The Controversy of Climate Change and Global Warming

The Controversy of Climate Change and Global Warming

The controversy surrounding climate change has a long,  twisted history, polluted with fear. People on both sides of the issue seem completely convinced that the opposing side is out of touch with reality. It probably does not help matters that so much of the debate around a changing climate is packed with political and ideological rhetoric.

Humans are very good at taking a potentially legitimate cause and distorting it to serve their own purposes, so that it is not exactly surprising that many Americans doubt climate change. Recently, President Obama stated that “climate change is a fact”, and also linked it to such things as increased droughts and floods. Of course, when a politician says these things, many listeners are automatically wary. When most Americans think of climate change, they usually think of the more traditional term “global warming”.

That phrase was coined by Wallace Broecker, a geochemist, in 1975. Technically, “global warming” simply refers to the increase of the allegedly average global surface temperature caused by human greenhouse gas emissions. However, “climate change” refers to all of the affects that this warming might have on the climate. A “greenhouse gas” is a gas that absorbs energy from the sun and re-emits it in all directions, including down to earth. The process is fairly complicated, but the basic idea is that an increase in greenhouse gases will cause the earth to heat up and, by extension, produce numerous changes in the earth’s climate.

Carbon dioxide is, of course, a greenhouse gas, so the fear is that human activity could have long-term environmental consequences for the world. The problem is, this process is not as simple as it seems and there seem to be a lot of potential unknowns. The most obvious unknown is how much do changes in weather really have to do with the greenhouse effect? Another issue surrounds the role of water vapor. Water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas and is the largest contributer to the greenhouse effect. On the surface, this would seem to imply that the greenhouse effect is mostly caused by natural processes. However it is asserted that carbon dioxide emissions actually increase the amount of water vapor in the air, thus the results of human activity are actually amplified by water vapor.

Apart from Obama’s claims in his State of the Union address, the most recent instance of climate change in the news involves the death of penguin chicks in southern Argentina. Essentially, the penguin chicks do not yet have water-proof feathers, so a sudden rainstorm can cause the young birds to die of exposure. The penguins actually nest in a fairly arid environment near the coast and the leading cause of death is predation by animals such as sea gulls. However, the fear is that if storms become more frequent and unpredictable it will become even tougher for the birds to survive to adulthood. A scientific study concluded that magellanic penguins breeding in Punta Tombo, Argentina have declined by 20% since 1987. The study does point out that there are a number of factors that have contributed to this decline, so it should not be conflated entirely with bad weather.

Although the majority of scientists are basically in consensus about climate change, it should not be assumed that there is no dissenting opinion in the scientific community. As with the decline of magellanic penguins, it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of environmental events. This is partly why well known scientist Freemon Dyson is a climate change sceptic. He asserts that the computer models used to predict climate change do not necessarily work for predicting things in the real world. There are a lot of possible factors that such models don’t take into consideration. Dyson also states that the proposed solutions to climate change will end up having a high cost for people, perhaps a higher cost than climate change itself. It seems that the fear and speculation surrounding climate change will not go away anytime soon. The situation is very complex and it’s difficult to get easy answers. It remains to be seen what the future holds in this regard. The controversy of global warming and climate change continues.

By Zach Kirkman

Sources:

NASA 

Real Climate Change

The Independent

Plosone News

BBC News




17 Responses to "The Controversy of Climate Change and Global Warming"

  1. stefanthedenier   January 30, 2014 at 9:47 pm

    GLOBAL warming is a mythology, not a fact – climate changing on the other hand, has always being changing and always will. Climate changing has nothing to do with the phony GLOBAL warming. The truth always wins on the end – until then, lots of ignorant will be ripped off.

    Reply
    • Mike conley   January 30, 2014 at 10:42 pm

      Stefan, that is just complete, reprehensible, pathetic foolishness.

      You really expect people to believe that thousands of credentialed climatologists around the world have spent years toiling away in smoke-filled labs, just to come up with a way to defraud their respective universities of grant money. And after all that science-y work, the best scam these big brains could come up with is a secular religion about ice melt and cow farts.

      Really? THAT’S the conspiracy? That’s the best money-making scheme that all these PhDs could come with? A theory that flies in the face of a slew of multinational corporations with $27 Trillion in proven reserves. THAT’S how they planned to make a fast buck? Throwing pebbles at a battalion of Goliaths?

      You REALLY think that 97% of the credentialed climatologists who actively publish in the field have secretly conspired to just make up all this global warming stuff, and have spent years in the field and the lab, and weeks on end writing reams of deadly dull papers… to satisfy what? Some deep-seated hatred of civilization, or capitalism, or the bullies who made them sit at the nerd table in high school?

      And even if that were true – which, by the way, it’s not – does it really seem credible to you that after all these years, none of them have ever turned apostate, and spilled the beans about the cabal they were a part of, and how the inner machinations of this international cesspool of evil, grant-mooching scientists has been able to function undercover for so long, and about how they kept their scheme and their real intent under wraps for so darn long. And that the only thing that even vaguely resembles a leak is the thoroughly debunked Anglia emails?

      Really?

      Talk about a mythology… You guys take the cake!

      .

      Reply
  2. John of Redlands   January 30, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Kimberley, this article is loaded with denialist rhetoric (read obfuscations), and it is clear that your audience providing comments is loaded with deluded people who in their ignorance, believe what you publish. It is despicable that you publish this trash, given the consequences down the track of people believing it and therefore doing nothing about anthropogenic climate change while they still have the opportunity to do so. Doesn’t it bother your conscience just a little about the havoc you are helping to wreak in our descendants lives, when if you and your ilk just stopped your misinformation campaign, people could get on with understanding the climate problem and work on fixing it?

