Remember the Theory of Relativity sceptics? As with the Einstein debate, the modern climate debate is based on politics and strawmen, not facts and details.
It is hard to imagine a scientific breakthrough more abstract and less politically contentious than Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Yet in Weimar Germany in the 1920s it attracted fierce controversy, with conservatives and ultra-nationalists reading it as a vindication of their opponents – liberals, socialists, pacifists and Jews. They could not separate Einstein’s political views – he was an internationalist and pacifist – from his scientific breakthroughs, and his extraordinary fame made him a prime target in a period of political turmoil.
There was a turning point in 1920. A year earlier a British scientific expedition had used observations of an eclipse to provide empirical confirmation of Einstein’s prediction that light could be bent by the gravitational pull of the Sun. Little known to the general public beforehand, Einstein was instantly elevated to the status of the genius who outshone Galileo and Newton. But conservative newspapers provided an outlet for anti-relativity activists and scientists with an axe to grind, stoking nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiment among those predisposed to it.
In a similar way today, conservative news outlets promote the views of climate deniers and publish stories designed to discredit climate scientists, all with a view to defending an established order seen to be threatened by evidence of a warming globe. As in the Wiemar Republic, the effect has been to fuel suspicion of liberals and “elites” by inviting the public to view science through political lenses…
Scientists in Stockholm are due to present the most exhaustive and authoritative state of climate science to date. Follow our live news and reaction as the UN’s climate science panel publishes the first part of its fifth assessment report Image: Julien Behal/PA
Climate change report: live reaction to IPCC conclusions | On Friday, scientists in Stockholm are due to present the most exhaustive and authoritative state of climate science to date | Guardian
What we’ve learned this morning
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- Scientists are more certain than ever that humanity is to blame for rising temperatures. The head of the UN WMO said"it is extremely likely that changes in our climate system in the past half century are due to human influence." The report says: “Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.”
- We’re likely to go over rises of 2°C by 2100, the threshold of warming that governments have pledged to hold temperatures to and beyond which dangerous consequences including drought, floods and storms are expected. “What is very clear is we are not” on the path to keeping temperatures below 2C, said Thomas Stocker, one of the co-chairs of today’s report. Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century, the report said.
- Sea level rises are coming. “Global mean sea level will continue to rise during the 21st century,” says today’s report, by a further 26-82cm by 2100, but Stocker said ”there is no consensus in the scientific community over very high sea level rises.”
- Scientists said that claims that the rate of temperature rises in the last 15 years has slowed did not affect the big picture and temperatures are going up in the longterm. Climate trends “should not be calculated for periods of less than 30 years,”said Stocker.
- The amount of carbon the world can burn without heading for dangerous levels of warming is far less than the amount of fossil fuels left in the ground. “The IPCC carbon budget to stay below 2C is 800-880 gigaton carbon. 531 GTC had already emitted by 2011. So we have 350GTC left, which is much less than the carbon stored in fossil fuel reserves.”
“The idea that you could look a huge amount of evidence straight in the face and, for purely ideological reasons, deny it, is anathema to me.” —Kerry Emanuel, former Republican
…“There is a divide within the party,” says Samuel Thernstrom, who served on President George W. Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality and is now a scholar of environmental policy at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. “The position that climate change is a hoax is untenable.”…
…“The country’s going to become more educated, and that’s not going to break our way, as a party, if we are denying what 90 out of 100 scientists say,” Croswhite argues. “If the scientific community is generally accepting of something, you need to trust that.”…
See on Scoop.it - The Future of Water & Waste
Two major organizations released climate change reports this month warning of doom and gloom if we stick to our current course and fail to take more aggressive measures. A World Bank report imagines a world 4 degrees warmer, the temperature predicted by century’s end barring changes, and says it aims to shock people into action by sharing devastating scenarios of flood, famine, drought and cyclones. Meanwhile, a report from the US National Research Council, commissioned by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other intelligence agencies, says the consequences of climate change—rising sea levels, severe flooding, droughts, fires, and insect infestations—pose threats greater than those from terrorism ranging from massive food shortages to a rise in armed conflicts.
