The elders speak out on climate change -is anyone listening?

The Elders are a group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. They include Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu.

In an inspiring personal letter (PDF), The Elders have urged 192 world leaders to attend the Copenhagen climate talks in person and to reach a fair, ambitious, effective and binding agreement to reduce emissions and build a low-carbon, and sustainable future for us all.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

A few weeks ago, as you can see from photographs posted on www.theElders.org, we joined forces with thirteen of our grandchildren from Asia, Africa, Europe and the United States to remind the world of the risks of climate change to future generations. Like all young people, our grandchildren expect today’s leaders to take responsibility for delivering a low-emission, sustainable future: one that requires shared commitment, based on common but differentiated responsibilities.

The agreement reached in Copenhagen must have climate justice at its heart. It is a tragic irony that the world’s least developed countries have contributed less than 2 percent of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, yet are most vulnerable to climate change and least able to protect their people. We have had the opportunity to meet small farmers and indigenous leaders from the poorest countries, many of whom are women, who tell us that changing weather patterns are already putting increasing pressure on water, food and land.

The letter lays out some specific details of a legally binding agreement on climate change. Among others, these requirements include a 2 degree Celsius target as the outer limit of global temperature increase, a reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the year 2050, and a commitment from developed nations to cut emissions of 25-40% by 2020, and 80-95% by 2050, relative to levels in 1990.

The Elders are getting fully behind our next global day of action on the weekend of December 12, World Wants a Real Deal they will be present at a vigil in the Copenhagen conference center when we present your photos and stories from around the world. We sincerely hope the world leaders of today will heed the call of their Elders.

More information and global action updates can be found :

Climate Voice Live @ COP15

Wish you were at Copenhagen? The next best thing is just a click away. Climate Voice Live @ COP15 brings you live updates from over 350 top bloggers and leading civil society groups, with live video, stories, photos, and analysis of all the action. Whether you want a close-up view, are covering the conference, or just need to find out where all the cool events are, this is where you want to be.

The site hosts live streaming video from our partners interviews from leading campaigners, decision makers, and more. We are supporting over 200 of the top bloggers and online journalists covering climate change, to help connect them with newsmakers and NGO’s and provide an open space for them to work at the Fresh Air Center.

The Fresh Air Center is our rapid response, real-world media hub for top global bloggers and digital campaigners. Our large collaboration and community center space opens on December 10, extending a small space we have inside the Bella Center.

Google and YouTube have come onboard as sponsors of the Fresh Air Center, and are collaborating with TckTckTck on an exciting event!

YouTube, CNN and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs are inviting citizens to submit video and text questions for world climate leaders. The top-rated questions will be posed to leaders at a live townhall event on December 15 (12:00 – 14:00 CET), which will be televised on CNN International and live-streamed on YouTube.

Visit this page to submit questions, voted on questions and watch the teaser video about the event. The project is available in 20 languages, with questions being translated by Google’s Language API, enabling citizens from all over the world to participate. Submitted questions are also cycling through a 3-storey high cube display in Copenhagen.

ACT NOW
Advertisements

World Environment Day – International Year of Biodiversity -2010

The United Nations Environment Program UNEP is coordinating  World Environment Day 2010 (June 5th) as well as the International Year of Biodiversity.

We can be cynical about these celebratory days and years but as long as we link awareness raising with action at all levels then it may be worth doing. Having been involved in environmental learning for more than 40 years it seems as if we are only making small tentative steps, but in terms of the age of the planet (I taught Geology also)  perhaps our steps will make a real difference.

As well as political change (still too slow) we need to broaden the audience who are willing to take unselfish action on behalf of the next generations and build real capacity for sustainable development.

Some activities of WED include:

Youth gather in Rwanda for WED TUNZA conference

Young people from around Africa gathered today for the start of the TUNZA Regional Youth Conference held in the WED global host country, Rwanda. The conference will provide an opportunity to show the work Rwanda and UNEP on biodiversity, and to highlight regional challenges. In total, 35 participants will take part in the conference with the theme – African Youth Standing up for Biodiversity.

