Wednesday, 15 July 2009

More 'spin' than 'science'?

For some time the Government have been creating great fear amongst us - warning us all about climate change ... in fact if you listen to Ed Miliband [Secretary of State, Department for Energy and Climate Change] he doesn't mention climate change at all now ... he only mentions "Dangerous Climate Change".

But if we really want to solve the problem (which I'm sure we all do), we need to understand the problem, and to do this scientists (like myself) have to look at the evidence in order to separate 'fact' from 'fiction' ...

Anyone listening to the Government (and the news) would naturally conclude that climate change is being caused by us, because of all the extra CO2 we're creating (e.g. burning fossil fuels) ... so I started to read the IPCC reports on climate change (i.e. to read the evidence), and they indeed state that CO2 is the main 'anthropogenic' gas causing climate change ... ok, but what does 'anthropogenic' mean? Being a scientist, I could not move on until I got the dictionary out ... and it means 'man-made' (caused by humans, or produced by humans).

This turns out to be a key word as again, being a scientist, I immediately had to ask ... so what about the other gases then? To my surprise I found that all non-'anthropogenic' gases (e.g. water vapor) had effectively been ignored. But a second, and much bigger surprise, was about to come ... as I did a little more digging into the science* and found out the following:

"Water vapor is responsible for 95 per cent of the greenhouse effect, an effect which is vital to keep the world warm. If we didn’t have the greenhouse effect the planet would be at minus 18C, but because we do it's plus 15C.

The other greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen dioxide, and various others including CFCs, contribute only five per cent of the effect, with carbon dioxide being by far the greatest contributor of these at 3.6%.

However, carbon dioxide as a result of man’s activities is only 3.2% of that, hence only 0.12% of the greenhouse gases in total, and human-related methane, nitrogen dioxide and CFCs etc make similarly minuscule contributions to the effect too (0.066%, 0.047%, and 0.046% respectively)."

Wow - so water vapor (nb which also includes water 'droplets' in clouds) accounts for over 90%, and man-made CO2 only 0.12% ! ... Surely this is wrong? Well it turns out it isn't - and the IPCC report authors won't actually deny this either ... they'll just argue water vapor is not 'man-made' (because it's mostly part of a natural cycle, linked to evaporation, the ocean, the clouds, and the rain) ! But did you know that? ... Has anyone told you that? Well it turns out that big word 'anthropogenic' at the start of the report was very important ... important for allowing people to create 'fear' and 'spin' ... and as one scientist put it

"Someday the world will wake up and laugh when they finally understand that the entire pursuit of economic ruin in the name of saving the planet from increasing carbon dioxide is in fact a terrible joke..."

Except it's no joke ... as this belief is actually stifling the important science we need to do to ensure real solutions are found (for instance understanding the role of sun, water vapor and how clouds actually form - which, believe it or not, we still don't really know)! In fact the situation is worse than this, as some car manufacturers are now, given all the 'spin', creating hydrogen cars - which would actually create more water vapor!

So why all the 'spin'? Well there are a number of conspiracy theories e.g. to restrict the rate of growth in the East by the West (e.g. China - see a previous post on this), to get taxpayers to be more willing to accept congested roads and pay more for travel (nb the Government also wants to rapidly introduce road pricing to replace petrol tax - before the oil runs out and cars all run on electric!), to create the next economic bubble, to divert blame for taxing people more away from the Government and onto the Climate ... etc etc!

As we know 'creating fear' and the 'use of spin' are all used by people who apply Poweromics**, but they also attempt to use 'blame', 'guilt' and 'threats' using their position of 'power' too - to stop any challenge to what they actually want to do ... e.g. the Government are using their position of power to threaten 'non-conforming' scientists with losing their funding, and take a look at Peter Sissons (a well-respected BBC newsreader) recent article about the BBC with regard to its reporting on climate change too ... Peter (like myself*** and any true scientist) is neither selfish or a heretic, in fact he's quite the reverse - he's someone who really does care, and would like us to learn the truth so solutions can be found ...

* “Solar Radiation Absorption by Carbon Dioxide, Overlap with Water, and a Parameterization for General Circulation Models,” Freidenreich and Ramaswamy, Journal of Geophysical Research 98 (1993) : 7255-7264) ****

** Poweromics = People using position and power for their own personal gain, based on poor moral values, self interest and greed.

*** I'm a big supporter of approaches that create a more sustainable world too e.g. minimizing the massive amount of waste in the world, the use of alternative energy sources to oil, taxing the extraction/use of resources and the conserving/recycling of far more resources too (e.g. just take a look at my book - and not just it's contents [P199-239] ... but the fact that it's also freely available on Google books too! ****

**** If you're not a big fan, or don't have the time to read lots of scientific articles, just take a look at one of the free alternative (and growing number) of reports/videos to Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth' (which Al Gore has been successfully using to travel the globe - and making millions of dollars - telling people about ... rather than simply putting it free on the internet [e.g. YouTube] for everyone to see - does this not tell us something too?)