Addressing global warming skeptics
Someone has asked me on this forum why scientists don't go on global warming denier forums: in his words, "What are they scared of?" The answer is that they are not scared. They don't go to these forums for the same reason that scientists aren't usually seen addressing statements of Pat Robertson, Osama Bin Laden or Glenn Beck. Most scientists see it their role to achieve knowledge, not to bang hands, and they also don't have much free time on their hands. Not being affiliated either with academia, UN, Obama administration or the media, I cannot be accused of being a part of any kind of conspiracy. So I will respond here with reason and facts to the more common denier claims I have found with the understanding involved that using the same would prevent me from being seen as unnecessarily alarmist or irrational.
Claim: The volume of the Antarctic ice has grown bigger.
Answer: Density of ice increases the colder it gets and decreases the warmer it gets. Increase in temperature in the Antarctic, where temperatures are extremely low, reduces the density of the ice and thus increases its volume. Not only is this consistent with global warming; it confirms it.
Claim: There is no ocean acidification/adding carbon dioxide to water does not make water acidic.
Answer: Yes it does. The reaction is CO2 + H2O -> H(+) + HCO3(-) . Water is split up and creates unattached hydrogen ions and carbonic acid. Ocean acidity has increased by 30% over pre-industrial levels, with over one third of that change in the last decade and a half.
Claim: There is no noticeable accumulation of atmospheric CO2.
Answer: Atmospheric CO2 has increased from 315 parts per million to 385 parts per million from 1960 to present. That's over 25% during the last five decades.
Claim: There have been cyclical fluctuations in temperature across decades.
Answer: The amplitude of these fluctuations is much smaller than the consistent upward trend that has taken place over the last century. It is much like watching the Standard & Poors' index since 1940 and observing cyclical risk fluctuation around a consistent upward trend. Over the last century, the increase has been 0.9 Celsius. Over the last two decades, it has been 0.3 Celsius.
Claim: Since most temperature stations are in the cities, urban heat effect is responsible for these measurements.
Answer: Urban heat effect has been calculated to comprise 0.002 Celsius per decade, or 0.02 Celsius over the last century. This is a minuscule fraction of the temperature rise that has occurred, accounting for less than 3% of the total temperature rise.
Claim: Global warming is not global / is only significant in some areas.
Answer: This conclusion is based on inadequate data. In measurements 1950-present, global warming is in fact global, with warming areas covering a majority of the Earth's surface and both hemispheres (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/).
Claim: Sun spot cycles are responsible for the climate change.
Answer: Over the last 50 years, sun spot activity has decreased.
Claim: The temperature has been rising since the last Ice Age.
Answer: The total rise in temperature since its bottom during the last Ice Age, over a period of 18,000 years, has been 15 Celsius. That amounts an average rise of 0.09 Celsius per century. That compares with the rise of 0.9 Celsius over the last century, or a rise ten times faster than the average rise in temperatures since the last Ice Age.
Claim: Changes in solar radiation are responsible for the climate change.
Answer: No sustained changes in solar radiation have been detected in 60 years. What has been observed is ten-year cycles around a constant base rate.
Claim: Most heat winds up in the oceans.
Answer: That it does as well. The heat content of oceans has been shown to be rising dramatically, and at a rate confirming the predictions.
Claim: The temperature rises have nothing to do with the greenhouse effect.
Answer: The analysis of the heat content of different ocean basins has revealed changes in heat content consistent precisely with the predicted greenhouse effects and excluding any other possible source.
Claim: A small change in the gases in the atmosphere cannot affect the climate.
Answer: Nothing is small about a 25% rise in atmospheric CO2.
Claim: Oceans are not rising.
Answer: Oceans have been rising by 1.8 mm a year for the last century and 3 mm a year in the last decade. Many low-lying areas are experiencing constant flooding, and some islands in the Pacific have already been submerged.
Claim: Sea level rise is at the same rate as over the last 2000 years.
Answer: The average rate of sea level rise for the 3000 years preceding last century was 0.1 to 0.2 mm a year. That is in contrast to 1.8 mm per year since 1900 and 3 mm per year since 1990. This rate is 9 to 10 times the 3000 year average for the last century and 15 to 30 times the 3000 year averate in the last two decades.
