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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 04/22/2008

Freedman: A Harsh Climate for Optimism

By Andrew Freedman

While there are many reasons to be enthusiastic about environmental progress on this Earth Day week, it's difficult for people in the climate science community to be in a celebratory mood at the moment. Despite the abundant attention devoted to climate change since the last Earth Day, many climate scientists and activists seem to be suffering from what psychologists would term a mild "mixed state," or one in which the symptoms of depression, with its associated despair and listlessness, and mania, with its excess energy and confidence, are present at the same time.

The depression stems from the wide gulf that exists between the perception of climate change as an urgent issue in the scientific community and the slow pace of political action to address the root causes of the problem. The mania results from a growing recognition of the many benefits that may be realized from shifting to cleaner energy technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, from enhanced national security to an economic windfall for certain sectors of the economy. The mixture of these disparate emotions is a recipe for frustration.

This frustration spilled over last week in the wake of President Bush's climate change speech on April 16.

Speaking from the Rose Garden last week, President Bush committed the nation to stopping the growth in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and reversing it thereafter. Bush also clearly stated for the first time that the U.S. would accept binding emissions restrictions if developing countries such as China and India were to make comparable commitments of their own.

Critics of Bush's proposal pounced on the announcement, dismissing it as completely inadequate considering the urgency and scale of the climate change problem. Actual reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are required, critics argued, rather than only reductions in the rate at which emissions are increasing from year to year. By and large, the scientific community tended to side with the critics, and some in fact were among Bush's harshest reviewers.

Scientific criticisms of the speech were rooted in the mixed state emotional backdrop of the climate issue.

On the one hand, many recent studies have shown that climate change is a more serious threat than was thought to be the case only a few years ago, which adds a palpable sense of urgency to scientific work on the subject. But this urgency so far has not survived its journey across the science/policy divide intact, thereby leading some climate scientists and activists to feel a degree of hopelessness and despair.

For example, negotiations on a new climate change treaty are inching ahead far slower than mountaintop glaciers are melting, while the current treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, may not even be fulfilled due to increasing emissions in some countries that signed on to cut them (I'm looking at you, Canada).

On the other hand, there are also grounds for optimism. Global civil society is becoming increasingly motivated and organized to confront climate change, and some economic studies are now pointing to the benefits that could be realized by transitioning to cleaner energy technologies.

In a speech at a Yale University conference of governors on climate change on April 18, IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri summarized much of the criticism of Bush's views by delivering a thinly-veiled rebuke of Bush's speech given only two days before. He also revealed a great deal about how the chief representative of an authoritative body on climate change science views the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the opportunities for economic benefits involved in such efforts.

In his speech, Pachauri lamented the lack of U.S. leadership on climate change, but he stopped short of directly criticizing the Bush Administration, which might have seriously undermined his position as chief scientific spokesperson for the climate science community. Instead, he offered slightly more oblique rebuttals.

He said there may be as little as seven years in which to make dramatic headway on the climate issue in order to avert the most far-reaching consequences of climate change, including public health impacts, rising sea levels, and major alterations in the distribution of water around the world.

Pachauri took particularly close aim on those who argue that cutting emissions below recent levels would harm the economy. Perhaps it was just a coincidence that Bush made that very argument in his Rose Garden speech, when he said that the "wrong way" to address climate change "is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates, or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realized and every chance of hurting our economy."

Pachauri took the opposite view. "If people tell you that the cost of mitigation is going to be very high, then I think they need to be disputed," he stated.

Pachauri claimed that mitigation carries a variety of co-benefits that would be helpful to an economy, such as job creation and more efficient production methods. Such plus sides might make mitigation a "negative costs" option, he said.

Pachauri lauded the governors of states such as California, Connecticut, New Jersey and Kansas, each of which were seated on the stage behind him, for enacting ambitious policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the absence of federal government action. According to the Center for Climate Strategies, 27 states have developed or are currently developing climate change action plans. Officials from 18 states signed onto a declaration calling for a federal/state partnership to address climate change, with the active participation of the presidential candidates.

At times it sounded like state-level actions are what have kept Pachauri from falling into a deep depression over the U.S. approach to climate change.

