Somewhere around 1990 I wrote an article for a monthly paper on global warming. My intention was to explain the idea behind it (the greenhouse phenomenon) and to make clear the distinction between depletion of the ozone layer and greenhouse effects (the two were getting confused on a regular basis in those days). The reason I mention this is that there was virtually nothing in that article that would not pertain today, and other than the addition of piles and piles of data, there has been almost no change in the science of greenhouse effects that has occurred since then. And by that, I specifically mean the working models for the dynamics of atmospheric response to the release of fossil carbon into the atmosphere that existed then are merely simpler versions of, but not fundamentally different from, those that are used today.
Putting this yet another way, science had nailed down the greenhouse effect by 1990, and any appearance of equivocation since that time is the result of people telling lies. There have been many important findings and advancements related to the science, but nothing fundamental has changed …. science has not been going back and forth on whether or not there is a greenhouse effect, or how it works, or what causes it, or the effects of the release of fossil carbon. The only equivocation has been in the area of policy. And virtually all of that controversy has been manufactured by industrial and commercial interests in legion with the right wing which is, essentially, anti-environment for no other reason than that liberals and progressives are pro-environment. What a stupid set of reasons to cause such harm.*
So, one could say that the last 20 years have largely been wasted when it comes to reforming how we do thing on this planet in a way that would reduce the release of fossil carbon into the atmosphere. One could say that whatever ill effects our planet suffers over coming decades that occur because of this delay is the responsibility … the fault … of those who were pushing these lies over recent decades. And, just to be clear, the comparison I just made, between 1990 and now, is the short version; We understood what was happening well before 1990. And the lies and deceit and bought and paid for denialism has been going on for much longer.
And now we have 2011. This year, we have experience the most expensive year of weather disasters in our history. The total cost of disasters this year, and we are still only in July, is in the tens of billions of dollars, perhaps 32 billion. A typical year in recent times has been about 6 billion. The cost in human lives has also been high, with over 600 people killed from flooding, tornado outbreaks, and other storms.* It is hard to attribute specific damage or death to global warming, but guess what: It is also hard to attribute specific deaths to influenza during the influenza season, but we manage to count the effects of flu anyway. For the latter, certain categories of morbidity or mortality which are known to be linked to influenza are monitored all year, and we see an increase during flu season while at the same time a smaller sample of people are showing up with influenza demonstrated through blood tests. Similarly, with global warming effects, we can see a broad association between heat and storms, and we know where that heat is coming from. We know that because the science on this is pretty good.
2011 will almost certainly turn out to be the hottest year on record. 2010 and 2005 were previously tied for the hottest. June 2011 was the 315th consecutive month above the 20th century average. The last time we experience a month with global temperatures lower than the 20th century average was February. February 1985.* Five years before I wrote that article I mentioned.
The arctic sea is no longer covered with ice as it used to be. Now, the ice cycles are fundamentally different. The change that is happening there is difficult to track and a few more years needs to pass before we’ll fully understand it. But ice that has not melted in many many years has melted, and ice that normally forms no longer does.
When I wrote a few weeks back that global warming denialists were responsible for making the world our grandchildren would grow up in a more dangerous place, I received death threats from those denialists. One gentleman invited me to his ranch in Texas so he could shoot me to death. Others were less direct in their threats1. Still more did not make threats but certainly did write me obnoxious emails. Several demanded that I open my blog up to be their public forum, where they could spread their lies. The reason I mention this is just so you know … this is not a rational debate, and has not been for some time. Many of the people who used to debate these issues with me, here and elsewhere, and who were, of course, wrong about climate change but who were otherwise reasonable people, have shifted strategy: They no longer discuss this issue at all. Clearly they have changed their minds, or at least, learned that what might have been thought of as a fools errand is now merely an error of fools. And they’ve learned to shut up. The only ones left denying the science are crazy people. Truly.
This Sunday, Mike Haubrich and I will be joined on Atheist Talk Radio AM 950 by two scientists deeply involved with research related to global climate change, Kevin Zelnio and John Abraham.
Kevin Zelnio is a science journalist and blogger at Scientific American Blogs and at Deep Sea News. He has written on the effects of the change in climate on the ocean (and our fisheries), and blogs about invertebrates that live in the sea and other topics.
John Abraham is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering (Heat Transfer and Fluid Mechanics) at St. Thomas University in St. Paul. Aside from his extensive work in the science, he is also well known for a response he crafted to a presentation made by climate change denialist Chrisopher Monckton at Bethel University. Here is John’s presentation.
Details of the radio show are here.
I’m assuming this will be the last time we’ll be discussion global climate change with any reference to denialism. We need to get on with the work of addressing this crisis.
1That was Bob Clark of the Circle KB Ranch, 26309 Old Owen Road, Monroe, WA 98272-9071 (Land Line: 360 794 7387; Bob’s Cell: 206 459 5802; Kay’s Cell: 206 459 5865; Truck’s Sky Phone: 425 330 9377) who claims to be retired with an honors degree in Physical Chemistry. I assume that’s an associates degree.