Issue 8: Is Global Warming Skepticism Just Smoke and Mirrors? Ginger Powers SCI 207 Dependence of Man on the Environment Norman Stradleigh July 25, 2010 What exactly is global warming? Do you know the answer, maybe you do, however, taking a pretty good educated guess I would tend to think that most people think they have a pretty good idea when in actuality they have no clue what so ever about global warming. The current frenzy over global warming has galvanized the public and cost taxpayers billions of dollars in federal expenditures for climate research. It has spawned Hollywood blockbusters and inspired major political movements. It has given a higher calling to celebrities and built a lucrative industry for eager scientists. In short, ending climate change has become a national crusade. And yet, despite this dominant and sprawling campaign, the facts behind global warming remain as confounding as ever. Let’ s start by talking about the definition; according to Sir David King and Gabrielle Walker’ s, 2008, book titled “The Hot Topic “ global warming is defined as a gradual increase in the earth’s surface temperature. A more popular usage definition would be global warming is caused by human activity, or let’s look at a more technical term anthropogenic. The debate would be is global warming observed naturally or is it man made? Some might actually take on a debate about the natural causes, like is the sun getting hotter; or maybe the debate would lean more towards human causes, carbon dioxide , here is a good example: the exhaust from cars and power plants that pollute our air. Which side of the debate would you take? One in respect to thinking that global warming is a serious problem, then again maybe global warming has only clouded the issue or in simple terms; how the climate system really works and why man’s role in global warming is more myth than science, and how the global warming hype has corrupted Washington and the scientific community. Let’s start off by looking at what the United States Government’s position is on global warming: If you look at the Energy Act of 2005, (www. epa. ov), it states: “The President shall establish a Committee on Climate Change Technology which shall submit to the secretary and the President a national strategy to promote the deployment and commercialization of greenhouse gas intensity reducing technologies and practices. ” The reasons are numerous, the biases in governmental funding of scientific research, leads us to the misconceptions about science and basic economics. From Al Gore to Leonardo DiCaprio, the climate change industry has given a platform to leading figures from all walks of life, as pandering politicians, demagogues, and biased scientists orge a self-interested movement whose proposed policy initiatives could ultimately devastate the economics of those developing countries they purport to aid. Hopefully we will see the much needed wake up call for all of us here on planet earth. (Honer, C. C. , 2007, pp 163-171. ) Next we’ll take a look at Issue 8: Is Global Warming Skepticism Just Smoke and Mirrors? According to Easton, T. A. , 2009, pgs 136-165, “Debate over the reality of the global warming trend and its significance for humanity and the environment has been rigorous. But the data are now very clear. ” The issue takes sides between Seth Schulman et al, of Course Seth Schulman supports ExxonMobil, but that shouldn’t surprise you; who take a Yes on the issue verses Ivan Osorio, Iain Murray & Myron Ebell, all Global Warming Skeptics, who take a no on the issue. As we go through the issues on global warming we will see why this is an issue in the first place and see how and why each opposing side believes strongly with their individual views, the question that comes up will be what side of the issue would you debate? Manmade global warming is a danger to humanity and the environment and it must be stopped. The claim represents a leap of faith from what science tells us is theoretically impossible, to a belief in the worst case scenario in which Mother Earth punishes us for our sins against her and the world is destroyed. Nowhere is this leap of faith better illustrated than in Al Gore’s movie, “An Inconvenient Truth”. A dramatic video of weather events that occur naturally every day and then suddenly becomes evidence for global warming. Floods? Global warming. Droughts? Global warming. Ice Caving off of the glaciers and falling into the ocean? Global warming. Hurricanes? Global warming. Do you see a pattern here? Global warming. What’s sad is that children are being educated by teachers who are requiring their students to watch Mr. Gore’s movie. Mr. Gore has admitted that the issue is a spiritual one for him. He is spreading the word, calling on humanity to avert the climatic cataclysm that is just around the corner. He is even training hundreds of disciples to go throughout the world, warning of the coming of an environmental apocalypse. All we need to do to be saved from the heat of global warming is to use more compact fluorescent light bulbs, hybrid cars, and purchase carbon offsets from his company. Sounds good doesn’t it? I will admit that harmful global warming is indeed a possible outcome of mankind’s emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel use. I also think that climate change is indeed a moral issue, however, not the one that Mr. Gore claims it is. Because of humanity’s emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, many scientists are predicting dramatic weather changes ahead. Depending upon which scientists you believe, the extra carbon