Climategate & Politics- A View From the Radical Middle
I am so sad about this; how everything is politicized these days- by all sides. It seems we can no longer have an honest scientific debate about much of anything and especially something as important as climate change. This Climategate business is disturbing on a number of levels.
Climategate: The Two Sides
“Climategate” is about pro global-warming-theory scientists allegedly manipulating data to corroborate their conclusions. Somebody hacked into the Hadley Climactic Research Unit at Britain’s University of East Anglia and found about a couple of thousand e-mails and files that indicate there may have been cherry-picking of temperature information to create a graph that shows a runaway warming trend in the late 20th century. The e-mails also show discussion among researchers that indicate the data is not there right now to support global warming theories. One of the e-mails between scientists contains stuff like this: “Where the heck is global warming?… The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” To get the full blown argument from the political right on this Climategate business, here is a good overview from Robert Tracinski. He calls this possibly the greatest scandal of all time.
From the political left, there are arguments that the hacking of these e-mails is part of a well-funded effort on the part of vested interests who want to maintain the profitable oil- and coal-based energy status quo. The pro global-warming-theory faction says the contents of these e-mails have themselves been cherry-picked and find it highly suspicious that though the hack of the British research center occurred over a month ago, it all conveniently came to light right on the eve of the global climate summit in Copenhagen that started this week. There is even an allegation that there have been attempts to hack into other climate research centers around the world in a coordinated effort to discredit the global warming movement. To read about this argument, Richard Graves writes about it at HuffingtonPost.com. He calls this possibly the greatest scandal of all time.
Forget the Graphs and Charts
I approach this from the radical middle. This is not about global WARMING. It is about global climate CHANGE. Long-term temperature trends are not knowable on a month to month or year to year basis. You could have decades-long aberrations that counter the long haul trends. The effects of human-made carbon emissions are complicated and not as simplistic as higher temperatures. Who knows how the ecosystem will play out? Maybe it gets warmer in some places and cooler in others. But I do know this- and it has nothing to do with charts and graphs. The polar ice cap is melting. The environment is changing. Cameras and satellites are documenting it.
From Earthobservatory.nasa.gov. This is the polar ice cap- above 1979, below in 2003.
From the Associated Press last September:
The National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado announced Thursday that Arctic sea ice for 2009 shrunk to its third lowest level since satellite measurements began in 1979. The record low was set in 2007 and ice last year melted to the second lowest level on record.
Here are Walrus gathering by the thousands on the arctic shoreline.
According to the Associated Press on 9/17/09:
Walrus cannot swim indefinitely and historically have used sea ice as a platform for diving in the Bering and Chukchi seas for clams and other food on the ocean floor.
In recent years, however, sea ice has receded far beyond the outer continental shelf, forcing walruses to choose between riding the ice over waters too deep to reach clams or onto shore.
From an article from the Sunday Times of London four years ago, when it first started becoming evident what was happening to the Arctic ice shelf:
SCIENTISTS have for the first time found evidence that polar bears are drowning because climate change is melting the Arctic ice shelf.
The researchers were startled to find bears having to swim up to 60 miles across open sea to find food. They are being forced into the long voyages because the ice floes from which they feed are melting, becoming smaller and drifting farther apart. Although polar bears are strong swimmers, they are adapted for swimming close to the shore. Their sea journeys leave them them vulnerable to exhaustion, hypothermia or being swamped by waves.
Human or Nature? Does it Matter?
But what is causing this? Is it human? Is it just part of a cycle of earth changes that has been going on regularly over the millennia? The earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years. Along the way there have been hundreds of ice ages and warming trends, even before humans walked the earth- much less built factories and power plants. But we humans are a force on the planet now. The massive destruction of the earth’s rain forests is an established fact. Because of human caused pollution, there are days when people in the largest cities in Mexico and China and India have to stay indoors. Massive amounts of brown smog can be visible in satellite photos.
I would argue that taking measures to reduce the impact on the planet of both industry and development are necessary even if we are also undergoing cyclical changes that have nothing to do with human beings. Reducing carbon emissions results in cleaner air to breath. Putting a limit on deforestation maintains the ecological equilibrium. Setting aside arguments about climate change, there are good political and national security reasons to lessen our dependence on foreign oil.
I sincerely hope there are not sinister actions afoot funded by vested energy interests. And I sincerely hope there is no cooking of the numbers to prove a theory about what is causing climate change on our planet. Can’t we just accept that changes are happening and that we humans can play a positive role in making our air breathable, our water drinkable, our land habitable….whether climate change is caused by us or not?