Claim: El Nino of 1997-1998 contributed most of the recent rise in sea level.
Answer: If that were true, then every El Nino would do the same thing. The rise from satellite measurements shows a rise of 50 mm since 1995, or approximately 3 mm per year, with no significant deviation for the El Nino years (http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/).
Claim: Temperature trend at Mauna Loa shows no correspondence with CO2 trend.
Answer: Actually it does, as does global temperature. Both show a consistent upward trend.
Claim: CO2 concentration rises and falls all the time.
Answer: Never this fast. A 25% rise in 50 years is unprecedented.
Claim: The increase in CO2 is natural.
Answer: No natural causes have been found for a 25% rise in CO2 over 50 years - not now, not in the past. Manmade CO2 emissions have been increasing consistently as has manmade deforestation, creating an obvious source.
Claim: CO2 is not a major factor in temperature.
Answer: In analysis of ice cores revealing global temperature and CO2 concentration, it was shown that temperature and CO2 concentrations move in tandem with each other, with changes in temperature preceding changes in CO2.
Claim: What we are seeing is similar to previous times of changing temperatures.
Answer: In the past temperature changes, changes in temperature preceded changes in CO2. Presently, the opposite is the case. Atmospheric CO2 has risen by 25% over the last five decades. If this was a normal climate change, there would have been a corresponding temperature rise sometime between 1500 and 1800 AD. There has not been.
Claim: Previous temperature cycles were caused by natural changes in CO2.
Answer: Previous temperature cycles - known as Milankovitch Cycles - were caused by changes in the earth's orbit amplified through a feedback loop. A small shift would take the earth slightly closer to the sun, the temperatures would rise slightly; as a result of which rise snow and glaciers would melt to reflect less sunlight into the sky while oceans would release more gas, and bogs and tundra would melt, releasing methane and CO2 to reflect more sunlight back to the earth. All of these factors in feedback mechanism would make the earth warmer. A small shift would make the earth slightly away from the sun, more snow and glaciers would accumulate to reflect more sunlight into the sky, less gas would be released by tundra and bogs to reflect less sunlight back to the earth. All of these factors in feedback mechanism would make the earth colder. In all cases, changes in CO2 took place after, not before, changes in temperature.
Claim: CO2 is only a minor factor in global warming.
Answer: On Planet Venus, where the atmosphere is 97% carbon dioxide, the surface temperature is 464 Celsius and the surface pressure is 92 times that of Earth. It became that way, from an original state much similar to that of Planet Earth, because carbon produced was not being absorbed and accumulated in the atmosphere to result in present conditions. On the Earth, CO2 composes 0.04% of the atmosphere. Doubling the CO2 concentration has been computed to cause, by itself, a 3 Celsius rise in temperature - a rate which corresponds with the 0.7 Celsius rise we have seen from the 25% rise in atmospheric CO2 since 1960. This rise in temperature, if sustained, has the capacity to lead to a feedback cycle in which rising temperatures result in melting of glaciers and snow, reducing the reflection of light away from the Earth and further heating up the planet.
Claim: The Earth has been colder and hotter before.
Answer: These changes were accompanied by vast changes in ocean levels and in ecosystems. For people living now, most of whom live in low-lying areas, these changes mean vast loss of life and property. And if the feedback mechanism were to activate, the result would be disastrous.
Claim: Some places in the world are having cold spells.
Answer: Erratic weather events are very much a predicted effect of the destabilization of climate accompanying global warming. Cross-world averages show a consistent upward trend in the world's temperatures.
Claim: Carbon dioxide increase has positive effects, such as making trees and plants grow. This ameliorates the effects of carbon emissions.
Answer: This claim is based on reforestation of American Northeast over the last few decades, which has taken place because the region has had a reprieve from logging since early 20th century and has nothing to do with CO2. The forest growth in US Northeast is offset by deforestation of tropical regions. In fact carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to rise at a consistent rate. For the situation to ameliorate significantly through the mechanism of trees and plants growing and absorbing CO2, areas that are desert, such as the Sahara, would need to become forests, and slash-and-burn agriculture in the rainforest would have to stop. Both are feasible at current level of technology, but it actually has to be done.
Claim: People cannot affect something as vast as planet Earth.
