The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Clear

In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Alan I. Leshner , chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and executive publisher of the journal Science, castigates AGW “doubters” [it appears that even true believers now recognize that the term “deniers” was just a bit over the top] and suggests that they simply don’t understand: (1) the science, (2) the severity of the consequences, and (3) the importance of action now. He makes the following statement:
Climate-change science is clear: The concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide -- derived mostly from the human activities of fossil-fuel burning and deforestation -- stands at 389 parts per million (ppm). We know from studying ancient Antarctic ice cores that this concentration is higher than it has been for at least the past 650,000 years. Exhaustive measurements tell us that atmospheric carbon dioxide is rising by 2 ppm every year and that the global temperature has increased by about 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit over the past century. Multiple lines of other evidence, including reliable thermometer readings since the 1880s, reveal a clear warming trend. The broader impacts of climate change range from rapidly melting glaciers and rising sea levels to shifts in species ranges.

Sometimes it’s important to look at what someone doesn’t say, as well as what they said. What Dr. Leshner says is that “Climate-change science is clear.” Okay. If the matter is clear and “settled,” it would seem that in addition to his discussion of CO2 ppm and projections of possible temperature rises, he’d breakdown the percentage impact of all climate variables—CO2, sun spot activity, ocean currents, cloud density and formation, changes in the earth’s magnetic field, volcanic activity, ocean salinity, changes in land reflectivity, oceanic algae growth, among at least 18 variables. He doesn't do that.

For starters, why not tell us the percent impact that CO2 has on global temperature variability to the nearest, say, 2 percent. At the same time, provide us with the percent impact of other variables. After all, climate science is clear, is it not?

In a strikingly similar op-ed in USA Today, Melanie Fitzpatrick, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, makes essentially the same arguments, denigrating “polluter-funded front groups and their allies in Congress” for “making exaggerated claims about stolen e-mails from climate scientists in a last ditch effort to derail action.” Like Leshner, she notes that “Global warming is accelerating faster than expected — and we need to act quickly to curb emissions.” But again, it’s what she doesn’t say. She cannot and does not indicate the quantitative impact of anthropogenic CO2 emissions on the earth’s climate. It’s an important piece of information that would be readily available if the science was understood at a level Fitzpatrick implies.

Of course Dr. Leshner, Dr. Fitzpatrick and other AGW true believes can’t provide answers to these seemingly important questions, because they don’t have them. Maybe the impact of CO2 (the human component) is high, or maybe it’s not. If it is high, then we should work to reduce its impact, but if it's low, we're addressing the wrong variable.

Don’t you think it might be a good idea to find out before we take very expensive and intrusive actions that might make matters no better and could have unintended negative consequences?