Anything & Everything

February 19, 2010

The Climate Change Debate: Now More Confusing Than Ever

Filed under: Musings,Thoughts,Writing — Susan Morgan @ 8:54 pm
Tags: ,

The global warming debate has always confused me. It’s hard to know who to believe, especially when news of research shortcomings in the landmark 2007 report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are kept out of the American media. Luckily there are investigators like Rick Moran of American Thinker who point out the scandal for those of us out there who aren’t limiting our sources of information to the 11 o’clock news.

Here’s part of why I struggle with the whole global warming thing — we’ve only been keeping records of such exacting detail for a relatively short (in terms of the history of man) period of time. Are we really getting warmer than we’ve ever been, and by how much? Science knows that the climate has changed many times during Earth’s history, it’s only since the late 18th century (around the Industrial Revolution) that human activities have been capable of impacting the atmosphere in ways that are believed to influence climate.

Still, there’s a lot we don’t know. Who can say that what’s happening now hasn’t been matched by some climate event that took place unnoticed and unmeasured in the past? Is it too late to fix things? Just how serious, and irreversible, is the impact of all our emissions?

I don’t doubt that human activity has contributed to anything that IS going on. We’re a rather self-centered, progress-loving, comfort-seeking lot. Our modern world is far more polluting and destructive of Mother Earth than we should be. Not to mention that there are more of us, living longer, having ample numbers of healthy children, then ever before. Even worse, the highly coveted American standard of living is wasteful and irresponsible… it’s hard not to recognize these things, and agree that it does no harm to work toward living cleaner, greener, lives.

It’s just that all the claims and counter claims of climate science have gotten so confusing… it’s almost impossible to know who to trust… if anyone. I rather like the suggestion of op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman of the New York Times who asks the climate science community to get together to produce a 50 page report titled “What We Know”. Simple explanations, only unimpeachable peer-reviewed research. I’m all for that… in fact as a freelance writer, I humbly offer my services.

Adding to my own sense of being kept in the dark, is a recent report on oil reserves from the Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway. The very first sentence got my attention “Exxon Mobil (XOM) announced today that in 2009 the company’s proven reserves incerased by 133% of the amount of oil produced. Apparently Exxon, typically accused fo being too conservative in exploration and development, has found more oil than it produces for each of the last 16 years.

I hadn’t heard that.

It seems I also share a fault with many of you, I regularly confuse weather with climate, joking about global warming during last year’s December ice storm. And while it’s not unusual for Washington D.C. to get snow, this year the storms have been far more intense, sparking no small number of doubts as to the existence of global warming. A famously vocal critic of global warming, Senator Inhofe couldn’t help but be amused by an igloo dedicated to global warming crusader and internet inventor Al Gore that was large enough to fit several people, built by none other than his own daughter, her husband and their children.

But here’s the thing.

Experts point to the sheer size of our planet, noting that it can be cold in one place (like Washington D.C. this winter) and warm someplace else (like Australia) at the same time. Putting things in perspective, the whole U.S. only represents less than 2% of the Earth’s surface. Feeling small? I am.

Hardly helping anything is the sense that even those most involved in climate change are now acknowledging the complexity and intractability of the problem. Just this month there was the resignation of top UN climate chief Yvo de Boer, reportedly disappointed by the lack of an international treaty on greenhouse gasses out of Copenhagen last December — now even less likely to come anytime soon. The U.S. is nowhere near passing laws to do anything about climate altering pollution, and China, the world’s other other top emitter of greenhouse gases, is doing what’s best for China.

It all seems like one big, hopelessly tangled mess.

Going forward, if like me, you’re looking for evidence of climate change, experts suggest here’s what to watch for…

  • weird weather patterns — above average snows in Washington D.C., rain at the Olympics in Canada, and an Australian drought all qualify
  • the pace of changes quickens, as in the Arctic melt this past summer
  • alternative like high speed rail, renewable energy are positioned as “insurance” against the climate damage done so far
  • continued population growth, estimated to reach 9.2 billion by 2050, increases demand for clean water and renewable energy

You might also consider a new NASA analysis the shows environmental impact in a different light. According to the report, it’s motor vehicles that are the greatest contributors to warming, now and in the future. So, if you’re in the market for a new vehicle anytime soon, you might want to make your choice with this in mind. After all, scientists the world over have reached the conclusion that the Earth is getting warmer (the past decade is said to be the warmest on record) and that we, Earth’s inhabitants, are responsible.

Far be it for me to question the wisdom and infallibility of science.

But if YOU dare, you might also check out physicist Joseph Romm, a leading climate writer, who is posting to his own website (climateprogress.org) a listing of the best scientific papers in all areas of climate change. Might make sense to stop by now and again.

Believe it or not, there’s even a free iPhone app for defending climate change science. offering the typical arguments against along with the corresponding counterpoint. See for yourself and let me know what you think of the free app. Helpful? Foolish? Unworthy?

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