Answer: Yes they can. Amazon rainforest alone loses the area the size of Greece every six years, and half the world's animal and plant species have been lost in the last two centuries. We are in the middle of the fastest extinction in the history of the planet, all due to human activity. The same is true for global warming.
Claim: Mammoths, termites, etc., have produced lots of methane.
Answer: Nothing coming from mammoths or termites begins to compare to the deadly double-punch of uncontrolled carbon emissions and deforestation of rainforests that people have been doing to cause global warming.
Claim: Trees absorb carbon dioxide.
Answer: Which is why raising carbon dioxide emissions while cutting down the rainforest creates carbon dioxide with no trees to absorb it. The deforestation is making the problem worse.
Claim: The predictions of global warming are inconsistent with one another.
Answer: The 25% rise in atmospheric CO2 by 2000, along with accompanying warming of the planet, was predicted in 1950s by both American and Soviet scientists. It has come true. The change in the heat content of the oceans, and the amount of the change in the heat content of the oceans, has been confirmed precisely matching the original predictions. As to the seeming difference between other predictions, in fact there is none. There simply are many variables. Glaciers melt, ocean levels rise. Glaciers melt and re-route ocean currents, climate changes take place in areas affected by these currents. The first has happened already.
Claim: Hackers revealed that two scientists at UN were fudging data / NASA's James Hansen revised data.
Answer: That two people at UN and one person at NASA were doing wrong says nothing about a fact that was known long before these three had anything to do with it and that is affirmed not only by thousands of legitimate scientists who have nothing to do with UN or NASA but also by industry leaders who have opposed environmental agenda for decades.
Claim: Scientists have written peer-reviewed papers against global warming.
Answer: None of these scientists have been major contributors to climate science. The 700 or so papers written represent less than 5% of papers written on the subject. They have about the same credibility in the field as Richard Gardner does in psychology and Karl Marx does in economics.
Claim: Global warming is a ploy to create one world government or to create big government.
Answer: Neither is require to solve the problem. Solutions to global warming can be put into place by private sector as easily as by public sector, and with different entities doing it in different parts of the world.
Claim: Scientists at UN have made up global warming to pursue global domination by a Satanic New World Order conspiracy.
Answer: Scientists knew about global warming since 1980s. The right-wing government of the time wanted nothing to do with it, denying creation of clean-energy solutions that would have cheaply and easily solved the problem. Now, solutions will be that much more difficult, and much irreversible damage has already been done. All thanks to the American Right that denied the truth in the first place and many of whose adherents are continuing to deny it now.
Claim: Global warming is a giant hoax.
Answer: In fact, it is denial of global warming that has been a vast hoax perpetrated by Republican governments, Texas Oil, and conmen who deny the validity of science while benefiting from it daily as does everyone in the West. This problem was first predicted in 1938, gathered more evidence and predictive ability in 1950s, and was common knowledge in 1980s, when it should have been solved, cheaply and easily, through creation of high-intelligence, high-technology clean energy solutions. Instead it was denied, and now because it has been denied the world is facing great loss of life, great loss of property, and irreversible damage, none of which had to be if this problem had not been denied and been acted upon when it was discovered.
Claim: God will fix this.
Answer: People created this problem, people must solve this problem. It is not fair to ask God to clean up our mess.
Claim: There is no global warming. These are the end times.
Answer: People have choice as to what world to have, and for how long to have it. It is only the end times if you make these the end times by destroying life on earth. The stance of destroying the planet will not earn you any favor with God or with any power with any concept of righteousness. And if you continue this stance, you have everything to fear for your soul if the end times ever are to arrive.
Claim: It would be expensive to do anything about it / people would have to lose what they have.
Answer: There are technically and economically sound technologies that can provide all of people's present and much more energy needs through processes that are not destructive to the environment or are much less destructive than current technologies. Some of these technologies carry vast economic benefit, both short-term and long-term, along with their environmental benefit, while delivering greater convenience and utility than technologies of today. And these technologies can be put into place by the private sector as easily as they can be put into place by the government, resulting both in job and prosperity growth in the present and significant economic gains over the long term. This can be done without even involving the government for anything except this:
Refusing to give into lobbying by Texas Oil.