I find ‘global warming’ a fascinating subject, terribly complex but so interesting and so potentially important. It is the big issue of our day and more than any other issue it has the potential to impact on how we live.
By “how we live” I don’t mean that there are necessarily going to be more hurricanes or droughts, though there may, or that planet earth will become too hot for habitation, though James Lovelock suggests this will be the case. What I do mean is that it is going to impact on energy policy and this will impact on our quality of life.
The obvious solution to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, the cause of ‘global warming’, is the phasing out of fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil. There are already alternatives, hybrid cars and nuclear power stations. But how much are we prepared to pay for our electricity and our cars? Some argue governments should force us to pay more, or take away our cars and coal fired power stations altogether.
If we banned cars and coal fired power stations right across the globe, we would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and stop ‘global warming’ – in so much as global warming is defined as an increase in temperature as a result of an increase in greenhouse gases from anthropogenic (human) sources. As scientists from the Max Planck Institute in Germany recently explained, methane emissions from plants are natural and could thus not contribute to ‘global warming’.
This approach is consistent with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
(IPCC)(UNFCCC) which defines ‘climate change’ as that which is attributable directly or indirectly to human activity, click here.
So, ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ have been defined
exclusively in terms of human impact.
I am a biologist with a double major in entomology and botany. I also dabbled in some evolutionary biology particularly as a post graduate. It is generally accepted that evolution has been driven by natural selection and that this has occurred against a backdrop of continual climate change.
But, as a biologist, how do I reconcile the idea that there has been natural climate change with the
IPCC UNFCCC definition of climate change?*
I used to laugh at the notion that a group of scientists could come together under something called the
IPCC UNFCCC and redefine climate change. Make it such a political phenomenon with man at the centre of it all!
I am not a climate scientist, but I reckon the official definition of ‘climate change’ used by a consensus of climate scientists is baloney.
It does mean that people like Ian Lowe, an emeritus professor at several universities and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, can write a book pondering that “it is now indisputable that the global climate is changing”.
Natural climate change is not something I have ever much heard disputed. But with the new definition of ‘climate change’ well, it is very unclear how much last year’s temperature rise was due to greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels versus natural processes.
Some biologists, and many geologists, tend to focus on natural processes and may, as a consequence appear to trivialize the relatively recent human influence on climate from carbon emissions. Perhaps as a consequence some of us are labeled climate skeptics. It doesn’t mean we are wrong or that we don’t care, as John Quiggin suggested at his blog this morning. It might just mean we see things differently.
Just yesterday I received an email with information about a new book titled, Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming consisting of ten essays on global warming by Sallie L. Baliunas, Robert C. Balling Jr., Randall S. Cerveny, John Christy, Robert E. Davis, Oliver W.
Frauenfeld, Ross McKitrick, Patrick J. Michaels, Eric S. Posmentier and Willie Soon.
And a note from David Douglass Professor of Physics, University of Rochester, commenting: “The beauty of science is that truth is determined by observation and not by consensus. The seemly endless press releases, commentary and resolutions claiming a consensus for the anthropogenic climate change hypothesis is scientifically meaningless. The consensus claims, however, must be answered.”
UPDATE: 9am, 25th January 2006
* The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports to the UNFCCC.