Debunking the Myths of Climate Skepticism: Climate Skeptics Propagate False Arguments Based on Myths to Forestall the Implementation of Policies Which Combat Climate Change

By Ac, Alexander | The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Debunking the Myths of Climate Skepticism: Climate Skeptics Propagate False Arguments Based on Myths to Forestall the Implementation of Policies Which Combat Climate Change


Ac, Alexander, The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs


Scepticism, or disbelief, is an inevitable part of scientific development and frequently accompanies any new scientific hypothesis. The global warming hypothesis exemplifies this situation--universal support for it does not exist.

The first evidence of carbon dioxide's heat trapping abilities was found in the nineteenth century. Physicists Tyndall, Fourier and Arrhenius discovered a correlation between the rise in C[O.sub.2] and the rise in atmospheric temperature. After decades of intensive research, most scientists have come to the conclusion that these original assumptions were indeed correct.

It is also now widely accepted that the unremitted increase in greenhouse gas concentrations will raise the Earth's temperature and negatively affect the biosphere and mankind. According to current findings, it is necessary to decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent before 2050.

As with any theory which deals with our worldview (e.g., evolution) or which affects the market economy or behavioral patterns, global warming sceptics exist. Understanding and refuting climate scepticism is necessary in order to garner political and civic cooperation on a global scale.

RELIANCE ON SHORT-TERM TRENDS

Climate sceptics commonly point out short-term trends and changes in the climate system. For example, Professor Bob Carter from James Cook University in Australia wrote an article for The Telegraph in 2006, "There IS a Problem with Global Warming ... it Stopped in 1998."

Carter drew his conclusions from the fact that average global temperatures hit a record high in 1998, and all subsequent years have been cooler.

But using the same logic, we could claim that global warming ended in 1979, 1980, 1985 or 1986 when average temperatures declined for a number of years. Focusing on short-term changes in climatic indicators ignores the larger picture. In trying to justify his thesis, he overlooks the significant role the El Nino phenomenon (anomalies in surface sea temperature) played in generating the record high temperatures of 1998. Furthermore, a subsequent cooling is expected with El Nino's passing.

In 2008, the Danish statistician and author of Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, Bjorn Lomborg, wrote in The Guardian that "in the last two years the ocean's water level has not risen." While technically right, he misconstrued the facts. Data from any other two years reveals that ocean water levels have annually risen up to 9 mm. Data from the last ten years conveys a long-term average increase of about 3 mm per year.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ocean water levels will rise by 18-59 cm by 2100 (in the 20th century levels rose about 20 cm). This estimate is potentially low because the IPCC did not take icecap melting into account; uncertainty exists over how the large land-based icesheets of Greenland and the West Antarctic will react. Climatologist and oceanographer from the Institute for Research of Climatic Change in Potsdam, Germany, Dr. Stefan Rahmstorf, predicts that water levels will rise more than 1m by 2100 provided that greenhouse gas emissions do not decrease. …

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