dioxide we are putting in the atmosphere could melt the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, flooding coastal locations worldwide. It could shut down the Atlantic Gulf Stream and oceanic thermohaline circulation, triggering the rapid onset of a new Ice Age. Global weather circulation changes could cause more severe floods and droughts, altering or even destroying entire ecosystems. (King, D & Walker G, 2008, pp 66-69. ) The western world’s fear of global warming and its effects has reached the point of being an obsession. The media is more than willing to spread, and even amplify, the fear that humanity is filling up the Earth, pushing it beyond its ability to sustain life. So now humans are being blamed for every hurricane, tornado, tsunami, earthquake, flood, and drought that occurs. I believe that the environmental fears that have consumed the western world stem from two central beliefs. The first is that the Earth is fragile and needs to be protected, even to the detriment of humans if necessary. Many people feel like the climate system is being pushed beyond its limits, past some imaginary tipping point from which there will be no return. The second belief is that the increasing wealth of nations is bad for the environment. Since technology and our desire for more stuff are to blame for environmental problems. Forecasting the future is risky business. Growth rates for greenhouse-gas concentrations and MGT could decline from those at present due to unanticipated innovations or natural events. For example, volcanoes can spew enough ash into the atmosphere to block sunlight and temporarily reduce MGT slightly. However, short-term continued growth at current rates is probably an under estimate. Although population growth rate has slowed, the population is still growing. The dominating factor is that per-capita energy and resource consumption rates are increasing much faster than the population. This is not only due to anticipated increases in standards of living in underdeveloped countries, but also to future increases in the demand for energy in the developed countries an example is air conditioning as summer temperatures rise. Since most of the energy will come from fossil fuels, at least for the next few decades, we can expect the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases and MGT to rise in the short-term future at a faster rate than they have recently. As MGT rises, water vapors will become a more and more significant factor due to increased evaporation. Already, there is a suspicion that, since 1975, the persistent El Nino is the first sign of the relation between global warming and climate (Tennesen, 2007, pp 127-138). As MGT increases further, we can expect more frequent and severe hurricanes and perpetual summertime droughts in many places, particularly in the US Midwest. Paradoxically, more intense winter storms will occur in some places and climatic conditions for agriculture will improve in some areas, such as in Russia (King, D & Walker G, 2008, pp 128-132). There has been considerable debate over the ecosystem's carrying capacity for humans. If we define that carrying capacity as the level that the ecosystem can support without changing state more than it has over the duration of human history, then we exceeded that capacity in 1975. The Arctic ice-cap would begin to melt and the permafrost under the tundra would start thawing out. As a consequence, a thick layer of rotting peat would contribute further to atmospheric concentrations. With a number of human-made and natural positive-feedback elements in operation simultaneously, a threshold could be crossed. (Horner, C. C. , 2007, pp 252-256. ) Are these risks that we should be willing to take for the sake of short- term gains? Naturally global warming is taking place, no one is denying that, however, we can be skeptical of the theory that all of global warming is caused by mankind, or that we understand the climate system and our future technological state well enough to make predictions of global warming in the next 50 -100 years, or that we need to reduce fossil fuel use now. There are two themes in environmentalist rhetoric that seek to discredit the so called skeptics in the world on global warming issues. The first is that corporations with lots of wealth buy influence from skeptics, and therefore they can’t be trusted. The second is that skeptics use scientific disinformation in their attempts to undermine the scientific consensus that global warming is real. Corporations recognize the need for government sponsored research to help answer scientific questions since that research is presumably unbiased, however, the government funding of researchers is definitely biased toward work that demonstrates that global warming is a threat, since this helps to maintain research programs at NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the EPA, and the Department of Energy. Wood, B. D. , 2007, pp 552-568. ) For many years now, well over $100 million a year has been flowing from the federal government to environmental lobby groups. The federal government routinely funds so called nongovernmental organizations that turn right around and lobby the government to support environmental causes that the NGO depends upon for their survival. Therefore the conclusion is that the environmental movement is indeed a huge financial machine with all the power and influence that comes with money. Some questions we really need answers to in order to really discuss this issue fairly are: How much of the Earth’s current warmth is a result of natural