A study just came out with data showing that global warming is happening and that we are causing it with increased CO2 emissions. This is not the first time researchers have come to this conclusion (even before this study came out, consensus was over 90% among people in the field), however as Joe Romm points out, this project got a sizable portion of it’s funding from the Koch brothers. The author, a noted climate skeptic, says that the extensive data shows that people are responsible for essentially all of the warming that is occurring, which is one of the strongest statements yet about human involvement (and basically impossible to best). Other other studies have made very similar findings years ago. As one of the last holdouts, the significance of Dr. Muller’s contribution may be more political than scientific.
His analysis of his own results (described in a recent op ed), might be a little confusing to some. He says:
It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.
… Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035.
… the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.”
I think of the United States as being of the world and not apart from it. I suppose the discovery that a house is getting warmer and that a room in that house getting warming does not absolutely guarantee that the one is affecting the other. The room that we expect to warm along with the house might also be warming through some other unknown means. However, to a novice such speculation does not seem unreasonable.
He goes on to say:
As carbon dioxide emissions increase, the temperature should continue to rise. I expect the rate of warming to proceed at a steady pace, about one and a half degrees over land in the next 50 years, less if the oceans are included. But if China continues its rapid economic growth (it has averaged 10 percent per year over the last 20 years) and its vast use of coal (it typically adds one new gigawatt per month), then that same warming could take place in less than 20 years.
As was noted in a comment on Joe Romm’s post, this may not only establish that we cause global warming, but may also frame the next phase of discussion over climate. We know it’s warming, we know we are causing it. Now the discussion will likely be over the rate, the effects, and what should be done politically.
Assuming there are potential problems with a sudden global change in environment. I think this is a critical time. Proponents of mitigation and responsible action need to frame the debate now, right now, before it is spun by a tightly run and well funded PR machine. To avoid this, my guess is that ordinary people will have to demand a discussion based on sound, existing, data and one which prioritizes the well being of the larger community. We need to be extremely vigilant so as not to get trapped in stall tactics that circumvent an immediate and well informed national discussion over what action should be taken now. We may not have the same options later.
Dr. Muller’s op ed:
Joe Romm’s response
[This post was revised on July 31st 2012.]
* I know that many involved in the Occupy Movement are anarchists, and while I don’t personally see great conflict between anarchism and changing legislation, respect that there are diverse views on this matter. The one’s stated above are simply my own.