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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Global Warming -- a hoax ?

What's up with Michael Crichton ? In spite of being a fan of his books (Sphere, Prey to name a few) I avoided his State of Fear, after reading the reviews. And, rightfully so. Now he gets to testify before a Senate committee to say that that the science of global warming is mixed at best. Apparently, State of Fear was provided as a reading for the committee members by James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, who calls global warming as "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people". Go figure. I hate this book as becoming fodder for politicians who dont give a hoot about this pressing issue, and who are trying to make sure it goes out of public memory soon. Is the science sketchy, like Crichton claims? Granted, its not a easy thing to provide a conclusive link between global warming and greenhouse gases, but I think most informed scientists would agree to this. There is one fact that cannot be wished away by anyone -- and those are the effects that global warming is producing. Melting artic ice caps. Flooding threats to coastlines, even entire countries. Melting glaciers which will affect agriculture......to name a few. And the people who are making claims about linking these to greenhouse gases are not radical environmentalists, but researchers, including some from government agencies like NASA. People like Inhofe think that they can sit in their little corner of the world and not be bothered about some damn ice cap a couple of thousand miles away.....good luck to them.



Blogger Senthil Kumar said...

So how do you explain the ice ages?? Does it mean that the previous life forms were absorbing heat so much to produce an ice age?? And now we are producing heat so much to melt these things away???


Its just something called nature which we can not comprehend.

12:24 PM  
Blogger AR said...

Thanks Senthil.

The way I see it, there are two issues involved here: Is human activity contributing to global warming, and, How much can we, if at all, comprehend how nature works. Probably the easier answer is to the second issue, which is not much -- considering predictiveness. The weather is a great example of a complex system, with unpredictable long term behavior. That is why weather forecasts on TV are reliable for only a few days in advance. Further than that, we only have statistical averages gathered over previous years, and they are hardly any good indicators of what may come. I think that the inherent unpredictability is a cause for concern -- because we have no idea in what direction we are pushing climate change (which has shown to be capable of abrupt transformations). All this said, how can one be confident that human activity is contributing to global warming? One fact is undeniable -- the spewing of enormous amounts of CO2, in addition to other gases into the atmosphere. The effects of CO2, as a greenhouse gas, is something that is well documented and undeniable. The fact that this is slowly, but gradually pushing climate towards change is also undeniable -- so the question remains, in what direction? And what are the consequences?

There are two other factors that give us a degree of certainty in these claims. The first is that at the same time the concentrations of greenhouse gases have been increasing, there has been an increase in global land & water temperatures. This is further bolstered by the fact that climate models have been able to predict the temperature rises years in advance. Like the well-known facts about CFCs and their effects on the ozone layer, CO2, and other gases like methane are major contributors towards change.

The only problem is that we dont know what are the long term effects involved. We could only hypothesize about possible scenarios, but even ignoring the dire ones, these changes could be far reaching.

Further reading: Global warming on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

"At present, our most accurate knowledge about climate sensitivity is based on data from the earth's history, and this evidence reveals that small forces, maintained long enough, can cause large climate change" - Scientific American, March 2004

4:16 PM  
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