Guest Post by Thomas Fuller
You readers here at Watts Up With That have been very kind to me during my guest-blogging stint here, and I’d like to express my thanks for the cordial reception I have found, especially since I’m well aware that my views are not really congruent with those of many viewers. You all are certainly more open-minded and accommodating than the audience at many other internet locations. (Okay, enough sucking up–get on with it!)
However, one commenter on my last post had the audacity–the sheer audacity–to criticize my writing because this is a science blog after all, and my guest posts have not been about the science. Well, touche and all that, my dear sir, but well, I’m not a scientist.
We are not really at the point where only scientists can say intelligent things about climate change.
Two reasons: First, the basics are pretty well understood. CO2 should cause about a 1.5 to 2.1 degree Celsius rise in temperatures if we double its concentration in our atmosphere. (If it doesn’t, it’s because other forces are counteracting it, not that it doesn’t exist.) This really is not very controversial at all.
Second, the controversial part of the discussion is not going to be settled any time soon. We really do not know the sensitivity of the atmosphere to a doubling of CO2 concentrations. We are not likely to know for at least 30 years–and that’s if we’re lucky, according to Judith Curry.
To offer the extreme and absurdist example, as Roger Pielke Jr. points out on his weblog, we could achieve our emission reduction goals overnight, by switching from BP’s estimate of our 2009 emissions of CO2 to the IEA’S estimates of the same. There’s quite a bit of uncertainty out there.
So, despite their protestations, climate scientists at this point have about as much ‘clout’ in deciding what we should do as anybody else. So your comments and my guest posts here are not automatically dismissable as coming from the rabble. What we write on this weblog and others should be evaluated on the merits of what we say. Of course, people who have been studying the biology, chemistry, geology and ecological interactions of this planet should be treated with quite a bit more respect, and many climate scientists got their start in one of those fields–by no means am I trying to exclude them from the conversation, just because they can’t point at a red dot on a thermometer and say ‘that’s where we’ll be in 90 years.’
It is my own belief that other things we do here on this Earth have an impact on this planet, and that we should be aware of the impacts and in some cases work to lessen them. It is a happy coincidence that lessening these other impacts may also serve to reduce the impacts of whatever climate change we may be causing with CO2.
In the past century we have gone from cultivating about 3% of the world’s land for agriculture to about 33%. And of course this has had an effect on the planet, and of course that includes this planet’s climate. It has changed the albedo of the land and it has changed the level and movement of moisture over (and around) the cultivated areas. The vertical columns of air that shape what we perceive as weather are hugely affected by this. As they are by creation of manmade reservoirs behind the 850,000 dams we have built.
We have cut down forests, and not only for agriculture. They’re recovering in the developed world, but not in the emerging nations that still need the wood for fuel and the land for space. And again, this has affected the entire ecology and that does include climate.
(Digression–with the increasing urbanisation of this planet, some of these effects will lessen. More of us will live in cities, occupying a smaller space. Technology will reduce the amount of land needed for agriculture, despite our growing population. Some things will get better–maybe a lot of things, if we work for them.)
I could go on, but the point is clear enough for you to either agree or disagree. We are changing our planet, and one poorly understood change is the composition of the atmosphere.
Had the IPCC and others been savvy enough to look at all the changes we are making instead of just focusing on the ‘flavor of the month,’ I think the science–and our options–would have been more clearly expressed and more believable.
Instead, they focused on CO2 and treated all who disagreed as the rabble I mentioned before. What they wanted was a rabble alarmed. What they got was a rabble in arms.
Thomas Fuller http://www.redbubble.com/people/hfuller