Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I heart Sir Nicholas Stern

Chapter 1 of the Stern Report deals with the scientific grounding of climate change, and this passage made me want to stand up and cheer:
Some have interpreted the “Hockey Stick” as definitive proof of the human influence on climate. However, others have suggested that the data and methodologies used to produce this type of figure are questionable (e.g. von Storch et al. 2004), because widespread, accurate temperature records are only available for the past 150 years. Much of the temperature record is recreated from a range of ‘proxy’ sources such as tree rings, historicalrecords, ice cores, lake sediments and corals.

Climate change arguments do not rest on “proving” that the warming trend is unprecedented over the past Millennium. Whether or not this debate is now settled, this is only one in a number of lines of evidence for human-induced climate change. The key conclusion, that the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will lead to several degrees of warming,rests on the laws of physics and chemistry and a broad range of evidence beyond one particular graph.
This simple fact - that carbon dioxide and methane reflect more infrared radiation than other gases - is incontrovertible, as solidly known as the force of gravity at the Earth's surface. There is no question that an atmosphere with more CO2 in it will reflect more infrared radiation than one with less. These are laws of physics, not models or conjecture.

Somehow, this always gets lost in the discussion. To claim that continuing emissions of CO2 won't lead to climate change is to claim that up is down, black is white, and the laws of physics no longer apply. Very, very good of Stern to state the facts of this matter.


Berwitchlynn said...

I heart Stern, too! And thank goodness for him as well!

Anonymous said...

I hate to post just to agree, but yes this is really something that needs to be said more. I remember talking to a friend about a presention I was doing for my public speaking class. I told him it was on energy, and the problems that surround it, such as global warming. He said that he was skeptical that humans were responsable for the changing climate. I told him that it has been established without a doubt (and could be easily verified) that CO2 obsorbs IR, and that it had been established again without any doubt that the extra IR was sufficient to cause warming. I also said it was clear that atmospheric CO2 concentrations have gone up, and that humans have consumed enough fossil fuels to account for that CO2. And he said "Oh! I guess you have a point." Followed by a pause, "yeah I see what you mean." Now he may have just been being polite and at any rate, I doubt he had read up on the issue that much. None the less, I was able to convice a sceptic in only a couple of minutes that global warming was a problem, simply by explaining the basic science behind it.

The key point is that people don't like having to trust to experts and are more likely to listen if you respect their intelligence (even if it seems lacking), and take the few minutes necessary to explain the very basic science which has been known about since the begining of the last century.

auntiegrav said...

My father always said "Is it really necessary?" When we asked for permission to do something.

This needs to be asked of the things we do. Regardless of the effects of CO2 and methane, the bottom line is that MOST of the crap we are doing to use energy, build things, and entertain ourselves into oblivion are not necessary to the future of the human race or the environment which supports it. We don't HAVE to go back to living in caves, but perhaps moving in that direction and simplifying should be our first priority before trying to invent more junk to 'remediate' the global warming SYMPTOM. The disease has only been recognized by a very few people: it's called "Affluenza", with complications of "Consumptivism".

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