The FUD against global warming continues

FUD = fear, uncertainty and doubt. The FUD on global warming persists, despite the science being sound for decades. Below I will go over some common and important questions about global warming along with answers to them.

Global warming: is it real? How do we know? Is global warming changing or is it the weather?

First, we need to know that global warming is caused by climate change, not weather. Weather occurs on the scale of days, climate change occurs on the scale of years, decades and millennia. The big freeze last winter in Texas and the recent heat waves in California are weather patterns. An outbreak of heat wave, hurricane or tornado is weather. The twenty-year drought that we are experiencing here in the western United States is weather-related. The recession (melting) of 90% of mountain glaciers worldwide over the past 200 years is thought to be caused by climate change/global warming.

What is the cause of global warming?

Scientists explain that global warming is caused by the “greenhouse effect”.

What is the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect gets its name from the fact that greenhouses are made of glass and use the sun to keep them warm in winter. If you have gotten into your car after sitting in the sun and observed how hot it is and how hot the seats are, you have personally observed the greenhouse effect. Your car’s windows are transparent to visible (short-wave) radiation from the sun, so it passes through the car’s windows and heats the seats and interior, which absorb the short-wave radiation. The long-wave infrared radiation emitted by the heated seats and the passenger compartment cannot pass through the windows, which are opaque to long-wave radiation. This is the mechanism that heats your car or greenhouse. If you have felt the heat radiation (long waves) passing your hand over the burners of your stove, even before the elements turned red, you have perceived long wave radiation.

How does the greenhouse effect work in the Earth’s atmosphere?

Scientists postulate that the CO2 in the atmosphere acts like the glass in a greenhouse or in your car. The atmosphere transmits visible radiation (transparent to short waves) which is absorbed by the ground which heats up. Imagine an asphalt or concrete road around a swimming pool that gets too hot to walk on barefoot in the summer. The ground emits long-wave radiation (heat) but it cannot pass back through the atmosphere, which is opaque to long-wave radiation. How do we know this is true? Only atmospheric physicists specializing in radiation transfer fully understand how this process works. So if someone who is not an atmospheric physicist claims that greenhouse warming of the Earth is not true, he/she probably doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. But for us, the evidence comes from rising atmospheric and ocean temperatures (Figure 1) and melting ice from glaciers, Greenland and Antarctica since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

What evidence do we have of global warming/climate change?

More than 97% of climatologists agree that global warming is real and is caused by the human burning of fossil fuels. The few scientists who disagree with the consensus each have their own theories about what’s going on with the climate, and each sees the flaws in the other’s logic.

There is evidence of global warming due to the melting of mountain glaciers (melting), the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, and the increased intensity of hurricanes, fires and floods.

The new IPCC through its latest 2021 report says: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.

Why have governments been unable to address the problem in any meaningful way?

However, throughout history, whenever new scientific evidence has challenged current thinking and big business revenue, a strategy has been concocted and continually employed to obscure the truth of the new evidence.

  • DDT: During World War II, DDT was used indiscriminately to kill mosquitoes to stop the spread of malaria, especially in the South Pacific. After the war it was used to mist neighborhoods in the United States and even to spray children to kill head lice etc. When Rachel Carson’s book The silent spring was published in 1962 exposing the dangers of DDT, including thinning eagle eggshells, the backlash from the chemical industry was fierce.
  • Smoking: When a direct link between smoking and lung cancer was scientifically proven, the reaction from the tobacco industry was fierce.
  • Acid rain: When the direct link between sulfur dioxide emitted by power plants and acid rain contaminating downwind lakes was scientifically proven, the response from power companies was fierce. This was discovered by one of my father’s former students, Gene Likens, in 1963.
  • Hole in the ozone layer: When a direct link between chlorofluorocarbons used in refrigeration and the hole in the ozone layer, the backlash from the refrigeration industry was fierce.
  • Global warming: The link between anthropogenic CO2 and global warming was postulated more than 100 years ago. The scientific evidence has grown stronger in the years that have followed. Surprise – the reaction of the fossil fuel industry has gone off the rails.

In each case, those opposing the new scientific evidence used the same technique. They co-opted (corrupted) a few scientists to cast doubt on the new evidence. Then they entered a full legal press to spread doubt in order to delay governments from acting to solve the problem. This technique was documented in the 2010 book Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, described below from Wikipedia.

Merchants of doubt: how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues ranging from tobacco smoke to global warming is a 2010 nonfiction book by American science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. He identifies parallels between global warming controversy and previous controversies over smoking tobacco, acid rain, DDTand the hole in the ozone layer. Oreskes and Conway write that, in each case, “keeping the controversy alive” by sowing doubt and confusion after scientific consensus had been reached was the basic strategy of those opposed to action.[1] In particular, they show that Fred Seitz, Fred Singerand some others against a current scientists teamed up with conservatives Focus groups and private companies to challenge scientific consensus on many contemporary issues.[2]

Some of the book’s subjects criticized the book, but most reviewers received it favorably. A reviewer said that Merchants of Doubt has been thoroughly researched and documented, and may be one of the most important books of 2010

Why are there so few Republican politicians who will agree that global warming is real?

It’s very simple: Led by the Koch brothers, the fossil fuel industry paid hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions to Republican politicians in exchange for their denial of global warming. Moreover, conservative Republicans believe that all problems can be solved by the free market, and they believe that attempts to fight global warming are an attempt to submit the United States to world government.

Has the recent adoption of electric vehicles and clean energy generation reduced CO2 emissions?

Figure 2: Atmospheric CO2 from NOAA. Mauna Loa Observatory. Hawaii. Figure by NOAA

NOAA has established its main global CO2 observatory on a high volcanic mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The CO2 is well mixed in the atmosphere before reaching the observatory and is not biased by local sources.

In the graph shown in Figure 2, you can see a steady increase from 320 to over 400 parts per million over the past 60 years. You can see that despite great progress around the world to reduce CO2 emissions, the overall increase has not slowed even slightly over this period.


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Teresa H. Sadler