Scientists: Global Warning Man-Made, Here to Stay

A scientific panel reports that global warming is man’s fault, there’s nothing we can do to stop it, and that we’d better act now.

Scientists from 113 countries issued a landmark report Friday saying they have little doubt global warming is caused by man, and predicting that hotter temperatures and rises in sea level will “continue for centuries” no matter how much humans control their pollution.

[…]

The 21-page report represents the most authoritative science on global warming as the panel comprises hundreds of scientists and representatives. It only addresses how and why the planet is warming, not what to do about it. Another report by the panel later this year will address the most effective measures for slowing global warming.

One of the authors, Kevin Trenberth, said scientists are worried that world leaders will take the message in the wrong way and throw up their hands. Instead, world leaders should to reduce emissions and adapt to a warmer world with wilder weather, he said. “This is just not something you can stop. We’re just going to have to live with it,” said Trenberth, the director of climate analysis for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “We’re creating a different planet. If you were to come up back in 100 years time, we’ll have a different climate.”

The scientists said global warming was “very likely” caused by human activity, a phrase that translates to a more than 90 percent certainty that it is caused by man’s burning of fossil fuels. That was the strongest conclusion to date, making it nearly impossible to say natural forces are to blame.

It also said no matter how much civilization slows or reduces its greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and sea level rise will continue on for centuries. “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global mean sea level,” the scientists said.

[…]

“The point here is to highlight what will happen if we don’t do something and what will happen if we do something,” said another author, Jonathan Overpeck at the University of Arizona. “I can tell if you will decide not to do something the impacts will be much larger than if we do something.”

A USA Today editorial begins,

Perhaps it’s a sign of confidence that a group of the world’s top climatologists would issue a global warming report on Groundhog Day, rather than some time in July. A few years ago such a report, released just as frigid air surged into North America, might have produced some chuckles or shrugs. But not this time. Too many of the world’s leaders, in government and business, see the same things as these scientists do.

Then again, Punxsutawney Phil predicts an early spring, providing further evidence for the panel’s findings.

The column goes on to note the beginnings of a political consensus to take meaningful steps that wouldn’t cripple the economies of the West and emerging nations, which have been deal breakers in the past.

This awakening is particularly encouraging because it echoes trends that have overcome severe, expensive environmental problems in the past. Odd as it might sound now, water pollution was so bad in 1969 that the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire. Air in major cities was unpleasant to breathe. Both problems were seen as enormously costly to fix. Neither proved unaffordable. The same is true for acid rain and the ozone hole.

Addressing global warming needn’t bankrupt U.S. motorists. At least in the initial phases of global warming plans, the biggest change is likely to be in a reduction in the use of coal, because that fuel produces far more carbon dioxide per unit of power than other fuels.

The most commonly cited approaches are cap-and-trade system, which would impose mandatory limits and allow companies to trade them. Another is a tax on fuels based on the amount of carbon dioxide they emit.

The biggest challenge, now that so many opinion leaders in the West recognize the problem, is bringing along the developing world. Countries such as China and India have a right to the fruits of economic growth long enjoyed elsewhere. But if only the developed world adopts strict policies, then some of the most polluting industries might simply migrate abroad.

Technology holds the key. Developing countries needn’t make all of the environmental mistakes made in the West if they have better technologies for power generation and transportation.

That’s the bottom line. Absent a clear and present crisis, no one would spend the money or otherwise make the sacrifices necessary to deal with the problem. Properly motivated, though, investment in alternative technologies is happening. And the modern lifestyle will continue to expand, simply using more environmentally friendly means.

FILED UNDER: Environment, Science & Technology, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Obviously, Lex Luthor brought this crisis about, and has bought up all the future beachfront property. Lex Luthor III will make a *killing*.

  2. Jer says:

    Oh sure, but think about the six degrees of separation!

