My wife and I returned from Florida last Friday just in time for last week's snow. And as I write, it is snowing again. But the discussion section in the Lawrence Journal World is hot today because of a column by Cal Thomas in which he accuses Al Gore and other believers in global warming as being fundamentalists. He cites a global warming skeptic "Paleoclimate scientist" Bob Carter as writing:
“In one of the more expensive ironies of history, the expenditure of more than $50 billion (U.S.) on research into global warming since 1990 has failed to demonstrate any human-caused climate trend, let alone a dangerous one...”
This is an interesting comment which flies in the face of the general scientific consensus. So who is the average person to believe? This is important because if Gore and the vast bulk of climate scientists are right then we have an environmental problem that can't wait another 50 years to fix. We are going to have to make both personal and policy decisions either directly or indirectly about this issue.
The first thing we need to do is cut partisanship out of the loop. Second of all we need to look at the information that is out there and try to evaluate it as best we can. Fortunately there are several good sources of information. The U.S. government's EPA site (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/) is much improved in terms of its coverage and I strongly exploring its links. Another site is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Warming FAQ which gives a quick synopsis the current consensus on global warming. There is plenty of room to discuss what sorts of solutions - free market, government incentives and mandates, individual action.
As for non governmental sources, Science Daily keeps tabs on climate change at http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/earth_climate/global_warming/ and this is perhaps the site for the latest developments in our understanding of climate change.
If you are a regular blog reader, a good unbiased site is Real Climate (http://www.realclimate.org/). This blog's contributors are climate scientists-not geologists and not ideologues. Of course look at some of the advocacy sites on the left and the right-what ever your ideological fancy, but do yourself and civilization a favor and check the claims that are made on those sites against each other and come to an honest judgment for yourself about where the truth most likely is. Don't just believe some numskull on the left or the right because you agree with their ideology, unless the numskull happens to be me of course.
In the interest of full disclosure I am pretty much in agreement with the scientific consensus but some of my conclusions about where we stand probably go beyond the scientific consensus:
1. Global warming is real and not just an artifact of changes in data collection.
2. Much, but probably not all, of recent global warming is due to human activity including burning of fossil fuels but also deforestation and increased agricultural production.
3. Global warming may be to the point that we can do little to affect it quickly.
4. Climate change happening more rapidly than we thought possible even five years ago and may be happening more rapidly than many populations can adapt to.
5. There is no magic bullet to solving global warming and we probably will need to make some uncomfortable choices concerning energy sources and (dare I say it?) some sacrifice of living standards.
6. Poorer countries will be more severely affected than developed countries.
7. We have exceeded the ability of the planet to sustain our current population are global warming is interacting with other human disturbances to bring about an irreversible biodiversity crisis.
8. There is still hope for our species but our environment is going to become biologically impoverished in ways we might not like.
Of course all comments are welcome; just play nicely.