Some time ago, I conducted my own personal analysis of the greenhouse gas controversy.
I did this because I became tired of reading op-ed pieces written by journalists who had no more scientific training and experience than I had. In my process, I avoided reading op-ed pieces and consulted only scientific journals.
It was interesting, therefore to come across someone else who has essentially done exactly the same. The significant difference with this bloke is that he is a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Some extracts are quotable -
Our results show that the average temperature of the Earth's land has risen by about 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past 250 years, including an increase of five-sixths of one degree over the past 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this rise is from humans' emission of greenhouse gases.
Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.
He dismissess much of the hype -
It is a scientist's duty to be properly sceptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong.
Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. Polar bears aren't dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren't going to melt by 2035.
But concludes -
As CO2 emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, almost one degree over land in the next 50 years; less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth and its vast use of coal, that same warming could take place in fewer than 20 years.
This concurs with some of my previous writings on the topic. This is a letter I sent to Ian MacFarlane some time ago -
Everybody seems to be writing about climate change.
Almost without exception, these writers adopt a position on the issue related to their political views.
Given that the concern originated from the scientific community, the fact that it has become controversial is bizarre. There’s no doubt that the issue has been picked up by both ends of the political spectrum to fit specific (and very different agendae) but it really isn’t a political issue.
What is to me alarming are the recent assertions of both sides of the debate. On the one hand we hear hysterical conspiracy theories about world domination. On the other we are scared witless with forecasts of death by fire, floods or starvation. These polemics simply complicate what is basically a simple issue.
Like many other Australians I have children. Like many other Australians I take out insurance. I don’t believe that this insurance is a waste of money, even when my house doesn’t burn down, or my car isn’t written off.
I believe that it is reasonable to insure the future of our planet against two basic threats which would affect the quality of the lives of my children and grandchildren. If we have to make financial and lifestyle sacrifices as part of this insurance then I can live with that.
The first threat is the strong likelihood that exponentially escalating carbon emissions are having negative effects long-term on climate. The second is that we are consuming non-renewable energy resources at a rate that isn’t sustainable if we want to enjoy the same lifestyle benefits currently available.
Either or both of these trends will bring us to a point where the benefits of not acting now will be far exceeded by the costs if we don’t.
Even if you completely reject the IPCC consensus, the issue of depletion of non-renewable will simply not go away.
I’ve been trained in risk analysis. I understand the low-risk high-consequence component of basic risk management. There is no more severe consequence to taking an unnecessary risk than the degradation of our planet. That consideration alone should be enough to convince the most avid sceptic that we need to act. Sure, we don’t need the hype, we don’t need political positions to be taken and defended, but we do need basic behaviour change on the part of individuals, corporations and nations.
For me, the most convincing argument comes from personal experience.
My wife and I lost our firstborn child (a daughter), in 1982. The post-mortem indicated that she died of an aneurism that was a result of a congenital defect. The reason for the defect was never established, but studies42 of the children of Vietnam Veterans contain some very convincing statistics.
This experience, by itself is a powerful personal motivator to support planned and dogged action by individuals and government to maintain our planet as a viable life source for future generations.
I am one of many veterans sprayed with Agent Orange. I've returned to Vietnam on a number of occasions in the last few years and seen vast swathes of the countryside that still haven't recovered after forty years. I've visited Vietnamese institutions for people with disabilities and have been staggered and horrified by the extent and number of these congenital malformations.
Vietnam has one of the highest incidence rates of these malformations on the planet. The use of this defoliant was an example of utter contempt of the natural environment. This mindset continues today in the attitude many of the sceptics. It is arrogant, totalitarian and basically suicidal.
These people can commit to future infanticide if they wish, but I don’t think it’s fair that they force the rest of us to join them.