From the WED website comes an A-Z of action ideas:

WED A-Z Countdown

A
Act now.
Adopt as many eco-friendly lifestyle choices as you can this WED and make them habits!
Download artworkB
Be a vegan once a week (no animal products).
Bring a cloth bag to do all your shopping. But not just for groceries, even on your trips to the mall!
Download artwork

C
Car-pool or Choose a Hybrid. Hybrid cars produce 90% less pollutants than comparable non-hybrid cars.
Cut your carbon footprint by Changing to energy-efficient bulbs.
Download artwork

D
Don’t run the water when brushing your teeth. You will save as much as 3 gallons every time!
Download artwork

E
Engage in an environmental activity like school or neighborhood beautification or tree-planting.
Educate your friends on how individual actions can have an exponential impact and motivate action for WED.
Download artwork

F
Find an unusual insect in your garden. Fewer than 10% of the world’s described species have been assessed to determine their conservation status.
Form a group of peers or colleagues to oversee the greening of your school, neighborhood or workplace with recycling, car=pooling, energy-efficiency)
Download artwork

G
Grow an organic garden.
Give memberships to an environmental organization or seedlings as birthday gifts.
Download artwork

H
Host a World Environment Day celebration. Clean up your neighborhood, carpool with friends, have a vegan (no animal products) dinner party! And don’t forget to register your activity on the WED website!
Download artwork

I
Identify the nature that surrounds you – take note of the beautiful plants and animals that you may not always appreciate.
Improve the insulation of your home – it will really help your energy consumption…and your monthly bills!
Download artwork

J
Join a local environmental or conservation group. You can team up with those around you and make a real difference for your community.
Jog outside and save the energy you would have used on the treadmill!
Download artwork

K
Kick the habit! Don’t print unless it’s absolutely necessary. And when you do print – print double-sided!
Download artwork

L
Learn more about Rwanda, this year’s host country. http://www.unep.org/wed
Leave a WED legacy. For every action registered on the site, $10 will go towards gorilla conservation in Rwanda.
Download artwork

M
Mobilize your networks!
Message your friends about WED – facebook, twitter, orkut, SMS, text, phone, email – it doesn’t matter how, just get the word out!
Download artwork

N
Nominate a WED Hero from your world. Notify us about the great environmental work they’re doing and why they should be a WED Hero.
Download artwork

O
Optimize the use of your washing machine – use the cold-wash option and significantly save energy and reduce your carbon emissions.
Offset your travel whenever possible – most airlines provide an option to offset your travel when you book your tickets.
Download artwork

P
Power down! – The International Energy Agency estimates that standby mode could be causing a full 1 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Download artwork

Q
Quantify how much money you could save each winter if you lowered the temperature inside your home by 2 degrees Celsius. It could reduce your energy consumption by 14 per cent!!!
Download artwork

R
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.
Register a WED activity at www.unep.org/wed!
Download artwork

S
Sacrifice something small each month – eat local fruit instead of the imported fruit; do without steak; carpool with co-workers.
Download artwork

T
Think about your daily routine. Turn out your lights when leaving a room.
Just by making a few small changes you could cut your daily emissions by more than 60 per cent.
Download artwork

U
Use your common sense!
Understand your options. Learn about the small ways you, as an individual, can make a positive impact on the environment.
Download artwork

V
Visit the WED website and see how you can get involved! Every year. Everywhere. Everyone.
Download artwork

W
Whenever possible, it’s a great way to exercise and save energy.
Download artwork


WED
International Year of Biodiversity

Websites for more information:

WED website: http://www.unep.org/wed/2010/english/

Our world map of WED activities:http://www.unep.org/wed/2010/english/activitymap/

The gorilla-naming competition:http://www.unep.org/wed/2010/english/GorillaNaming/

The official website of the gorilla-naming ceremony:http://www.kwitizina.org/

The Pittsburgh celebrations: www.unep.org/rona orwww.pittsburghwed.com

CinemAmbiente: http://www.cinemambiente.it/

10:10 campaign: www.1010global.org

and for the International Year of  Biodiversity 2010:

Online Forum – Planning and Preparedness for Education in Emergencies

With over one third of all children who are out of school living in countries affected by conflict or emergency, and an estimated 125 million children likely to be affected by climate change over the next decade, there is an urgent need for educational planners to integrate conflict prevention and disaster preparedness measures into sector planning processes.

INEE has highlighted the following event which encourages a wider discussion on the longer term planning for expected emergencies.

Online Forum – Planning and Preparedness for Education in Emergencies

(IIEP UNESCO)

The International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) would like to invite you to its online forum on Planning and Preparedness for Education in Emergencies. The forum will focus on the importance of integrating disaster preparedness and conflict mitigation measures into education sector policies and plans. The forum will take place in English from 14 – 25 June 2010.

During this e-forum, participants will have the opportunity to discuss and share ideas on (1) the role of the education system in disaster preparedness and conflict mitigation and (2) challenges and ways forward for the successful integration of preparedness activities into education sector planning processes, with education professionals worldwide.

For further details on the scope and content of the forum click here.

