By Phil Carver
Ending the Afghanistan War
On Sept. 1, George F. Will published an opinion piece titled “Time to Get Out of Afghanistan” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/31/AR2009083102912.html.
This was titled “Afghanistan War: Knowing when to quit (now)” in the Oregonian print edition.
Normally, Will is among the staunchest conservatives. For example in December of 2004 he caused a major uproar when he denied that climate change was a real phenomenon. In the case of Afghanistan, his opinion is worth reading. It is a well-reasoned summary of why the war cannot be won.
It sent shock waves through D.C., to have such a leading conservative make this call. At the time of this writing, President Obama was considering whether to increase the level of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It is hard to image a more stupid and tragic proposal.
The Health Care Bill
Obama’s speech on Sept. 10 on his health care proposal was well reasoned, given the political realities. If his proposals are completely adopted in the final bill, it will help rein in health care costs. However, it will not solve the health care crisis, which is a much bigger problem than a lack of insurance by tens of millions of Americans.
For a comprehensive analysis of the health care crisis see: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care.
While I don’t think David Goldhill’s proposed is workable, he clearly articulates many of the sources of the current crisis.
Debunking Climate Change Deniers
I expect the vast majority of readers of this column understand that we risk many different types of catastrophes if greenhouse emissions are not radically reduced. Yet many American doubt the basic validity of scientific forecasts of climate change. It is the responsibility of anyone who cares about the planet to be able to debunk the nonsense of professional climate deniers and those who parrot their messages.
A large fraction of Americans think there is still a genuine scientific debate about whether humans are causing the current climate changes. There is not. The impact of human-released greenhouse gases on climate is well established scientific discipline.
On Sept. 9 the Oregonian online edition published my Op-Ed piece on “Why I am walking 350 miles” http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2009/09/why_i_am_walking_350_miles.html.
The piece was about the Oregon 350 Climate Crisis Walk, beginning Sept. 20 near Coos Bay. The walk is designed to alert people to global warming and the fact that sea levels will likely rise two to six feet this century. The article received quite a few comments from people who doubted whether the climate has changing significantly, or that if it has, humans were not responsible.
The alternative explanations for the causes of global climate change are a hodge-podge of conflicting speculations. None of the ideas can explain the current pattern of warming or the glacial-interglacial cycles. Instead of a consistent scientific hypothesis that can be tested, those who deny climate change offer only conspiracy theories and scattered pieces of disinformation.
One of the most accessible sources on human-caused global warming, and those who argue against it, is a video of a lecture by U.C. San Diego history of science professor Naomi Oreskes.
You can view the entire lecture at: www.uctv.tv/search-details.asp?showID=13459.
The lecture is an hour long. It offers a comprehensive look at the issue. It is definitely worth watching. Click on the YouTube version to see it full screen.
The first half-hour gives a good overview of the history of the global-warming scientific consensus. During the last 20 minutes of the lecture, Dr. Oreskes turns the spotlight on those who deny that global climate is occurring and that humans are causing it. She shows how similar they are to those who denied that tobacco causes cancer. In both cases, the groups completely reject reports by the U.S. National Academies of Science (NAS).
The video shows that NAS and other federal government studies have fully investigated and supported the theory of human-caused climate change multiple times since 1979. This includes the administrations of Reagan, G.H.W. Bush and G.W. Bush. It is lunacy to believe the NAS and the last Bush administration engaged in a vast conspiracy to suppress science that disproves humans are causing global warming. Yet that is a basic premise of those who deny human-caused global change.
Even if climate scientists were charlatans, as some claim, the NAS is not just climate scientists. Similarly, the deniers dismiss the peer-reviewed articles and conclusions from the journals of Science and Nature. These are not just climate science journals. They are not run by the government. They are published by membership organizations, which include virtually all scientists. They are the premier scientific journals for all the physical sciences in the U.S. and the U.K., respectively.
The idea of a scientific conspiracy requires the belief that for three decades climate scientists have hoodwinked:
- Three Republican administrations;
- Three Democratic administrations;
- The entire U.S. science community; and
- The entire U.K. science community.
The consensus statements issued by the NAS, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the March 2009 Copenhagen Synthesis Report were issued by reputable scientists based on the best science. Culturally, scientists are a cautious group of people. Bold unsubstantiated predictions are frowned upon.
