In a follow up to the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) news I brought to the fore this past week (Heartland documents released and a reversal of opinion) we find at least one opinion on the subject that gets closer to bridging the gap of understanding. This particular piece from Newscientist illuminates the worry about the Heartland Institute promoting alternative theories to AGW and stating that “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy”. The authors seems to have honest intentions by stating “Children should be taught honestly what we know about climate change, as well as what we don’t know and where the uncertainties lie”. The problem is that the politics of AGW has become quite intertwined with the science. From various public statements and publications it seems that there is not a very good effort so far to acknowledge “where the uncertainties lie”.
Every time someone from outside the mainstream AGW climate scientists brings up a potential problem, uncertainty, or alternative theory, they are generally very quickly derided as a “tool of big oil”, “flat-earther”, “old crank”, “environmental terrorist” or many other derogatory terms. I have profiled this trend many times over in the blog.
And as far as bringing the political controversy into the classroom, that has already happened. I have seen some schools in other parts of the country have kids help with environmental protests. Remember also that Al Gore’s documentary (An Inconvenient Truth) was recommended for all schools in order to teach about AGW. Even if the documentary did not have any political hues what-so-ever, there could not have been a worse person to deliver the message to school children, if political controversy was supposed to stay out of the conversation.
In another opinion released from an environmental conference recently, scientists proclaimed “people need to believe in science”. I agree, but I don’t think there has been much loss in “belief”. The resistance to some science (like AGW) is in the politics not the data. One natural outlet for people whose lives and well-being are threatened by AGW regulations and laws is to criticize the science. As far as I have seen, it isn’t that the skeptics are anti-science overall, they are mostly afraid of the policy consequences, or the tyranny of good intentions. “Belief” has little to do with it. A bigger problem for science is poor education in the U.S. which lags behind most modern countries when it comes to teaching the subject. If younger generations do not have a good grasp of science, they will ignore it or be easily manipulated. Schools should start out with the basics of weather, move on to chemistry, math, and physics in advanced years, and then finally look at the climate and how it might change in the future. Starting out with “An Inconvenient Truth” is getting off on the wrong foot.
While on the subject of AGW I might as well highlight that the “AGW will literally tear apart the earth” theme has been resurrected once again. This time the phrase is “geological mayhem”. The theory is that shifting masses of ice and water upon the earth’s surface can help to trigger earthquakes and volcanoes. It follows that AGW could then cause more earthquakes and volcanoes as more ice melts. The theory is essentially true, but I think some AGW theorists are blowing the potential for disaster out of proportion. The change in mass of surface ice and water from the last ice age up until 1900 was orders of magnitude larger than the change that will occur from now through 2100. Thus, I would not expect as much increase in earthquakes or volcanoes as what occurred periodically when the last ice age thawed. According to this article, the ocean level only rose 0.06 inches from 2003 to 2010 and it actually went down last year. Oddly, not much of the ice melting around the world has occurred in the Himalayas.
Picture of cloud tops from space
If you have been perusing some science and weather news recently you might have come across this article. Apparently, the height of cloud tops has been lowering over the past decade. Since this trend has only been studied for the past 10 years, and the cloud tops have only lowered by 1%, it might not be a significant issue. For all we know, the clouds top height could fluctuate a few percent over decades or centuries. If it is a statistically significant trend then it could be something that counteracts some of the possible warming that is being caused by humans. It is also interesting in the fact that one would expect the cloud tops to be rising in a warmer world. More moisture in a warmer atmosphere should lead to more clouds and higher clouds tops. It seems just the opposite is happening.
In another AGW related story, it has been calculated that raindrops take a significant percentage of (kinetic) energy out of the air. This is not something new, it is just that the amount of energy removed from the air by raindrops has not been calculated before. This makes me wonder if increased rainfall is the cause of decreasing global wind speeds as of late. In a warmer world there is more moisture in the air, which often leads to more precipitation, and more precipitation will slow down the winds.
Have a good weekend! Meteorologist Justin Loew
Posted under AGW
This post was written by jloew on February 24, 2012