Thursday, July 29, 2010

Global Warming and the Politics of Denial (Video from National Geographic)


This issue is one of the most divisive in the Western World. In the United States, many more people who used to accept that global warming is happening no longer believe it. Even when reputable institutions like NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) put out evidence recently that this is a problem, still many people more seem to flock to the more comforting idea that mankind is just a simple creature unable to have a long-term effect on the planet.

That is why climate-warming deniers always cling to any shreds of a hacked e-mail or a scientist or a celebrity who tells us that our industrial economy doesn't come with a nasty effect on the atmosphere of the planet. The facts are that hundreds of climate scientists say that the earth is getting warmer, period, and have been saying so for years.

I believe human beings do have the power to change our climate--and all the name-calling I've read on websites researching this topic tells it is so hopelessly politicized (at least in the USA, where one-quarter of the greenhouse-effect emissions come from) that it will be a long time before we realize how fragile this planet is and how American and Chinese and European lifestyles are making this planet warmer.

It was all put together quite well for me in a recent editorial in the Los Angeles Times (from July 22) . I include a portion of this editorial because I feel this gets to the heart of the state of denial too many Americans are trapped in by misleading punditry and conspiracy theories that aim to do nothing but pretend the forests aren't dying, the masses of plankton and coral reefs aren't diminishing and the world isn't getting hotter.

"You probably won't hear it from columnist George F. Will, Fox News commentators or the plethora of conservative blogs that have claimed global warming essentially stopped in 1998, but recent figures released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that global land and ocean surface temperatures in June were the highest since record-keeping began in 1880. What's more, the first half of 2010 was the hottest such period ever recorded, and Arctic sea ice melted at a record-setting pace in June.

"The heat can probably be attributed at least in part to periodic and entirely natural changes in ocean temperatures and surface air pressure — the El Niño/La Niña phenomena most likely played a role. But the fact that peak years are getting hotter while even relatively "cool" years now tend to remain above historical averages (the 10 warmest years on record all occurred within the last 15 years, according to the NOAA) shows that something else is at work. A consensus of climate scientists worldwide, including not only the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change but the national scientific academies of the United States and the rest of the developed world, have identified that "something else" as anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases, which reflect the sun's heat back onto the Earth rather than letting it escape into space."

Sometimes an "inconvenient truth" is just that.


  1. I always welcome well-researched contrary conclusions on these matters, Good Stuff, and looks like you've more than done your homework.

    Like I said in my blog, this one is one of the most controversial matters. I was reading about this before Al Gore made all his bally-hoo about it.

  2. yeah - I would be full on anti if it wasn't for the UHIE

  3. Thanks for posting this excellent blog Doug , obviously 'global warming' is not imaginary no matter how desperately unrepentant consumers want to wish it away and feel good about things, but in many respects I also think the argument about it is a bit of a red herring.

    For me it is absolutely self evident that we need to stop polluting our environment the way we have been and still are doing. You just cannot turn the place upon which you depend for life into a cess pit and expect to survive, its kids stuff really.

    So irrespective of whether we think that global warming is caused by human behaviour or not we still have to end our dependence upon fossil fuels, we still have to increasingly use renewable energy sources and work to reduce the stress on the planet.... that's fundamental, there is no rational argument against it.

  4. Well said AA!

    I think the issue of fossil fuel reduction, and, in the US certainly, reducing foreign depenancy on same is a stand that should unite all sensible consumers against the petrol-lobbying status quo.

    Perhaps we are looking at a red herring, or at best a very contentious breed of fish which draws our attention away from the cause you speak about--unifying on the preservation and cleaning up of the only planet we have.

  5. With both Sweden and Iceland committed to an oil-free economy over the next 20 years there are options that we could pursue if only we could free ourselves of the grip of the multinational oil mega-corporations and their political henchmen. Actually we have never needed these hydrocarbons that the reptiles who run the oil racket are happily wrecking our planet for, it is all just a con dreamed up by the Rockefellers et al.

    As Wikipedia points out

    "Rudolf Diesel was the father of the engine which bears his name. His first attempts were to design an engine to run on coal dust, but later designed his engine to run on vegetable oil. The idea, he hoped, would make his engines more attractive to farmers having a source of fuel readily available.

    In a 1912 presentation to the British Institute of Mechanical Engineers, he cited a number of efforts in this area and remarked:-

    "The fact that fat oils from vegetable sources can be used may seem insignificant today, but such oils may perhaps become in course of time of the same importance as some natural mineral oils and the tar products are now."

    Straight from the horses mouth so to speak Doug, we can end this destructive addiction if we think outside the box carefully constructed for us by BP-Amoco and their friends.

  6. What ever anyone may think on the issue it's surely good 'housekeeping' at the very least not to cause pollution and to mitigate the pollution already out there?

  7. There's a renewable resource for certain. I know Brazil has a major ethanol industry as well, thanks to its supplies of sugar cane. Corn-based ethanol has been popular in farm states but the engines that run on gasoline can only use it as an additive.

    Obviously this is where the USA and EU nations should be putting their money---not in sorting out Iraq, for instance, but into renewable fuels based on canola, perhaps, NOT tax breaks for oil companies so they can lead campaigns against alt-fuel supporting political candidates.

    Thanks for the link AA.

  8. Most assuredly Jim. There is no reason not to cut greenhouse gases and pollution for the sake of just having cleaner air for children and older folks, for instance. Real "housekeeping" is needed.

  9. I confess to being a sceptic on the subject. But in my defence I point to the fact that I know pathetically little on the subject. But it is beyond doubt that the bulk of the scientific community is firmly of the opinion that there is a significant and growing problem that has to be addressed urgently. Sadly, as is the case so often these days, scientist are now becoming victims of the political manipulation and smears so often used when the message does not fit for what ever reason. If there is a real problem, and I have no reason to doubt that there is, then we, ALL OF US, need to get with the programme and do our bit towards cleaning up the mess we have collectively made.

  10. Great blog Doug!!!

    My perspective on the whole thing is from not just the scientific,but from my own personal experiences.
    I WORK outside,remember.
    While most,if not all,deniers are comfortably inside in their air-conditioned,or heated houses.....I'm outside IN the elements,every day.
    Boiling hot in the summer,freezing my butt off in the winter.

    While people were saying,last winter,"Where's global warming,it's freezing here?"........all of Atlantic Canada(New Brunswick,especially) had one of the warmest winters on record.
    The Spring here(according to my 25 years of records,from work) are at least 3 weeks earlier.The snow is melting earlier and faster.
    The Fall is at least 3 to 4 weeks later.The leaves are not changing until late October,sometimes not until November.Used to be late September.
    The Summers here are warmer for a longer period of time.The temperatures are not going up any,it's just the length of time is getting longer.
    Granted,this is just for my area,so you can take it as it is,but for me? Something is happening.

    Here's a guy on Youtube you might be interested in.He does really good videos on debunking global warming deniers.

  11. Yes,Jim, it comes down to a lot of people and companies being too comfortable with the status quo and finding people to refute any efforts to support serious programs and regulations against pollution, which we all can agree I think is an ongooing problem.
    The fact that a greater percentage of the earth's people are living in industrial/technologically advanced societies only points up the need for tleaders and citizens in the USA--the biggest energy user of all--to show some leadership here. Our track on this matter, frankly, stinks.

  12. Thanks Timelord. And thanks also for the link to the "Crock of the Week" on Greenman. It's one I need to bookmark on You Tube.

    All we have to go on a lot of the time is scientific data and our personal observations, as you outlined so well above.

    It's one thing to beliveve a talk-show guy or one political group or another, but if our own senses and those of our neighbors (who likely have little to gain on this issue) are saying things are unusual--as has been my experience as well--should we not err on the side of caution and do more to reduce carbon emissions?

    Promoting electric cars and using fewer resources would certainly have benefits beyond the climate-warming issues some of us agree about, and some are entitled to be skeptical about.

  13. I agree with this. The air and our waters are all polluted and nasty, and only good can come from cleaning up industry. Factories that spill out noxious gasses need to be cleaned up, and older ones need to be replaced.
    I'm not sure I can believe that cars have a BIG impact,but I'm sure they have some impact. Of course, I have a classic car that can only run on gas,so I may be biased there.
    I really do think that cleaning up the factories would help a great deal. You drive into Houston under a black cloud, most of the time. Lake Charles is almost as bad. Black smoke in our air can't be good for children and other living things.
    Forests are being depleted by fires on a continuous basis, especially in California. I'm always hearing about massive fires there, which not only deplete the forest, but add to the air pollution as well. Chopping down the rain forests can't be good either, I'm thinking.

  14. The fire situation in the West in very serious, Jacquie. A few years ago southern Oregon had the biggest fire in its history which only makes it harder for the earth to absorb the spike in temperatures, which leads to more fires and so on. Also, much of the rain forests we have left are also the sources for where we get subtances for the advancements in medicines.

    The more people on this planet I think the more we need to get gradually away from petroleum---the era of safe oil extraction is long over in North America, as the recent BP/Hailburton made disaster down in the Gulf proved.

    We can't all get out of gasoline powered cars, but I think the government providing tax incentives for hybrid vehicles can start the ball rolling at least until the market takes over.

  15. Seemingly there is something that is taking place and I have always believed that things do work within a climatic cycle Doug however I myself can say that when we look at the last two years especially we can see that something is happening. I have yet to get sound going on this but in reading what you have wrote it does make much sense. As I have never seen the changes in climate from the east coast to out here in the west as it's been so different. And then take into account the last two years. It has not been typical. Fine post there Doug.

  16. Doug I thought I would contribute this link with what you have here as it's very interesting.