"I'm always able to provide comfort by saying look at California, look at Connecticut" and the other states that are taking action, Pachauri said.

Pachauri also offered a pointed rebuttal to critics who continue to assail climate science with charges that the problem is not manmade. "Climate change is not really scientific theory, it's something that we can observe now," he said. He said someone would have to be "totally naïve or totally unable to see things around him to say that climate change is merely a myth."

It's a fair bet that with the presidential election between now and Earth Day 2009, Pachauri and others in the climate change field will become less mixed, and more decidedly optimistic about translating climate science into federal policy in the United States.

By Andrew Freedman  | April 22, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman  
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Comments

Please stick to the weather and leave the politics to the professionals. Science still can not answer with any confidence how much of the recent warming is anthropogenic versus man-made.

Posted by: RM | April 22, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Please leave the science to the professionals. Science has determined with at least a 90% certainty that the current warming is anthropogenic.

Posted by: Steve, Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

And anthropogenic is the same thing as man-made . . .

Posted by: Steve, Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Please cite any study that proves 90% of warming in the past century is man made (anthropogenic). I am not aware of any. All I have read is that there is no conclusive proof one way or the other yet. There are some correlations, but correlations do not prove causality.

I agree with the OP, please stick with the weather here and leave the political discussion to others.

Posted by: Phil | April 22, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

...just like those scientists who said that global cooling was all the rage in the 1970's?

Posted by: Little Ice Age | April 22, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

RM, Phil: Climate change is one of the most important discussions of our time (no matter what side of the debate you fall on). Considering we are a weather blog for the DC area -- where science and politics often converge -- occasional coverage and commentary on climate change is quite appropriate. Our main focus will always be day-to-day weather and its impact on Washingtonians, but one or two posts a week (out of about 18 or 19 per week) on climate change seems quite reasonable. And Andrew's background and experience makes him more than qualified to offer such commentary. We believe many of our readers (though not necessarily many of those who comment on such posts) appreciate this content.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Science is based on evidence. The evidence in the 1970s pointed toward global cooling in the future. New evidence, and new analysis of old evidence, led to new ideas and hypotheses about future climate.

I doubt a study would prove that 90% of warming in the past century is anthropogenic. I suspect that studies suggest that 90% is anthropogenic.

Posted by: Murre | April 22, 2008 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman, you wrote, "On the one hand, many recent studies have shown that climate change is a more serious threat than was thought to be the case only a few years ago, ...".

I assume when you say "recent studies" you are referring to scientific studies. Is that a correct assumption?

Can you please provide a link or info regarding these studies of which you speak?

And by any chance would you happen to have information on any published, peer-reviewed scientific study that proves that natural climate variability is not the cause of any perceived recent warming?

Many thanks!

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Steve, I'm not sure if you were joking or being snide on purpose... but what the heck. I too am curious about this 90% study? Any chance you could link?

Thanks!

Posted by: Jake in Reston | April 22, 2008 1:00 PM | Report abuse

90% -- This would be the latest report by the International Panel on Climate Change, as detailed in this Washington Post story from last year as well as in numerous other articles. If you're interested in the report itself, as well as summaries of the report, they're available on the IPCC Web site.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I just want to say that I very much enjoy Andrew's weekly column and other discussions on this site concerning climate change. I think that an ongoing discussion regarding climate change is well within the mission of a blog that is dedicated to discussing weather.

Posted by: Silent majority | April 22, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I wasn't asking about the 90%. I have read the IPCC report.

I was asking about this comment by Mr. Freedman, "... many recent studies have shown that climate change is a more serious threat than was thought to be the case only a few years ago, ...".

I assume those are peer-reviewed, published, scientific studies. Where can I find more information on those studies?

I ask specifically because I have read the IPCC reports. The predicted rise in sea level has gone down with each new report. The current prediction is 18 inches or less. So it seems to me that the recent studies are saying that AGW is *less* of a threat than previously thought.

And does anyone have any information on any published, peer-reviewed scientific study that proves that natural climate variability is not the cause of any perceived recent warming?

Thanks in advance!