Here are some of the more alarming graphic images from the reports.
See on theatlantic.com
Remember when environmental protection was a bipartisan effort?
A prediction: When all the votes have been counted and the reams of polling data have been crunched, analyzed, and spun, this will be clear: Few scientists will have voted for Republican candidates, particularly for national office. Survey data taken from 1974 through 2010 and analyzed by Gordon Gauchat in the American Sociological Review confirm that most American scientists are not conservatives. A 2009 study by the Pew Research Center found that only 9 percent of scientists self-identified as conservative, while 52 percent called themselves liberals. Only 6 percent of American scientists self-identified as Republicans. This state of affairs is bad for the nation, and bad for science.
It was not always this way. In the 1968 election, Richard Nixon won the votes of 31 percent of physicists, 42 percent of biologists, 52 percent of geologists, and 62 percent of agricultural scientists (compared with 43.4 percent of the popular vote). While these data do not include party affiliation, they suggest that the scientific community of the late 1960s was much more evenly divided between the two major parties than it is now, and, with the exception of physicists, slightly more conservative than the American voting public at large.
Why have scientists fled the Republican Party? The obvious answer is that the Republican Party has spurned science. Consider Mitt Romney’s shifting position on climate change. As governor of Massachusetts in 2004, he laid out a plan for protecting the state’s climate. As presidential candidate, he has said that climate change is real, but has questioned whether humans are causing it. His stance is consistent with the Republican Party platform, which unambiguously calls for expanding the production and use of the fossil fuels that drive climate change. In 2009, Paul Ryan accused climate scientists of “clear efforts to use statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change,” echoing false accusations leveled against climatologists at the University of East Anglia. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan exemplify the conservative turn against science, but what explains it?
"Climate denial is, if nothing else, a sign of the dumbing down of conservatism in the United States. Just as climate change threatens the physical environment, so too does climate denial threaten the cognitive environment. After all, what happens when one’s intellectual shoreline has been eroded?"
Chris Mooney on the Number One Lesson *Not* To Take Away from Hurricane Irene
(hint: it’s about “hurricane hype” … you’re gonna hear a lot about it this week)
Nevertheless, somehow Irene still wasn’t damaging enough, and so we’re going to hear about how politicians were covering their $#^@, scaring people when they didn’t have to.
Not only is this idiotic—it’s downright dangerous.
Nobody can perfectly forecast how a storm is going to turn out or where it is going to go—not even the experts. This storm clearly posed a very serious threat to New York, and while it certainly could have been worse, that’s precisely the point. We err on the side of caution. We warn people strenuously because to under-warn them would be unforgivable.
Even worse, if this narrative about hurricane “overhyping” takes hold, it could utterly distract from the real take-away from this storm experience. Namely: This was a test run for a much worse storm that will someday come and threaten New York. And the test run proved that we’re not remotely ready.
The image I’ve posted above shows the cumulative tracks of all Atlantic hurricanes on record. As you can see, there is virtually no part of the East Coast that has not gotten hit at some time or other.
New York will be hit again, and it will be hit worse. It is only a matter of time.
And while the city may have withstood Irene relatively well, it will not, with its current defenses, withstand a direct hit from a stronger storm with a bigger storm surge. And if that storm comes and New York isn’t ready, we could have a scenario even worse than Katrina.
So while the journalists are talking about “hype,” here’s what we should actually be discussing:
(via DeSmog Blog)
It’s got to be the climate change deniers. I’m sure they think that storm warnings are part of a larger weather event hype machine. They’re taking head-in-sand denial to the next level if they would have us forego warning people of deadly weather events simply to avoid drawing attention to the idea that events are getting stronger and more frequent.
This reminds me of the people who are ardently and broadly opposed to anti-bullying laws because they think that protection would encourage kids to be gay.