To join the forum, please send a message to eieforum@iiep.unesco.org by 4 June 2010, indicating your name, position, institution, country and interest in this forum.

World People’s Conference on Climate Change Drafts Indigenous Peoples Declaration

Cultural Survival has highlighted the work on the Indigenous People’s Declaration related to Climate Change.

Under the guidance of their Indigenous-led Program Council, Cultural Survival partners with Indigenous communities to defend their rights and sustain their cultures. They help them get the knowledge, advocacy tools, and strategic partnerships they need to protect their rights . Read on:

World People’s Conference on Climate Change Drafts Indigenous Peoples Declaration Date: 05/10/2010 World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, organized by the Bolivian government, was held in Cochabamba, Bolivia April 19-22, 2010 as a response to failed climate talks in Copenhagen during the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP 15) climate meetings in December 2009. The conference’s objective was to provide an alternative platform for civil society and governments to discuss climate change issues, and specifically to produce proposals for new commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and projects in the lead up to the next UN climate negotiations scheduled during the COP 16 meeting in Mexico in December 2010. It is estimated that over 30,000 people from environmental justice and indigenous rights organizations from 150 nations joined government representatives and several heads of state to discuss climate change. Participants called for rich countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent and suggested setting up a court to punish climate crimes. Several Declarations were drafted during the meetings including the Indigenous Peoples Declaration. The meeting has no direct bearing on the UN climate talks, but it has been set up as a venue for grassroots movements to put pressure on governments to act on climate change.

Cultural Survival has worked in dozens of countries around the world, both in on-the-ground projects and the advocacy campaigns of their Global Response program. To read about their current programs, click on any link below.

Current projects and campaigns:

World People’s Conference on Climate Change

TckTckTck is reporting on the World People’s Conference on Climate Change

Cochabamba, Bolivia is the site of the first World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth. Conceived by Bolivian President, Evo Morales following the unsatisfying results of the COP15 conference in Copenhagen, the meeting will bring together representatives from non-government organizations, environmental groups and public citizens to develop new ideas for resolving the global climate crisis.

TckTckTck has partnered with the talented videographers and ecocasters at the OneClimate Channel to bring you full streaming coverage of the conference from April 20-22.

You can watch the stream from One Climate live on the website right now.

Climate Change futures – the world in 2095

BBCclimatechange

 

Now that the political machinations have reached a hiatus at the end of COP15  -It is worth looking at the BBCs Heat Maps as temperature targets of 1.5 and 2 degrees C were mentioned.

An average global temperature rise of 2C will cause major problems in many parts of the world, but is considered relatively safe compared with the impacts associated with a rise of 4C.

And what about sea levels….

The majority of the current global average sea level rise of about 3mm each year is from the thermal expansion of the oceans.

As greenhouse gases become more concentrated, more heat energy is trapped in the atmosphere. This energy is absorbed by the world’s oceans, causing it to warm and expand.

 

Another contributor is melt water from mountain glaciers. Data shows that, on average, snow and ice cover in the world’s mountain ranges have declined.

The run-off increases the volume of water flowing into rivers and lakes, which in turn ends up in the seas.

One of the latest assessments suggest that sea levels are likely to rise by about 1.4m (4ft 6in) globally by 2100 as polar ice melts.

However, there are big question marks over how much the vast polar ice sheets, which have the potential to have a catastrophic impact, will contribute to future sea level rise.

The world’s three ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctic and East Antarctic – are vast bodies of ice, containing billions of tonnes of frozen water.

At present, their contribution to average sea level rise is relatively small. However, they are projected to become key drivers.

In its benchmark Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projected a sea level rise of up to 43cm by 2100.

However, it acknowledged that it could not predict how the ice sheets would respond to a warming world.

Leading up to the publication of the AR4, researchers had gathered evidence of glaciers in Greenland and parts of the Antarctic were flowing more quickly, feeding more ice into the oceans, which could translate into faster sea level rise.

Since 2007, there have been more much more research into the dynamics of the ice sheets, resulting in a number of updated projections.

By the end of the century, it projected, the sheet will probably have lost enough ice alone to raise sea levels globally by “tens of centimetres”.

It added that the Antarctic Peninsula – the strip of land that points towards the southern tip of South America – has warmed by about 3C over the last 50 years, the fastest rise seen anywhere in the southern hemisphere.

But the rest of the continent has remained largely immune from the global trend of rising temperatures.

Indeed, the continent’s largest portion, East Antarctica, appears to have cooled, bringing a 10% increase in the sea ice extent since 1980.

Other observers project a global average sea level increase of about one metre by 2100.

