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One Degree of Separation - Global Hot Air


Sterling Hot-Air Engine. Click to enlarge.The world, and especially all of blogville has exploded with the release of the IPCC’s executive summary of its 2007 Climate Change: The Physical Basis. A web search for anything to do with global warming seems to yield just as many blogs that talk about the "myths" of global warming (e.g. see JunkScience) as there are "myths about myths" about global warming (e.g. see The Environmental Defense Fund site). How can anyone navigate through this stream of flotsam/jetsam? How do these blogs do anything but attract those who already believe in that point of view, or are leaning heavily that way?

Not even political persuasion is a good predictor of what you’ll find out there. For example, read Facts and Myths about Global Warming: A Conservative Perspective at the The Green Elephant site. Green Elephant being the Republicans for Environmental Protection, of course.

Then there is the godfather of the anti-warming crowd - none other than the king of science fact/fiction media success - Michael Crichton (see my previous post on Crichton’s role in the GW debate). His recent lecture The Impossibility of Prediction is a good example of why Crichton is listened-to and often quoted, especially by members of the Bush administration who, at least until this week’s IPCC report, were quite sure that there was a good deal of controversy about all of this global warming hullabaloo. In his speech, Crichton comes across as pushing for fact-based science, when in fact he dismisses the very tool that all scientists must rely on when making predictions: the use of models for the prediction.

What in the world could possibly be causing such a globally heated debate? There are as many answers to this question as there are blogs currently writing about the IPCC report, including this one.

One answer came to me as a bit of serendipity in the form of a brief e-mail from Jim - an acquaintance who believes that the Democratic Party ceased to exist after FDR:

I heard this just a few days ago on a talk show. Someone whose father was a meteorologist for all his life and had average daily temperature records since 1894 claims the average daily temperature for most areas where records were kept has changed only 1 degree since the records were kept. While one may ask why the 1 degree change, that sounds a whole lot less alarming than what Al Gore is claiming.

So, did I write Jim back with what was wrong with this argument? That 1 degree over a century is a whole lot more than what should have happened, and if we don’t do something about it, models predict that we’ll see another 2.4 degrees in just 50 years? That the temperature change is just one of many events - the rapid disappearance of arctic ice, e.g. - that are harbingers of global warming? That 1000’s of scientists aren’t in a grand conspiracy to cripple the US economy by forcing us to adhere to Kyoto-agreed-to levels of CO2 emissions?

Nah, I didn’t write any of this. Once he dropped the Al Gore reference, I knew it was too late. Boy, could there ever be a more inconvenient messenger to deliver such an Inconvenient Truth than Al? The political overtones of message and messenger are just too much for most to tolerate, let alone disentangle. And this is just the beginning, because the politics of global warming will soon turn out to be the hottest of hot political benchmarks - already Democratic presidential hopefuls are staking out some of the greener landscape.

So I told Jim to start his own blog (and that I would help him do this). And I can see a post along the lines of "myths about myths about myths" about global warming.

It’s already getting more than 1 degree warmer….