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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-30-2004, 01:53 PM Thread Starter
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Where Republicans generally miss the point

The environment. Republicans are clueless.

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Bad news (and good) on Arctic warming

By Andrew C. Revkin The New York Times Saturday, October 30, 2004 NEW YORK

The first thorough assessment of a decades-long Arctic warming trend shows the region is undergoing profound changes, including sharp retreats of glaciers and sea ice, thawing of permafrost, and shifts in ocean and atmospheric conditions that are likely to harm native communities, wildlife and economic activities, while offering some benefits.

The report - conducted and reviewed by 250 scientists and representatives of six organizations representing Arctic native communities - while noting that conditions in the far north have varied naturally in the past, says the current shifts match longstanding scientific projections that the Arctic should be the first place to feel the effect of rising atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from smokestacks and tail pipes.

It adds that the warming and other changes are likely to accelerate in this century because of the buildup in greenhouse gases.

Prompt efforts to curb such emissions could slow the pace of change sufficiently to allow communities and wildlife to adapt, the report says.

But it also stresses that some further warming and melting is unavoidable, given the century-long buildup of the long-lived gases, mainly carbon dioxide.

"These changes in the Arctic provide an early indication of the environmental and societal significance of global warming," says the executive summary of the report.

The study, called the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, was commissioned four years ago by the eight nations with Arctic territory - Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States.

The study was scheduled for release at a conference in Iceland on Nov. 9, but electronic copies of some portions were provided to The New York Times by European participants in the project.

Several participants said that publication had been delayed in part by the Bush administration because of the political contentiousness of global warming.

Officials of the Arctic Council, the international body that commissioned the study, denied that was the case.

"There is no truth to the contention that any of the member states of the Arctic Council pushed the release of the report back into November," said Gunnar Palsson of Iceland, the chairman of the council's eight government representatives.

He said that the countries all agreed to the delay from September to November because of conflicts with another international meeting in Iceland.

The American scientist directing the assessment, Robert Corell, an oceanographer and senior fellow of the American Meteorological Society, said the timing was set during diplomatic talks that did not involve the scientists.

He said he could not yet comment on the specific findings, but noted that the signals from the Arctic have global significance. "The major message is that climate change is here and now in the Arctic," he said on Friday.

"The scientific evidence of the last 25 to 30 years is very dramatic and substantial. The projections of future change indicate that this trend will continue and be substantially greater than the trends we're seeing on a global scale."

The report is a profusely illustrated window on a region in remarkable flux, incorporating reams of scientific data as well as observations by elders from communities around the Arctic Circle.

The potential benefits of the changes include projected growth in marine fish stocks and improved prospects for agriculture and timber harvests in some regions, as well as expanded access to Arctic waters.

There, sea-bed deposits of oil and gas that have until now been cloaked in thick shifting crusts of sea ice could soon be exploitable, and ice-free trade routes over Siberia could significantly cut shipping distances between Europe and Asia in the summer.

But the list of potential harms is far longer. The same retreat of sea ice, it says, "is very likely to have devastating consequences for polar bears, ice-living seals, and local people for whom these animals are a primary food source."

Oil and gas deposits on land are likely to be harder to extract as tundra continues to thaw, limiting the frozen season when drilling convoys can traverse the otherwise spongy ground, the report says.

And it concludes that the consequences of the fast-paced Arctic warming have global reach, in part as sea levels rise in response to the accelerated melting of Greenland's two-mile-high sheets of ice.

There have been continuing disagreements between American officials and other participants over the report's contents and timetable.

Last year, for example, the State Department distributed a document to representatives from the other Arctic countries saying it opposed having the technical experts draw conclusions about policies on greenhouse gases or other related factors until the scientific findings had been reviewed by the eight participating governments.

A copy was provided to The New York Times by a person involved in the project who criticized the delay in considering the implications of the climate shifts.

The document said this was "a fundamental flaw" in the process.

The implications of the findings could not be legitimately considered before the scientific assessment was completed and governments needed to have the right to suggest changes.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-30-2004, 02:00 PM
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RE: Where Republicans generally miss the point

Hi Botnst,

Can you put in your own words the facts? I learned the earth is normally warming and cooling over thousands of years and it is no big deal. Nothing to be alarmed about at all and possibly politically motivated. What is your background? Thanks.

The sea beads with oil and chemicals? Yes, Republicans have ignored that to an unbelievable extent. Shame.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-30-2004, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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RE: Where Republicans generally miss the point

ignoring the politics (yeah, I know I started it provocatively, that's why they call me, "Troll"!), I'll try to go through the evidence concerning climate change. Please don't go asleep on me!

First, you are right that the climate fluctuates over time and for a wide variety of reason, know and unknown. There is some indication that orbit, tilt, and magnetic fields play a role in very long-term events in climate--on the order of yearsX10^5 or so. These events are not precise, but exhibit some tantalizing patterns that suggest very long term climate events have a strong astronomical component.

There are also short term events that can cause tremendous, long-term changes in the climate. The well-known theory of the Cretaceous/Tertiary extinction and the less-known but far more drastic Permian extinctions are theorized to be meteor-related. Big rock slams into the ocean at high-velocity exposing the extremely hot, upper-mantle to oceanic waters flash-evaporating cubic miles into globe-encricling clouds, raising the earth's albido such that light no longer warms the biosphere, the planet cools drastically freezing ocenas and creating rapidly expanding ice caps.

Volcanic explosions have caused short-term climate change. The most recent worldwide change was off Indonesia back in the early 1800's when a caldera exploded and sent ash and steam around the planet. The nortehrn hemisphere went an entire year without a growing season. Imagine what would happen to people now--worldwide mass starvation.