  3. Steve Verdon says:

    One of the authors, Kevin Trenberth, said scientists are worried that world leaders will take the message in the wrong way and throw up their hands. Instead, world leaders should to reduce emissions and adapt to a warmer world with wilder weather, he said. “This is just not something you can stop. We’re just going to have to live with it,” said Trenberth, the director of climate analysis for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “We’re creating a different planet. If you were to come up back in 100 years time, we’ll have a different climate.”

    How pathetic.

  4. Cool, “we’re” God now.

  5. Michael says:

    Ok, I’m confused about the whole six degrees of separation thing, can someone explain what it has to do with global warming?

  6. Anderson says:

    How pathetic.

    Care to explain that one for the less acute of us, Steve?

  7. Steve Verdon says:

    Anderson,

    It is a message not too dis-similar from Bjorn Lomborg’s, but he gets excoriated, these 113 boobs will be considered Trooth Seekers.

  8. Anderson says:

    I get the sympathy for Lomborg, but how that makes those who agree with him “boobs” is less clear.

  9. Steve Verdon says:

    Where were these paragons of intellectual honesty when Lomborg first came on the scene? Nowhere. Why didn’t they look at his arguments then and say, “Hey, wait a minute he does have some interesting points, lets at least consider them.” Instead they chickened out.

    And to be clear, these guys knew Kyoto was going to do pretty much nothing way back in 1998.

    Thomas Wigley, “The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4, and Climate Implications,” Geophysical Research Letter, Vol. 25, 1998, pp. 2285-88.

    In 1998, Dr. Thomas Wigley, Senior Scientist at the U.S National Center for Scientific Research, estimated the effect on global climate that would occur if all of the signers of the U.N. Treaty on Global Warming known as the Kyoto Protocol adhered to its provisions with 100 percent compliance. The treaty calls on industrial nations to reduce CO2 emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. For the United States this would mean about a 35 percent to 40 percent reduction from levels that would otherwise be obtained. Wigley’s results have implications for any policy that might be put forth by North Carolina. He found that 100 percent compliance with the UN treaty would result in global temperatures that would be a mere .13o Fahrenheit lower than they otherwise would be by the year 2050.

  10. RJN says:

    Lies for a lofty purpose are still lies, and lies bugger up every thing.

    These political “scientists” don’t even understand the effects of the albedo, which is huge, in regulating what energy gets through our atmosphere and what energy stays within our atmosphere.

    ‘Tis no big whoop though. A world where 60% of the college students are women, and 50% of the new engineering students are women is going to hell so fast that energy gridlock, or Marxist allocations of energy, can’t hurt much more.

  11. Steven Plunk says:

    Steve V.,

    Doesn’t this whole debate lack the intellectual honesty it deserves? Just as Lomborg was cast out there are climate scientists being treated as traitors for contrary views today. It’s a shame few see or understand your point.

    As long as money drives this thing we can expect less true science and more politics. The leftists see climate change as a way to socialism rather than capitalism, Europe sees it as a way to catch up to the United States, China sees it as a way to surpass the United States, certain business interests see it as a way to make more money, and of course government bureaucrats see it as a way to consolidate power. Hayek never dreamed something this big would prove his predictions.

    Until more work is done on the sun’s effect on climate and Mann’s computer modeling code is reviewed this is far from settled science. But I guess it looks better to claim you are saving people this way than admitting you are killing them by perpetuating poverty throughout the world.

  12. Anytime you hear a politician use the term “climate science” substitute “climate politics” for it and their comments will all make more sense.

    With respect to the import of any, ahem, scientific consensus, I wonder what Galileo or Einstein might have thought of the prevailing scientific consensus in their resepective days? Mind you, it isn’t just Barbara Boxer that has decided debate is now closed on this topic. The Bush administration apparently has now decided this is dogma as well.

    Personally, I see this as just another variant of the usual what’s mine is mine and what’s your’s remains negotiable brand of progressive politics.