    Reply
  3. Ted O.   January 30, 2014 at 3:13 am

    Dear Mr. Zach Kirkman,
    The 2000’s called, and they want their ‘controversy’ back.
    We know being a former member of the Flat Earth Society can be confusing,
    but it’s now time to stop writing articles that confuse others while making yourself feel better. Don’t worry, we still love you.
    Sincerley,
    “..the majority of scientists.. basically in consensus about climate change”

    Reply
    • Mike conley   January 30, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Good one, Ted.

      Reply
  4. J Sil   January 30, 2014 at 1:41 am

    Very well written article, and extremely accurate. Yes I realize that those of one mindset tend to be prone to a nearly militant knee jerk reaction, but they need to take a deep breath and really read the article … he is right, there are many aspects to this issue, political, accuracy, financial, geo-political. Even the most die hard eco-terrorist and the most climate change skeptic would agree that this is an extremely far reaching issue. So let’s all listen a little more, and attack a little less. What can be done about the greatest polluting nation on the planet ? ( and no it is not the US ), if heavy tax burdens are forced on people, shouldn’t the money be used for the sole purpose of enviornmental remedies? Are ere such things as true environmental remedies? Clearly this is a human issue, not just an American issue, the gross share of environmental issues are caused by third world nations who culturally view the issue with far less urgency, how is that changed? Given that the vast majority of the belief of these concerns is based on just 50 to 100 years of science should probably not mean it should be dismissed ( I mean really we use the discoveries of the past 100 years as gospel truth in every part of our lives, so this should not be dismissed out of hand ) but, neither should the fact that the earth has always been in a state of “climate change” and has been for a very very veryyyyy long time. Lighten up people, no reason to go Gestapo just because some says there is more to it than what fits neatly into a supporting role of your point of view.

    Reply
  5. Mike conley   January 30, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Willis – The last 17 years are a level step on a rising escalator. Please see:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=47

    Reply
    • cls   January 30, 2014 at 1:11 pm

      The last 17 years aren’t really that level. It turns out the Arctic was undercounted in the GISS and HadCRUT4 databases most scientists use. When you count it fully, the global average surface temperature has been rising the whole time. See Cowtan and Way 2013.

      Reply
  6. Ken   January 30, 2014 at 12:26 am

    Climate change has been a constant since the earth began and man will not be able to alter the climate no matter how idealistic he/she Or she is. Climate change is a conveniiant vehicle for the true believers that desire bigger and more invasive government. The climate will change no matter how much money is thrown at preventing it. Spend your time and energy on adapting rather than fighting it. Call me practical rather than a skeptic

    Reply
  7. NOYB   January 30, 2014 at 12:25 am

    God created Earth a mere 5000 years ago. When God created it, He put it in the center of the Universe and made it flat. All of the stars in the universe orbit this tiny flat disk, except for a few that oscillate back and forth across the sky. Satan planted what appear to be bones of great mythological creatures to lure man away from faith. And all of the creatures of the earth were planted here exactly the way they appear today and exactly the way they’ll appear tomorrow and exactly the way they’ll appear at Judgement Day. Yes, the climate has changed over the last 50 centuries, but man is arrogant to think that he is significant enough to have caused a change of even 1 degree let alone five or six! And, being so insignificant, humans can continue ‘multiply’ their numbers far beyond seven, eight, ten or even twenty billion souls. To think otherwise is heresy.

    Reply
    • Joe Parente   January 30, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      There’s actually people who believe this fairy tale? No wonder we’re screwing our environment up. Some people refuse to, or can’t think.

      Reply
  8. Willis Eschenbach   January 30, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Somehow, the author failed to note that there has been no statistically significant in 17 years. This “pause” has even (finally) attracted the attention of the IPCC, and is generally accepted by climate scientists … so it is a measure of the author’s ignorance that she appears not to know about it. She does wax lyrical about the penguin chicks, however … you can read about them here.

    w.

    Reply
  9. Panskeptic   January 30, 2014 at 12:08 am

    There is no equivalency. One side has 97% of the scientists in the field, the other has Big Oil protecting their profits. The same PR firm Big Tobacco retained to fight the link with cancer is now working for the Oil Patch denying science once again.

    Reply
    • BruceLanc   January 30, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Well… except Hans Von Storch… the guy who created most of the models they are using. Von Storch says he goofed pretty bad and none of the models are producing accurate results. He feels like they overestimated the importance of C02 by a factor of about a thousand… or in other words, C02 is turing out to have pretty much zilch to do with anything at least on a level that man can generate or be responsible for. He says the models all predicted a continuing warming trend and none of them indicated the very flat decade capped off by a cooling year, and now that the data is in for 2013, another cooling year, and just judging by North America and the entirety of Europe right now, 2014 is entirely likely to be another cooling year. Huh. So, the guy who created the models is telling us he is sorry because the models are completely useless. And you think 97% of such scientists didn’t notice the same thing Von Storch did? Good thing you aren’t in charge. We would all be up a creek.

      Reply
      • Marc McDonald   January 30, 2014 at 12:38 am

        re: the views of Hans von Storch. You are over-simplifying and misrepresenting von Storch’s views. Here is a direct quote from von Storch:
        “Based on the scientific evidence, I am convinced that we are facing anthropogenic climate change brought about by the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

        Reply
  10. John Sellers   January 30, 2014 at 12:00 am

    I think that the controversy over climate change has more to do with the fact that Al Gore is a Democrat and the Koch Brothers are in the Oil Business.

    The facts are well known, and well established. Sorry friends, but this is simply a truth that is very inconvenient for certain special interests.

    Reply
  11. Whys Alives   January 29, 2014 at 11:58 pm

    There is no controversy, just willful ignorance and faith based denial.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.