 18% of our atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is around 0.75%. There is no "balance"; the concentration of oxygen is 24 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Oxygen wins.
Brokaw, Environmental Activist
...of course, Brokaw's eco-nazi leanings have no bearing whatsoever on his decision to take part in this project.
Rapidly expanding consensus
There is no consensus. Global warming alarmists like to say there is; but there isn't. There are plenty of climate scientists who disagree with the notion that global warming is a "crisis". These scientsts are usually dismissed as cranks and crackpots; but most of them are actual scientists who actually study the environment. Nature won't publish any papers critical of global warming orthodoxy. The same is true of Scientific American and other notable publications. They won't answer objections raised over the "science of global warming"; instead they shout down (or just refuse to publish) those who ask the questions. "Question authority" but only so long as the authority is not the anointed climate scientists and global warming alarmists.
But we have seen that those who ask the inconvenient questions are asking them because they're genuinely concerned about the environment, and know well the tale of the boy who cried "wolf". Mann's "hockey stick" graph supposedly proved that anthropogenic global warming was real, it was man-made, and it was a crisis. There was just one little inconvenient truth.
The program Mann wrote to generate that graph from the various data he compiled? He wouldn't let anyone have a copy of it in order to test his results. Not the program, not the source code, not so much as a flow chart.
Well, eventually he was forced to release the program, and it turned out that if the user input a random hash of data--essentially white noise--the program would produce a hockey stick graph. It didn't matter what data you put into the program; it would massage that data and produce a stick with a noticable hockey stick at the right end of the curve.
In short, Mann's "hockey stick" was utterly worthless. It wasn't science; it was bullshit. Mann's attempt to force the issue by "cooking the books" ended up tainting the entire field of climate study. A friendly press has managed to sweep this under the rug; but those of us who follow the sciences closely know of it...and are therefore that much more skeptical of each new claim of "proof" of anthropogenic global warming.
Global warming threatens the future of polar bears
No it doesn't. During the past decade, polar bear populations have increased by about 25%. The World Wildlife Federation contends that global warming caused by fossil fuels (!) will kill all the polar bears by 2100.
News flash: fossil fuels cause global warming
It's kind of nitpicky, I admit, but isn't it the use of fossil fuels in cars and airplanes and power plants which causes global warming, which will kill off all the polar bears in another 94 years? I mean, surely they don't mean the mere existence of fossil fuels will do the deed, do they?
* * *
Sentient Thought on Global Warming
Is global warming taking place? Absolutely it is. As I noted above, we have recorded a 1°C rise in global average temperatures since about 1900. (This is actual, real, recorded data; it's not a "hockey stick" generated from massaged inferences.)
Is global warming an emergency? Probably not. An average rise of 1°C per century gives us plenty of time; we're nowhere near the Medieval Climate Optimum yet, and we could probably go a few degrees higher than that without any serious repercussions. That gives us at least a few hundred years to study the problem and figure out how to fix it.
Do we know? Nope. Computer models are only as good as the people who write them (are you listening, Dr. Mann?). It's impossible to accurately model the Earth's global climate, because there are just too many variables--and we don't understand the interaction of them, either. Climate models make a large number of assumptions about just about everything; and depending on how you tweak the models you can just as easily make a case for an impending ice age as a runaway warming event.
The computer models cannot accurately model what water does. Why?
Envision a tiny droplet of water. It's so small that it floats in the air. It has a single grain of dust at its center. In the sunlight it sparkles like a gem. Your new computer program accurately models its behavior--how it grows in humid air, how it shrinks in dry air; how it freezes when the air is cold, how it melts when the air warms up. You can accurately model how it joins with other droplets to form raindrops, or how it freezes together with other droplets to form the incredible variety of frozen precipitation.
Okay, zoom out. It's one droplet in a cloud that's about five hundred meters across and twenty meters thick. There are 10,000,000,000,000 other droplets in that cloud. Model their behavior!
Your computer will just choke and die. There aren't enough hard drives in the world to contain all that data. And that's just one cloud! Your global model must take the behavior of a googolplex of water droplets into account. It must also model how sunlight is absorbed and/or reflected by the clouds formed from these droplets. It must model how the water droplets absorb, store, and release heat; it must model their every behavior accurately.
Am I "maximizing" the difficulty? Yes I am; but I am not maximizing it quite as much as you might think. You can probably average the behavior of water droplets. Statistics work very well on large groups, and you can assign probabilities to their behavior given various forcings such that you might be able to get away with calculating an average for every cubic decimeter or so of cloud. That might work perfectly fine.
But no computer climate model does this. The behavior of water vapor in our atmosphere--its contributions to global warming and/or cooling, the effect of its transitions between its various states of existence, the changes in albedo, the varying heat absorption rates of ice, water, and vapor--these things are not well understood, certainly not well-enough understood to build a computer model. We know that water vapor is a significant greenhouse gas, much more significant than carbon dioxide--but while we know that its climate forcing is orders of magnitude greater than that of carbon dioxide, we don't know how many, or under what circumstances. It's concentration alone--between 2 and 5 percent--alone is enough to ensure its much greater impact on climate, but we don't understand it well enough.
So those who make the models just plug in some assumptions and let it go at that.
But what do the scientists have to gain from misrepresenting the facts? Money. Lots of it. All of it from the government. Money to study global warming, to study its effects, to examine the impact of all the myraid horror stories that have come from the environmental movement since the 1960s. Global warming alarmism is big business; all the environmental organizations collect millions in donations based on global warming hysteria and animal protection. It's a big business!
The global warming alarmists are driven by good intentions; they want to protect the natural world from the depradations of human civilization. The problem is, they believe that fooling people--scaring them--into supporting their causes is justified because their intentions are so good. Nothing less than the complete subjugation of civilization to the goal of environmental protection will satisfy the real eco-nazis; the average joe who donates $50 to the WWF or Greenpeace just thinks he's striking a blow against the glue factory down the road that always makes the air stink when the wind's from that direction, but he's aiding a multi-million-dollar organization which seeks to eliminate that glue factory, not just make it clean up its act.
Until we understand how the environment of the Earth is changing, and why it is changing, we will be unable to do anything about it...if, indeed, anything actually needs to be done. There is no data on that point. We don't know. We don't know what the Earth's climate did before we could measure temperature directly. We don't know what caused the last Ice Age. We don't know what made the Earth warm up after the Ice Age ended. We don't know how long it took for the Earth to cool or warm; we don't know how long the glaciers took to form. We don't know how long they took to recede. We don't know. WE DON'T KNOW.
Until climate scientists acknowledge the fact that we don't know what's happening or why--and start studying the present state to see how and why things work--until that happens, it's all just hot air.
That's the real "Inconvenient Truth".