An attempt to shut up the APEGGA deniers
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
David J. Parker. P.Eng.
11762 – 106 Street,
Edmonton, AB. T5G 2R1
Thank you for being the vehicle for a much needed and enlightening debate on climate change. I would like to respond to the letters that have appeared from the initial appeal for APEGGA to take a principled stand on this critical issue.
Firstly, I am not a scientist and do not profess to be. I take my information from as many sources as I possibly can and use the limited scientific training I do have to disseminate what appears to be bogus from what seems to be solid science. I suggest other engineers should show the same humility and deference for the peer review process that the scientific method is based upon, and has served us well for many centuries.
Of course there are dissenting opinions to the theory of climate change and discussion should always be welcomed. For example, I recall many years ago some engineering colleagues in Britain who were waging a very vigorous, albeit futile, attack on Maxwell’s equations.
Here, in point form, is what my extensive reading on the subject informs me to be the current state of the climate change debate:
1. It is true that much of the science of climate change is derived from models and, given the complexity of the planetary eco-system, none of them will ever be completely accurate. In spite of that reality they all closely follow the observed increase in mean global temperature of 0.66C. Computing power is greater than it has ever been and newer models continue to provide consistent results with increasing levels of certainty.
2. To my understanding, all the alternative explanations for the present warming have been debunked. Whether it be solar activity, Milankovitch wobble and tilt, measurement inaccuracies, proxy measurements, ice cores, Earth orbital changes, etc, they are all either invalid, accepted as adequate or at the wrong places in their cycle. Anthropogenic forcing is all that is left as a satisfactory explanation.
3. None of the criticisms mention the enormous amount of other data beyond the computer modelling: i.e. retreating glaciers, excessive weather events (heed the pleas of the insurance industry), drought frequency (Darfur is the first war resulting from climate change), Arctic ice loss (shipping now possible in the North West Passage), Oceanic acidification (coral reef bleaching), Antarctic ice melt, decline of species (particularly amphibious creatures), flooding, hurricane intensity and frequency, incidences of tropical disease vectors (SARs, dengue, avian flu, west Nile, etc), and the BC pine beetle infestation.
4. It is true that the scientific evidence is not 100% certain, but what scientific theory ever is? For many years the atomic theory of matter was thought to be the final answer until Dirac developed quantum mechanics. Einstein famously said the “God doesn’t play dice”, but Fermi, Bose and others found that she probably does. The theory of global warming was first postulated in 1896 by Swedish chemist, Sven Arrhenius. It is not a recent concept and the specified gases are indeed very effective absorbers of infra-red radiation.
5. Given the implications of allowing climate change to proceed unchecked, is it morally acceptable to sit back and wait for the last few uncertainties to be resolved? The only way we will ever be 100% certain is to continue with the “uncontrolled experiment” and wait till the year 2100. Based on the concepts of “sustainable development” and the “precautionary principle”, is it not a wise choice to assume that there may be an element of validity in the theory and observation and plan for the worst?
6. Taking action will cost approximately 1% of world GNP, according to World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern. If we are wrong we will have a much greener and more diversified economy without the other problems of fossil fuel dependence (smog, particulates, traffic congestion, sulphur deposition, mercury contamination, depletion of water resources, and energy conflicts). If are right we will have prevented a major catastrophic occurrence and all the problems ensuing from it.
7. The IPCC is not the only scientific body studying this phenomenon and coming up with similar conclusions. The world renowned Hadley Center in Britain, the Wuppertal Institute in Germany, plus the 1 million hits received when “climate change academics” is typed into Google. The idea that climate change science is getting a free ride, and not going unchallenged, does a disservice to the integrity of the scientific community worldwide.
8. One commentator mentions the Vladivostok ice core samples that seem to indicate that CO2 concentrations have varied from 200 to 300 ppm over the last 430,000 years. This is completely in line with previous ice core tests which concluded that CO2 has not exceeded 300 ppm for the last 650,000 years. It is now up at 380 ppm and rising at an ever more rapid rate. Also, no mention is made of the other GHGs (methane, nitrous oxide and CFC) and their much higher forcings than CO2. Addressing the intensity of these other gases would vastly improve agricultural techniques, waste management, forestry practices and other environmental problems beyond climate concerns.
9. There were a few dissentions from the ranks of the IPCC. However, no mention is made of the dissenting opinions at the other end of the spectrum. When the last and most impactful report was delivered in the Spring of 2007, there were reports that many scientists withdrew their support because too little emphasis was placed on the dire consequences of positive feedback effects. If any of the regenerative feedback effects kick-in – and it is not known when they could - the consequences then become unstoppable. These effects include permafrost melt, the albedo effect, methane bubbles trapped in Arctic sea ice and perhaps others as yet unknown.
10. Following on from the previous: There has been criticism that historic CO2 build up appears to have come later than actual warming. This observation reinforces the positive feedback hypothesis since global heating releases considerably greater amounts of carbon and thus accelerates the process.
11. Nine of the past 10 years have been the warmest on record. These are direct measurements with highly accurate instruments. In control theory it is known that increased energy into a system generally creates greater turbulence and perturbation, hence “climate change” as opposed to an even warming, as the lay public believes should be happening.
12. The “evidence” that Greenland underwent a warming period has received no collaborating evidence from other sources from elsewhere in the world. It was very expedient at the time for the Danish settlers to promote their new colony and attempt to encourage others to follow. Reports of vineyards and good farming would go a long way in stimulating this objective.
13. Much has been said about the cooling that happened in the early 20th century. Thanks to the downing of all aircraft for several days in the USA post September 11th, 2001, it has been ascertained that we are in the midst of a “global dimming” effect and have been since the industrial revolution and the massive increase in particulates and aerosols. The average global temperature did fall for some time into the 1940’s but has since resumed an inexorable climb.
14. It is irresponsible to cite prehistoric warming events - the causes of which are still unknown - as evidence that global warming is a normal, recurrent event. The very fact that this present warming coincides with the largest build-up of industrial activity that has ever been, and the concomitant observed increases in GHGs, must indicate that this is an anomaly.
15. If global warming is indeed a hoax, as a few vocal critics remain adamant on, then it is certainly the biggest one every to be perpetrated in the entire history of humanity. It should be remembered that there has been fierce resistance to the entire proposition since it first threatened our carbon fuel based economy. It has not arrived without dissent, yet it has arrived and acceptance is now almost universal. Given the amount of capital behind this attempted suppression, surely that gives the theory considerable credence?
16. It is true that the sky is not falling today but that is the nature of environmental problems – they, with notable exceptions such as the drying up of the Aral Sea, are a slow motion disaster. One is reminded of the boiling frog concept wherein, if a frog is immersed in hot water it will immediately jump out. However, if the temperature is slowly increased, the frog will stay put and die. Will we stay put, or will we take note of the thermometer?
Yours Sincerely, David J. Parker. P.Eng
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