But there is a scientific consensus that the IPCC’s 2007 projection of 43cm was too conservative.

However, for many people the debate over the extent of future rises are academic.

Leaders of small island nations – especially in the South Pacific – are fearful for the fate of their populations.

Even a small increase will result in the small islands disappearing beneath the waves.

Continue on the BBC site to look at how water resources may be limited during the next century…

Climate Change – the real truth?

Of course no matter what people say we do not know the truth but we may know some of the truths.

What is more troubling about the climate change debate is that, as usual, it is being hijacked. On one side climate change activists may leave out some important facts, because we are not all scientists and we would not understand ( I heard this argument put forward as a reason for children being excluded from the climate change debate -they are too young to understand).

On the other side -the climate change denyers/disbelievers -they often have vested interests and damn all evidence as being trumped up by governments who want to tax people more.

What has been forgotten is the sum total of our destructiveness – we have forgotten about the plundering of the tropical rain forests, overfishing of the oceans, urban pollution, destruction of habitat and species and the list gets longer each day. It is the sum total of our effects on our environment that we should be concerned about –  not just climate change. The evidence about climate change has to be seen in the context of recent human activities (which we know a lot about) and the broader climatic cycles that can only be interpreted through archaeological and geological studies (such as inter-glacial periods etc) which we are still learning about.

What do we know about?

Habitat destruction

Habitat destruction

The expansion of agricultural activity has led to the destruction of huge areas of natural habitats, including forests, grasslands and wetlands, in nearly all regions of the world. For tropical forests, the richest habitat for biodiversity, logging is typically the first major pressure, often providing access to remote areas and leading to further clearance and degradation. The expansion and development of urban areas and infrastructure also reduces natural habitats, and new roads give access to additional areas, which results in further losses. The relative importance of these factors varies in different parts of the world (box 2), but all play a significant part in the destruction of habitats and therefore in driving ecosystem change.

habitat destruction

Pollution

The urban areas of Europe, North and South America as well as Asia are some the world’s major producers of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution. Other significant polluters are the coal-fired power stations of South Africa and bio-mass burning in other parts of the African continent. Heavily used shipping lanes such as the Red Sea also contribute significantly to the earth’s man-made pollution.

These are some of the findings of 18 months of observations by the European Space Agency (ESA) satellite Envisat. The images produced by Envisat make clear the impact of human activities on air quality and the spread of urban pollution.

no2levels_europe

Overfishing

zambezi_overfishing

Is overfishing a problem?

The FAO scientists publish a two yearly report (SOFIA) on the state of the world’s fisheries and aquaculture. 2 The report is generally rather conservative regarding the acknowledging of problems but does show the main issues. In general it can be stated that the SOFIA report is a number of years behind time of the real situation.

  • 52% of fish stocks are fully exploited
  • 20% are moderately exploited
  • 17% are overexploited
  • 7% are depleted
  • 1% is recovering from depletion

The above shows that over 25% of all the world’s fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted. Another 52% is fully exploited, these are in imminent danger of overexploitation (maximum sustainable production level) and collapse. Thus a total of almost 80% of the world’s fisheries are fully- to over-exploited, depleted, or in a state of collapse. Worldwide about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish stocks are already gone. In the real world all this comes down to two serious problems.

  • We are losing species as well as entire ecosystems. As a result the overall ecological unity of our oceans are under stress and at risk of collapse.
  • We are in risk of losing a valuable food source many depend upon for social, economical or dietary reasons.

Examples of the outcomes from overfishing exist in areas such as the North Sea of Europe, the Grand Banks of North America and the East China Sea of Asia.[2] In these locations, overfishing has not only proved disastrous to fish stocks but also to the fishing communities relying on the harvest. Like other extractive industries such as forestry and hunting, fishery is susceptible to economic interaction between ownership or stewardship and sustainability, otherwise known as the tragedy of the commons.

And now the arguments about climate change (ref:BBC)

So what are their arguments, and how are they countered by scientists who assert that greenhouse gases, produced by human activity, are the cause of modern-day climate change?

