Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Sceptic Gets Mired in Controversy

Well known Global Warming sceptic Professor Bob Carter gets a fair hearing and gets into trouble. He got more than flashy soundbites to elaborate on his position. He got himself against a mighty listener: Dr Stephen Schneider. All we ask that Mr Carter should also listen. To himself.

So hear Mr Carter out. In introduction, his position is that putting Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the air is like putting coats of white paint on a house. The first quantum (layer) will reflect most of the sunshine and consecutive layers - no matter how many - will not add much more to the reflectivity. Similarly, he says, doubling CO2 is causing most of the warming and consecutive outputs are not that big of a concern.

He supports his argument by saying that warming should be seen on a very long time horizon measured in hundreds of thousands perhaps millions of years. He argues these are processes of geological length. And than he turns around and says, a shining fact to support him is the fact that in the past 3-5 years warming that is more than the background noise warming (we don't know what he means by that and he does not elaborate) has not increased.

Well done Mr Carter. No one needs to argue with you if you defeat your own argument. Twice.

First: How historic long term is 3-5 years? Probably not much.
Second: If most of the warming is caused by the doubling of CO2 and not the consequtive outputs and changes are locked in for 30-40 years already (a consensus reached by scientists of both side of the barrier) than we should worry probably even more about the destructive nature of CO2 and its effects on the whole eco - AND biosphere.

It appears that it was a noble intention on his part to broaden the definition of change - not just weather change. But Mr Carter ran into a formidable opponent in Dr Stephen Schneider. While Mr Carter is certainly an able proponent of possible changes on the geological time-scale (himself being from the Marine Geophysical Laboratory, James Cook University.)

Professor Schneider is offering advice to help scholars communicate more clearly with the media and policymakers.
Mr Schneider however is a person monitoring really broad interdisciplinary consequences. Mr Schneider being Melvin and Joan Lane Professor for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, he appeared to be an able advocate of very long term processes including biological ones.

To sum up ...

Allow me just two final figures to contemplate.

If animals or plants go extinct because of too high stress on their respective habitat, what goes with it is what took evolution about 25 million years of perfecting those species to that habitat. A new, drastically different habitat might take similarly long geological time spans to have a new biosphere similarly adopted.

Scientist have reached consensus and agree that ocean surface level rise is mostly due to heat expansion that is about to go on for a thousand to two thousand years.

Both are very long time spans indeed.

So what's the point of arguing consequtive CO2 emissions (that is happening today) if what is already there is so damaging for the very long term, indeed.

Congratulation to Phillip Adams of ABC Radio National LNL for convening such an informative debate and big cheers to story producer Jane Shields.