Global Warming: Pouring Cold Water On Skeptics’ Claims
|February 15, 2007|
||Pouring Cold Water On Skeptics’ Claims|
||Go Beyond The Headlines|
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Earlier this month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that confirmed and refined what scientists already knew: The recent global warming trend is real, it is caused primarily by human activities, and we can expect further dangerous warming of a few degrees if we don’t reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases. Despite the very high level of confidence that the IPCC placed on this assertion, climate skeptics refuse to allow themselves to be convinced by the facts. Global warming deniers — desperate for any information that might contravene the science — have latched onto this month’s colder-than-normal temperatures that have gripped much of the United States, particularly the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. In a recent headline, the Drudge Report joked, “Hearing on ‘warming of planet’ canceled because of ice storm.” Many on the right have cited the joke as actual proof that climate change isn’t occurring. The right-wing publication Newsmax.com referenced the headline to claim global warming is part of the “current media fed hysteria.” In fact, the temperature patterns we are currently experiencing are exactly what increasing greenhouse gas emissions predicts: climate destabilization. Still, many wonder why is it so cold if there’s global warming? Today’s Progress Report tells you what you need to know to counter the skeptics.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN WEATHER AND CLIMATE: To understand why the current cold snap across the United States is occurring during a global warming trend, one must first understand the distinction between climate and weather. Climate is the “composite or generally prevailing weather conditions of a region, as temperature, air pressure, humidity, precipitation, sunshine, cloudiness, and winds, throughout the year, averaged over a series of years.” In other words, climate refers to recorded history. Weather, on the hand, is current events; it refers to the “state of the atmosphere at a given time and place.” Weather is a snapshot of the climate at any one instant. Although the two are related, their relationship is indirect. “The chaotic nature of weather means that no conclusion about climate can ever be drawn from a single data point, hot or cold. The temperature of one place at one time…says nothing about climate, much less climate change, much less global climate change.”
WHY ALL THE SNOW?: Scientists have said “snowfall is often predicted to increase in many regions in response to anthropogenic [human-induced] climate change, since warmer air, all other things being equal, holds more moisture, and therefore, the potential for greater amounts of precipitation whatever form that precipitation takes.” Based on computer models, a recent study by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) found, “As Earth gets warmer, large regions will experience heavier rain and snowfall as weather becomes generally more intense.” The reason for the increase in storm intensity is that as the planet warms, “the temperatures of the atmosphere and of the ocean surface go up as well, leading to increased evaporation and an increased capacity for the air to hold moisture. As this soggy air moves from ocean to land, the storms that form are heavier with rain or snow.” The NCAR climate models have predicted that heavier rains and/or snow would most likely affect regions where large masses of air converge, including northwestern and northeastern North America. Take for instance the record snowfall that has hit upstate New York. This event would be predicted by the climate models because the “lake effect” snowfalls are greatly influenced by the warm waters of Lake Ontario. As cold Arctic air moves over the warm waters, the water evaporates and cools, it condenses to form clouds, and the clouds ultimately produce snowfall. The warmer the lake waters, the more snow that will be produced. True to form, the waters on Lake Ontario this year were warmer than usual. “This winter, there’s no way the lake will freeze.” Therefore, a cold snap heightens the chance of heavy snow.
A CLEAR WARMING TREND: The long-term trends present clear evidence that climate change is “real and serious.” The IPCC report noted that the “the warmth of the last half century is unusual in at least the previous 1300 years.” Of the 12 hottest years on record, 11 have occurred since 1995. The 2006 average annual temperature for the contiguous United States was the warmest on record and nearly identical to the record set in 1998, according to scientists at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center. In 2006, five states had their warmest December on record (Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire) and no state was colder than average. The Japan Meteorological Agency reported that January 2007 was the world’s hottest January on record, with temperatures across the planet registering 0.45 degrees Celsius (0.8 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. Residents of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area have this week been hit by a “gusty wintry wallop” and are experiencing below-average temperatures for this month. Yet, the deviation below the average temperature for February is still less than the above-average deviation that D.C. residents experienced during the month of January. While the climate change trend is clear, the weather patterns at different moments in time will be hard to predict.
ETHICS — OIL LOBBYIST AND TOP BUSH ENVIRONMENTAL PROSECUTOR SHARE $1 MILLION VACATION HOME: “Nine months before agreeing to let ConocoPhillips delay a half-billion-dollar pollution cleanup,” the government’s top environmental prosecutor Sue Ellen Wooldbridge “bought a $1 million vacation home with the company’s top lobbyist,” the AP reports. “Also in on the Kiawah Island, S.C., house deal was former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, the highest-ranking Bush administration official targeted for criminal prosecution in the Jack Abramoff corruption probe.” Griles, now an oil and gas lobbyist, “began dating Wooldridge while he was her boss at Interior. He was the department’s No. 2 official from July 2001 to Jan. 2005, behind only former Secretary Gale Norton. He and [Donald] Duncan, a ConocoPhillips vice president who runs the company’s Washington office, both served on President Bush’s presidential transition team — Griles for the Interior Department, Duncan for the Energy Department. Duncan has played a major role in getting the Bush administration’s backing for a proposed $25 billion natural gas pipeline reaching from Alaska to Midwest markets.” The Justice Department says Wooldbridge’s involvement in the deal was cleared by ethics officials, which Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said signaled a “breakdown of ethics” at the department. Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says it will investigate and request documents on the real estate deal.
