Global Warming, Chapter Three

August 13, 2007 at 5:36 am (Climatology, College Related, Global Warming, Politics)

Chapter Three:
The Skeptics Arguments

While the majority of climate scientists agree that the earth’s atmosphere is heating up and the heating is a result of human industrial impact, there are skeptics who try to disprove global warming. The skeptics of global warming do not believe that policy change regarding pollution is necessary. Some believe that climate change is a completely natural occurrence and that human industrial activity has nothing to do at all with the rise in the earth’s temperature. Others argue that although there may be a rise in temperature, it is being over-exaggerated by the advocates of policy change. Some argue that a warming in the Earth’s temperature will be beneficial to mankind.

Argument 1: Global Warming is not caused by Humans

In the book, Climate of Fear by Thomas Gale Moore, the argument that climate change is not a human related occurrence is presented. He also argues that, although an increase in greenhouse gases will affect the climate, the result will not have a negative impact on human beings. Therefore, he believes policy change is not necessary.

One warning that scientists have about global warming is that melting ice caps will raise sea levels. Moore argues that “Any rise in sea levels will be small; the levels may even drop. Accordingly, even though the oceans may warm marginally and thus expand, increased precipitation and especially snowfall in Antarctica will add to the amount of water trapped in glaciers and perhaps lead to a net fall in water levels” (14). In other words, he is saying that if rainfall increases due to global warming there will not be a melting of glaciers or a rise in sea level because increased precipitation will actually cause the sea level to fall as more water is trapped in glaciers. However, he does not address the fact that glaciers are already disapearing and the north pole is losing its ice sheets at a rapid rate due to melting.

Even though climate change has already affected the Sahel and other areas around the world, there are still those that argue that global warming is not an issue that requires lowering emission standards for polluting industries.

Argument 2: Predictions Regarding Earth’s Temperatures and the Effects of Global Warming are Over-Exaggerated

One researcher by the name of Stephen McIntire believes that the rise in the earth’s temperature over the past 100 years is a result of natural climate cycles of the earth, and that scientists are wrong about how much the earth has warmed over the past 100 years. McIntyre began studying a famous hockey stick graph (so called for its shape, below) that was used in a report titled Summary for Policymakers, 2001 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. The IPCC is a panel of scientists and government representatives that have been studying and reporting evidence of global warming and climate change for many years. The 2001 report suggests policy change for industrialized countries to reduce the effects of global warming. The graph showed that during the last century the earth’s temperature had risen higher than it had since 1400 AD.

The graph was originally the result of calculations from an article called MBH98 by Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes that proposed a new way of calculating the earth’s temperature as far back as 1400 AD using data from tree rings and glaciers. Using this method, the authors calculated that over the last one-hundred years, the earth’s temperature had risen faster and higher than any other period from 1400 to present. As a follow-up to this article a year later Mann, Bradley and Hughes published MBH99 which included the graph below. The data they gathered using tree rings and glaciers ultimately showed a rising trend in the earth’s temperature over the last 100 years.

300Px-Hockey Stick Chart Ipcc
MBH99 “Hockey Stick Graph” by Mann et. al.

Based on the hockey-stick graph, evidence showed that the earth was warming at a rate higher than any previous time since the 1400’s. McIntyre claims to have proven that the data used to support the graph was wrong and that the earth’s temperature had risen higher than today’s temperatures during the Renaissance period without the help of carbon emissions, therefore, today’s rise in temperature is natural and not related to carbon dioxide.

An essay by Ross McKitrick tells the story of how Stephen McIntyre decided to take it upon himself to investigate the data that led to the hockey stick curve of the graph. McIntyre believed that by using the proposed method in MBH98, he could duplicate the MBH99 hockey stick graph. Ross writes, “So instead of simply trying to plot up the proxy data and see what it looked like, Steve decided to do something much more ambitious. He decided to verify MBH98 by replicating its calculations” (Michaels 23). Ross insists that McIntyre’s intention was not to disprove the hockey-stick graph, but to duplicate it using the data provided by Mann. However, there were disputes between Mann and McIntyre over the data that Mann provided. McIntyre believed there were inconsistencies in the data used for the original graph and in Mann’s explanation of the graph. McIntyre claimed to have found variables that were incorrect in Mann’s calculations.

McIntyre recalculated the math with data he himself had gathered, and a new graph emerged. McIntyre’s graph showed that there had been a spike in the earth’s temperature during the Renaissance period that was even higher than today’s rise (40). The scientist concluded that because this rise in temperature had occurred before the introduction of excess carbon dioxide the current rise in temperature might also be a natural phenomenon. McKitrick and McIntyre concluded that if the evidence in MBH99 was wrong, policy change was not necessary to slow global warming. They continue writing articles about McIntyre’s conclusions.

This was devastating to the IPCC Summary for Policy Change. MBH98 was essential to proving that greenhouse gases emitted by human beings were causing the atmosphere to warm at a rapid rate. If there had been a rise in temperature in the fifteenth century, before the introduction of emissions, than the warming of the last century might not be related to human activities. Therefore, policy change regarding global warming would be a waste of time and money.

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