Saturday, June 27, 2009

Viewpoint: Humans Cause Warming

MIAMI — The science behind climate change is complex, and there still is much to learn. But it’s clear that our climate is undergoing dramatic changes, and there is strong scientific evidence that human activity is the primary cause.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an international body of experts charged with providing a comprehensive, objective and transparent assessment of the science of climate change. I had the privilege of working on the panel’s most recent Fourth Assessment Report.

Our conclusion: The warming of the planet is “unequivocal,” and most of the warming over the past half century is caused by human activity.

The panel is not alone. The U.S. National Academy of Science — the most prestigious scientific organization in our country — has endorsed this conclusion, along with virtually every other mainstream scientific organization of relevance.

Many are surprised or even doubtful that such scientific accord exists, their perceptions of climate change often being shaped by seemingly contradictory media reports or disingenuous internet blogs. But among scientists, there exists a strong and widespread consensus about the reality of climate change.

In the largest poll of scientists’ opinions on climate change ever conducted, more than 80 percent stated that humans were the primary cause of our current warming. More compelling, 97.4 percent of climatologists who actively publish research on the subject agreed that humans are causing the climate to warm.

The results of this poll can be found in the Jan. 19 edition of Eos, a scientific journal of the American Geophysical Union.

Such a consensus is not the product of a worldwide scientific hoax. As a scientist, I can attest that we are not nearly organized or imaginative enough to pull off such a stunt.

The complete article in the Grand Forks Herald can be found here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Democrats kowtow to farmers on global warming bill

By Yael T. Abouhalkah, Kansas City Star Editorial Page columnist

Democratic lawmakers Tuesday went too far currying favor with Midwesterner farmers and ethanol producers in efforts to pass a climate change bill.

Top Democrats, including Henry Waxman and Steny Hoyer, said the compromises were needed. In reality, they were unjustified sops to farm states.

-- The Dems said they would allow the Department of Agriculture to oversee how farmers reduce carbon pollution on their property.

That decision would rip the oversight away from the experts in the Environmental Protection Agency.

-- The new bill would gut the EPA's attempt to monitor greenhouse gases created by some of the ethanol produced by Midwestern farmers.

The EPA deserves to have that power so it can determine whether ethanol is hurting, rather than helping, this nation's attempt to combat global warming.

On Tuesday President Barack Obama urged Congress to move ahead with a strong bill to cut emissions that are warming the Earth.

But the Democrats gutted an important part of the bill in an effort to pass it. Environmental groups should strongly object and shine a light on the actions taken by the Democrats.

House Democrats reach global warming bill deal

WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- U.S. House Democrats said Tuesday evening they have ironed out differences on legislation to fight global warming, setting the table for a Friday vote.

"We have an agreement, and we're moving forward on Friday," House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., told reporters Tuesday evening. "We're going to pass this bill."

The complete article at is here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Carbon level the highest in 2 million years

Variations in CO2 concentration that used to take several million years to occur are now happening in a few decades, scientists say.

The level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is the highest in at least 2.1 million years, according to a new study published Friday by Science.

A team of researchers drilled into the ocean floor off the coast of Africa to remove shells of ancient marine animals that contain climate records.

The CO2 concentration ranged between 181 and 297 parts per million. It may be necessary to go back as far as 2.7 million years to find carbon levels similar to today’s, the study concluded.

“What’s remarkable is how little CO2 concentration changed in the past,” said Jerry McManus, a paleoclimatology professor at Columbia who participated in the study.

“What we’re seeing now is the same magnitude of natural variations happening in only a few decades.” (Photo: NASA)

For more on this story at click here.

An Open Letter to the President and Members of Congress Strong Leadership Needed Now on Climate

Strong leadership by the United States will be required to move the nations of the world away from what scientists increasingly recognize as a rapidly developing global climatic catastrophe. That leadership requires the insight, energy and relentless attention of the President and no less vigorous interest from both houses of the U. S. Congress.

The Waxman-Markey bill now being considered by the Congress offers a powerful advance and must be enacted this year. But at its best it will be only a first step in the direction that scientists now recognize as necessary to protect local and regional climates. Our purpose is to call attention to the large difference between what U.S. politics now seems capable of enacting and what scientists understand is necessary to prevent climatic disruption and protect the human future. We urge President Obama to exercise maximum personal leadership beginning now to ensure that the strongest possible legislation emerges from the Congress.

New information arrives daily to confirm what many specialists have known for three decades: human-caused climatic disruption is serious, moving rapidly, and gaining momentum with every delay in correcting the trend. In 1992 more than 180 nations including the United States met in Rio de Janeiro, signed, and later ratified, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and in so doing agreed to “stabilize” the heat-trapping gases of the atmosphere at levels that will protect human interests and nature. We, the nations globally, have not been true to our word, and climate is moving out from under civilization rapidly. Major droughts on every continent are but one current symptom of the scale of the global environmental corruption now entrained.

In many political circles around the world, the view has taken hold that nations should endeavor both to limit the buildup of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas and a by-product of burning coal, oil and natural gas, to 450 parts per million and to limit the rise of global temperatures to less than 2°Celsius. We and many others are of the view that these objectives are inadequate to sustain the integrity of global climate and to hold the risk of ruinous climatic change to an acceptably low level. United States policy must provide a fully satisfactory U.S. contribution to global greenhouse gas reductions that move beyond these inadequate international limits.

It is essential that the Waxman-Markey bill, strengthened wherever possible and certainly not weakened, advance into law rapidly. It is also essential that it become the basis for a serious, continuing, and urgent effort on the part of the President to lead the American public into recognition of the scale of the climatic disruption so that the U.S. will embrace still stronger policies to do what we know from scientific investigation is necessary to prevent disastrous climatic alteration.

As we write, we see the unfolding Presidential effort to lead the nation in the area of universal health insurance. We urge the President to initiate an effort at least comparable in the area of climatic change. We recognize the difference in popularity of these two causes, but it is the essence of Presidential leadership to show the way even where adequate public awareness of the risks ahead may be lacking. Speaking in Germany recently, President Obama referred to climatic change as “a potentially cataclysmic disaster.” We agree and believe that message must be communicated and elaborated to the American people in time to assure strong, effective Congressional action in both houses of Congress this year.
The time for national action on climatic change is now. There has already been too much delay. The stakes are far too high to compromise the integrity of, and our responsibility for, prompt national action.

Dean Abrahamson, Professor Emeritus, Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Robert Costanza, Gordon and Lulie Gund Professor of Ecological Economics and Director, Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, The University of Vermont
Peter H. Gleick, N.A.S; President, Pacific Institute, Oakland, California
Richard A. Houghton, Senior Scientist, Acting Director, The Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Ralph Keeling, Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
Donald Kennedy, President Emeritus and Bing Professor of Environmental Sciences, Emeritus, Institute for International Studies, Stanford University
Thomas Lovejoy, Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, Washington, D.C.

Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs, Climate Institute, Washington, D.C.
Michael E. Mann, Director, The Earth System Science Center, Professor of Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park
Michael McElroy, Gilbert Butler Professor of Environmental Science, Harvard University. Cambridge, MA
Steve Running, Professor, Director , Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, Department of Ecosystem Science, Univ. of Montana, Missoula
William Schlesinger, President and Director, The Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies, Millbrook, N.Y.
Stephen H. Schneider, Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies; Professor, Department of Biology, Stanford University
Richard C. J. Somerville, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
James Gustave Speth, Dean, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, New Haven, Connecticut
Lonnie G. Thompson, Distinguished University Professor, School of Earth Sciences; Senior Research Scientist, Byrd Polar Research Center. The Ohio State University, Columbus
Warren Washington, Senior Scientist, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado
Richard S. Williams, Senior Scientist Emeritus, USGS; Visiting Senior Scientist, The Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Timothy E. Wirth, President, The United Nations Foundation, Washington, D.C.; former US Senator from Colorado
George M. Woodwell *, Director Emeritus, Senior Scientist, The Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole, Massachusetts