Global warming still reigns

Peter
Peter Jackson
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Let me admit, up front, that I know nothing about global warming - nothing, that is, other than what I've gleaned from skimming a few secondary sources.

I don't imagine, though, that I'm any further behind than most.

The concept of global warming is simple - the planet's climate is warming, and humans are mainly responsible - but the science is vast and complex.

Let me admit, up front, that I know nothing about global warming - nothing, that is, other than what I've gleaned from skimming a few secondary sources.

I don't imagine, though, that I'm any further behind than most.

The concept of global warming is simple - the planet's climate is warming, and humans are mainly responsible - but the science is vast and complex.

It's not generated by a little cabal of gnomes at some California university. It is not an off-beat theory that turned into a media darling.

It is a conclusion based on almost half a century of international research and incorporates all the debates, false starts and revisions that went along with it.

Now, I have an intuitive problem with global warming. It's hard to believe any amount of manmade emissions can profoundly alter the world's climate.

But this is a case where science trumps intuition.

I still can't conceive how a tiny, metallic needle in a vinyl groove could produce such wonderful music, but I enjoyed it anyway. (Digital sound production has me utterly confounded.)

I still can't imagine how air pressure can lift giant metal passenger jets into the air, but I willingly board them anyway.

So, when a prominent skeptic such as Australia's Ian Plimer writes a book with the stated intention of appealing to those who "smell something is wrong in the climate debate, but can't quite put a finger on what," red flags immediately go up.

Plimer makes the preceding remark in his 2009 book "Heaven and Earth - Global Warming: The Missing Science."

Now, I must also admit I have not yet read this book. I have, however, seen plenty of evidence to suggest it is rife with errors and junk science. (For an exhaustive, point-by-point rebuttal of it, try the following link: www.complex.org.au/tiki-download_file.php?fileId=91.)

I also know that although Plimer holds mining interests, there's no evidence he is one of the many so-called skeptics who've been bought by the oil and mining industries.

So, instead of discussing a book I haven't read, I'll briefly take issue with a letter in Friday's Telegram by John Carter of St. John's ("Global warming and global threats," Sept. 11).

Carter heartily endorsed Plimer's book upon delivering his letter to the editor, and one might assume some of his points are derived from it.

Take the following: "The animal kingdom produces 25 times the carbon dioxide as all the world's industry and cars put together. Volcanoes produce even more."

I'm not sure where these assertions come from. I could find no source to confirm them.

I could find a number of credible studies that calculate volcanoes produce one per cent or less of the carbon emissions produced by human activity.

Likewise, the figure for animal emissions is questionable. A study from New Zealand (New Scientist, December 2008) reports that methane "has 25 times the global warming potential of the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide," and that "livestock are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all forms of transport combined." It's not clear whether that's a national or a global assessment. More importantly, the massive livestock industry is unquestionably a product of humans.

Back to Plimer, I understand he says global warming has become a new religion.

To some extent, I agree.

The issue has taken on an intensely moral quality, where denial and passivity are demonized, and predictions of post-warming conditions are frighteningly similar to historical scenarios of hell.

But this is hardly the point.

You don't counter the global warming theory by snatching tidbits of research from here and there - much of it dubious at best - and patching them into an agenda-driven tome.

The point is that the science must remain rigorous and peer-reviewed. Contrary findings should be evaluated in reports of the international UN panel which oversees global climate research. It must be a self-correcting process.

Perhaps some "Eureka!" will eventually supplant the global warming premise. Perhaps some revelation will emerge to definitively let it rest.

To date, I've seen none.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram's commentary editor. He can be contacted by e-mail at pjackson@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: California university, UN, Eureka!

Geographic location: Australia, St. John's, New Zealand

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Recent comments

  • Liam
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    For evidence of just how flawed Plimer is please visit http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/08/plimers-homework-assignment/
    As for climate change being a new religion. If it is, it is one of the few that an appeal to hard numbers detailing a warming globe, while using isotopes to accurately trace our nasty contribution to the atmosphere for the last few centuries. Combine that with the known physical characteristics of CO2, and you have a religion that is remarkably logical.

  • Harbinger
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    You have not seen evidence that Plimer is wrong, you have seen counterclaims which is somewhat different. Just take one comment from the refernce you quote: down-play the extent of warming from CO2, and exaggerate the relative
    role of water vapour .

    Exaggerate the relative role of water vapour? What nonsense. Water vapour is THE dominant greenhouse gas and cannot be modelled. They haven't a clue, so any model produced with unknown inputs is as useful as a chocolate teapot.

  • Mark
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Ah, the new religion. Where would mankind be without something to believe in that they do not and cannot understand.

    Have blind faith in the all knowing environmental experts. Only they know what is going on.
    Repent or die in a pit of fire.

    Thank God (did I say that?) for a few skeptics to question/expose these environmental apocalyptics.

  • Liam
    July 01, 2010 - 20:19

    For evidence of just how flawed Plimer is please visit http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/08/plimers-homework-assignment/
    As for climate change being a new religion. If it is, it is one of the few that an appeal to hard numbers detailing a warming globe, while using isotopes to accurately trace our nasty contribution to the atmosphere for the last few centuries. Combine that with the known physical characteristics of CO2, and you have a religion that is remarkably logical.

  • Harbinger
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    You have not seen evidence that Plimer is wrong, you have seen counterclaims which is somewhat different. Just take one comment from the refernce you quote: down-play the extent of warming from CO2, and exaggerate the relative
    role of water vapour .

    Exaggerate the relative role of water vapour? What nonsense. Water vapour is THE dominant greenhouse gas and cannot be modelled. They haven't a clue, so any model produced with unknown inputs is as useful as a chocolate teapot.

  • Mark
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Ah, the new religion. Where would mankind be without something to believe in that they do not and cannot understand.

    Have blind faith in the all knowing environmental experts. Only they know what is going on.
    Repent or die in a pit of fire.

    Thank God (did I say that?) for a few skeptics to question/expose these environmental apocalyptics.