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Fw: [nhnenews] CC: The Climate Debate Is Changing

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    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2005
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      By Dan Whipple
      January 3, 2005


      BOULDER, CO - The global warming debate will shift in the United States in
      2005 because evidence that the phenomenon is real has reached a crescendo.

      The catalyst for the shift is not some esoteric discovery by an atmospheric
      scientist, but a fairly simple paper by a history professor, Naomi Oreskes
      of the University of California, San Diego.

      Oreskes has found there is a "scientific consensus" on global warming --
      that is, it is real and it is being caused by humans.

      Oreskes' paper's strength is its simplicity. It is something everyone can
      understand, without knowing the chemistry of carbon dioxide in the

      She looked at nearly 1,000 technical papers in the peer-reviewed scientific
      literature and could not find a single one that disagreed with "the basic
      consensus statement, that CO2 is increasing, that it is changing the
      chemistry of the atmosphere, and it's having discernible effects," she told
      UPI's Climate. Further, she added, these CO2 increases are the result of
      human activity.

      There has been an avalanche of evidence indicating the effects of warming
      are being felt more and more on the planet. In only the last six months:

      -- The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment found winter temperatures in the
      Arctic have increased by 4 degrees to 7 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees to 4
      degrees Celsius) in the past 50 years and should go up about twice that much
      more in the next hundred;

      -- Arctic summer sea ice will decline by 50 percent by the end of the 21st
      century, the ACIA found, with some models predicting complete disappearance
      of summer sea ice;

      -- Coastal native villages in the Arctic are eroding, requiring relocating
      their inhabitants further inland;

      -- Climate change is affecting the migration patterns, habitat preferences
      and ecology of hundreds of animal species in the United States, according a
      report by the Pew Foundation;

      -- Floating ice shelves in Antarctica, stable for the past 13,000 years,
      have collapsed;

      -- Glaciers around the world are melting at rates unprecedented for
      thousands of years;

      -- Glaciers in Antarctica -- previously thought to be relatively immune from
      warming trends -- are thinning and speeding up dramatically.

      "We're beginning to push past the normal range of climate variability of the
      Holocene (post-Ice-Age period)," said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the
      Snow and Ice Data Center in Denver. "We're seeing the first few steps, the
      first few responses of a globally warming world. People will point back to
      these first few years of the 21st century and say that this is when we saw
      it in the polar regions."

      The polar changes could mean a dramatic increase in sea-level rise, he said,
      well beyond current projections.

      "I don't want to mince words," Scambos told Climate. "It looks to me like we
      are headed toward a more rapid sea-level rise than projected by the IPCC
      (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report."

      In 2001, the panel had predicted a range of 4 inches to 30 inches (11
      centimeters to 77 centimeters) in sea-level rise between the years 1990 and

      Each piece has its critics, of course, but taken as a whole, across many
      disciplines, the mounting evidence presents a strong case global warming is
      real and it already is causing tangible effects that are at least
      potentially serious.

      Whether the effects are serious and damaging enough to warrant potentially
      expensive actions -- such as attempting to curtail CO2 emissions -- should
      now become the focus of the debate in the United States and elsewhere.

      Because the Oreskes paper is easy to understand, and because she did not
      find even a single paper dissenting from the consensus position, there has a
      flurry of Internet commentary downplaying the meaning of this consensus.

      Roger Pielke Jr., of the University of Colorado's Center for Science and
      Technology Policy Research, wrote in "Prometheus: The Science Policy
      Weblog," that "I am amazed by the recent attention being paid to the issue
      of a scientific consensus on climate change. Naomi Oreskes wrote an article
      a few weeks back in (the journal) Science, claiming that a literature review
      shows that a central statement of consensus reported in the IPCC is indeed a
      consensus. Since that article was published, debate and discussion has taken
      place on, among other things, whether it is in fact a unanimous perspective
      rather than the overwhelming view of most scientists."

      Roy Spencer, of the University of Alabama-Huntsville, argued on the Web site
      TechCentral Station that Oreskes' definition of what issue on which everyone
      apparently agreed was so weak it was nearly meaningless.

      "Let's be honest about what that consensus refers to," Spencer wrote, "that
      'humans influence the climate.' Not that 'global warming is a serious threat
      to mankind.'"

      Interpretations aside, the studies included in the Oreskes paper also show
      the costs and benefits of climate change are not distributed evenly. The
      climate will change differently for different regions. Some studies indicate
      the United States, for instance, may come out a net winner from a warmer
      climate. On the other hand, the burden is expected to fall heavily on poor
      and developing countries. What else is new?

      Even if humanity strides through the changes unbowed, other residents of
      Planet Earth might not fare so well -- polar bears dependent on vanishing
      Arctic sea ice, for example, or pikas at alpine altitudes with a lifestyle
      evolved to survive in near-permanent snow cover.

      Hard-headed and pragmatic policymakers usually give short shrift to policy
      recommendation that cannot be measured in dollars, but these softer issues
      of human responsibility to the rest of creation have been an important
      driver of many environmental polices over the past 35 years. Global warming
      quickly may become another one of these arenas.


      Climate is a weekly series examining the science behind and potential impact
      of global climate change, by Dan Whipple, who covers environmental issues
      for UPI Science News.






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