1. EVIDENCE THAT THE EARTH’S TEMPERATURE IS GETTING WARMER IS UNCLEAR
Sceptic Counter
Instruments show there has been some warming of the Earth’s surface since 1979, but the actual value is subject to large errors. Most long-term data comes from surface weather stations. Many of these are in urban centres which have been expanding and using more energy. When these stations observe a temperature rise, they are simply measuring the “urban heat island effect”. In addition, coverage is patchy, with some regions of the world almost devoid of instruments. Data going back further than a century or two is derived from “proxy” indicators such as tree-rings and stalactites which, again, are subject to large errors. Warming is unequivocal. Ocean measurements, decreases in snow cover, reductions in Arctic sea ice, longer growing seasons, balloon measurements, boreholes and satellites all show results consistent with records from surface weather stations. The urban heat island effect is real but small; and it has been studied and corrected for. Analyses by Nasa, for example, use only rural stations to calculate trends. Research has shown that if you analyse long-term global temperature rise for windy days and calm days separately, there is no difference. If the urban heat island effect were large, you would expect to see more warming on calm days when more of the heat stays in the city. Furthermore, the pattern of warming globally doesn’t resemble the pattern of urbanisation, with the greatest warming seen in the Arctic and northern high latitudes. Globally, there is a warming trend of about 0.8C since 1900, more than half of which has occurred since 1979.
2. IF THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE WAS RISING, IT HAS NOW STOPPED
Sceptic Counter
Since 1998 – more than a decade – the record, as determined by observations from satellites and balloon radiosondes, shows no discernible warming. The year 1998 was exceptionally warm because of a strong El Nino event, while 2008 was unusually cold because of La Nina conditions. Variability from year to year is expected, and picking a specific warm year to start an analysis (or a cold one to end with) is “cherry-picking”. If you start in 1997 or 1999 you will see a sharp rise. Furthermore, while the UK Met Office regards 1998 as the hottest year yet, Nasa thinks it was 2005 (they use the same data but interpret it differently). According to the Met Office, the 10 warmest years in the modern record have all occurred since 1997.
3. THE EARTH HAS BEEN WARMER IN THE RECENT PAST
Sceptic Counter
The beginning of the last Millennium saw a “Medieval Warm Period” when temperatures, certainly in Europe, were higher than they are now. Grapes grew in northern England. Ice-bound mountain passes opened in the Alps. The Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than it is today. There have been many periods in Earth history that were warmer than today – for example, the last interglacial (125,000 years ago) or the Pliocene (three million years ago). Those variations were caused by solar forcing, the Earth’s orbital wobbles or continental configurations; but none of those factors is significant today compared with greenhouse warming. Evidence for a Medieval Warm Period outside Europe is patchy at best, and is often not contemporary with the warmth in Europe. As the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) puts it: “The idea of a global or hemispheric Medieval Warm Period that was warmer than today has turned out to be incorrect.” Additionally, although the Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than in the following few decades, it is now warmer still. One recent analysis showed it is warmer now than at any time in the last 2,000 years.
4. COMPUTER MODELS ARE NOT RELIABLE
Sceptic Counter
Computer models are the main way of projecting future climate change. But despite decades of development they are unable to model all the processes involved; for example, the influence of clouds, the distribution of water vapour, the impact of warm seawater on ice-shelves and the response of plants to changes in water supply. Climate models follow the old maxim of “you put garbage in, you get garbage out”. Models will never be perfect and they will never be able to forecast the future exactly. However, they are tested and validated against all sorts of data. Over the last 20 years they have become able to simulate more physical, chemical and biological processes, and work on smaller spatial scales. The 2007 IPCC report produced regional climate projections in detail that would have been impossible in its 2001 assessment. All of the robust results from modelling are backed up by theoretical science or observations.
5. THE ATMOSPHERE IS NOT BEHAVING AS MODELS WOULD PREDICT
Sceptic Counter
Computer models predict that the lower levels of the atmosphere, the troposphere, should be warming faster than the Earth’s surface. Measurements show the opposite. So either the models are failing, or one set of measurements is flawed, or there are holes in our understanding of the science. Interpretation of the satellite data has not always been straightforward – but it does not show the opposite of what computer models predict. Two separate analyses show consistent warming, one faster than the surface and one slightly less fast. Information from balloons has its own problems but the IPCC concluded in 2007: “For the period since 1958, overall global and tropical tropospheric warming estimated from radiosondes has slightly exceeded surface warming”.
