Thursday, 6 January 2005

Global Swarming

From another article at Space Daily :
A team led by University of Maine scientists has reported finding a potential link between changes in solar activity and the Earth's climate.

In a paper due to be published in an upcoming volume of the Annals of Glaciology, Paul Mayewski, director of UMaine's Climate Change Institute, and 11 colleagues from China, Australia and UMaine describe evidence from ice cores pointing to an association between the waxing and waning of zonal wind strength around Antarctica and a chemical signal of changes in the sun's output.

At the heart of the paper, Solar Forcing of the Polar Atmosphere, are calcium, nitrate and sodium data from ice cores collected in four Antarctic locations and comparisons of those data to South Pole ice core isotope data for beryllium-10, an indicator of solar activity.

The authors also point to data from Greenland and the Canadian Yukon that suggest similar relationships between solar activity and the atmosphere in the northern hemisphere. They focus on years since 1400 when the Earth entered a roughly 500-year period known as the Little Ice Age.

The researchers' goal is to understand what drives the Earth's climate system without taking increases in greenhouse gases into account, says Mayewski.

"There are good reasons to be concerned about greenhouse gases, but we should be looking at the climate system with our eyes open," he adds. Understanding how the system operates in the absence of human impacts is important for responding to climate changes that might occur in the future.
It also keeps Politics from getting in the way. Here's a graphic - I can't vouch for its accuracy, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was correct - from Shaking Spears :

Human Contribution to Greenhouse Gasses
Rather puts things into perspective, doesn't it?

Finally, a quote from an article by another A.E.Brain, my uncle Ted, who died early last year.
In 1832, when a fierce Atlantic storm breached the harbour wall at Lynmouth, the whole village was swept away with great loss of life. The subsequent public enquiry found that the disaster resulted from an act of God and the failure of the Harbour Commissioners to maintain the harbour wall in an adequate state of repair.

Previous generations, being more narrowly religious, would have absolved themselves of all responsibility and regarded such calamities as natural; they were simply to be accepted with stoicism as "the will of God".

There are many parallels with the current differences of opinion on who is to blame for global warming, although in this modern world no public official is ever likely to be found guilty of incompetence or dereliction of duty; in passing recent legislation even our New Labour Cabinet has thought it necessary to preserve Crown immunity against charges of malfeasance.

Let us consider some of the similarities in responsibilities:
The Harbour Commissioners inherited a situation which for the moment was stable, but deteriorating. Almost certainly they had nothing to do with the previous investment or the circumstances underlying its provision. Does one build a harbour to last 50 years and with what safety margin? How certain is it that a once-in-a-100-years storm will not arise while I am in office? The spending of public money, i.e. taxes on the community, is an onerous responsibility.

The design of a safe harbour wall is a technical problem involving hydrostatic pressure (physics), strength of materials (civil engineering) and historic data concerning harbour-wall failures in the past (records preserved in files in the care of the Admiralty). However, the financing which determines what can be built is decided by politicians who are virtually illiterate in all technical matters and have one over-riding short-term goal - to get re-elected; this can best be achieved by keeping down taxes. Designing regardless of cost is not an option.

Since global warming is a technical problem potentially affecting the survival of every vulnerable individual in much the same way as the harbour wall at Lynmouth, we would hope to make any long-lasting decisions on a rational basis. The issue will not go away and if we try to forget about it, a decision by default is still a decision.
As was the decision not to install a Tsunami-warning system for the Indian Ocean, to warn against a 1-in-a-thousand-year event. Anyway, anyone interested in the subject should Read The Whole Thing. Because there's a veritable Global Swarming of articles on the subject, some (on both sides) quite rigorous, but all too many not letting facts or evidence get in the way of a pre-judged agenda.

But even that long list doesn't mention everything; such as The Case of the Peruvian Plants.



1 comment:

Tim Lambert said...

Such a pretty pie chart. Too bad it's completely wrong.