EES PAN Climate Change and Global Warming
Global Warming / Climate Change
The following page provides links to a host of resources to help the reader – be they a complete novice or someone already quite familiar with the topic – learn more about the science and various political, economical and social issues around global warming / climate change. There won’t be as much prose on this page as the links are so good as primers, FAQs, glossaries and sources for more information.
The contents of the page are as follows:
Primers and FAQs
Global Warming / Climate Change scepticism (including rebuttals)
Selected Charts and Graphs
Whilst some of the links provide various mitigation strategies, other EES PAN pages deal with the topics of Alternative Energy and Emissions Trading / Offsets in more detail.
Pew Center: Global Warming basics
NASA: Global Warming update
Oxford University: The basics of climate prediction
Wikipedia: Global Warming
These questions include:
What Factors Determine Earth's Climate?
What is the Relationship between Climate Change and Weather?
What is the Greenhouse Effect?
How do Human Activities Contribute to Climate Change and How do They Compare with Natural Influences?
How are Temperatures on Earth Changing?
How is Precipitation Changing?
Has there been a Change in Extreme Events like Heat Waves, Droughts, Floods and Hurricanes?
Is the Amount of Snow and Ice on the Earth Decreasing?
Is Sea Level Rising?
What Caused the Ice Ages and Other Important Climate Changes Before the Industrial Era?
Is the Current Climate Change Unusual Compared to Earlier Changes in Earth's History?
Are the Increases in Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Other Greenhouse Gases During the Industrial Era Caused by Human Activities?
How Reliable Are the Models Used to Make Projections of Future Climate Change?
Can Individual Extreme Events be Explained by Greenhouse Warming?
Can the Warming of the 20th Century be Explained by Natural Variability?
Are Extreme Events, Like Heat Waves, Droughts or Floods, Expected to Change as the Earth's Climate Changes?
How Likely are Major or Abrupt Climate Changes, such as Loss of Ice Sheets or Changes in Global Ocean Circulation?
If Emissions of Greenhouse Gases are Reduced, How Quickly do Their Concentrations in the Atmosphere Decrease?
Do Projected Changes in Climate Vary from Region to Region?
Global Warming / Climate Change Skepticism
Firstly, ‘scepticism’ is a healthy thing and the essence of the scientific method. In no way do the above or below imply otherwise, nor seek to discourage open discussion. If someone publishes peer-reviewed data (or at least data that can be peer-reviewed) that shows that climate change isn’t really happening, or that solar flares are causing it, or whatever, then by all means, or challenges those that say it’s anthropogenic to improve the quality of their data, then that is healthy.
But genuine misinformation is something very different from scientific challenge. One must always ask where funding comes from, who stands to gain by claims made, and in terms of genuine science, are the claims put forth in a peer-reviewed forum/journal where their results can be tested, reproduced and proved.
It is ironic that many that fight against any admission of climate change (or at least now, anthropogenic climate change) are ‘champions of the voice from the wilderness’… A bit rich from many of the same people that did their best to destroy the careers of scientists who first claimed that smoking contributes to rates of cancer or the climate change indeed existed.
Remember that ten or twenty years ago, climate change 'didn’t exist'. Now it exists, but isn’t anthropogenic. Now that the evidence that it is indeed primarily anthropogenic is becoming very strong, the argument will be, ‘it’s too late to do anything about it’.
The links below help address many of the common myths surrounding this issue:
New Scientist: '26 Climate Myths Debunked'
There are so many examples of disinformation regarding global warming / climate change that one is spoiled for choice in terms of examples. Four examples follow, but many more can be found via the resource links below.
'The Great Climate Swindle'
One of the best examples of disingenuous 'skepticism' of late was the rather infamous and sadly very effective documentary recently aired the UK's Channel 4, entitled 'The Great Climate Swindle'. This documentary managed to confuse an awful lot of people about global warming / climate change by portraying th scientific community as divided and massaged 'evidence' to support their cause.
Carl Wunsch, the main scientist (mis)quoted by the programme, supposedly argues that anthropogenic climate change was wrong. However, shortly after it first aired, he attacked the programme as a gross misrepresentation of his views and research. See his articles in the UK's Independent newspaper, 'I Should Never Have Trusted Channel 4' http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/carl-wunsch-i-should-never-have-trusted-channel-4-440245.html and an editorial on the same topic, 'Climate Change: An inconvenient truth...for C4'.
CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) ran a special programme on the similarities in tactics used by the tobacco lobby and the global warming / climate change skeptic lobby. In fact, the similarities were understandable as some of the PR firms and even the SCIENTISTS employed in both dubious campaigns have been the same!
Senator Inhofe's list of 400+ supposedly prominent scientists who challenge the existence of global warming (or its anthroprogenic contributions) do indeed include a lot of scientists, but many of them include scientists that have nothing to do with climate research, and / or have some rather questionable ties to industries that have a vested interest in denying any links between man and climate change. See 'The Daily Green' article for a bio on 84 of them.
The American Enterprise Institute
After the most recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report was issued in 2007, the likes of the American Enterprise Institute offered money to scientists to challenge or debunk the report, hardly a call for open and honest enquiry.