6. CLIMATE IS MAINLY INFLUENCED BY THE SUN
Sceptic Counter
Earth history shows climate has regularly responded to cyclical changes in the Sun’s energy output. Any warming we see can be attributed mainly to variations in the Sun’s magnetic field and solar wind. Solar variations do affect climate, but they are not the only factor. As there has been no positive trend in any solar index since the 1960s (and a negative trend more recently), solar forcing cannot be responsible for the recent temperature trends. The difference between the solar minimum and solar maximum over the 11-year solar cycle is 10 times smaller than the effect of greenhouse gases over the same interval.
7. A CARBON DIOXIDE RISE HAS ALWAYS COME AFTER A TEMPERATURE INCREASE NOT BEFORE
Sceptic Counter
Ice-cores dating back nearly one million years show a pattern of temperature and CO2 rise at roughly 100,000-year intervals. But the CO2 rise has always come after the temperature rise, not before, presumably as warmer temperatures have liberated the gas from oceans. This is largely true, but largely irrelevant. Ancient ice-cores do show CO2 rising after temperature by a few hundred years – a timescale associated with the ocean response to atmospheric changes mainly driven by wobbles in the Earth’s orbit. However, this time, CO2 is leading temperature. Furthermore, the situation today is dramatically different. The extra CO2 in the atmosphere (35% increase over pre-industrial levels) is from man-made emissions, and levels are higher than have been seen in 650,000 years of ice-core records. They may in fact be higher than at any time in the last three million years.
8. LONG-TERM DATA ON HURRICANES AND ARCTIC ICE IS TOO POOR TO ASSESS TRENDS
Sceptic Counter
Before the era of satellite observation began in the 1970s, measurements were ad-hoc and haphazard. Hurricanes would be reported only if they hit land or shipping. The extent of Arctic ice was measured only during expeditions. The satellite record for these phenomena is too short to justify claims that hurricanes are becoming stronger or more frequent, or that there is anything exceptional about the apparent shrinkage in Arctic ice up to 2007. The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment project notes that systematic collection of data in parts of the Arctic began in the late 18th Century. The US National Hurricane Center notes that “organised reconnaissance” for Atlantic storms began in 1944. So although historical data is not as complete as one might like, conclusions can still be drawn from it. And the IPCC does not claim that global warming will make hurricanes more frequent – its 2007 report says that if anything, they are likely to become less frequent, but more intense.
9. WATER VAPOUR IS THE MAJOR GREENHOUSE GAS; CO2 IS RELATIVELY UNIMPORTANT
Sceptic Counter
The natural greenhouse effect keeps the Earth’s surface about 33C warmer than it would otherwise be. Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, accounting for about 98% of all warming. So changes in carbon dioxide or methane concentrations would have a relatively small impact. Water vapour concentrations are rising, but this does not necessarily increase warming – it depends how the water vapour is distributed. The statement that water vapour is “98% of the greenhouse effect” is simply false. In fact, it does about 50% of the work; clouds add another 25%, with CO2 and the other greenhouse gases contributing the remaining quarter. Water vapour concentrations are increasing in response to rising temperatures, and there is evidence that this is adding to warming, for example in Europe. The fact that water vapour is a feedback is included in all climate models.
10. PROBLEMS SUCH AS HIV/AIDS AND POVERTY ARE MORE PRESSING THAN CLIMATE CHANGE
Sceptic Counter
The Kyoto Protocol has not reduced emissions of greenhouse gases noticeably. The targets were too low, applied only to certain countries, and have been rendered meaningless by loopholes. Many governments that enthuse about the treaty and want a successor are not going to meet the reduction targets that they signed up to in Kyoto. Even if it is real, man-made climate change is just one problem among many facing the world’s rich and poor alike. Governments and societies should respond proportionately, not pretend that climate is a special case. Poorer countries should not be forced to constrain their emissions and therefore their economic growth, as they will be under a Copenhagen treaty. Some economists believe that a warmer climate would, on balance, improve lives. Arguments over the Kyoto Protocol are outside the realms of science, although it certainly has not reduced greenhouse gas emissions as far or as fast as the IPCC indicates is necessary. The latest IPCC Working Group 2 report suggest that the impact of man-made climate change will on balance be deleterious, particular to the poorer countries of the tropics, although colder regions may see benefits such as increased crop yields. Investment in energy efficiency, new energy technologies and renewables are likely to benefit the developing world. A Copenhagen treaty would not force emission constraints on the world’s poorest countries – in fact, it will funnel money to them for technology and climate protection, helping clean growth. More affluent developing countries – including China – will have to constrain their emissions growth but they agreed to this at the 2007 Bali summit.
In case the two columns are not completely visible,I will try and separate them for ease of use:

1. EVIDENCE THAT THE EARTH’S TEMPERATURE IS GETTING WARMER IS UNCLEAR

Sceptic

Instruments show there has been some warming of the Earth’s surface since 1979, but the actual value is subject to large errors. Most long-term data comes from surface weather stations. Many of these are in urban centres which have been expanding and using more energy. When these stations observe a temperature rise, they are simply measuring the “urban heat island effect”. In addition, coverage is patchy, with some regions of the world almost devoid of instruments. Data going back further than a century or two is derived from “proxy” indicators such as tree-rings and stalactites which, again, are subject to large errors.

Counter

Warming is unequivocal. Ocean measurements, decreases in snow cover, reductions in Arctic sea ice, longer growing seasons, balloon measurements, boreholes and satellites all show results consistent with records from surface weather stations. The urban heat island effect is real but small; and it has been studied and corrected for. Analyses by Nasa, for example, use only rural stations to calculate trends. Research has shown that if you analyse long-term global temperature rise for windy days and calm days separately, there is no difference. If the urban heat island effect were large, you would expect to see more warming on calm days when more of the heat stays in the city. Furthermore, the pattern of warming globally doesn’t resemble the pattern of urbanisation, with the greatest warming seen in the Arctic and northern high latitudes. Globally, there is a warming trend of about 0.8C since 1900, more than half of which has occurred since 1979.

2. IF THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE WAS RISING, IT HAS NOW STOPPED

Sceptic

Since 1998 – more than a decade – the record, as determined by observations from satellites and balloon radiosondes, shows no discernible warming.

The year 1998 was exceptionally warm because of a strong El Nino event, while 2008 was unusually cold because of La Nina conditions. Variability from year to year is expected, and picking a specific warm year to start an analysis (or a cold one to end with) is “cherry-picking”. If you start in 1997 or 1999 you will see a sharp rise. Furthermore, while the UK Met Office regards 1998 as the hottest year yet, Nasa thinks it was 2005 (they use the same data but interpret it differently). According to the Met Office, the 10 warmest years in the modern record have all occurred since 19

3. THE EARTH HAS BEEN WARMER IN THE RECENT PAST

Sceptic

The beginning of the last Millennium saw a “Medieval Warm Period” when temperatures, certainly in Europe, were higher than they are now. Grapes grew in northern England. Ice-bound mountain passes opened in the Alps. The Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than it is today

Counter

There have been many periods in Earth history that were warmer than today – for example, the last interglacial (125,000 years ago) or the Pliocene (three million years ago). Those variations were caused by solar forcing, the Earth’s orbital wobbles or continental configurations; but none of those factors is significant today compared with greenhouse warming. Evidence for a Medieval Warm Period outside Europe is patchy at best, and is often not contemporary with the warmth in Europe. As the US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) puts it: “The idea of a global or hemispheric Medieval Warm Period that was warmer than today has turned out to be incorrect.” Additionally, although the Arctic was warmer in the 1930s than in the following few decades, it is now warmer still. One recent analysis showed it is warmer now than at any time in the last 2,000 years.

4.computer models

Computer models are the main way of projecting future climate change. But despite decades of development they are unable to model all the processes involved; for example, the influence of clouds, the distribution of water vapour, the impact of warm seawater on ice-shelves and the response of plants to changes in water supply. Climate models follow the old maxim of “you put garbage in, you get garbage out”.

counter

Models will never be perfect and they will never be able to forecast the future exactly. However, they are tested and validated against all sorts of data. Over the last 20 years they have become able to simulate more physical, chemical and biological processes, and work on smaller spatial scales. The 2007 IPCC report produced regional climate projections in detail that would have been impossible in its 2001 assessment. All of the robust results from modelling are backed up by theoretical science or observations.

5. THE ATMOSPHERE IS NOT BEHAVING AS MODELS WOULD PREDICT

Sceptic

Computer models predict that the lower levels of the atmosphere, the troposphere, should be warming faster than the Earth’s surface. Measurements show the opposite. So either the models are failing, or one set of measurements is flawed, or there are holes in our understanding of the science.

Counter

Interpretation of the satellite data has not always been straightforward – but it does not show the opposite of what computer models predict. Two separate analyses show consistent warming, one faster than the surface and one slightly less fast. Information from balloons has its own problems but the IPCC concluded in 2007: “For the period since 1958, overall global and tropical tropospheric warming estimated from radiosondes has slightly exceeded surface warming”.

6. CLIMATE IS MAINLY INFLUENCED BY THE SUN

Sceptic

Earth history shows climate has regularly responded to cyclical changes in the Sun’s energy output. Any warming we see can be attributed mainly to variations in the Sun’s magnetic field and solar wind.

Counter

Solar variations do affect climate, but they are not the only factor. As there has been no positive trend in any solar index since the 1960s (and a negative trend more recently), solar forcing cannot be responsible for the recent temperature trends. The difference between the solar minimum and solar maximum over the 11-year solar cycle is 10 times smaller than the effect of greenhouse gases over the same interval.

