13 October 2007

The Great Global Warming Conspiracy

Conservative blogs have been decrying Al Gore’s winning the Nobel Peace Prize, claiming that he was completely wrong about global warming in his film An Inconvenient Truth.
Frankly, I just don’t understand the right-wing’s spittle-spewing rage over global warming. The argument that global warming isn’t happening, and if it is, it isn’t man’s fault and even if it is, doing anything about it would be too expensive, smacks of a desperate defence of an indefensible position, namely the God-given right to drive a vehicle the size and power of a World War Two tank (Sherman tank 5.84m long with 350hp-400hp versus Chevy Suburban 5.65m long with 310hp-366hp).
Denying global warming is right up there with obstinately claiming, contrary to evidence and common sense, that the Moon is made of green cheese. Repeating a lie doesn’t make it true. Temperature records show that the average temperature is increasing. We know that arctic regions and most glaciers are melting at record rates. We know that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, i.e. it stores heat. We know that CO2 is at the highest level in 650,000 years. And we know that we are pumping huge quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere (no brainer here, just add up petroleum and coal production).
The only things that are at all contested are the various computer models that try to predict exactly what will happen in the future. As with any model of a complex system, exact prediction is fiendishly difficult because it is very difficult to precisely account for all of the feed-back loops in a complex system. It’s like being in a car that is speeding at a 100mph towards a cliff and arguing that the impact won’t be so bad because we haven’t yet figured out precisely how much the increased friction of the gravel on the soft shoulder will slow the car.
Even if things aren’t quite as bad as the vast majority of the models predict the logic of Pascal’s wager comes into play. This is easiest to portray in a little chart:
Cost of Action:
Global Warming True: Cut Emissions = Huge Savings/Do Nothing = Huge Losses
Global Warning False: Cut Emissions = Minor Losses/Do Nothing = No Losses
Basically, the lowest risk course of action is to cut emissions, because if it is true, the costs of doing nothing are very high.
The right-wing blogs are also making much out of the British judge ruling that while Gore’s film is broadly correct, there are some errors. Looking at the errors, they are disputable and minor.
For instance, The film claimed that low-lying inhabited Pacific atolls "are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming". The judge found that there was no evidence of any evacuation occurring. Apparently he decided to ignore Vanuatu and Tuvalu. Also, the Maldives are coming under increasing pressure and rising sea levels are inundating their crops and fresh water supplies.
Similarly, Gore also referred to a study showing that polar bears were being found that had drowned "swimming long distances to find the ice". The judge said: "The only scientific study that either side before me can find is one which indicates that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a storm". Well, yeah, but there is evidence that polar bears have significantly less fat reserves than they have in the past, indicating that they aren’t able to reach the ice and hunt. So maybe they aren’t drowning, just starving. If current melting trends continue, bears will not have enough fat reserves to reproduce by 2012. When that happens, say good bye to polar bears except in zoos. Also, there is strong evidence that melting ice was responsible for killing a great number of seal pups. Canada had to reduce the quota of their annual hunt because of the low numbers of survivors. Seal, incidentally, are polar bears main food source. The upshot is that Gore’s film was essentially accurate in portraying polar bears as under pressure due to the warming of the arctic.
Another point that the judge made was that the film showed two graphs, one plotting a rise in C02 and the other the rise in temperature over a period of 650,000 years. The two graphs showed a remarkable fit. Gore said "an exact fit". The judge said although scientists agreed there was a connection between temperature and CO2 levels, "the two graphs do not establish what Mr Gore asserts". Basically the judge was pointing out that correlation and causation are not the same and that Gore had failed to prove causation.
The judge, while technically correct, was being dumber than a bag full of hammers. We know that CO2 stores energy. We know that atmospheric CO2 concentrations correlate strongly with temperature rises. We know that CO2 levels are rising. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that increasing CO2 levels is a bad idea. I would like to do a little experiment with the judge to see if his reasoning is always so skeptical. My little experiment would be to show the judge data that being hit in the head with a hammer correlated strongly with head injuries. Then I’d like to take one of the hammers from the above mentioned bag and have someone throw the hammer at the judge’s head. If he ducks, clearly he doesn’t buy his own reasoning any more than I do.
The final point I’d like to make is that the Nobel Peace Prize is an appropriate award. Military professionals, although clearly not right-wing bloggers, are concerned about global warming.
The following generals and admirals have written a report entitled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change”:
General Gordon R. Sullivan, former Chief of Staff, US Army
Admiral Frank “Skip” Bowman, former Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, former Deputy Administrator-Naval Reactors, National Nuclear Security Administration
Lieutenant General Lawrence P. Farrell Jr., former Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, Headquarters, US Air Force
Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, former President of the National Defense University, former Chief of Naval Research and Commander of Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command
General Paul J. Kern, former Commanding General US Army Material Command
Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, former Commander-in-Chief, US Naval Forces Europe and of Allied Forces, Southern Europe
Admiral Donald L. “Don” Pilling, former Vice Chief of Naval Operations
Admiral Joseph W. Prueher, former Command-in-Chief of the US Pacific Command and former US Ambassador to China
The following is the forward of their report:

To the reader,
During our decades of experience in the U.S. military, we have addressed many national security challenges, from containment and deterrence of the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War to terrorism and extremism in recent years.
Global climate change presents a new and very different type of national security challenge.
Over many months and meetings, we met with some of the world’s leading climate scientists, business leaders, and others studying climate change. We viewed their work through the lens of our military experience as warfighters, planners, and leaders. Our discussions have been lively, informative, and very sobering.
Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are greater now than at any time in the past 650,000 years, and average global temperature has continued a steady rise. This rise presents the prospect of significant climate change, and while uncertainty exists and debate continues regarding the science and future extent of projected climate changes, the trends are clear.
The nature and pace of climate changes being observed today and the consequences projected by the consensus scientific opinion are grave and pose equally grave implications for our national security. Moving beyond the arguments of cause and effect, it is important that the U.S. military begin planning to address these potentially devastating effects. The consequences of climate change can affect the organization, training, equipping, and planning of the military services. The U.S. military has a clear obligation to determine the potential impacts of climate change
on its ability to execute its missions in support of national security objectives.
Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national security challenges for the United States. Accordingly, it is appropriate to start now to help mitigate the severity of some of these emergent challenges. The decision to act should be made soon in order to plan prudently for the nation’s security. The increasing risks from climate change should be addressed now because they will almost certainly get worse if we delay.

The rest of the report can be found at
http://securityandclimate.cna.org/
Call me crazy, but I think they just might have an idea what they’re talking about.

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3 Comments:

Blogger LouisLouis said...

Well written. I have to add one detail referring to your little chart about the cost of globalwarming stopping action. Here's your options:

GLOBAL WARMING TRUE:
Cut Emissions = Huge Savings
Do Nothing = Huge Losses

GLOBAL WARNING FALSE:
Cut Emissions = Minor Losses
Do Nothing = No Losses

I disagree here. Replace 'minor losses' with 'healthy impacts'. Should global warning be significantly less dangerous than we must believe today and should we have acted anyway then our actions are not lost at all. Actions would have includ buildomg better public traffic, have more effective cars, better energy and maybe not going to get ones mail by car. But walk. Maybe meet a neighbour. It's all about neighbours, these days. We are neighbours with them talibans. We should - more or less ; ) - get along soon, else we're lost. Or we choose to survive as game characters in some shooter game. Mind you, some people seem to have chosen the egoshooter option already....

15 October, 2007 13:18  
Blogger David said...

louislouis, I agree. Actions to cut emissions will almost certainly not be free but giving greater benefits than the costs. In short, they will be technology investment. For instance, more efficient vehicles and more frugal heating and cooling for buildings and alternative energy sources could wean the US off of depending on the Middle East for its energy. That, in turn, would create huge savings. Even if global warming weren't happening, making the US economy more energy efficient would result in a more competitive economy.

15 October, 2007 16:10  
Anonymous Al Gore said...

you are all nuts- everyone knows that the cause of global warmming comes from cow farts- yes- methane gas- the study was conducted by the Department of Agriculture and Methane gas emitted by cows is 1000 times more toxic than carbon dioxide. So we do our part, drive little cars, turn agricultural swaths into ethanol, all part of carbon capitalolism.
Why? Because it feels good? Notice how the price of food has been going up? So as the 2.4 Billion in India and China reach incomes of $3000 , they start to eat higher on the food chain- What happens? More McDonald Burgers, More Cows, More Cow Farts.
What will happen to us in the USA? We will end up like they were in China in 1980. eating beans and rice, driving bicycles and begging from neighboring countries. Now do you feel good Mr. Gore?

07 December, 2007 03:45  

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