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climate change

Feb 25, 2011

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Dr Andrew Glikson, earth and paleoclimate scientist at ANU, writes: The end of the IPCC?

Just last week, the war on climate science showed its grip on the U.S. House of Representatives as it voted to eliminate U.S. funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Republican majority, on a mostly party-line vote of 244-179, went on record as essentially saying that it no longer wishes to have the IPCC prepare its comprehensive international climate science assessments.

Let me offer some examples of the ‘rationale’ in the background of this vote:

Representative Luetkemeyer (Missouri) said: “Scientists manipulated climate data, suppressed legitimate arguments in peer-reviewed journals, and researchers were asked to destroy emails, so that a small number of climate alarmists could continue to advance their environmental agenda.”

US Congress Representative John Shimkus (Illinois) said: “Today we have about 388 parts per million [of carbon dioxide] in the atmosphere… I think in the age of the dinosaurs, when we had most flora and fauna, we were probably at 4000 parts per million. There is a theological debate that this is a carbon-starved planet, not too much carbon.” He goes on: “The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.

The Representative is correct in pointing to the wealth of fauna and flora in the age of the dinosaurs.

The only error he makes is in overlooking the fact that humans, as a part of nature, are the product of environment changes associated with cooling of the Earth since the mid-Pliocene about 3 million years ago, followed by the glacial-interglacial eras during which H. sapiens and civilization arose. The other error is that rapid shifts between climate states result in mass extinctions.

But then its not clear how many of the new House majority accept Darwinian evolution?

Representative Joe Barton (Texas), who is competing for the position of chairman of the Congress Energy and commerce Committee states: “Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up? Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale. I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something, you can’t transfer that heat, and the heat goes up. It’s just something to think about.”

Never mind that in nature winds move air from cold high pressure to warm low pressure zones, such as in onshore sea breeze or the polar vortices.

E. Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, argued that because the “biblical worldview sees the world and ecosystems as the work of a wise God, humankind couldn’t possibly be affecting the climate.”

Some are happy with ongoing carbon emissions, since they apparently serve as “plant food”, in what some of them regard as a “carbon starved world”.

A new kind of science is being invented, free of data and unrelated to the basic laws of physics and chemistry.

Just in case those who reject the science may not be correct, at least Congress continues to support space research programs.  In search of habitable planets when Earth is no longer suitable for human life?

Defenders of the IPCC are in retreat. Representative Waxman (California) stated: “The US contributes only $2.3 million to the IPCC. Our $2.3 million contribution leverages a global science assessment with global outreach and global technical input – a process we could not carry out alone and one that could come to a halt without US support.”

In Noam Chomsky’s view: “All of this combines the latest election a couple of days ago…. You could almost interpret it [the Republicans victory in the Congress elections] as a kind of a death knell for the species.”

How consistent is Noam Chomsky’s prediction with climate science projections?

With rising global and in particular polar temperatures:

And the acceleration of extreme weather events (Figure 3), predicted by the IPCC, the rise in energy levels of the atmosphere-ocean system, evaporation and precipitation, are increasingly expressed by a series of extreme weather events – cyclones, floods, snow storms, heat waves.

The emission of >320 Gigaton carbon over the last two centuries leads to a shift in state of the climate (>2 Watt/m2; +0.8C mean temperature; ~2 ppm CO2/year) on a scale unknown from former interglacial periods and the last 3 million years of geological history.

How should Noam Chomsky’s claim the return of the Republicans constitutes “a kind of a death knell for the species” be interpreted?

Is Chomsky referring to the self-fulfilling prophecies of the “rupture” by fundamentalists? Is it the ideology of human mastery over nature, vested fossil fuel interests, well funded “conservative” think tanks, media cover-up, cowardly politicians, the basic reluctance of people to face global issues beyond human power, or all of these factors combined?

Hopefully the Representatives are correct and Chomsky is mistaken. As “internet science” tells, the world is not warming or, at least, not due to human factors, and climate research organizations (Hadley-Met, NASA-GISS, Colorado-NSIDC, Potsdam, CSIRO, BOM) and peer reviewed science are all in error?

Should this not be the case and the future lies in the hands of those who reject the scientific method, claiming authority to speak in God’s name, this would herald the end of the enlightenment, an era of intellectual, scientific and cultural life emerging from the 18th century where evidence and reason are the basis for legitimacy and authority.

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