ABC (the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that is) conducted an investigation to these entitled 'Cash for Climate Comment?' on their '4 Corners' programme. This kicked off a global media storm that the ABC responded to quite well. Below is their reply to the debate with links to the original programme and a host of articles. It is quite lengthy, but well-worth a read.
A debate has developed in the pages of the Four Corners guest book . Two critical messages from the oil company ExxonMobil have commented on the Four Corners introduction to "The Denial Machine", a program made by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Our introduction pointed to reports that an oil funded lobby group has offered $10,000 to experts willing to criticise the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That news first appeared in the Guardian of February 2nd, 'Scientists offered cash to dispute climate study'. Similar stories were carried in the Independent, the Washington Post and the Sydney Morning Herald.
A lively argument has since been conducted in the international press and on the world wide web about the accuracy of these reports with, as ExxonMobil points out, a rebuttal posted in the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal: 'Global Warming Smear: The political campaign to shut up an American think tank' 9 February, 2007. We invite readers of the Four Corners site and viewers of the program to make their own judgement by reviewing material connected with this debate.
The Guardian article stated that the well known conservative Washington-based American Enterprise Institute had written letters offering $10,000 to experts prepared to write articles critical of the IPCC report. The article referred to this money being offered by an oil funded lobby group.
Firstly the offer: the following is one of those AEI letters, on this occasion to a climate modelling specialist: AEI Letter (420Kb PDF). Originally hosted on the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University website, this letter has been republished by Four Corners.
In this letter $10,000 is offered for an article: 'AEI will offer an honoraria of $10,000'. The AEI has said on its website that commissioning such articles is a normal part of its policy research processes. The question remains whether a particular and critical line was being solicited. The letter says any article would be part of 'a series of review essays' and that the whole project is to highlight 'the strengths and weakness' of the IPCC process. The letter goes on to detail perceived weaknesses of the IPCC:
No countervailing 'strength' of the IPCC process is cited. A critical line of argument is then invited:
The reports therefore that this correspondence solicited criticism of the IPCC process (which used climate modelling) and offered $10,000 for such an article seem accurate. AEI's focus does not seem to question global warming itself. However, in this letter the AEI scholars apparently seek confirmation of a view that climate prediction is too unreliable to be a basis for government policy.
Two other questions arise: Is the AEI oil-funded? And is it a lobby group?
The Institute is a large enterprise with a number of corporate, institutional and individual donors. Corporate donations are not made public. AEI has admitted that ExxonMobil is a 'generous' donor with grants amounting to $1.6 million over recent years, but AEI reasonably points out this is less than one per cent of its revenue.
According to People for the American Way , a left-of-centre group critical of the AEI and its conservative links, other oil companies have been donors. They include Amoco and Shell. AEI apparently also receives funding from companies which are not oil producers but are linked to oil consumption or are corporations with a strong interest in the carbon debate: Ford; General Motors; Chrysler; General Electric and Aluminium producer Alcoa. The amounts of corporate donations are not disclosed.
The website Media Transparency records that the AEI receives funds from foundations which contribute large sums to conservative think tanks. Some of these grew from businesses with oil interests or have oil investments. The Scaife Foundations, for example, are built from the Mellon industrial, oil and banking businesses. The Scaife Foundations are among the largest disclosed donors to the AEI. However it has to be acknowledged that foundations do make donation decisions independently of their source businesses. See the following two articles published by Media Transparency:
Incidentally Four Corners did not suggest that any individual donor, including ExxonMobil, directly funded, initiated or oversaw the AEI project. Four Corners would conclude that the AEI receives significant funding linked with oil, though it is far from being reliant on oil interests.
Lastly: Is the AEI a lobby group?
This is another long running and vexed question. The AEI’s areas of interest are broad. They range from foreign policy, in which it has been famously influential in Iraq war policy, to domestic politics and economics.
The AEI maintains, in an attack on the Guardian article, that it does not take positions or lobby government. See: 'Scenes from the Climate Inquisition'.
The AEI’s website sets out its aims and objectives. On the other hand AEI scholars deliberately address and seek to change government policy. The Chairman and President’s message in the last AEI annual report indicates the Institute is proud that its work influences US governments: 'It sometimes produced immediate results in the form of specific laws and policy decisions--and other times laid the groundwork for better decisions a year or decade hence.'
The following article from the Washington Monthly argues that with legal restrictions on old style lobbying, organisations like the AEI have become the new conduits for lobbying in Washington and engage in so called 'deep lobbying':
‘In the Tank - The intellectual decline of AEI’ December 2003
Lobbying implies advocacy based on a particular position. The letter to the Texas University climate scientist cited above was signed by two of the AEI scholars who publish on climate change, Steven F. Hayward and Kenneth Green. A representation of their views can be viewed starting with the AEI webpage on environmental issues.
AEI scholars take a narrow position on climate change. For the most part they do not dispute the mainstream science though they may challenge the extent and seriousness of the problem. It is hard to find, for example, any reference to one criticism of the IPCC consensus process, which is that it may have worked to downplay more severe predictions about climate change.
