Monday, March 29, 2010

The Changing Climate Debate

It has been an eventful few months for people following the "settled" climate change debate. Last December began with the Climategate scandal involving emails that have raised questions about the data the International Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has relied on to make its forecasts. That was followed by the spectacular failure at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. January brought an upset special election in Massachusetts that made already skittish moderate Democrats even less inclined to vote on a climate change bill. Then there was the discovery that some of the IPCC’s most extreme predictions about the impact of climate change were based not on peer-reviewed science but reports by environmental advocacy groups. And finally, the head of the U.N. Climate Change treaty process recently resigned and said that an international climate agreement was unlikely this year.

The momentum for passing climate change legislation that had been building over the last few years appears to be crumbling under the weight of misguided priorities. A healthy discussion about the science or realistic emission reduction goals was replaced by schemes to create a carbon market Wall Street could profit from and advocating an unprecedented level of government central planning.

All of these developments are a sign that the entire conversation needs to be changed. In many ways, the debate is stuck in the 1990s and needs to instead focus on the realities of today. Developed versus developing countries is becoming an irrelevant concept. Globalization has fueled the rapid economic growth of several Asian countries, and made it clear that emissions-dependent industry can rapidly shift operations to avoid regulation. The focus needs to be on all major economies, where the bulk of emissions are generated now or will be in the future. All major economies need to be on board if a global climate change solution is going to be effective.

Energy security needs to be a front and center concern. We cannot take our energy resources for granted. China sure isn't. China is investing all over the world in traditional and alternative forms of energy. They are investing in the Canadian oil sands, oil reserves in Africa, and produce 95 percent of the world’s rare earth elements that are essential to the manufacture of wind mills and hybrid car batteries. They are securing their energy future while we dither over policies that will do nothing to address global greenhouse gas emissions or energy security. We need to develop our domestic energy resources and tap into the resources of friendly trading partners like Canada and Mexico.

If we don’t change the conversation and our priorities, we will be less energy secure and will have done nothing to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What Are We To Make of This?

For a little over two years, I have been fortunate enough to have had the time to carefully examine issues of public importance like global warming. The "science," as the proponents of global warming like to say, is a closed book and those who refuse to accept it are immediately labeled "deniers." Having read most of the "science," I was, until six months ago, mostly convinced that it was settled.

As I have stated in this space previously, I am concerned, and will remain so until convinced otherwise by observation, and the application of logic and reason, that the solutions to the greenhouse gas conundrum need to be carefully scrutinized so that they do not make matters worse rather than better.

So far, national cap and trade, regional cap and trade, and cap and trade, in general, make me nervous because I pride myself on not being fooled more than once. When Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other "banks" are major supporters of this solution, like they were of making housing more affordable through the use of "derivatives" and other calculus (that is neither transparent nor particularly well understood 2.5 years into the housing catastrophe!), I remain highly skeptical of cap and trade, of any variety, period, and so should you.

However, putting the half-baked but lucrative for the banks and investors, cap and trade game aside for a minute, what are we to think of the March 5, 2010 SCIENCE article entitled,

"Contributions of Stratospheric Water Vapor to Decadal Changes in the Rate of Global Warming"?

Now this article really does confuse me since, if the "science" is settled, well, read the summary for yourself and, if you have the tenacity read the whole article, and you decide whether healthy skepticism is really denial or, in fact, highly rational and in the general public's best interest. Before we poor billions down the next "housing affordability-type" rat hole, "greenhouse gas amelioration," it would be highly logical if the most prestigious science publication could help us resolve the "science" of the issue more precisely and "permanently."

Originally published in Science Express on 28 January 2010
Science 5 March 2010:
Vol. 327. no. 5970, pp. 1219 - 1223
DOI: 10.1126/science.1182488


Contributions of Stratospheric Water Vapor to Decadal Changes in the Rate of Global Warming

Susan Solomon,1 Karen H. Rosenlof,1 Robert W. Portmann,1 John S. Daniel,1 Sean M. Davis,1,2Todd J. Sanford,1,2 Gian-Kasper Plattner3

Stratospheric water vapor concentrations decreased by about 10% after the year 2000. Here we show that this acted to slow the rate of increase in global surface temperature over 2000–2009 by about 25% compared to that which would have occurred due only to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. More limited data suggest that stratospheric water vapor probably increased between 1980 and 2000, which would have enhanced the decadal rate of surface warming during the 1990s by about 30% as compared to estimates neglecting this change. These findings show that stratospheric water vapor is an important driver of decadal global surface climate change.

1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth System Research Laboratory, Chemical Sciences Division, Boulder, CO, USA.
2 Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.
3 Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, 3012 Bern, Switzerland.