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q. -- Yes, realize your question is not about the 90%. But others did ask about it, thus the response. Will let Andrew or others respond to your specific question.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Thanks! Dunno how I missed that article before.

Posted by: Jake in Reston | April 22, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

In all fairness to "Jake in Reston" you didn't really answer his question. You simply pointed to a previous article from your own site.

A better answer would have been to state the source and page number. For example, the IPCC "Climate Change 2007:
Synthesis Report
Summary for Policymakers" page number 21.

That was just an exampe, because you will not find the "90%" Steve was inquiring about in the Summary for Policymakers.

Perhaps you guys could tell us where in the IPCC report(s) we could find the 90% that Steve was asking about?

Many thanks!

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I shall patiently wait for an answer to my questions from Mr. Freedman.

It is fair to ask for the source to a claim, isn't it?

Patiently waiting,
Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q (and Jake and Murre) -- Indeed the 90% does appear in the IPCC report, "The Physical Science Basis" and in the report's Summary for Policymakers (PDF) on pg. 10 of the document -- "Most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations." The footnote on pg. 3 explains that, in this document, "very likely" equals more than 90%.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Steve, read page 5 and page 17 of the full 2007 IPCC report found here -
http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr.pdf

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I stand corrected about the 90% not appearing in the summary for policymakers. Thank you for correcting me.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 2:24 PM | Report abuse

That same page 10 includes this sentence, "It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent except Antarctica (see Figure SPM.4)."

And the footnote defines likely as greater than 66% chance.

And hasn't Antarctica been cooling?

So if you take out the huge deep freezer which has been getting colder, it is only "likely" that that has been a significant warming over the last 50 years.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Science also needs to take the data about the Sun into account. I haven't seen the "global warming is here" folks take the Sun into account. There is that pesky problem with the sunspots, and the fact that climates seem to be changing on Mars, Venus, etc. as well. There are no humans on Mars or Venus, last I checked.

Posted by: Skeptic | April 22, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm curious about something else: that phrase "by and large" in the sentence "By and large, the scientific community tended to side with the critics." What reputable climate scientist celebrated Bush's speech as an unalloyed good thing? I'm sure that you can find a scientist or two who would welcome the idea that finally a US president admits that a) there's a problem and b) we have to do something about it, since we've had so many years of ignorance and denial. But I know of no climate scientist who would celebrate a commitment to stop GHG increase by 2025; that is far too little far too late. So: what's your source for that "by and large"?

Posted by: Albert T | April 22, 2008 2:35 PM | Report abuse

To paraphrase the IPCC report -
They aren't that sure that there has been any significant warming over the last 50 years. But if there has been warming, they are almost POSITIVE that it is all man's fault.

Is that a scientific report or a Monty Python skit?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Goodness, lets focus on the weather and improving accuracy. Check out the fascinating post at the NYTimes: http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/21/how-valid-are-tv-weather-forecasts/

Posted by: Dr. J. | April 22, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q: I don't have time at the moment to give you a comprehensive rundown of all the studies that show that climate change is more serious a threat now than was thought in the recent past. Some studies that come to mind, other than the IPCC Report which is an excellent summary of recent research (but may fail to capture more recent thinking on sea level rise, see Hansen et. al. for writing on this), include:

Rahmstorf, S., A. Cazenave, J.A. Church, J.E. Hansen, R.F. Keeling, D.E. Parker, and R.C.J. Somerville, 2007: Recent climate observations compared to projections. Science, 316, 709, doi:10.1126/science.1136843.

Stroeve, J., M. M. Holland, W. Meier, T. Scambos, and M. Serreze (2007), Arctic sea ice decline: Faster than forecast, Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L09501, doi:10.1029/2007GL029703.

Lindsay, R.W., and J. Zhang, 2005: The Thinning of Arctic Sea Ice, 1988-2003: Have We Passed a Tipping Point? J. Climate, 18, 4879-4894.

As a general response to some other comments to today's column, I suggest checking out New Scientist's answers to common misperceptions about the climate, here.

Also, the IPCC has an FAQ as part of the Fourth Assessment Report that is worth checking out too.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I thought my role (or lack there of) with the couple of nice weather days in DC last week was controversial. Sanctus faeces!

Posted by: Pope Benny | April 22, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Albert T: I used the phrase "by and large" because while all of the comments I saw from scientists, including the speech I attended by Dr. Pachauri, were highly critical of Bush's approach, I couldn't guarantee that every climate scientist felt that way. I'm guessing that some skeptic scientists may think Bush is pursuing a prudent course of action by being cautious about imposing any additional burdens on the U.S. economy.

Dr. J, thanks for the reference to the NYT piece. I've read it, and someone from this site may post about it in the next couple of days.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 3:08 PM | Report abuse

How do you respond to other scientists that point to the sunspot cycle to show that we are likely at an inflection point and may face a period of cooling the next several years?

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23583376-5013480,00.html

"All four agencies that track Earth's temperature (the Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, the Christy group at the University of Alabama, and Remote Sensing Systems Inc in California) report that it cooled by about 0.7C in 2007. This is the fastest temperature change in the instrumental record and it puts us back where we were in 1930.

...

It is generally not possible to draw conclusions about climatic trends from events in a single year, so I would normally dismiss this cold snap as transient, pending what happens in the next few years.

This is where SOHO comes in. The sunspot number follows a cycle of somewhat variable length, averaging 11 years. The most recent minimum was in March last year. The new cycle, No.24, was supposed to start soon after that, with a gradual build-up in sunspot numbers.

It didn't happen. The first sunspot appeared in January this year and lasted only two days. A tiny spot appeared last Monday but vanished within 24 hours. Another little spot appeared this Monday. Pray that there will be many more, and soon.

The reason this matters is that there is a close correlation between variations in the sunspot cycle and Earth's climate. The previous time a cycle was delayed like this was in the Dalton Minimum, an especially cold period that lasted several decades from 1790. "

Posted by: Phil | April 22, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the reply.

While I appreciate the caution of "by and large," I think it sends the wrong message to readers: that the science is divided on this. It isn't. Readers (voters!) are going to be barraged by info and misinfo on this topic, as scientific reality is challenged by carbon-industry corporations with a big stake in keeping carbon caps high (as in, they get to keep pumping out carbon). It would be a service to your readers (and to the future of civilization on the planet--really, it's that dire) if you didn't portray the science as divided. There is disagreement--will 400 ppm be low enough? Do we need 350 ppm?--but Bush's idea that we don't need to even start decreasing CO2 until 2025 is unsupported by the science, no matter how you read it.

Posted by: Albert T | April 22, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I believe coal and oil companies are using there millions of dollars to pay individuals to be global warming skeptics on blog sites. This might explain why most of the comments on this site and others try to discredit the science behind climate change. The comments that come on days where Global warming is the subject are all from different people that don't typically offer up comments on this site.

this may be a conspiracy theory but i am really starting to believe that these comments are coming directly from big polluting companies that are paying people to go onto sites like capitalweather.

Posted by: jf | April 22, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

jf,

There are monsters hiding under your bed. Watch out.

Posted by: Phil | April 22, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for the link to the New Scientist article, Mr. Freedman. That was a good read.

I particularly enjoyed these two sentences found there -
1. YES, it's true that CO2 emissions due to human activity are small compared with most natural sources.
2. Just about every part of the planet except Antarctica has warmed since the 1970s.

If you combine the second sentence with this sentence from the 2007 IPCC report, "It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent
(except Antarctica) (Figure 2.5).", I would think that would make you optimistic.

Antarctica has cooled. And Antarctica is HUGE. Even when attempting to inflate the global temperature increase (by excluding Antarctica), the best they can say is that it is "likely" that there has been a significant temperature increase. And their idea of significant is around 1 degree Fahrenheit.

That seems to me to be a very good reason to be optimistic about the future.

One of the studies you mentioned is from 2005. And it referenced data from 2003. I would think the 2007 IPCC report would be a better source than that.

With each release of the IPCC report, the projected temperature increase has decreased, and the projected sea level rise has decreased. They are now projecting a sea level rise of 18 inches or less. And recent studies indicate that there is no link between global warming and hurricanes. You guys just ran a story about this years hurricane forecast. Following the links in that story I found the full report. In that report, they also state that there is no scientific link between global warming and hurricanes. And that famous MIT scientist just came out and also said that his latest research indicates there is no link between global warming and hurricanes.

If the pattern continues, I expect the scientists to say "Our bad. Never mind." within the next 10 years.

It seems to me that as time passes and scientists learn more and more there is LESS reason to be scared/pessimistic and more reason to be optimistic about the environment and our future.

Respectfully,
Mr. Q.
(no time to proof. please excuse any spelling or grammar errors.)

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Forgot to mention that the most recent data shows that the oceans have actually cooled since 2003.

Got to run! Take care.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 22, 2008 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"Global warming" is a proven fact, proven by the fact that we have not had a Federal shutdown for snow since the winter of 2003!

I'm also MIGHTY SUSPICIOUS that "global warming" is behind the fact that (this past weekend aside) we only get our huge downpours, severe weather and floods whenever I have a Friday night singles dance on my schedule! Watch out, the next one is May 2.

Posted by: El Bombo | April 22, 2008 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Albert T: I've always sought to portray the state of the scientific community on climate change accurately and fairly, and to avoid giving the impression that there is division on issues where little to no division exists (while pointing out division where it does exist). I don't think I inaccurately portrayed the scientific community as split on climate change simply by saying that "by and large," climate scientists disagreed with Bush's climate change policies/speech of last week. I was referring to the reaction to the speech/policies, not to the views of climate scientists about anthropogenic climate change in general, and am sorry if this was interpreted differently. Please let me know if I'm not making this distinction clearer in this comment, as I think you brought up some important points.

jf: intriguing observation...

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Good point El Bombo!

Also...

Global temperature is also highly correlated to the number of pirates in the world. Less pirates over the past several centuries has meant higher temperatures. With the rise in piracy recently, 2007 temperatures dipped.

Posted by: Phil | April 22, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

It seems as if Andrew only responds to those who agree with him (Albert T), and not the broader community. This closed-mindedness is why we have many following the herd in the 70's on global cooling and the hysteria today on warming. Neither situation can/is as dire as the alarmists predict. Man can not change mother nature that fast, she can, but we can't.

Furthermore, he makes several bold statements with little to no direct scientific support (a political summary is not a peer reviewed paper), and then seeks to gloss over his lack of specificity with generalizations such as "by and large," and the ever popular "many recent studies," without citing any.

Posted by: Bystander | April 22, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Bystander -- Thus far Andrew has responded to Mr. Q (who seems to disagree with some of Andrew's points) and to Albert T (who seems to agree with some of his points). So by my calculation that's a 50-50 split in response to those who agree or disagree.

Posted by: Dan, Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q: The picture of Antarctic temperature change is more complicated than you suggest. There are parts of Antarctica that have been warming rapidly, such as the northwest peninsula which has made news recently with ice loss. Furthermore, some evidence points to stratospheric ozone depletion (as a result of human activities) as being linked to continued colder weather there. As ozone levels return due to global efforts against CFCs, the temperature in other parts of Antarctica could increase, if this theory is proven correct.

Also, I caution you against taking one scientific study and interpreting it in the strongest way possible. The recent Emmanuel study on hurricanes did not conclusively prove that there is no link between global warming and hurricane intensity. Then again, we've never (I don't think) written here that there is a conclusive link between the two either, because the science on that issue is very complex. I suggest you read Chris Mooney's book from last year, "Storm World," for more background info on hurricanes and global warming .

Also, regarding the IPCC's projections, you're correct that the range of temperature increase and sea level rise has narrowed, but this is not necessarily because there is no longer an expectation of significant increases in temperature, but rather because there is more confidence in making the projections compared to past reports. Even the lower end of the IPCC's projections would have major ramifications for human and natural systems worldwide. There are some scientists, such as James Hansen, who are stating that the IPCC's estimates for sea level rise may be drastically underdone.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

It's only become the most "important topic" of our age because sensationalists with no proven scientific evidence have made it that way. The Liberals jump on the bandwagon and the left wing media perpetuates it. Funny... today Fox News revealed that the greatest weather scientist of all time, Al Gore, used a bogus scene in his "Inconvenient" Truth lie of supposed Antarctic ice shelves that was actually a computer-generated image from the 2004 science fiction film "The Day After Tomorrow." Well... if the scientific physical proof is there, why didn't he use a real scene? Al Gore is the biggest phony on the planet next to Billary Clinton and everyone who believes this Global Warming garbage has guzzled the Kool-Aid. In the 70's they were calling for another Ice Age. Uh huh. We all know where that went. The Sky is falling! The Sky is falling!

Posted by: Chicken Little | April 22, 2008 7:44 PM | Report abuse

No, no, Phil. You've got it bass-ackward! MORE pirates = HIGHER temps. I mean, seriously: Johnny Depp. HOT. I rest my case.

Posted by: tinkerbelle | April 22, 2008 8:53 PM | Report abuse

There was Ice Age frenzy in the 70s? I missed it. Thought it was all about "nukes" back then. Tell you a story: When I was in college, my roommate floored me one day by solemnly declaring that the only thing that mattered--"The ONLY thing," she emphasized--was to be "anti-nuke." Coming as I do from a family involved in defense work, at first I actually thought she meant nuclear armaments. But of course she meant the power plants. Now there's a once-hot topic that got cold fast. I'll bet very few people can even tell you where the plants are located in the U.S.

Posted by: tinkerbelle | April 22, 2008 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Andrew Monday's are always great for ratings!

Andrew, I am somewhat amused that your description of the plight of some, so engrossed in this debate is identical to the plight of the average American! You say that "climate scientists and activists seem to be suffering" from "symptoms of depression, with its associated despair".

The average American increasingly feels the same symptoms everytime they shop for groceries. But, does the average American understand the truth behind soaring prices at the supermarket??

Does the average American understand that much of this skyrocketing inflation can be directly linked to the real beginnings of the fight against "global warming" in this country? The rush to support the development of "Biofuels" has caused the price of corn to skyrocket from $1.86 per bushel in 2004-2005 to $6.00 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. More than 50 corn-reliant ethanol plants have been built in recent years. Corn is an important ingredient in dozens of consumer items. Federal "Ethanol" subsidies now standing at more than 6 billion dollars per year are fueling this. Latest research indicates that the corn ethanol "chain" may be producing more greenhouse emissions than fossil fuels.

Farmers across this country have been chasing the huge profits associated with corn production. They have been over extending their credit to buy more land to raise more corn. Land prices are soaring as a consequence. They have planted less wheat, therefore bread and other wheat derivatives are also skyrocketing in price.

NBC Channel 29 from Charlottesville had a wonderful segment on the news tonight about this evolution. They said that corn and corn products that should be on the table feeding Americans and millions of starving people in third world countries around the world, are now finding themselves into gas tanks!

We as a society, are getting off to a wonderful start, attempting to fight a problem, that we have yet to agree on a cause for!!!

Posted by: Augusta Jim | April 22, 2008 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Hi Augusta Jim: The corn-based ethanol craze and associated increase in food prices worldwide is a major issue. However, it's not being driven entirely by efforts to combat climate change, at least in the U.S. Environmentalists have been warning for years that corn-based ethanol has very little if any net benefit in reducing carbon emissions. Instead, corn-based ethanol has been pushed due to political reasons. I was at a conference two weeks ago where a green energy developer said, in a biblical analogy, "thou shalt not grow corn ethanol." It was a stern reminder that the biofuels boom is not being properly steered towards biofuels that don't force people to choose between growing fuel or growing food.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | April 22, 2008 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Andrew :
You have perfectly illustrated support for my premise. Corn based ethanol is the first big casualty of the "Biofuels" movement, no matter how mis guided or political it has been. Untold hundreds of millions of people in America and around the world are now paying the price for this mistake. It is a matter of guilt by association.

The politics involved will not tolerate many mistakes of this nature.

Economies and cultures around the world are already very fragile. Life threatening perils already exist. If this uncertain campaign against a potential future threat is not measured and waged with a great deal of wisdom, it is certainly doomed to failure.

Posted by: Augusta Jim | April 22, 2008 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Augusta Jim: Glad to have helped you prove your point ;)

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | April 23, 2008 2:06 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman, you keep mentioning James Hansen and you appear to put a lot of stock in Mr. Hansen's opinions. Have you considered the possibility that Mr. Hansen is wrong? I strongly urge you to dig a little deeper into Mr. Hansen's *actions* and words. Don't do it for me. Do it for yourself. I assure you that you won't regret it. But you will regret not doing it.

But Mr. Hansen is not the point of this comment and I don't want to waste my precious time on him. I want to talk about the brilliance of pumping our food supply into our fuel tanks. Bloody brilliant beyond words!

There is the little problem that it contributes to higher food prices and contributes to food shortages and food rationing and food riots, but hey, the world won't hate for a little thing like starving them to death, will they?

Oh, and there is that other little problem about our current crop of biofuel producing more green house gases than oil, but that's just nitrous oxide, which is only 296 times a more powerful green house gas than CO2.

But other than contributing to starving people (which will surely help world opinion of us) and the fact that biofuels produce a much more powerful (296 times more powerful) green house gas, it is absolutely bloody brilliant!

source for the above claim, the times of london -
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article2507851.ece

--- begin quote ---
Rapeseed and maize biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Scientists found that the use of biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised. The research team found that 3 to 5 per cent of the nitrogen in fertiliser was converted and emitted. In contrast, the figure used by the International Panel on Climate Change, which assesses the extent and impact of man-made global warming, was 2 per cent. The findings illustrated the importance, the researchers said, of ensuring that measures designed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions are assessed thoroughly before being hailed as a solution.

"One wants rational decisions rather than simply jumping on the bandwagon because superficially something appears to reduce emissions," said Keith Smith, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and one of the researchers.

Maize for ethanol is the prime crop for biofuel in the US where production for the industry has recently overtaken the use of the plant as a food. In Europe the main crop is rapeseed, which accounts for 80 per cent of biofuel production.

Professor Smith told Chemistry World: "The significance of it is that the supposed benefits of biofuels are even more disputable than had been thought hitherto."
--- end quote ---

But don't pay any attention to us skeptics. We are just a bunch of nose breathing, knuckle dragging, flat earth believing Neanderthals.

Oh, and grain based foods aren't the only foods that will be going up in prices. You guys on the East Coast might be enjoying some beautiful weather, but we are freezing our collective tushies off out here in the Northwest. The month of April has been our fourth coldest on record out here in Oregon. And a whole bunch of the farmers have started to sound the alarm.

--- begin quote ---
When hitting your local supermarket there are signs that food prices along with many other things have been on the rise; and in the midst of experiencing a cold snap, we may see another product added on this list: summer fruit.

The Gem state is known for growing peaches, plums, apples and cherries. All of these are the fruits of warmer weather, and while some can't wait to get their hands on their favorite natural treats, Mother Nature is leaving a sour taste with others.

"If you don't have something like cherries, your volume goes way down," said Reggie States, owner of Reggie's Veggies fruit and vegetable stand in Boise. "And it's hard to replace because cherries are the fruit of the summer."

States says he is worried the overnight freezing temperatures will devastate some nearby fruit crops, especially since he relies heavily on local growers.

"There are a lot of local nervous growers, not just in Idaho. I had a grower visit from Washington, so it's all of the Northwest," States said.

Farmers are doing what they can to save their crops even resorting to anti-freeze tactics within the orchards, but not all farmers have the resources and manpower to take the extra steps to protect their summer fruits. One local farmer from Emmett says the freezing temperatures started Wednesday, and since then, he already has seen damage in half of his cherry trees.
--- end quote ---

source for the above quote -
http://www.2news.tv/news/17989889.html

How long have they been warning about global warming? Hasn't it been 15 years now?

We sure could use a little bit of global warming out here. Is there some sort of petition I could sign?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | April 23, 2008 2:30 AM | Report abuse

http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23583382-5009760,00.html

Kind of a fun, quick read. Completely different theory of what might happen in the future.

Posted by: Will in Fairfax | April 23, 2008 7:29 AM | Report abuse

'Mixed state' is a very accurate description of how I feel about this.

Did you see today's AP story on EPA scientists experiencing political interference?

Posted by: Jen | April 23, 2008 4:32 PM | Report abuse

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