HEALTH CARE — U.S. RANKS NEAR BOTTOM IN CHILD WELFARE: Among developed nations, the United States ranked second-to-last in child welfare, according to a study released yesterday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Out of the 21 countries studied, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark topped the first through third slots, respectively, with the United Kingdom faring the worst. UNICEF used six criteria to compare the nations: material well-being, health, education, relationships, behaviors and risks, and young people’s sense of happiness. Jonathan Bradshaw, a contributing researcher, said kids fared so poorly in the United States because of greater economic inequality and poor social programs for families. Bradshaw also mentioned that the “dog-eat-dog” competition in jobs in wealthier countries that means adults spend less time with children. Additionally, the U.S. ranked at the bottom in children’s health and safety, mainly because of high rates of child mortality and accidental deaths. Some US officials were quick to dismiss the study. But Bradshaw countered: “What [the U.S. and U.K.] have in common are very high levels of inequality, very high levels of child poverty, which is also associated with inequality, and in rather different ways poorly developed services to families with children.”
HUMAN RIGHTS — ADMINISTRATION PUSHES FLAWED DETAINEE TRIALS FORWARD: Yesterday, President Bush signed an executive order on the “trial of alien unlawful enemy combatants by military commission.” The order allows the U.S. government to proceed with prosecution of suspected “unlawful enemy combatants,” using “hearsay evidence” and “testimony obtained through abusive interrogation techniques.” The defendants can be denied access to any classified exculpatory evidence. Bush’s move is a “technical step required by the Military Commissions Act of 2006,” ”a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.” The president’s executive order comes a day after Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-CT) introduction of the “Restoring the Constitution Act.” The bill would restore habeas corpus protections to Guantanamo Bay detainees, create an independent court review to military commission rulings, and bar information obtained through torture. Dodd — who has said he takes “a backseat to no one when it comes to protecting the country from terrorists” — justified his challenges to the Military Commissions Act: “[I]n taking away [detainees'] legal rights, the rights first codified in our country’s Constitution, we’re taking away our own moral compass, as well.” The legislation, which is predicted to receive “bipartisan support” in Congress, addresses the major concerns of several prominent human and civil rights organizations including Human Rights Watch.
“The U.S. Central Command’s war plan for invading Iraq postulated in August 2002 that the U.S. would have only 5,000 troops left in Iraq as of December 2006,” according to newly released documents. “Completely unrealistic assumptions about a post-Saddam Iraq permeate these war plans,” said an official from the National Security Archive, which obtained the documents.
The Los Angeles Times examines whether the Iranian Quds Forces, accused of smuggling weapons to Shiite forces in Iraq, are controlled by the Iranian government. The conclusion: “Experts aren’t sure.”
Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) will today outline his plan to begin ending the war in Iraq “by stopping the deployment of troops from units that have been badly degraded by four years of combat.” Murtha’s legislation will require that U.S. troops who have already served be granted adequate time at home before redeploying, and that “any troops sent to Iraq must be�??deemed fully trained and equipped under existing military standards.”
State Farm, which insures one out of every three Mississippi homes, has decided to “stop writing new home and commercial policies throughout Mississippi,” which “could prompt other insurers to retreat further from the Katrina-battered region.”
“Lobbyists eager to revive the practice of taking staffers out for a few beers” are encouraged by a House memo that states that even under new ethics rules, lawmakers and staff can accept “food or refreshments of a nominal value offered other than as part of a meal.” “Happy hours are OK again,” said one corporate source.
Scooter Libby’s defense team rested after giving a “stripped-down version of their case.” Defense attorneys did not present the “testimony of their proposed final witnesses” because the presiding judge ruled it “would be unfair to allow such testimony because Libby had decided not to testify and could not be cross-examined.”
The 25-count indictment disclosed yesterday against defense contractor Brent Wilkes shows he obtained a stream of Pentagon contracts “by providing then-Rep. Cunningham with cash and other bribes valued at more than $700,000,” including “two prostitutes for the lawmaker on Aug. 15 and 16, 2003, at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Hawaii.” “Pursuant to Cunningham’s request,” the indictment states, “Wilkes arranged for the Congressman to get a different prostitute for the second evening.”
“UK aid agency Oxfam has warned a new humanitarian catastrophe, like that in Darfur, could happen in Chad if ethnic conflict is not brought under control. �?? More than 120,000 Chadians have so far been forced from their homes in brutal inter-ethnic attacks that bear all the hallmarks of the violence seen across the border in Sudan.”
And finally: Papa Bear’s new favorite ice cream? Ben & Jerry’s unveiled “Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream,” a new ice cream flavor that promises customers the “sweet taste of liberty in your mouth.” “I’m not afraid to say it. Dessert has a well-known liberal agenda,” Colbert said. “What I hope to do with this ice cream is bring some balance back to the freezer case.”
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