7. A CARBON DIOXIDE RISE HAS ALWAYS COME AFTER A TEMPERATURE INCREASE NOT BEFORE

Sceptic

ce-cores dating back nearly one million years show a pattern of temperature and CO2 rise at roughly 100,000-year intervals. But the CO2 rise has always come after the temperature rise, not before, presumably as warmer temperatures have liberated the gas from oceans.

Counter

This is largely true, but largely irrelevant. Ancient ice-cores do show CO2 rising after temperature by a few hundred years – a timescale associated with the ocean response to atmospheric changes mainly driven by wobbles in the Earth’s orbit. However, this time, CO2 is leading temperature. Furthermore, the situation today is dramatically different. The extra CO2 in the atmosphere (35% increase over pre-industrial levels) is from man-made emissions, and levels are higher than have been seen in 650,000 years of ice-core records.

8. LONG-TERM DATA ON HURRICANES AND ARCTIC ICE IS TOO POOR TO ASSESS TREN

Sceptic

Before the era of satellite observation began in the 1970s, measurements were ad-hoc and haphazard. Hurricanes would be reported only if they hit land or shipping. The extent of Arctic ice was measured only during expeditions. The satellite record for these phenomena is too short to justify claims that hurricanes are becoming stronger or more frequent, or that there is anything exceptional about the apparent shrinkage in Arctic ice up to 2007.

Counter

The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment project notes that systematic collection of data in parts of the Arctic began in the late 18th Century. The US National Hurricane Center notes that “organised reconnaissance” for Atlantic storms began in 1944. So although historical data is not as complete as one might like, conclusions can still be drawn from it. And the IPCC does not claim that global warming will make hurricanes more frequent – its 2007 report says that if anything, they are likely to become less frequent, but more intense.

9. WATER VAPOUR IS THE MAJOR GREENHOUSE GAS; CO2 IS RELATIVELY UNIMPORTANT

Sceptic

The natural greenhouse effect keeps the Earth’s surface about 33C warmer than it would otherwise be. Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, accounting for about 98% of all warming. So changes in carbon dioxide or methane concentrations would have a relatively small impact. Water vapour concentrations are rising, but this does not necessarily increase warming – it depends how the water vapour is distributed.

Counter

The statement that water vapour is “98% of the greenhouse effect” is simply false. In fact, it does about 50% of the work; clouds add another 25%, with CO2 and the other greenhouse gases contributing the remaining quarter. Water vapour concentrations are increasing in response to rising temperatures, and there is evidence that this is adding to warming, for example in Europe. The fact that water vapour is a feedback is included in all climate models.

10.PROBLEMS SUCH AS HIV/AIDS AND POVERTY ARE MORE PRESSING THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

Sceptic

he Kyoto Protocol has not reduced emissions of greenhouse gases noticeably. The targets were too low, applied only to certain countries, and have been rendered meaningless by loopholes. Many governments that enthuse about the treaty and want a successor are not going to meet the reduction targets that they signed up to in Kyoto. Even if it is real, man-made climate change is just one problem among many facing the world’s rich and poor alike. Governments and societies should respond proportionately, not pretend that climate is a special case. Poorer countries should not be forced to constrain their emissions and therefore their economic growth, as they will be under a Copenhagen treaty. Some economists believe that a warmer climate would, on balance, improve lives.

Counter

Arguments over the Kyoto Protocol are outside the realms of science, although it certainly has not reduced greenhouse gas emissions as far or as fast as the IPCC indicates is necessary. The latest IPCC Working Group 2 report suggest that the impact of man-made climate change will on balance be deleterious, particular to the poorer countries of the tropics, although colder regions may see benefits such as increased crop yields. Investment in energy efficiency, new energy technologies and renewables are likely to benefit the developing world. A Copenhagen treaty would not force emission constraints on the world’s poorest countries – in fact, it will funnel money to them for technology and climate protection, helping clean growth. More affluent developing countries – including China – will have to constrain their emissions growth but they agreed to this at the 2007 Bali summit

THE DEBATE CONTINUES ONLINE …….

A selection of web sites and blogs.

IPCC

UN climate convention

British Antarctic Survey

Climate Audit

Climatic Research Unit,

Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies

realclimate.org

Science and Environmental Policy Project

UK Met Office

Hadley Centre National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

UN Environment Programme data centre

US National Snow and Ice Data Center

World Meteorological Organization

Brave New Climate

Climate Change: The Next Generation

Climate Debate Daily

Climate Sanity

CO2 Science

Deltoid – global warming

Grist – climate and energy

James’ Empty Blog

Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog

New Scientist – climate