Monday, January 25, 2010

Scientists "losing climate fight"

A leading Australian climate change scientist says experts are losing the fight against skeptics, who are distorting the science of global warming.

His comments come as a prominent British climate change skeptic tours the country.

Lord Christopher Monckton has arrived in Australia for a series of lectures and is calling for a royal commission into the science around global warming.

The former journalist and political adviser to Margaret Thatcher says the production of carbon dioxide is not a major problem.

He has attacked the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) after it revised a key finding in its 2007 report which wrongly claimed the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035.

But one of the lead authors of the report, Australian Professor Andy Pitman, has defended the overall conclusions of the report.

Professor Pitman was a lead author on the IPCC's 2001 and 2007 reports. He is also the co-director of the Climate Change Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

Professor Pitman says sceptics have used the IPCC's error to skew the climate change debate.

"Climate scientists are losing the fight with the skeptics," he said.

"The sceptics are so well funded, so well organised. "They have nothing else to do. They don't have day jobs so they can put all their efforts into misinforming and mis-communicating climate science to the general public, whereas the climate scientists have day jobs and [managing publicity] actually isn't one of them.

"All of the efforts you do in an IPCC report is done out of hours, voluntarily, for no funding and no pay, whereas the skeptics are being funded to put out full-scale misinformation campaigns and are doing a damn good job, I think.

The rest of the post is here.

"Global warming is a proven fact"

CHICAGO — More than 40 scientists with expertise in climate, agriculture, soil and entomological science have sent a letter to American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman requesting a meeting to discuss his group’s “inaccurate and marginalized” position on global warming. The Farm Bureau maintains that “there is no generally agreed upon scientific assessment on carbon emissions from human activities, their impact on past decades of warming or how they will affect future climate changes.” According to the scientists’ letter, that assertion ignores the overwhelming scientific evidence of climate change, a problem that puts Farm Bureau members at risk. “As scientists concerned about the grave risks that climate change poses to the world and U.S. agriculture,” the letter states, “we are disappointed that the American Farm Bureau has chosen to officially deny the existence of human-caused climate change when the evidence of it has never been clearer.”

The entire article in is here.

Warming expected to cut Atlantic hurricane tally, but boost threat

A new modeling study published in this week’s issue of Science projects a rise of about 30 percent in potential hurricane damage in the western Atlantic toward the end of the century as emissions of greenhouse gases rise. Although the overall number of storms in the region are expected to drop, the number of strong ones — those reaching Category 4 or 5 in the hurricane index — are expected to double from the number produced now, the study says. The projections are based on a midrange scenario for a rise in the heat-trapping emissions linked to global warming.

The two maps below, produced for the study by the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton, are based on a climate model comparing the production of strong hurricanes in conditions mimicking the current climate (basically, average climate conditions from 1980 to 2006) with hurricane production in conditions simulating those projected for the final two decades of the century.

It’s still early days in the effort to understand how hurricanes, which thrive or fade depending on local conditions, will fare in a globally warmed world. But the modeling exercise hints at factors that do seem to make the biggest difference. “What’s really important for Atlantic hurricane activity, what really gets things cranked up, is when the Atlantic warms relative to the rest of the tropics,” said Thomas Knutson, one of the paper’s authors and a climate researcher at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. He said that is what has happened in the real world since 1980, as scientists witnessed a big rise in hurricanes’ energy.

The rest of the New York Times blog article is here.

Evidence for climate change caused by man mounts

One degree Fahrenheit might not sound like a lot, but picture the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of a cup of water that amount. Multiply that for a swimming pool. Do so again for a planet, say Earth.

For biology and environmental studies professor Dan Perlman of Brandeis University in Waltham, that's the import of a new report citing the past decade as the globe's warmest on record, by nearly one degree.

"That, along with all the other evidence, continues to support the idea that we're in store for something really big here," Perlman said this past week, citing his belief that man-made emissions are artificially warming the Earth. "It's like it's another few bricks in our certainty."

The report, issued Tuesday by the National Climatic Data Center, found that the decade 2000 to 2009 had the highest average temperature dating back to the start of record-keeping in 1880. The decade was 0.96 degree warmer than the 129-year average, breaking the record of 0.56 degree warmer set by the '90s and continuing a trend from the '60s.

Also, while 0.96 degree represents a significant amount of energy, Perlman said, that number is an average for the globe, with some places staying flat or cooling and others, like the polar north, spiking.

"There are some places that are really getting hammered," he said.

Scientists like Perlman and many others attribute most of the warming since the mid-20th century to human activities such as the release of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere through fossil fuel burning. They say the evidence and causal relationships are well-established.

"How certain do you want to be?" asked Larry McKenna, a professor in Framingham State College's department of physics and earth sciences. "We're getting up to the 99 percent level."

The rest of the article is here.