Friday, December 21, 2007

Has global warming stopped?

A very intriguing question. One which, if the answer turns out to be a resounding yes, might make some of the alarm generated by the IPCC, and some of the planned actions following the Bali bash, appear rather ridiculous.

Now this from the New Statesman, is by the well respected, ex BBC Science Correspondent, David Whitehouse. It makes what seems at first glance an apparently valid point - the rate of temperature increase over the last decade has been flat. In fact, he states that "the global temperature of 2007 is statistically the same as 2006 as well as every year since 2001. Global warming has, temporarily or permanently, ceased. Temperatures across the world are not increasing as they should according to the fundamental theory behind global warming – the greenhouse effect. Something else is happening and it is vital that we find out what or else we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly."

He reports that the data is taken from "US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the UK’s Met Office and the IPCC" but he does not provide links to any actual data used.

Remember the brouhaha that resulted when it was discovered that the warmest year in one part of the central USA was back in the 1930's? That turned out to be the selective use of local and regional data, but it created a huge upwelling of support for the 'anti' global warming brigade. I have to confess that I'm surprised that this particular article does not appear to be massively referenced so far throughout the www.

Back to my main point: without reference to the exact data as used, just how do we know that this is an accurate interpretation? Let's face it, there is clearly something quite drastic happening in and around the area of the Arctic circle and above, as the recorded data shows record summer temperatures in places like Melville Island, Greenland and Alaska, whilst the North West passage was open for a record six weeks plus and the ice pack had its lowest extent since records began.

As the author quite rightly states - "the working hypothesis of CO2 induced global warming is a good one that stands on good physical principles but let us not pretend our understanding extends too far or that the working hypothesis is a sufficient explanation for what is going on." Clearly, human understanding of a system as complex as the climate of our planet is not going to be perfect, there are far too many unknowns and imponderables, and we have but little understanding of potential feedback loops and so called tipping points.

"The science is fascinating, the ramifications profound, but we are fools if we think we have a sufficient understanding of such a complicated system as the Earth’s atmosphere’s interaction with sunlight to decide. We know far less than many think we do or would like you to think we do. We must explain why global warming has stopped."

No argument with the first parts of that at all, but warming has certainly not stopped in the Arctic circle, so why make that statement as if it applies to the entire planet?

I'm sorry, but articles like this will only incite more confusion, misunderstanding, obfuscation and poles-apart (no pun intended) debate. We need to know the full facts, not selective morsels fed to us like tid-bits from the media news table.

Broccoli growing in Greenland, whilst Walrus starve because the remnants of the ice sheet are too far out and over water too deep for them to find food, plus extreme temperatures of 48C in Greece and Italy this summer do not seem to fit, at least to my mind, with the counter evidence that the author presents.

Would someone please just tell us the truth? It must be out there somewhere.
Should it turn out that the supposedly venerable group of scientists at the IPCC are deliberately ignoring vital temperature evidence that this particular author is using; or are perhaps discounting it as little more than a hiccup in the overall scale of things whilst they are doggedly determined to prove that man worsened climate change is happening at any cost (including the omission of important data); then I'll quite happily write an entire retraction of my comments and questions and offer the author a high five.

Getting noticed #101: banning is best

Making things is usually a long process of increments. And sadly our media these days like quick, big, immediate hits.

So a good way to get noticed is to crank up a ban. Not sure it's worked quite the way the DPM intended with her prostitution solution, but it certainly seems to have worked for others: PLASTIC BAGS

I feel a tad uncomfortable questioning such a person, who is obviously sincere, but as part of the bigger picture I just need to ensure, for the sake of my kids' futures, that she is at least well guided. Not to mention supported by the right folk for the right reasons.

In a year where so much of such vast importance and impact in the world of climate change has come to the fore, I have always found the issue of plastic bags in the great scheme of things intriguing. Depending on who is quoted, some 200 per person per annum. I wonder if those at Blue Peter could tell us how many Fairy Liquid bottles they represent in terms of oil-based manufacture and disposal consequences?

But this lady's passion is undoubted and her concern admirable. And her story more than impactful, with its successful uptake a sure indication of the public mood. No wonder the media has found it so attractive. I can't imagine what it must be like to spend one's career as a documentary film-maker flying around the world to enjoy and capture nature's beauty, and find it so casually spoiled by the impositions of modern society.

There are so few positives about these things they make an excellent, and obvious target. But then I started to ponder the alternatives. It's one thing to ban something, but then having banned it one must look at the alternatives. Which is what I decided to do. Mainly because I felt I was getting a lot on the ban, but not as much on the consequences.

It's an ongoing education, and indeed this programme has added to it, at least indirectly, as there was one small informational piece that has resulted, namely the experience of the Irish contributor above. This provides an interesting and worthy counterpoint to other experiences I had learned of that were less positive, at least when it comes to the overall enviROI of the exercises. What seems undoubted is that the scourge of 'witches knickers' has been dealt with, but I still wonder at what cost in other areas.

It also has served to highlight the critical need for coordinated approaches between government, local authorities and business in creating logistical systems that are both effective environmentally (cost is 'an' issue, but trade-offs may need to be factored in if our priority is emissions as opposed to profits or litter) and capable of being easily engaged with by the public/consumer. Popping in the village deli with one's bike basket daily is one thing. Tescos en route home of a Friday night for a weekly shop is another. And here I am less convinced of deliverables. Especially when confronted with solutions that have 'bio' in the description.

Yes, with all else we are confronting in matters climatic, I did notice Mr. Brown has thrown his full weight behind... banning plastic bags. So one looks forward to him, and the media, getting as interested, and in the necessary detail, to do justice to all the other topics of high relevance to our nation's carbon footprint. Maybe next a ban on pets, perhaps? Or imported wine? Or beer (how much water consumed to create a pint?). Or...

Instead of, and hence less media attractive as a ban, as a fellow small town-dweller I was thinking more of a campaign to encourage our local retailers to shut their doors during cold snaps to avoid the heat loss pouring out into the sky. I rather fancied 'Shut it and Save'. The only down side I can perceive is the potential consumer-reluctance posed by a closed door, but everything else seems a win-win all round, even to their utility costs. What do you reckon?

Indy - Unbelievable bags - at least it has been asked. I look forward to the answer.

Sir: Last week I visited a Waterstone's bookstore to buy a couple of book tokens as Christmas presents. I asked the shop assistant for a paper bag to protect the tokens but was told that Waterstone's prefer to use plastic bags because the carbon footprint of paper bags is greater than for plastic, because of shipping from abroad, which is where most paper bags are sourced. If true, this is astonishing. Perhaps other readers could clarify the situation.

Gaurdian - Dialling danger

Why here? For this, albeit subjective, comment: "The purge on plastic bags in Ireland has also been a dramatic success." Oh dear gawd, I thought this silliness was confined to Annapolis. More energy and waste is produced making paper bags than are used make plastic bags. Also, plastic bags are also useful for picking up my dogs poop.