There is also prehistoric evidence relating atmospheric CO2 concentration to climate change. Prehistoric CO2 levels approaching todays have never occured so quickly, absent volcanoes. So there is a bit of potential interpretational conflict. Remember, volcanoes reelase far more than CO2: Dust, steam, H2SO4, and much more. All of these affect the atmospheric chemistry and albido to some degree. Sometime synergisticly sometimes not.

However, in every case that I have heard of, elevated CO2 has been accompanied by global warming, melting ice caps, inundated shorelines and creation of inland seas. Current CO2 levels are as high as any time in the quartenary--since retreat of the last great ice age.

So looking at the geologic record indicates a strong correlation between climate change and CO2. But correlation is not causation and there are lots of other factors that would be in play if CO2 levels today were wholly natural.

Humans have released more CO2 and faster than anytime in the geologic record. Nobody knows what that will mean, but the inferences are interesting.

Now concerning global climate change computer models, there are essentially two types: statistical and physical. What I presented above is pretty much a statistical argument. Stats models take historic and prehistoric trends and try to predict future events based on prehistoric and present events. The stats models are very useful for short-term extrapolation. They are very fast computationally and easily adjusted as new data and insights become available. One way they are tested is by running the model to predict what would happen in some known time period at some location on Earth, then checking what actually happened. The validation of these models over the globe is pretty reliable over decades but not thought to be reliable over centuries--there is no validation set for the models. However, they are all in near perfect agreement that the planet will warm 2-5 deg C this century.

The other models are physical models. They try to model atmospheric chemistry and physics over the planet. Generally they divide the atmosphere into 3d cells that pass parameters between them and execute physico-chemical equations on the parameters. (This is why massively parallel computers are loved dearly by climatologists.). These models were far inferior to statistical models up until fairly recently. Now they are pretty reliable for many classes of predictions. They are in agreement that the global climate will warm 2-5 deg C during this century.

There are good scientists, honest, decent reasonable people who disagree with these models. Assuming that everybody on both sides are playing for science, not for industry or politics or some religio-green-fanatiscism, the overwhelming number of scientists believe that global warming is a real, ongoing, accelerating phenomenon. A smaller number, but still a huge majority, believe that anthropogenic CO2 has played a significant role in that warming trend. A majority believe that drastic measures would be necessary to mitigate that trend. I don't know of anybody who claims it is reversable.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-30-2004, 03:40 PM
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RE: Where Republicans generally miss the point

I don't think this is an accidental component of the current Republican Party. I heard the figure last week that 55% of the support for Bush comes from Evangelicals. While 'Evangelical' is a mixed bag that includes serious intellectuals and modern approaches to knowledge, a huge proportion of that group is stuck in the 15th century when it comes to scientific methodology. For them, the answers to questions which most people would expect to come from empirical scientific investigation actually can be found in the Bible. They lack respect for serious empirical, non-religious investigation of our world. As such it is no surprise that scientific studies of global warming are irrelvant. Perhaps the best example of the attitude of a large percentage of Evangelicals was the Pentecostal, and Secretary of the Interior under Reagan, James Watt, who stated that we did not have to worry about conserving the Earth's resources because Jesus would return long before they ran out.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-31-2004, 12:33 PM
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RE: Where Republicans generally miss the point

I didn't go to sleep. I am interested in learning. Now, this part of your response made me stop and think. "Prehistoric CO2 levels approaching todays have never occured so quickly" (aside from volcano's). How can one "aside" volcano's? Also, assuming that statement is true, that does not necessarily mean that the levels, although breaching historical figures (aside from the volcano's) are dangerous..Does that make any sense? From the explaination you given, I can't say it would be cause for concern but definitely something to watch. Just my opinion of course.

The chemicals getting dumped into the water seem far worse a problem to me. Corporations just pay the fine and keep doing it..so I think.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-31-2004, 01:55 PM Thread Starter
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RE: Where Republicans generally miss the point

The volcano thing is a joker in the deck, and you quite rightly point that out.

When volcanism is assumed in the fossil record and correlated to things like trapped gases in glaciers, there is a very strong correlation between temp rise and CO2 concentration. There is also abundant presence of other gases and particulates--volcanoes are very dirty. So the assumption of CO2 being the driver for volcanic climate change is not clear, given the presence of other know global warming chemical also being emitted by volcanoes.

However, there have been episodic rises in CO2 absent volcanic activity. The cause(s) are not clear, but the correlation to increased temperature is very strong. Again, its not a proof of causation, but it is a compelling correlation.

So how do we clear-up the causation? Well, instead of using correlation model, ie statistical constructs, scientists have been developing physical models. These models try to model climate based on physics and chemistry, not statistics.

In atmospheric models they take everything known about the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere and let the model figure it our. Each cell is defined as a location in space and has certain initial conditions. As conditions chnage within a cell with respect to adjacent cells, parameters are passed between cells. So CO2 might shift here and there as temp goes up or down, various other gases increase or decrease, and as various chemicals and particulates move from cell to cell and interact or react with each other.

As you can imagine, these models are massively complex and take a long time to run. As the cell size decreases, the model complexity increases well, geometrically. If you cut cell volume by half, say, you increase the computational load by four. But if the cell size is too large the cells become heterogeneous and the results become increasingly unstable and the model outcomes, increasingly unreliable even under shortened time intervals.

Despite the complexity, physical models have increased in reliability dramatically in recent years. They indicate that rising CO2 levels play a direct role in global warming.

This is not proof. But it is so compelling that most scientists accept it and most politicians are coming around, though more slowly.

IMO, a more difficult argument for 'environmentalists' is to argue that the CO2 rise is man-made rather than natural fluctuation, and teh degree to which limiting anthropogenic CO2 would affect warming.
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