Two climate scientists each explained opposing viewpoints on perhaps one of the most hotly contested issues for state government officials—the global warming and climate debate.
Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign presented evidence that points to global warming—a major problem—that is primarily caused by carbon dioxide emissions, mostly due to humans’ impact on the Earth.
“Warming is not due to natural variability—it’s due to us,” he said Dec. 6 at The Council of State Governments Annual Meeting in Omaha, Neb.
And because it takes not 10 or 100 years for the Earth to reach equilibrium, it will take 1,000 years for things to go back to normal, assuming human-caused global warming comes to a screeching halt, Schlesinger said. “Even what we’ve already done to the Earth’s atmosphere will last 40 generations (and) most of it we did unknowingly,” he said.
Schlesinger based his findings on models he uses to predict the climate. Those models are sophisticated equations and formulas that crunch numbers and come up with the potential effect different things have on the Earth’s atmosphere.
But predicting the climate is no small fete—not even for climate scientists, Schlesinger said. “This is the most difficult planet to do climate projections on,” he said, because of Earth’s oceans and cloud cover.
Schlesinger, who has worked on reports for Illinois in mitigating climate change, advocates cap-and-trade programs. But, he said, “it’s easy to talk the talk with cap and trade, but it’s hard to walk the walk.”
And right now, “basically everybody is talking cap and trade.”
John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville, discussed his research, which basically showed global warming is happening but that carbon dioxide emissions are not the major cause to it.
Through several hypotheses, Christy contends that climate scientists blaming global warming on CO2 are not using the correct measurements and are not basing their projections on accurate numbers.
For instance, he said, climate projections often use daytime and nighttime high and low temperatures, but nighttime temperatures are often tainted and should not be used in measuring temperature to determine climate change. Those nighttime temperatures do not measure the greenhouse effect, he said.
Using his own calculations, Christy said greenhouse gases aren’t changing the climate. “What is happening is not the greenhouse effect,” Christy said Saturday. CO2 is rising in concentration, but, clouds mitigate the CO2 effect, Christy said.
The models used to predict major global warming up to this point have been too sensitive, Christy said. “Models are something people create. Models are great tools with which to prove your own prejudices,” he said.
But his calculations are based on real numbers—actual climate data, he said.
Christy also said there are some common misconceptions out there. Polar bears, for example, are not going extinct. In the 1960s, there were roughly 6,000 to 10,000 polar bears, which were being hunted with more sophisticated means. Today though, there are more than 24,000 polar bears, and some countries allow a certain amount to be killed every year to keep the bear population under control.
Sea level is also only going up roughly an inch per century, Christy said.
And, severe weather is not becoming more frequent, Christy said.
But beyond all of the scientific assertions, Christy was most passionate about policy surrounding climate change. He cautioned the audience of state government officials to stop and really research and review laws seeking to mitigate global warming.
He believes climate change legislation passed so far will do little to improve the actual climate but rather will have large impacts on the economy.
Discussing California’s Assembly Bill 14, Christy said, “If you want to do something about automobile emissions, this isn’t going to do it for you.”