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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Climate Change News: The Poles and Warming Trends

3 Comments

Interested parties were smart to start the most recent International Polar Year, which actually lasted from 2007 to 2009.  As a result, lots of study findings and papers are being issued as it wraps up.  It’s not any time too soon for it.  One summary study found that the Arctic and Antarctic regions are warming faster than before and as a result, more ice mass is being lost than was predicted just a short two years ago.  Numerous glacier fields on Greenland and Antarctica are moving toward the ocean much, much faster than they were 10 and 20 years ago.  It’s these glaciers that have many worried since they reside on land and not water.  Once they move into the water, they will raise sea levels.  If they’re doing that faster than climatologists currently account for in models, current predictions of sea level rise are no good.  The threat to global societies is higher than most people currently think:

A 2007 IPCC report predicted a sea level rise of 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century, which could flood low-lying areas and force millions to flee. The IPY group said an additional 3.9 to 7.8 inches rise was possible if the recent, surprising melting of polar ice sheets continues.

The increase in seaward speed has led glaciologists to call for additional monitoring.  East Antarctica, for instance, has millions of square miles of ice that could potentially melt.  Right now, they have only the barest of ideas of the behavior of the ice.  That’s the kind of thing that has to be pinned down so scientists can monitor conditions so they can offer policy makers the best information possible moving forward.

Meanwhile, the corporate media continue to misreport the problem.  Take this MSNBC article, for instance.  It’s lede?  “Warming might be on hold, study finds”.  Global warming isn’t on hold.  Temperatures do not have a linear relationship to greenhouse gases.  The relationship is nonliner, which means that for a given increase in GHGs, the climate system can and will exhibit different temperature changes.  That isn’t discussed anywhere in the article.  I not only fault MSNBC for this, but scientists related to the article.  The public does not understand these kinds of details because the media doesn’t relay it correctly and scientists don’t ensure that the media does so.

Contrary to what the article says, warming hasn’t “flatlined” since 2001.  Global average temperatures were higher five out of the seven years since 2001.  2007-08 saw a moderate strength, long-lived La Nina that helped depress temperatures somewhat.  But the warming has by and large continued.  If the rate of warming has slowed down somewhat, it doesn’t change what’s happened already.  It simply means we have a little bit of time to pursue aggressive, necessary and technologically-available solutions before even more warming occurs and we’re in a worse situation in 5 to 10 years than we are in today.

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3 thoughts on “Climate Change News: The Poles and Warming Trends

  1. I guess I find the title “is global warming on hold?” as direct evidence as you will find of a pre-conceived or biased hypothesis. It’s either warming or it’s not. You can’t have it both ways. It’s not Global Warming when the climate warms and then it’s Global Warming when it cools, and then it Global Warming on ‘hold’ when you reach a point of 10 years of aggregate cooling. That’s spin at its best. A scientist would say from simple, evidential observation: “for what ever reason, we are in a period of global cooling”.

    I think the real factoid in all of this is defacto proof that CO2 is not the primary driver like political and social activists need it to be. If it was wouldn’t it be overriding these other factors that have been down-played because they don’t work as a tool to re-engineer human behavior?

    The article you cite predicts up to 30 more years of cooling. If that proves to be true, I wonder how many people will still believe the pause claim 40 years from now? At that point the ‘warming pause'(again, global cooling) would have been longer than the previous warming period (1980 to 1998)!

  2. Global warming isn’t a pre-conceived or biased hypothesis. It’s a scientific theory that best explains the phenomena being observed across the globe. It’s been carefully and rigorously tested by multiple disciplines. It’s been refined and updated, but not struck down by such examination.

    It is warming. But the theory doesn’t include a prediction that globally averaged temperatures will increase linearly from now until date X. As I said in the post, the climate is a non-linear system. Different results will naturally come out of such a system for the same input. Exact outputs cannot be predicted from different inputs, as is happening now. What will increasing emissions of GHGs do? We don’t know for certain. That’s an intrinsic characteristic of a dynamic system. We have a pretty good idea: overall, warming will accelerate. But that doesn’t preclude brief periods of no warming or even cooling. Those are micro-trends within a macro-trend.

    No other driver has been found to explain the conditions observed on the planet. None. Many have tried – none have succeeded in successfully describing the current state of the climate without CO2 forcing.

    If the article proves true, we can count ourselves lucky. I, for one, am unwilling to roll the dice. The best evidence says our GHG emissions are forcing the climate system to conditions that are unlike any modern humans have encountered. One way or another, that will shift how our societies are structured and how they behave. We can either do something about the emissions and reduce the impacts on future societies or we can do nothing and force future generations to deal with a radically different climate.

  3. BTW, Philosopher, I’m glad you’re commenting. It’s good to have a discussion about this topic.

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