Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘cause of climate change

‘Climategate’ inquiry largely clears scientists

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As you would expect, after doing a piece on Monday on the James Lovelock interview I have been getting comments from the deniers – none of which have appeared. Becuase I simply do not wish to give them any platform at all. Sorry, I have no obligation to provide “balance” – the so called “debate” is way too overly anxious to publish things that support the fossil fuel industry. I will however provide what seems to me to one of the clearest rebuttals of the claims of the “climategate” crowd – which has been published by the Associated Press and is in The Seattle Times this morning.

The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee said Wednesday that it had seen no evidence to support charges that the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) or its director, Phil Jones, had tampered with data or perverted the peer review process to exaggerate the threat of global warming — two of the most serious criticisms levied against the climatologist and his colleagues.

In its report, the committee said that, as far as it was able to ascertain, “the scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact,” adding that nothing in the more than 1,000 stolen e-mails, or the controversy kicked up by their publication, challenged scientific consensus that “global warming is happening and that it is induced by human activity.”

That seems to me to settle the issue. It won’t of course. Any more than the bricks through the windows of Democrat Senators who voted for health care reform settle that argument either. Indeed, the parallels between the way the two sides argued  in that discourse are disturbingly similar to the climate “controversy”. In both cases it is as clear as can be that the right wing is wrong and facts are against them. But that does not stop them. And it is not that the people who promote the cause of the insurance companies, or the fossil fuel companies, are stupid. They are simply doing what they are paid to do. In the case of US health care they were not unsuccessful –  there is still no public option let alone the single payer that most other countries have. In the case of effective action against greenhouse gas emissions, they have also been remarkably dominant. The results are now going to be dire, because we really are heading for an unprecedented increase in global temperatures – well in our experience anyway. The same sort of people who deny climate change also like to deny the scientific evidence for the age of the planet (and the universe come to that) – and many  of them believe that the end of human life on earth is all pre-destined and that they are the only ones due to be saved.  Of course belief and science are two different things. You cannot actually argue with thermodynamics. But then acts of faith do not require evidence either. Just a good story. Which is apparently why they get so much media attention.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 31, 2010 at 11:12 am

James Lovelock: Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

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In his first in-depth interview since the theft of UEA emails, the scientist blames inertia and democracy for lack of action

The Guardian

Worth the read, but I am not sure I am convinced. Firstly it is not democracy itself that is at fault, but the way in which we have allowed democratic processes to be subverted by corporations. As well documented (for instance by Jim Hoggan) the scientists have been portrayed as being part of a two sided debate when in fact there is a widespread consensus. Not one research  paper appeared in a peer reviewed journal that showed that either climate change is not happening or is not largely due to human activity. But the companies that drill for oil, and mine for coal, and those that make lots of money from our fossil fuel dependency, are all funding lots of activity to sow confusion and dissent. Like the health insurance industry did – and largely succeeded – over US health care reform, where the objective facts can hardly be disputed, yet at least half the American public was convinced that they were somehow threatened by fairer health care funding. Indeed when one looks at the most prominent recent environmental stories – farmed salmon or “run of the river” hydro or fracking for gas – the facts speak for themselves but the corporations keep on winning, and every species, including us, pays dearly.

I suppose it can be argued that we voted for the governments that make these bad decisions – and we keep on voting for them. But I would suggest that is due to the lack of democracy – we only get to make a choice between two alternatives (bad and worse) at infrequent intervals, and when we do, those who have the most to spend tend to win most often.

But what bothered me most was that he did not read the emails in question but still thinks that data was somehow “fudged”. Which is not my understanding of what happened. There were two data series – actual temperature measurements for recent years and tree rings (and other things) for earlier periods before measurements started – and these were merged. Unfortunately one scientist referred to this as “a trick” – and those two words, wrenched out of context, were used as the “smoking gun” evidence of intent to deceive. But what the famous “hockey stick” graph shows is anything but deceptive.

 Figure 1(b) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report, (c) 2001 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Figure 1(b) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Assessment Report, (c) 2001 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Are we stupid? Or is somebody lying to us? I think the latter – and the people who are doing the lying are not the scientists but the corporate shills.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Man causing climate change – poll

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I begin to wonder if “denial” is just a North American condition.

Large majorities in many countries now believe human activity is causing global warming, a BBC World Service poll suggests.

A sizable majority of people agreed that major steps needed to be taken soon to address global warming.

More than 22,000 people were surveyed in 21 countries and the results show a great deal of agreement on the issue.

The survey is published a day after 150 countries met at the United Nations to discuss climate change.

An average of 79% of respondents to the BBC survey agreed that “human activity, including industry and transportation, is a significant cause of climate change”.

Significantly even in the US 59% of respondents said that it was “necessary to take major steps very soon”. I think in fairness I also should note that the US has actually been doing something – “since 1990 U.S. emissions have increased less than half as much as Canada’s on a per capita basis” according so a substantial opinion piece by Patrick Moore in today’s Sun. It’s pretty good, as far as it goes, but because he is hung up on technology, he misses some of the more obvious behavioural changes that can be made – like increasing transit use.

It may be that the only problem we have is leaders like Bush and Harper – they seem to be well behind the rest of us on this issue.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 24, 2007 at 7:25 pm