Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Global Warming

I'd like to point everyone to a really interesting article in the Economist Online edition. I have long been unimpressed with the gloom and doom crowd on the subject of "global warming." I remember one lunch with a coworker talking about the problem when an intern said that her father told her otherwise. This almost elicited a laugh until she mentioned that her father is a geologist. In any case, this part from the end of the article gives some food for thought:

"That is scary stuff, but some scientists remain unimpressed. Patrick Michaels, a climatologist at the University of Virginia, complains about the ACIA's data selection, which he believes may have produced evidence of “spurious warming”. He also points out, in a new book*, that even if Arctic temperatures are rising, that need not lead directly to the ice melting. As he puts it, “Under global warming, Greenland's ice indeed might grow, especially if the warming occurs mostly in winter. After all, warming the air ten degrees when the temperature is dozens of degrees below freezing is likely to increase snowfall, since warmer air is generally moister and precipitates more water.”
Nils-Axel Morner, a Swedish climate expert based at Stockholm University, points out that observed rises in sea levels have not matched the IPCC's forecasts. Since this week's report relies on many such IPCC assumptions, he concludes it must be wrong. Others acknowledge that there is a warming trend in the Arctic, but insist that the cause is natural variability and not the burning of fossil fuels. Such folk point to the extraordinarily volatile history of Arctic temperatures. These varied, often suddenly, long before sport-utility vehicles were invented (see chart). However, the chart also shows that the past few millennia have been a period of unusual stability in the Arctic. It is just possible that the current period of warming could tip the delicate Arctic climate system out of balance, and so drag the rest of the planet with it.
Not everybody wants to hear a story like that. But what people truly believe is happening can be seen in their actions better than in their words. One of the report's most confident predictions is that the break-up of Arctic ice will open the region to long-distance shipping and, ironically, to drilling for oil and gas. It is surely no coincidence, then, that the Danish government, which controls Greenland, has just declared its intention to claim the mineral rights under the North Pole. It, at least, clearly believes that the Arctic ocean may soon be ice-free."

Of course what I find most interesting is that I can virtually guarantee that these points will not be raised by the mainstream press when reporting this story. I may be wrong, but I'm willing to take bets.

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