Climate Wars

I’ve just finished reading Gwynne Dyer’s “Climate Wars”, a chilling – if you’ll pardon the pun- sequel to his earlier novel “War”. Both are very easy to read, yet sobering experiences. Gwynne Dyer knows what he’s talking about. This is in stark contrast to the ill-informed public (that excludes the present company, of course) which has no comprehension of the scale of the climate change issue. Theirs is usually a self-centred view, filtered through rose-tinted glasses.  The only information they seem willing or able to access is the rubbish piled on the web by the small-yet-prolific band of nay-sayers, most of whom  fall into the categories of “very stupid” or  who appear to have vested interests in maintaining the status quo.  I’m particularly annoyed by those with civic or political responsibilities, who use the debate to justify a fence-sitting posture designed to garner maximum political leverage (i.e., votes).

As Dyer points out in the later chapters of his book, the long-term effects – on time scales of centuries or more – are possibly catastrophic for life as we know it.  But its the earlier chapters that really scare me.  For many, a slightly warmer climate, or a few cm rise in sea level may seem of little consequence.  But Dyer raises several spectres of climate change triggering political instabilities which could have dire consequences in the next few decades. I hope the people who matter are listening. The book should be compulsory reading for all would-be civic leaders and political decision makers. Because of past inaction, they now have a hard row to hoe to keep us out of hot water. And if they can’t stand the heat, they should get out of the kitchen.



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4 responses to “Climate Wars

  1. Cook

    I’m particularly annoyed by those with civic or political responsibilities, who use the debate to justify a fence-sitting posture designed to garner maximum political leverage (i.e., votes). – could this be a reference to a local politician……………….

  2. jmm

    clip > Both the doubters of green-leaning end-of-the-worldism and the promoters of green-infused stories of doom agree that the main problem with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is that some of its science is duff. Seriously duff. They might reach different conclusions as a result of their critique of the IPCC’s bad science – the sceptics argue that the IPCC is completely untrustworthy; the alarmists say there just needs to be a ‘spring clean’ of the IPCC’s scientific closet – but these normally horn-locked camps agree on the central premise: that the problem is dodgy science.

    This represents a shallow, uncritical approach to today’s tyranny of environmentalism. The real problem is not the promotion of bad science per se, but the use of science – any kind of science, whether good or bad, insightful or stupid – as a source of moral and political authority and a driver of public policy and international development. For anyone who considers himself a progressive, the ultimate scandal, above and beyond all the admittedly titillating stuff about ‘Emailgate’ and the melting glacier nonsense, is the idea that scientific fact, which is fundamentally just information, should determine how society is organised, how political problems are approached, and what people should expect from life.

    It is the substitution of science for morality, and the interests of the climate for the interests of mankind, which is the real shocker of recent years, not the odd ridiculous graph or shrill claim about the Himalayas <

    From Climate Debate Daily

    • uv2go

      Thank you thank you. My first serious blog respondent. But I disagree with most of what you say (or at least report), starting with the supposed “agreement” you note in your first sentence. Only tiny minority of people who understand the issues claim to be climate deniers. And as a atmopsheric physicist I can’t understand how they can truthfully take such a position. It’s quite obvious to anyone who understands the subject that the observed increase in greenhouse gases will result in temperature increases. It is of course excusable that untrained people may misunderstand the issues, which are quite complex. This is exactly analogous to other specialist fields. If you find there’s something wrong with your car or your body you’d be ill–advised to take the advice of the person you meet at the pub because it’s well known that free advice is worth what you pay for it. You’d be much better advised to ask people who know – even if you suspect they may have a vested interest – such as getting paid for their services.

      I do agree that the atmospheric science community is not perfect. No doubt it could do a better job at communicating the science. The problem is that an understanding of the issues takes quite a bit more than a just few sentences of dialogue over a bar stool. Yes, there was a typographical mistake (the year 2350 being mis-typed as 2035) in the IPCC report regarding the shrinkage dates for the Himalayan glaciers, and that the paper cited was not a refereed publication. The IPCC have not shirked from admitting that. Such a dramatic change by 2035 is so short a time as to be patently absurd. But this is not bad science, its merely bad reporting and bad reviewing. Incidentally I carried out a word search in my own copy of each of the 11 chapters of the 2007 IPCC Working Group I report, “The Physical Science” (a total of nearly 1000 closely typed A4 pages). There were no references to this issue. In fact the word “Himalaya” occurred only about 5 times in the entire document, never associated with a specific date. I finally found the offending sentence in the assessment report for Working Group II, “Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” on page 493 of about 1000. Here it is (complete with typo)

      “Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005)”

      In reality the typographic error (year 2035 instead of 2350) may be the only thing wrong with the sentences. The correct scientific approach is now to further investigate the hypothesis that the glaciers are retreating at such a rate. The IPCC authors don’t highlight the dates at all. There’s no mention of it them at all in the executive summaries for policy-makers.

      But the main point of my post was that it’s not just the physical rise in temperature or sea level or whatever that matters. It’s the geo-political effects of those changes that we – even smug kiwis safely ensconsed 150 m above sea level in a comfortable climate – need to be concerned about. It’s the ensuing population pressures in other parts of the world that that matter. When the shit hits the fan, we are all in trouble. Read the book yourself before you condemn it. And if you really want the true oil on the science and have time to spare, then read the full IPCC Assessment.

      The following quote by Professor Robert A. Spicer, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Open University, following up the “climate-gate” enquiry involving the University of East Anglia (UEA) may also be helpful. He said:

      “Whatever the inquiry finds, we must not lose site of the fact that the UEA data set is just one among many that demonstrate the fact that the overall global average temperature is rising and that greenhouse gas concentrations are now higher than anything seen before in human history. This is something to be deeply concerned about.
      “I am often asked if I ‘believe in global warming’ as if the topic were a religion. It is not a case of belief, it is a case of evaluating evidence and the evidence is overwhelming that warming is happening at an alarming rate.
      “Some people may choose to deny the collective work of thousands of researchers around the world in order to promote their own agendas, but this does not change the facts of basic physics and an abundance of observation. Climate change will not go away if we choose to ignore it. At some point large numbers of people will suffer through lack of collective action, and at least when that happens my conscience will be clear.
      “Regarding the IPCC, yes some avoidable errors have been made, but again this does not negate the vast majority of the data. After all the IPCC merely collates and distils data, it does not make the observations itself. If anything the need for consensus, and the reliance on climate models that are inherently anchored in the present and therefore conservative, suggest the IPCC predictions are likely to underestimate the degree of future change. The future is likely to offer far more possibilities for economic and political instability, driven by climate change, than most people realise”.

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