Originally, I was going to motor on through with land use and species loss, but hit a wall as I wish to rely on other points that would require a bit of explaining (I’m keeping these part-posts under ~800 words each). Hence, I’ve decided to make a detour in this part so that it can be used to refer to in later sections, thereby reducing the necessary weight later on.
One of my pet-peeves is the debate over anthropogenic global warming (AGW). As far as I can tell, such a debate is futile (something that I hope to explain through the collection of these related posts).
Anyone who has been following discussions online regarding climate change should be well aware of the data (if not see NASA, or NOAA Climate for valid and up-to-date data). The cause of this is irrelevant to the fact that we are experiencing an age of changing climate regardless. It is true also that we have experienced changes in climate over the passed few millennia, including a couple of warmer and cooler periods, however I will later discuss why I believe those such times do not relate to our current situation and why they offer no reassurance for the future.
There is ever mounting evidence of our changing climate and a general consensus that this should be addressed as a matter of urgency both within the academic community and various governing bodies.
This is the area where I’m most out of my element (living in South Australia it’s a surprise that I don’t think snow and ice are just a myth! Luckily I grew up in the south east of Victoria and when on many trips to the snow topped mountains ;)). For that reason, I feel that John Cook at Skeptical Science puts together a great post regarding Greenland’s Ice loss here. Observations by NASA, and NOAA (again) demonstrate a general increase of sea levels over time. Some of this is be due to thermal expansion, but the bulk will be from ice loss (Grinsted, et al. 2010). This threatens have a detrimental effect on biodiversity that rely on wetlands (Traill et al. 2010), but more on that later.
I get annoyed when I hear people state that CO2 is a harmless gas. If you again go to NASA or NOAA, you’ll find that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by more than 100ppm since the industrial revolution (Raupach et al. 2007) and is at the time of writing this 392.94ppm at the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. Of the anthropogenic CO2 emissions over the past 200 years, around a third has been taken up by the oceans, which has already caused the ocean pH to drop by 0.1 (Fabry et al. 2008). As pH reduces, carbonate ions become less available for the many phyla of ocean dwelling animals that produce calcium carbonate exoskeleton and coral production (Fabry et al. 2008). I’ll develop in this relationship between pH and fitness in a later post.
I know that I’ve been quite light on these points. However, reviewing a wide range of the discussions among different blogs, I fear that denial manages to induce inaction through a number of useful tools; over complication and confusion (ie. an inability to see the forest through the trees), an avoidance of scientific rigour (look at the time it took Prof Abraham to dissect the mess that was Monckton’s presentation; where science papers go through an appropriate review process and are open among peers to be debated and retested, work like Monckton’s presentation is assumed to be taken at face value without such review), and an overwhelming obsession with uncertainty (I often hear, “we need to be absolutely sure if we’re going to make changes”), to name a few.
What I offer here are some basic points which are based on observation. What I will do next is develop on the various effects of these known points. There are always uncertainties, however previous model predictions are increasingly looking like they are underestimations (Grinsted, et al. 2010). If you want to be any more certain, it’ll only be in retrospect. The above points are irrefutable and dangerous if inaction continues (of which I plan to discuss). I will hopefully add some clarity to what I’ve long felt is a pointless and distracting debate and from there I hope to being to develop optimism in our potential to change.