  13. Anderson says:

    ‘Tis no big whoop though. A world where 60% of the college students are women, and 50% of the new engineering students are women is going to hell so fast that energy gridlock, or Marxist allocations of energy, can’t hurt much more.

    RJN adds crude sexism to his quiver of undesirable intellectual qualities.

  14. Rick DeMent says:

    The leftists see climate change as a way to socialism rather than capitalism…

    Yes … clearly socialism is the root cause of all we disagree. You guys need to quit drinking so early in the day.

  15. RJN says:

    I think Anderson is a decent enough of a fellow, but, I also think he has steeped himself in lefthink, and leftkiss, way too much for intellectual health and balance.

    Onward: The female brains capacity for engineering thought, and work, is not close to the male brain’s capacity. The smallest effort at honest consideration of what natural selection must produce with regard to a female human’s brain is that it must be different from the male brain. After accepting that, how can one still think that a female brain is going to be the match for a male brain in the areas of most need for a male?

  16. Michael says:

    Dear James,
    I realize that RJN hasn’t crossed the rhetorical “line” quite yet, even though he’s walking mighty close. I just wanted to request that when he inevitably declares that black people are monkeys, you will immediately ban him and remove all this offensive waste he’s deposited on your otherwise decent site.

  17. Michael says:

    And still nobody has explained the six degrees thing to me. Instead we’re claiming that global warming doesn’t exist, or that it does exist but it’s not our fault, or that it is our fault, but we can’t fix it so why bother.

  18. MICHELLE says:

    Onward: The female brains capacity for engineering thought, and work, is not close to the male brain’s capacity. The smallest effort at honest consideration of what natural selection must produce with regard to a female human’s brain is that it must be different from the male brain. After accepting that, how can one still think that a female brain is going to be the match for a male brain in the areas of most need for a male?

    CITATION NEEDED!

  19. RJN says:

    Michelle: I posed, for you, a very straight forward thought line, and question. I don’t need a citation. If you need one, go to google.

    Michael: The first thing that comes from you is invective, and the next is a call to Daddy for censorship. Sweet.

  20. floyd says:

    truth is not determined by popular vote, but then neither is government regulation.

  21. floyd says:

    michelle, wouldn’t an impala be better?

  22. Anderson says:

    See, Michelle, if you weren’t a *girl*, you would be able to follow RJN’s sophisticated line of thought …. 😉

    Besides female intelligence, RJN also doesn’t believe in Darwinism or the Holocaust, so I wouldn’t worry too much. (Tho he has no trouble invoking “natural selection” to support his sexism … negative capability, I think Keats called that.)

  23. Anderson says:

    Oh, and RJN? Lecturing others on “intellectual health and balance”?

    ROTFLMAO.

  24. RJN says:

    Time was when the truth carried an argument. Nowadays – for some at least; hint, hint, Anderson – the truth is a “negative capability”. I guess I was right about the world going to hell fast.

  25. RJN says:

    Some evidence (?) of not warming through CO2 reflection.

  26. Michael says:

    RJN,
    It wasn’t so much an appeal for censorship, and a request for relief. You see, I have a condition where exposure to high levels of arrogance, or low levels of intelligence, gives me a nervous twitch. I don’t mean to be rude here, but your very existence is causing me minor discomfort. It would probably be enough for you to simply think before talking, or perhaps wearing very thick gloves (thick enough to prevent typing, for instance). I do hope I’m not asking to much, and that you would take into consideration the harm your life causes to those around you and, in my case, even those very far away from you.

    Thank you.

  27. RJN says:

    Dear Mikey:

    Nite, nite. Go Bears.

  28. Anderson says:

    Nite, nite. Go Bears.

    Holocaust denial, anti-Darwinism, sexism … and the irrational belief that the Bears could win the Super Bowl.

    Foolish consistency, indeed.

  29. Michael says:

    Nite, nite. Go Bears.

    Man, you just can’t be right about anything, can you?