Friday, December 5, 2014

The Great Climate Change Debate - NOT!

The media in the US and around the world continue to frame Climate Change as if there were some debate as to whether it is occurring.  What we mean when we say the phrase "Climate Change" or "Global Warming" is the abrupt change in the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere with the resulting dramatic increase in the average surface and water temperatures of the planet.  A more correct term to describe what is going on is Anthropocentric Climate Change, meaning that it is being created largely by carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels being burned by human beings.  

The science of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere trapping heat has been known for over 100 years.  The effect was first described by Svante Arrhenius a Swedish scientist who was the first to claim in 1896 that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming.   His theory was not verified until 1987.  In 2003 NASA scientist James Hansen published a paper called "Can We Defuse the Global Warming Time Bomb?" in which he argued that human-caused forces on the climate are now greater than natural ones, and that this, over a long time period, can cause large climate changes.  From this point forward he spearheaded awareness of abrupt climate change caused by greenhouse gases and became a controversial figurehead.  

Climate science has advanced dramatically in the intervening years and there are literally thousands of PhD climate scientists around the world that have verified various aspects of abrupt climate change and the forcings that are accelerating this change.  In 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was formed to "prepare, based on available scientific information, assessments on all aspects of climate change and its impacts, with a view of formulating realistic response strategies."  The IPCC continues to produce highly detailed reports every seven years about climate change and its impacts.  These reports are drafted in order to enhance awareness of this issue for policymakers and the public and include suggestions for mitigation.
I thought I would create a hypothetical TV interview to point up the foolishness of the so-called "debate" centered around climate change.  Picture a reporter interviewing 3 individuals in a kitchen looking at a pot of water on the stove with a gas flame turned up high beneath it.  Here is the transcript of their conversation:

Reporter: "Gentlemen, in front of us we see a pot of water on the stove with the burner turned up high, what are your opinions about the temperature of the water in the pot?"

Politician: "I saw that when you put the water in the pot you used the cold faucet, so eventually the water will warm up to room temperature as a natural process.  I am not a scientist so I can't say what the effect of the gas flame will have on the temperature of the water.  Furthermore, I question any implication that the natural gas flame is harmful in any way or that it could potentially raise the temperature of the water to dangerous levels." 

Reporter: "You raise an important point about natural gas."

Fossil fuel lobbyist: "Yes, it is called natural gas for a good reason.  Burning clean natural gas to heat water is an optimal way to heat water.  I look forward to sharing a nice cup of tea with you gentlemen in a few minutes."

Reporter: "Mr. Climate Scientist, perhaps you can give us some scientific background about what is going on here?"

Climate Scientist: "I have a PhD in climate science so I am fully qualified to explain the science to you.  Since we know that the flame temperature of natural gas is approximately 1960°C (3560°F).  If we do not turn down the gas flame, the water temperature will inevitably reach a boiling point at 100°C (212°F) at sea level.   Using science we can accurately predict when that boiling point will occur and we can be certain that there will be a significant amount of steam and the water will be significantly disturbed by bubbles rising from the bottom of the pan.  Some boiling water might escape the pan so I advise you to keep your distance."

Reporter:  "Are you sure about that?  I can put my finger in the water and it is not very hot, but thank you for sharing your opinions about the potential increase in temperature of the water.  But isn't it true that if we were at a higher elevation that the water would take longer to boil?"

Climate Scientist: "To clarify, I have not expressed any opinions I am simply citing scientific facts as they are known by almost all the scientists on the planet.  It is not true that water would take longer to boil at a higher elevation, in fact it would take less time because water boils at a lower temperature when the air pressure is lower.  For instance at 10,000 feet water boils at 193.6 °F (89.8 °C).  This too is a known fact.  Perhaps you are referring to the fact that it takes longer to cook food at high temperatures because the boiling temperature of water is lower."

Reporter: "It is kind of chilly in the room isn't it?  Why don't we all hold our hands up close to the stove so that we can be more comfortable.  There, doesn't that feel better!"

Climate Scientist: "Given the relatively small size of this kitchen and the amount of gas that we are burning.  I am quite concerned that the CO2 levels in this room will reach harmful levels in the foreseeable future.  I have an instrument that is tracking the parts per million of CO2 in the air and see that it has already risen significantly, and I can warn you that if we do not open a window or turn the flame off that CO2 levels will be unhealthy in the foreseeable future."

Fossil Fuel Lobbyist: "Don't be such an alarmist, it would take hours or maybe even days for the CO2 from burning clean natural gas to have any significant effect.  I for one would rather be warm wouldn't you?  You are talking about something that may not happen for a long time and I am cold right now."

Reporter: "Great, so while we are waiting for the water to get hot enough to make tea, we have a side benefit that the room is getting warmer too.   We can worry about CO2 levels later if that even becomes a concern.   Thank you gentlemen for your time."

Climate Scientist: "Don't say I didn't warn you!"

Politician: "Thank you, I look forward to a nice cup of tea with you."

Fossil Fuel Lobbyist: "Don't forget that Natural gas is one of the cleanest burning fuels on the planet."

Reporter: "We are out of time let's go to Fred at the weather desk who is reporting on the massive snowstorm that has dumped 6 feet of snow on Detroit."