processes versus the activities of mankind? How bad will global warming be in the future? And most importantly what can and should be done about it? Can you answer these questions? While science can give us some useful information on the threat of global warming, it has nothing to say about any responses to it. Science is values- neutral and policy-neutral. Instead, what should be done about global warming comes from people’s belief systems: heir opinions of the proper role of government, understanding economics, and even their religious faith and of course the world’s view. We are well past the time to debate the science of climate change. It is now time to take advantage of the opportunity we have to build a cleaner, safer, more efficient world. For those who don’t know the science very well, the measure of the CO2 in the world’s atmosphere currently stands at 385 parts per million (ppm). Pre-industrial levels were around 280 ppm. The last time atmospheric concentrations were this high was at least 650,000 years ago. Over the last 100 years, average global temperatures have risen by almost one degree. All 10 of the hottest years on record have occurred since 1990. (King, S. D. & Walker, G, 2008, pp77-78. )Meanwhile, the earth’s glaciers are melting faster, animal species are collapsing, and weather patterns are becoming more severe. These facts compel action. And so the question is not whether climate change is real, but how quickly we can respond. We have the opportunity to transform the world from a dependence on dirty, inefficient fuel, to clean, sustainable energy. We also have the opportunity to leave this world cleaner, and safer for generations to come. Working to save our children, and our grandchildren, from the worst effects of climate change is something that many would agree is worth our effort. The fact is that spewing trillions of tons of carbon dioxide gas into the air is not normal. CO2 has an atmospheric lifespan of a century. Atmospheric CO2 levels have risen from 280 parts per million in volume in the 19th century to the current level of 385 parts per million. (Horner, C. C. , 2007, pp 114-117. )Stock exchange numbers are not a basis for addressing this crisis. Let’s review the basic concepts involved on global warming. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means it tends to warm the lower atmosphere. Mankind is putting more and more of it into the atmosphere from combustion of fossil fuels, at a rate of 1 molecule of CO2 per 100,000 molecules of air every 5 years. This causes a slight change in the alleged radiative energy balance at the top of the atmosphere. This imbalance causes the atmosphere to warm up until the out flowing infrared radiation that cools the Earth once again balances the absorbed sunlight that warms the Earth. This is the basic explanation of how manmade global warming works. (Jones, D. K. , 1993, pp 124-130) According to our text Cunningham M. A. , Cunningham W. P, 2009, pp 43, “Materials that store carbon, including geologic formations and standing forests, are known as carbon sinks. When Carbon is released from these sinks, as when we burn fossil fuels and inject CO2 into the atmosphere, or when we clear extensive forests, natural recycling may not be able to keep up. This is the root of the global warming problem. There is very little scientific disagreement over the fact that the extra carbon dioxide mankind is emitting is causing a slight enhancement of the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. The good news is that, even if global warming ends up being a real problem, we are already doing something to solve the problem. New and cleaner ways of providing energy that humanity needs are now being actively researched and developed. The U. S. government is investing hundreds of millions of your tax dollars each year in new energy technology research. Private industry is also investing in research, knowing that there will be great profit potential for anyone who develops new energy technologies, since everyone needs energy. We have now approached a decision point. Do we want to solve the global warming problem, or just pretend we are doing something about it? Do we want humanity to thrive, or to wither? As the calls for action to fight global warming become louder and more shrill, it is imperative that the public start asking two critical questions: How much will the proposed solution cost? And how much future warming will it alleviate? We must not let the pushers of harmful and impotent policies get their way with feel good platitudes and generalities about addressing the problem. I often wonder what motivates politicians and environmentalists who advocate policies that only doomed to failure, but also hurt so many other people, especially the poor. No matter what your view is I hope that I have shed some light onto the issues of global warming. REFERENCES Cunningham, M. A. & Cunningham, W. P. , 2009, “Principles of Environmental Science Inquiry & Applications”, pp 43-370 Easton T. A. , 2009, “Taking Sides Clashing Views on Environmental Issues”, pp 136-165 Horner, C. C. , 2007, “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism”, pp 114-256 Jones, D. K. , 1993, “the Geographical Journal, Vol. 159, No. 2”, pp 124-130 King S. D. & Walker G, 2008, “The Hot Topic”, pp 66-132 Tennesen, M. , 2004, “The complete Idiot’s Guide to Global Warming”, pp 3-208 Wood, B. D. , 2007, “American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 51, No. 3”, pp 552-568 http://www. epa. gov/oust/fedlaws/publ_109-058. pdf
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