Climate Change Science
Climate change — or global warming — isn't a theory. It's a scientific
fact. It's a solid as the science behind evolution, or the proof that cigarettes
If you don't believe that, then give us 10 minutes to convince you. Unless
of course, you don't believe in science, or you believe that scientists
are all closet socialists who have perpetrated a global conspiracy designed
to destroy the world's wealthy nations. If you're that paranoid, then we
have nothing to talk about. You'll be happier at a conspiracy site about
the JFK assassination, or the faked moon landing. We'll try to find a few
links for you.
The science supporting global warming — or climate change — is incontrovertible.
In the last seven or eight years, it has move from strong theory to unassailable
Science isn't a religion, but it does have rules and and a deep, methodical
process for studying our universe. This article
in Wikipedia explains how it works. The scientific method is not foolproof,
but by dint of hard work, trial and error, and repetition, scientists work
their way a greater understanding of our universe, and all of humanity
benefits. (See also this article
at Deltoid by Dr. John Mashey).
Occasionally, great leaps forward in understanding are wrought by brilliant
insight or serendipity. But mostly, scientists take baby steps, bringing
new light to some dense topic.
But here's the thing. Scientists don't work in isolation, they collaborate
and correct and debate, and they build on the science that went before.
Sometimes, the science confirms the earlier work, and knowledge is advanced.
But sometimes we gain new insight, and old ideas are discarded in favor
of a new understanding that better fits observations.
Scientists publish their work in peer-reviewed scientific journals, which
means that their work has been vetted by other experts in their field of
study. If their work is shoddy, or hopelessly flawed, it simply doesn't
get published, and their research money will dry up. Hence the old sobriquet
Publish or Perish.
The essential science of global warming has been known for more than 120
years — that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas with the potential to warm
planet earth. Even a sixth-grader has proof. The warmest planet in the
solar system isn't the one closest to the sun; it's the second planet,
the one with a thick blanket of carbon dioxide (CO2). And since the invention
of the steam engine, the concentration of CO2 on planet earth has increased
by 40 percent.
Over the last 40 years, the global warming process has been
poked, prodded, and examined in almost every way possible. It has been
studied in computer models, it has been analyzed by satellites, and it
has been understood through real-world measurements and experiments. And
all of this research — thousands upon thousands of distinct studies — have
brought us to an unfortunate understanding.
Global warming is the greatest challenge our planet has ever faced.
In a nutshell, what scientists have discovered has been so serious and
so incontrovertible that it has scared them. They have come to overwhelming
conclusion that global warming is real, and it represents a significant
and ominous threat. Many are leaving their ivory towers to speak out, to
talk to the media, and warn them of the catastrophic consequences for humanity.
And for that, these same scientists have become the focal point of a mean,
dirty, dishonest smear campaign that has sullied their reputations, and
brought threats against their lives.
Consider Dr. James Hansen, NASA's leading climate scientist, who in 1981
was a member of a team that published a landmark study that first spoke
to global warming's dangers. It was a thorough and cautious document, and
the science still stands up more than 25 years later. In 1988, Hansen testified
before congress, explaining in simple, yet provocative phrases that humanity
was on an unsustainable path that would lead to global misery. History,
and science, has vindicated virtually every claim he had made that day.
So far, it's not too bad, because we stand at the beginning. But in the
next five to 10 years, or perhaps less, the problems will begin to magnify
and accelerate. The war in Darfur, for example, is an early example, as
a formerly fertile area became parched, and couldn't support as many people
as it has in the past.
And yet among global warning deniers, and conservative politicians, Hansen
is vilified as the Antichrist. Opponents have lied about his career, suggesting
that Hansen originally called for a new ice age, and then changed his mind
in the 1980s. (He didn't). They've said that all of his early predictions
have not come to pass. (In fact, his research has been vindicated by thousands
of studies, and we're almost exactly where he said we would be 25 years
later). They have described him as an Al Gore acolyte who took money to
falsify data and research. (A few minor errors in data analysis at NASA
have uncovered; but rather than proof of a global conspiracy, it's actually
proof that the scientific method works). Hansen has even be chastised
for being so very good at what he does that he's won several major
international awards for his contributions to science, but many again spout
slander and libel, suggesting that these awards are merely payback for
selling his soul. (Hansen was honored by the Heinz Foundation, a
nonprofit started by the family of Democratic Senator John Kerry's wife,
Theresa Heinz, proof yet again of perfidy, or so the paranoid would tell
Hansen isn't getting wealthy by sounding a clarion bell for global warming.
He's a brilliant scientist who is trying to do the right thing.
And his work, and the work of thousands of climate scientists, are painting
a very dim future for our children, and our grandchildren.
Read more about tobacco companies and astroturfing —
and how oil companies are
muddying the waters and confusing people.
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