It’s not crap Tony
I said somewhere in a recent post that 2010 will be a battle ground for climate change. Climate change deniers are popping up everywhere harping on about climate change being an hysterical pseudo-religion, dangerous alarmism, indoctrination or bunkum. You can read about 10 top climate change deniers and their arguments here. In Australia, we have Tony Abbott, the leader of the Opposition (Liberal Party), who is probably our most vocal climate change skeptic. His very scientific consideration of whether or not our planet is heating up is: “climate change is crap“.
Don’t know about you but I’d rather our leaders were more measured in their evaluation of the most serious global crisis we currently face. I’d rather they listen to the climate change scientists (who surely have the expertise to assess what’s going on) and if there is a remote possibility that climate change is happening, act collectively with other countries to do what can be done.
But seems the battle is heating up (so to speak) because a recent poll revealed a steep decline in Americans’ belief in global warming. 57% of Americans think there is solid evidence the world is getting warmer, down from 77% in 2006.
The problem is that scientists aren’t great at communications and working with the media. It’s difficult to communicate complex scientific ideas to the general public. The climate change deniers on the other hand are good at propaganda. If you look at the Top 10 deniers, most of them are politicians, journalists, people with degrees in areas other than science, lobbyists or people who have a hand in the back pockets of oil companies. So it’s somewhat easier for the deniers to win the propaganda war.
But there are consistent reports emerging that point to climate change occurring. The most recent I’ve found is from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (gee, they probably have some serious pointy-headed scientists there – I’d rather listen to them than a politician like Tony Abbott who holds extreme views on so many topics). NASA’s analysis shows that in the Southern Hemisphere, 2009 was the warmest year since modern records began in 1880. And overall, 2009 was the second warmest year since record-keeping began and January 2000 to December 2009 was the warmest decade on record. Although the tropical El Niño-La Niña cycle causes year-to-year variability of global temperature, the analysis suggests that global warming is continuing unabated. The figure below highlights how Earth’s surface temperatures have increased since 1880, with the last decade experiencing temperatures at the highest levels ever recorded:
And this figure shows the largest temperature increases are in the Arctic and the Antarctic Peninsula:
The analysis suggests that average global temperatures have increased by about 0.8°C (1.5°F) since 1880. Rising levels of carbon dioxide are not the only factors. Changes in the Sun’s irradiance, oscillations of sea surface temperature in the tropics and changes in aerosol levels can also cause slight increases or decreases in the planet’s temperature. Temperatures tend to decrease when La Niña is around, which is what has been happening recently in Europe with the icy weather. But the El Niño phenomenon takes over and scientists are predicting that 2010 could be the warmest year on record.
Here in Australia since about November, Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney have experienced temperatures around 40℃ (104 ºF) if not higher and hot weather conditions have been declared “catastrophic fire alerts”. Maybe I’m getting to be a really old goat but I don’t recall growing up with such extreme weather conditions. We even have 40℃ days followed by a dramatic drop in temperature so the next day might be 26℃ (78.8 ºF).
The analysis also points out that volcanic eruptions have not counteracted global warming during 2009. Volcanoes spew forth sulfate aerosols that reflect incoming solar radiation back into space and this helps to moderate global temperatures.
If you want to read more pointy-headed scientific stuff, check out this interview with a climatologist, discussing surface temperature record. And you should also read the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration global analysis. The NOAA concluded that global land and ocean temperatures for 2009 tied with 2006 as the fifth warmest year on record. NOAA puts the year at 0.56°C above the 20th century average. The NOAA have produced a chart showing global significant weather and climate events for 2009.
You can view a larger visual here. Some highlights are:
- Alaska had its second warmest July on record.
- Australia had record-breaking heatwaves (ah yeah, I felt them).
- China suffered its worst drought in five decades.
- East Africa: drought led to massive food shortages affecting 23 million people.
So Tony – you might just want to check out some of the serious scientific stuff before you declare climate change to be crap.