maanantai 24. elokuuta 2009
Fred Singer: "Ei konsensusta ilmastonmuutoksessa "
The Big Global Warming Debate
Editorial by S. Fred Singer
Siegfried (Fred) Singer (born 27 September 1924 in Vienna) is an American atmospheric physicist. Singer is Professor Emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia, specializing in planetary science, global warming, ozone depletion, and other global environmental issues.
In the 1960s Singer was a leading figure in the early development of earth observation satellites, becoming a Special Advisor on space developments to President Eisenhower and establishing the National Weather Bureau's Satellite Service Center as well as becoming its first Director (1962-64). He has subsequently held a variety of academic and government positions, including Professor of environmental science at the University of Virginia (1971 - 1994).
"Don’t get taken in by stories of penguins and polar bears, hurricanes and heat waves, floods and famines. There is really only one key question: Is the cause of current climate changes primarily natural or is it human- caused? In particular, is there really any appreciable Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW)? Aside from its scientific importance, the question has great significance for policy. If climate change is natural, if there is no appreciable AGW, then there is little we can do about it.
We’d better just adapt -- as humans have been doing for many millennia.
Climate is always changing warming or cooling on many time scales. So the overall warming of the 20th century could well be natural. On the other hand, the growing level of human activity, esp. generation of energy by fossil-fuel burning, has increased levels of atmospheric greenhouse (GH) gases, esp. carbon dioxide (CO2). So an anthropogenic cause is also plausible. How to decide? That’s the essence of the climate debate.
The opposing positions are clear-cut but difficult to reconcile. The UN-sponsored IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) claims it’s mostly anthropogenic. The independent NIPCC (Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change) says climate change is mostly natural, as it always has been.
The IPCC appeals to a scientific consensus (wrong!), to recent climate change as being unusual (not so!), to ice shrinking and glaciers melting (tells nothing about the cause!), to a positive correlation between increases in CO2 and temperature (frequently negative!), and to agreement between observations and climate models. But the NIPCC claims that observations disagree with GH models; therefore models have not been validated and cannot be relied on to predict future climate. This disagreement is where current debate focuses -- as it should.
If the NIPCC is correct and climate change is mostly natural, then this means that carbon dioxide contributes insignificantly to Global Warming and is therefore not a 'pollutant.' This fact has not yet been widely recognized, and irrational GW fears continue to distort energy policies and foreign policy. All efforts to curtail CO2 emissions, whether global, federal, or at the state level, are pointless -- and in any case, ineffective and very costly.
However, there are still two interesting scientific questions calling for a solution:
· Why do observations and models disagree? Why do GH models call for substantial warming trends, while the data do not and even show cooling, as since 1998?
· And if GH gases are really ineffective, as NIPCC claims, what exactly is causing climate to change on a time scale of decades and centuries?
But if the IPCC is correct, and some adjustment of observations and models could bring them into agreement, then there are still two further hurdles before one can justify any drastic policies of mitigation, aside from common-sense energy conservation.
· Is a warmer climate really worse than the present one? Economic analysis and historic evidence both indicate that, on the whole, a warmer climate is beneficial--and so are higher levels of atmospheric CO2 that feed agricultural crops and forests.
· Can practical and economically acceptable mitigation schemes really have much effect on climate or even on atmospheric GH gas levels?
These are the issues that politicians need to debate before rushing ahead with ill-considered legislation. Maybe the best policy is to abstain and do nothing. Remember the maxim of physicians: Above all, do no harm!"
SEPP Editorial #26-2009 (8/22/09)