14 January 2008

Can we all agree on this? (Probably not)

Over on the New York Times environmental blog Dot Earth Andrew Revkin tries to come up with a list we can all agree on as regards climate science. His nine points are:
  • "Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas. More of it will inevitably warm the planet." (There are only a handful of contrarians who dispute this.)
  • "Warmer times have generally had much higher seas and smaller ice sheets and glaciers." (Again hard to argue with but some will try or at least suggest that this is no bad thing.
  • "The carbon dioxide buildup is changing the chemistry of surface seawater, lowering its pH in a way that, in theory, could be harmful." (Probably more contentious and not often emphasised even by the majority of scientists and thinkers who believe in human driven climate change.)
  • "Coal is still abundant, has helped today’s industrial powers become rich, and is helping poorer countries grow their economies. But it comes with significant environmental and social costs." (The first part is inarguable. The coal industry will forcefully dispute everything after the "but" even whilst trying to rescue trapped miners.)
  • "Oil is still reasonably abundant and fairly cheap, but comes with a large external price tag." (Same as above, simply insert "oil industry" in place of "coal industry" and ignore bit about trapped miners.)
  • "The incineration of tropical forests (most temperate forests are expanding) is bad for the atmosphere, water supplies and biological diversity." (Again more contentious. The bio fuels and palm oil industries clearly don't agree.)
  • "Growing populations and growing energy demand will greatly increase atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases in this century without big changes in technology, policy, or behavior. " (This will be vociferously opposed by those who dispute the "human driven" in "human driven climate change" and are more likely to blame cows and plants.)
  • "Finding renewable sources of energy that are cheap and do not come with significant environmental or security risks or social costs is a good thing." (Hard to argue with - and hard to find.)
  • "Too many people today are vulnerable to the world’s existing climate extremes, and widespread prosperity and security are unlikely to be attained without cutting vulnerability." (But they are mostly poor people. The market has spoken!)
All in all not a bad start but it almost certainly too late for such rudimentary discussion.

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