Global warming

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Revision as of 19:20, 10 February 2008 by Woozle (talk | contribs) (moved "denial" and "arguments against" to separate articles; significant rewrites)

Overview

Also known as: climate change

Global warming (GW) refers to the idea that the Earth's average temperature could significantly increase to the point where it will have noticeable (and probably detrimental) effects on how people live ("concept GW").

It also can refer to the following claims:

  • narrow GW: there is currently a huge increase in GW underway which threatens to cause serious problems within the foreseeable future (20-100 years)
  • anthro GW: Human activity (especially industrial) is largely or solely responsible for the current ongoing spike.
  • fixable GW: There are actions we can take which would reduce the seriousness of the eventual problem.
  • active GW: We should work towards taking those actions.

Within the United States (excluding the scientific establishment) the debate about the existence and nature of this phenomenon has grown increasingly impassioned in recent years, apparently fueled by large-corporate manipulation. Despite having been refuted, many of the same anti-GW arguments surface repeatedly, and thus are more an attempt to stifle discussion of GW (or muddy the waters) than they are honest skepticism.

See:

Related Articles

Debate

Resolved Points

The following points of debate have pretty much been resolved (see #News for details regarding the answers):

  • whether or not the Earth is currently on a general warmining trend – yes
  • whether or not this will have significant effects on anyone – yes
  • whether or not those effects will be bad – in the short term, yes; beyond that depends on a lot of unknown factors

There continues to be debate on the following points:

  • whether or not this trend, if it is real, will continue
  • whether or not the warming is being caused by humanity (strong circumstantial evidence that it is)
    • Could be caused by random climatic drift
    • Could be caused by changes in any of countless variables, e.g. the sun's energy output
  • whether it is in humanity's best interest to attempt countermeasures (as opposed to "letting nature take its course")
  • what sorts of countermeasures should be taken (e.g. should we try to counteract the warming trend itself, or just be prepared to deal with the changing climate and rising sea levels as they happen?)

There appears to be some considerable political pressure within the United States to deny that there is a dangerous warming trend, that we are causing it if it exists, and that we should do anything about it if we are causing it.

Difficulty of Resolution

Obstacles to resolving the debate include:

  • The issue has become heavily politicized, largely because direct countermeasures (attempts to counteract the warming trend) tend to be unpopular amongst those who would need to implement them, and those who would need to implement them are generally large businesses with significant amounts of political clout and ability to drive the discussion in directions favorable to them.
  • Determination of whether or not the phenomenon is of genuine concern requires the integration of large amounts of data – over long timespans and a large number of different geographical locations – in order to notice subtle real effects without raising false alarms due to temporary or local effects.
  • Attempted solutions have global effects, which are the sum total of all countermeasures plus any net increase in GW (or in whatever factors we believe may be contributing to GW, e.g. atmospheric CO2); there is no way to determine the effect of a single, isolated experiment. In other words, there is no direct way to be sure "what works"; we have to rely on atmospheric models and simulations of proposed changes.

Links

Reference

Articles & Blog Entries

Editorials

Discussion

Possible Solutions

  • "stabilization wedges": No single solution will be efficient enough fast enough, but in combination they may be enough
  • 2006-09-01 A Road Map to U.S. Decarbonization by Reuel Shinnar and Francesco Citro, Science magazine: "Alternative energy sources could replace 70% of fossil fuels in America within 30 years at a cost of $200 billion per year."

Humor

  • 2007-04-17 cold outside: cartoon by D.C. Simpson, I Drew This
  • 2006-08-24 grant money: cartoon by D.C. Simpson, I Drew This

News Articles

Bad Reporting

  • The 2006-10-27 report that the Atlantic current came to a halt for 10 days in 2004 was a severe misrepresentation of what actually happened, as explained here: a new monitoring array is recording more precise data on the current than has previously available, and one of the things it noted was a "very weak" flow during those 10 days in 2004. However, due to the newness of the data set, scientists don't yet know if this is unusual, part of an accelerating trend, or perfectly normal. As yet, it has no known implications for the climate of Britain or Europe.