Today, let's talk about global warming. Also known as "global climate change."
See, on another blog out there, I said some mean things about Michele Bachmann, and somehow ended up in a debate about global warming. That's how things work on these here Intarnets - it's a series of tubes, and they don't always go where you expect.
(Now, part of the message of the post involved the Left Coast Rebel saying that liberals were close-minded and not willing to listen to other people's viewpoints. And ten minutes after I posted my viewpoint, that same rebel asked his readers if he should delete it. Ultimately, it stayed, but I like the inherent irony in him even asking the question.)
Now, much of that debate was reprinted here in three parts. And, since Andy has already posted replies to last week's rant, let's see if we can lure him here, since he seems to be particularly interested in climate change. (To level the playing field a little, I'll start here primarily with arguments he's already seen.)
Now, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a group put together back in 1988 by the UN to monitor studies about climate change and determine the facts of the matter. Despite White House opposition, the IPCC noted an increase of about a degree and a half in average surface temperature in the latter part of the 20th century. They determined that greenhouse gases and deforestation were the primary causes, and nature (solar variation and volcanoes) had produced most of the warming up through about 1950, but had actually cooled things somewhat since then.
The summary of that study is here, if you're curious. Most of the major scientific organizations internationally have endorsed that study, by the way, and the IPCC shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore on the subject.
You're heading out into Conspiracy Theory territory if you believe that a giant international cabal of scientists is counterfeiting their evidence for some nefarious purpose. Nor do I think that it's likely that all the governments in the world worked together to alter the findings of those same scientists, without any of those scientists saying anything. (On top of which, wouldn't the Bush White House have had some input in suppressing the results, if that was the case?)
(And, admittedly, there was one scientist who left the group, back in 2005, named Christopher Landsea. However, he was specifically miffed about another scientist saying that strong hurricane activity was due to global warming, when he had performed no studies in that area.)
There are several climate model projections in the IPCC report, which suggest that global surface temperatures will rise another 2 to 12 degrees F. up through 2100, depending on who you believe (and it will probably continue to rise beyond that, since the 75% of the earth covered in water is a great heatsink).
But even that 2 degrees will cause significant melting in the polar regions, and even a few inches of increase in the world's oceans will be a bad thing.
Now, I understand that there are arguments against this concept. A number of scientists (mostly funded by Exxon-Mobil, oddly enough) have come out saying that this theory is implausible. Sadly, the logic holds up, and the facts remain facts.
(On the subject of Exxon-Mobil, they did manage to get one leading scientist ousted as chairman. Not that they were trying to alter the results of the report or anything...)
Over the last 150 years, carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations have risen from 280 to nearly 380 parts per million (ppm). You know, since the start of the industrial revolution. Why would that be?
And looking at that CO2, let's consider the nature of the chemical.
There are 3 major carbon isotopes, numbered 12 to 14. Carbon-12 is the most common, and carbon-14, the radioactive one, is the least common. They're usually spread pretty evenly, but, being radioactive, carbon-14 has a relatively short half-life, so that you can measure how old something is by how much of the trapped carbon in a specimen is carbon-14 - the less -14 there is, the older it is.
Here's the thing: since the various carbon isotopes are spread evenly through nature, you'd expect that they'd be spread evenly in the atmosphere. Now, since the carbon in the air shows a lot less carbon-14, doesn't that mean that most of it came from older sources? Like, for example, fossil fuels?
Incidentally, before anybody brings up "well, there are questions about the accuracy of carbon-14 dating! -- you know, I've tried to look into that, and the only place I've found those questions are in Christian (primarily creationist) websites. If you want to make that argument, you'll have to include a link to something from the scientific community, because it looks to me like they're pretty clear on the subject.
Our government seems to be concentrating on CO2 in their current legislation, as if that was the only culprit in air pollution. I mean, there are others: for example, ozone (O3), which is an unstable form of oxygen (O2) which happens to be poisonous (we need it in the upper atmosphere, but not where we're breathing, right?). Then there's the various sulphur compounds, many of which will kill you, and a bunch of various other compounds (mercury, weirdly enough, was taken off the charts by the Bush administration, despite the fact that it's been noted for the number of birth defects and other horrific problems it can cause).
You know, there's a term in the air pollution field: "particulate matter." It's that crap in the air that floats around for a while and then drops and clings to things. "Soot" is one type. (You know those Sherlock Holmes movies with the fog and stuff? I understand that the fog in those was actually smog from the factories, back in the 1800s/Industrial Revolution era, and it used to stain men's clothes to the point that paper collars and cuffs, that you could remove and throw away, were common.)
You know, when you think about it, soot should be heavier than air, right? I wonder how it gets up into the atmosphere? I mean, if your experiment with carbon dioxide proved that heavier gases will always drop, wouldn't a particulate drop even faster?
And where does acid rain come from, anyway? I mean, moisture in the air mixes with nitrogren oxide, sulphur dioxide or the like, and forms an acid that might travel for thousands of miles before it lands and screws stuff up around it.
Do you not believe that dumping millions of tons of pollutants into the atmosphere might have an effect on things like the absorbtion of sunlight by plants? (And remember, it isn't just CO2 being put out by those smokestacks.)
And one of the favorite arguments of the anti-global-warming crowd lately has been this 2008 petition, where 32,000 scientists said that you can't prove global warming.
I've been wondering about those 32,000 scientists. I mean, when you look into it, you start to notice some discrepencies. Let's start with "scientist" as a definition. It means somebody with a degree and some science background, right? Are you required to be working in a scientific field? You've got 31,478 college graduates who signed this thing. But only 3,803 (by Ron Paul's count, at least) have "specific training in atmospheric, earth, and environmental sciences."
So, if we take their word for it about their training (and if they were going to fake this, they'd have a larger number, right?), that's about 12% who know enough about earth sciences to not be pulling information out of their posteriors. Did I do that math right?
You know, you've got to wonder about that other 88% of them. What did they study? There's got to be some math, some physics - that's a given, right? Of course, pretty much any degree has a certain number of prerequisites, including science, math and the like. But, really, a Doctor of Theology - well, by that definition, he's a scientist, right? I haven't seen a good accounting of what fields of study these degrees were in, so I can't talk with any certainty, but since they specified the numbers I used, I have to assume that there was a reason for it.
According to most studies, when you include the PhD's, there are 30,000 doctorates awarded each year. So based on that, they were only able to find 32,000 willing to sign on here? (OK, not even that many: only 31,478 - that doesn't seem like a lot.)