The consistent line in AEI publications is a focus on policy, advocating against market intervention, binding emission controls or government mandated cap and trade schemes. See: 'What’s Best - Emission Reduction or Adaptation and Sequestration?' by Kenneth P. Green.
These views are within the mainstream but reflect the most conservative wing of the US business community, which as a whole displays a far greater diversity in reaction to the threat of global warming.
The matters raised by this debate are interesting and complex. What is lobbying? What is the relationship between funding, research and publication? How does the US administration communicate with business on policy issues like climate change.
Four Corners is appreciative that ExxonMobil has helped open further discussion within this website.
‘Atmosphere of Pressure: Political Interference in Federal Climate Science’ – Union of Concerned Scientists and the US Government Accountability Office. http://www.ucsusa.org/scientific_integrity/interference/atmosphere-of-pressure.html
Union of Concerned Scientist (includes sections on Global Warming, Transport, Energy, Invasive Species, Security, Food, etc): http://www.ucsusa.org/
‘Implications of ‘Peak Oil’ on Atmospheric CO2 and Climate’ – Dr. James Hansen (NASA). May 2007. http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0704/0704.2782.pdf
‘The Changing Climate of Energy Policy’ – Sir David King (Chief Scientific Advisor to HM Government) – 5 Dec 2006 http://www.britischebotschaft.de/en/news/items/060921.htm (link to download PowerPoint presentation at bottom left)
International Energy Agency (IEA) Climate Change page: http://www.iea.org/Textbase/subjectqueries/keyresult.asp?KEYWORD_ID=4106
NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) Paleo-Climate Center - Good overview of climate change, and how researchers derive their findings of ancient climates: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/globalwarming/
RealClimate.org – ‘Climate Science from climate scientists’: http://www.realclimate.org/
‘National Security and the Threat of Climate Change’ – The CNA Corporation. Includes a military advisory board of ex-admirals and generals including such ‘treehuggers’ as Anthony Zinni (former head of CENTCOM, US Central Command) and Paul Gaffney (retired Vice-Admiral and neo-conservative spokesman): http://securityandclimate.cna.org/
Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research: http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/index.shtml
Oxford University’s ‘Environmental Change Institute’: http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/
Imperial College Centre for Environmental Policy: http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/environmentalpolicy
‘Stern Review: Economics of Climate Change’ – Report by Sir Nicholas Stern for HM Government http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/sternreview_index.cfm
‘Tackling Climate Change in the U.S. – Potential Carbon Emission Reductions from Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 2030’: Charles F. Kutscher, Editor. American Solar Energy Society (Jan 2007) http://www.ases.org/climatechange/
European Union – Climate portal (policies, EU Emissions Trading Scheme, etc): http://ec.europa.eu/environment/
‘The Ecologist’ Magazine: http://www.theecologist.org/ - Great resource for those interested in ‘across-the-board’ environmental issues, ranging from energy availability, organic farming / clothing, political action, climate change, habitat depletion, etc. This is a UK-based publication, but still viable for anyone to read.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. ‘On the State of the Urban Environment’. Online lecture from the WGBH Forum Network in Boston (this is a wonderful resource for a hugely diverse set of topics. WGBH publishes online audio / video streaming lectures on hundreds of areas, from poetry to politics to science to history): http://forum.wgbh.org/wgbh/forum.php?category=Health
‘Re-Energising Australia’ – Green Party report on how Australia should deal with the dual challenges of climate change and energy depletion. Christine Mills – Senator for Tasmania (2007) http://www.odac-info.org//bulletin/documents/Re-energising%20Australia%202007.pdf
‘The Climate of Poverty: Facts, Fears and Hope’ – Christian Aid, May 2006.
Friends of the Earth: http://www.foe.org.uk
The Climate Group: http://www.theclimategroup.org/
The Grist Mill – Environmental News and Commentary: http://gristmill.grist.org/
The Worldwatch Institute – ‘Independent Research for an Environmentally Sustainable and Socially Just Society’: http://www.worldwatch.org/
EV World: http://www.evworld.com/
The Vertical Farm Project – (imagine a high-rise organic farm): http://www.verticalfarm.com/
The Global Climate Campaign http://www.globalclimatecampaign.org/
Campaign Against Climate Change: http://www.campaigncc.org/
NASA and Climate Change: http://www.onpointradio.org/shows/2006/02/20060203_a_main.asp
EnergyStar (part of the US Environmental Protection Agency): http://www.energystar.gov/
The Soil Association: http://www.soilassociation.org/
Environment California: http://www.environmentcalifornia.org/
Tree Hugger TV: http://treehuggertv.com/
Trees for Cities: http://www.treesforcities.org/
Deconstructing Dinner: http://www.cjly.net/deconstructingdinner/
Green Car Congress: http://www.greencarcongress.com/
The Earth Blog: http://www.theearthblog.org/
Permaculture – Holmgren Design: http://www.holmgren.com.au/
‘An Inconvenient Truth’ – Al Gore documentary. http://www.climatecrisis.net/
‘Who Killed the Electric Car’ – Documentary: http://www.sonyclassics.com/whokilledtheelectriccar/
The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability. http://www.thebridgeattheedgeoftheworld.com/