Yet the consensus statements were basically this: While there is no absolute proof within the scientific method, there is sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the planet has warmed beyond the range of natural variations, that human greenhouse emissions are the only plausible explanation and that current levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) represent a dangerous interference with the climate.
The facts are these:
1. CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and other human-emitted gases absorb infra-red light (warmth) that would otherwise backscatter into outer space. This can be demonstrated in a simple bench-top experiment.
2. The principle greenhouse gas (GHG) in the air is water vapor, but without the other GHGs there would not be enough warmth for much water vapor. The Earth would be colder by 60 degrees F. It would be an ice ball.
3. The interglacial periods (times between ice ages) were caused by small increases in the amount of solar energy hitting the Northern Hemisphere due to variations in the Earth’s orbit and tilt. These were amplified by two feedback loops in addition to water vapor amplification (sometimes called vicious cycles). First, as continental ice caps melted, it reduced the reflectivity of the Northern Hemisphere, increasing temperatures. Second, methane and CO2 were released by tundra and tropical soils in the warmer and wetter climate and by the oceans. This causes further warming. The correlations in ice cap bubbles of CO2, methane and air temperatures are almost perfect. This is strong evidence of CO2 and methane amplification of temperatures. The climate forcing effects of human GHGs are much stronger than interglacial orbital forcings and are subject to the same feedback loops.
4. There are multiple independent measures that show the planet is warming. Eighty percent of the extra heat from human GHGs is stored in the oceans. In 2008 the average ocean surface temperature broke all records. The few recent years of flat air temperatures do not disprove global warming. They are not a statistically significant trend in a noisy temperature record. While the minimum areas of Arctic Ocean ice for 2008 and 2009 were larger than the 2007 record, both years were well below the 95 percent confidence range of 1979-2000. These two data points further confirm a 30 year declining trend. The Arctic is warmer now than any time in the last 2,000 years The Arctic is likely warmer than any time since the last interglacial period when sea level was 15 to 20 feet higher than current. Current worldwide air temperatures are well outside the range of natural variation for the last 500 years — well above the medieval warm period. The hockey-stick shaped graph of rising temperature has been confirmed from a variety of independent sources.
5. In the 1980s climate scientists made more than a dozen predictions. If the climate science were bogus, these predictions would have proved false. In fact, the predictions were accurate. These included that the 1990’s would be the decade with the warmest air temperatures in the historical record, that boreholes in the Earth would reveal an increasing temperature gradient, that the vast majority of continental glaciers would melt, that the stratosphere would cool, that nighttime air temperatures would rise more than daytime temperatures, that the ocean would show an increasing temperature gradient with depth, that the rise of sea level would accelerate, and that the Arctic would warm faster than other regions. The hypothesis that the planet will warm from increased levels of GHGs in the air has been fully tested with real world data. The correlation of GHG levels and temperatures over the last 100 years is not a coincidence.
6. Isotopic ratios show that the extra CO2 in the air is mostly from fossil fuels, not volcanoes or biological sources.
7. None of the other possible causes of the warming (decreased sulfates from volcanoes, increased energy from the Sun, changes in cosmic rays or the solar wind) have shown a significant trend in the last twenty years or for the 20th century.
Each of these facts has been subject to rigorous scientific scrutiny in the peer-reviewed literature. The process is transparent to anyone willing to follow the literature. There is no scientific conspiracy to suppress the truth. There is a right wing conspiracy to defame climate scientists and spread disinformation.
The planet has warmed significantly in the last 100 years. There are no other suspects for the cause of global warming. Human GHGs emissions are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
For justice issues, see the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) at www.aclu.org/.
For the issues of peace, national defense and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, see the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) at www.fcnl.org/.
Phil Carver worked on energy and climate change issues for Oregon’s state government from 1980 until this year. He is a former OPW Board Co-Chair who writes this column exclusively for each issue of The PeaceWorker. He and Carol Reece, a current board member, are on a 350 mile walk to focus attention on sea level rise. Carol is the driver of the support vehicle. For more on the walk see the blog on http://oregonpeaceworks.org/wordpress/.Â Because Phil will be on the walk from Sept. 20 to Oct. 24 the Beltway Bulletin will not be published on Nov. 1.