Snippets of Stolen Emails Cannot Make the Earth Flat
As has been reported in many news outlets today, a file containing over 5,000 emails from climate scientists has been made available in an apparent attempt to undermine public confidence in well-understood science. This, only days before the COP17 Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa where international leaders will gather again try to hammer out international treaties to get the world off its high carbon emission path and to save humanity from the suffering that human-caused climate change brings with it. Sound familiar? Copenhagen deja vu?
Here is what we know:
- The earth is round.
- Smoking is linked to lung cancer.
- The climate is warming. Ice is rapidly melting, oceans are heating up, and the atmosphere is setting warming records every decade. In fact, 2010 and 2005 tied as the hottest year in the global temperature record. For a wealth of information and illustrations, please see Modern Day Climate Change.
- Humans are responsible for most of this warming because we are emitting massive amounts of heat-trapping gases primarily in the form of carbon dioxide.
- It has been known for over 100 years that carbon dioxide traps heat on the planet, just like adding blankets keeps you warm at night. See Impact of Greenhouse Gases for more details and illustrations.
- Last year humans emitted a record 30 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the air. For perspective, that is equivalent to the weight of 15,000 Gulf Oil Spills EVERY DAY.
- The pattern of observed warming is precisely what physics tells us we should be seeing if heat is being trapped by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. Nights are warming faster than days, winters are warming faster than summers, the oceans are gaining heat, and the lower atmosphere is warming while the upper atmosphere is cooling. There are no known natural mechanisms that can cause this observed warming pattern. Please read The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism by John Cook for a very easy-to-read and highly illustrated summary of the human fingerprints of global warming.
- Because of the mountain of evidence, the United States National Academy of Sciences (2010) declared that “a strong, credible body of scientific evidence shows that climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for a broad range of human and natural systems” as “settled fact.”
- Historical evidence, well-understood physics, and sophisticated climate models all point to a dangerously warm climate if emissions are not dramatically reduced. In fact, the International Energy Agency reports that humanity has about five years to rapidly move away from a fossil fuel-based economy before catastrophic climate change is locked in.
- Killer heat waves, devastating droughts and wildfires, and unprecedented floods are expected in our warmer world and we are witnessing these events now. Climate is the canvas and weather is what is painted on that canvas. Change the canvas and all weather is affected. The extra heat and moisture that human-caused warming is adding to the climate is like injecting steroids into our weather.
- Out-of-context snippets from stolen emails cannot change the well-understood science nor can they change the freakish weather that your eyes have been seeing.
- These “new” emails are actually from the two-year old CRU email hack in November 2009. The original release of hacked emails turned out to be a hoax, a manufactured scandal designed to smear climate scientists. Climate scientists have been vindicated in multiple investigations. See http://www.skepticalscience.com/Climategate-CRU-emails-hacked.htm and Nature Did Not Read the Hacked Emails for more context.
- Climate scientists are not the only experts who are concerned. Military and intelligence experts warn that climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions. Health officials warn us that climate change could be the biggest global health threat of the 21st century. Climate change was recently listed as the greatest strategic risk currently facing the property/casualty insurance industry.
It is a shame that politically motivated ideologues cannot disprove the science so they resort to smear tactics and lies and use major media outlets to keep the average person confused about the coming crisis. They should pull their heads out of the sand and come to the table. We need solutions and it would be much better if conservatives and progressives hammered out the deals together. The end result will be that there will be great suffering and the solutions, when put into place, will not be those favored by conservatives who sat out of the discussion.
My colleague Dr. John Abraham sums up the situation very well:
“Ask the Texas farmer who just lost tens of thousands of dollars due to extreme heat and drought whether he cares about emails.”
Update (11/24/2011): Over at Watts Up With That, Anthony Watts and his commenters are criticizing my co2/blanket metaphor and because of that metaphor they are questioning my scientific understanding. I have also received email to that effect from one of Watts’ followers. When speaking to the public it is often necessary to use metaphors that are not exact science such as heat being “trapped” (it isn’t, the climate system is just slow to catch up to the radiative imbalance) or “warming like adding blankets at night” (same result but for different reasons). Watts also points his readership to Dr. Fraser’s Bad Meteorology page that describes some common misunderstandings. I took courses with Dr. Fraser at Penn State so I am well aware of the proper physics. In fact, I have had the Bad Meteorology page as a link on my faculty home page for more than a decade!
If Anthony Watts wishes to have Dr. Fraser make an exam and we both travel to Penn State and take that exam under his watchful eye, I would wager my score would be higher than his. :)
Others are doing a wonderful job in trying to get the truth out to the general public: