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Decline in pirates on the high seas has led to warmer climate?

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

You recently printed a response to a letter on climate change from Scott Schoonmaker. Though he laughed at my letter, the inaccuracies in his letter are no laughing matter. What concerns me is how many people seem to accept such drivel because it does not fit their political views.
Let's discuss his letter point by point.

Schoonmaker: "The fear of climate change has been around for decades. Even in the 1970s people were talking about....."
Actually, the idea that carbon emissions might cause climate change was first suggested in the 1800s
Schoonmaker: (Theories that the climate is warming or cooling due to volcanism) "Sounds the same, only different."
Actually there is a similarity between these two proposed theories. They both were rejected long ago because they could not explain the decades of climate data collected worldwide.
Schoonmaker : "It was all the pollution and ash from volcanoes that was blocking the sun and making the temperature drop."
There have been many theories trying to explain changes in climate over the past decades. The beauty of the scientific method is that after theories are suggested their validity is tested and those tests are subject to peer review to see if the theory holds up. Volcanoes, Menkovich cycles, sunspots, cow farts and many other ideas have been considered. None, except increased carbon emission suitably explain the observed climate data.

An interesting side point; since it is impossible to do controlled experiments on climate, it turns out that volcanism has helped us to confirm the validity of climate change models. Specifically, the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo offered a unique opportunity to test the validity of climate models. The data on the dust and gas put into the atmosphere from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption was plugged into several models, the models predictions were compared with actual climate data and lo and behold, the models predicted the changes observed worldwide. Similarly when the conditions at the beginning of the industrial revolution, were entered into models along with the ongoing emissions of carbon, they predicted quite accurately the current climactic conditions.

Schoonmaker: "In Dec. 2009, the Global Warming Summit was held in Copenhagen. On the final day of the summit, Copenhagen received four inches of snow overnight due to a blizzard....That is some harsh global warming right there.."
The fact that it snowed in Copenhagen on a certain day when it usually doesn't snow, or that it was 90 degrees in March in N.H. several years ago, or that we've had three 100 year floods in N.H. in the last 10 years, or that there was a Hurricane Sandy or that Colorado just experienced a 10,000 year flood are not individually indicators of anything, they are weather anomalies.

It is a fallacy and scientific fraud to equate a single weather event to long term changes in the climate. Climate models DO predict such events will occur more frequently, but until we can look at those events in the context of long term trends they cannot be individually identified as caused by climate change

Schoonmaker: "The reason is of course that the average global temperature has been dropping over the past 13 years."
You can do almost anything if you pre select the data. Picture a graph of the average world temperature 1750-2013, this is represented by a line going from lower left to upper right. Now let's plot the number of pirates on the high seas in 1750 - 2013. There were more pirates in 1750 than now, their number has decreased dramatically. This line runs from upper left to lower right. Looking at this graph one can easily see that as the number of pirates on the high seas declined, the average world temperature rose. So, based on this graph, it is obvious that the decline in pirates on the high seas has led to the increase in average temperatures. Are you laughing Mr. Schoonmaker?

Thirteen years is not enough time to evaluate long term climate trends. To do that we must look, not at short term weather phenomena (which do indeed vary both up and down in the short run), but long term climate patterns. When you look at 120 years of data collected by NASA which uses the period of 1951-1980 as a baseline, (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2008/), it is clear that though temperatures do rise and fall in the short term, the long term pattern is temperature rise. Looking at the same graph showing Surface Temperature Anomolies (variations from the 1951-1980 average) we do see several small areas on the earth's surface which were below the average, but the overwhelming majority of the area was above the 60 year baseline.

Schoonmaker: "Now we can spend money no matter which way the wind blows."
Finally something we agree on, yes, we spend way too much money subsidizing energy. The overwhelming majority of subsidies are spent on fossil fuels and nuclear power. Over the past 60 years support for non-renewable energy has been more than three times that of renewables. This doesn't count the indirect costs of resource wars, keeping troops in more than 70 countries and the health costs from asthma, heart disease and cancer all of which are correlated with air pollution caused by fossil fuels.
Schoonmaker: "Sorry to say it, but the science of climate change leads to big government and that is a Democratic endeavor."
I'm sorry you said it, too, as it shows a total lack of understanding of science and the scientific method. Science does not lead to any type of government. Science leads to understanding objective reality. It is up to the citizens of a democracy what to do with that information. Science is telling us that the climate is warming and humans are the major cause of that warming.
I really don't care if we have a market based solution or, as you put it, a big government solution. I would be quite happy if ALL subsidies for energy were dropped. In a truly free market, Adam Smith's invisible hand would reach out and without our propping them up, we would see the price of fossil fuels triple or quadruple, and the cost of renewable energy drop. You'll recall that the Republican Party proposed a "free market" approach which made carbon a commodity which could be bought and sold. When the Democrats agreed to this, the Republican support was quickly withdrawn. It's time to stop playing games and, do something significant about climate change.

Wes Golomb
Professor of Energy Services
Lakes Region Community College