Climate Change

Friday, August 04, 2006

AN ALTERNATIVE SCENARIO FOR CLIMATE CHANGE

“Climate Catastrophe Cancelled: What You're Not Being Told About the Science of Climate Change” is a video that the Friends of Science produced. Who are the “Friends of Science”? According to their website: “Friends of Science is a non-profit organization made up of active and retired engineers, earth scientists and other professionals, as well as many concerned Canadians, who believe the science behind the Kyoto Protocol is questionable. Friends of Science has assembled a scientific advisory board of esteemed climate scientists from around the world to offer a critical mass of current science on global climate and climate change to policy makers, and any interested parties. We offer critical evidence that challenges the premises of the Kyoto Protocol and present alternative causes for climate change.”

I must admit I haven’t read the Kyoto Protocol and thus do not know if Kyoto deals with carbon dioxide emissions only (as the Friends of Science claim) or with pollution as a whole. The website offers many links and has some interesting articles. I chose one and here is my take on it.

There is an alternative model to greenhouse gasses that tries to explain the drivers behind the current climate change the world is experiencing. Thus, it is not climate change itself that is disputed, but rather what is driving it! On the one hand there is the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) endorsed “greenhouse gas” model, where anthropogenic causes have increased the greenhouse gasses, in particular carbon dioxide, that are blamed for our current change in climate. On the other hand there is a model that points to the sun and in particular the cosmic ray flux, as the principal driver behind past and current climate change.

Both models use proxies from the past to try and paint the bigger picture. Cosmic nucleotides (beryllium-10, carbon-14, chlorine-36) in ancient sediments, shells and trees are used to measure past solar activities (Veizer 2005). Both models use oxygen and hydrogen isotopes to reflect past temperatures, carbon isotope levels for carbon dioxide levels and boron isotopes for the acidity of the oceans (Veizer 2005). The trends of these proxies are then analyzed and according to Veizer (2005 p.13) “may enable us to decide which one of the two alternatives was, and potentially is, primarily responsible for climate variability”.

Veizer (2005) also points out that one major difference in the two models is that the solar model is explained by empirical observations, where as the greenhouse gas model uses empirical data to create scenarios for the future through General Circulation Models (GMC’s). He further points out that empirical observations should “carry greater weight than theory” (Veizer 2005, p.25), should discrepancies arrive. I however do not quite get the point here, as both still are theories (the mere fact that there is a positive correlation between solar activity and the climate does not prove that the one causes the other) and further more both have been shown to have their weaknesses. (Ramaswamy et al. 2001; Solanki 2002; Solanki etal. 2004; Veizer 2005).

In summary, Veizer (2005, p.20) writes that “the empirical observations on all time scales point to celestial phenomena as the principle driver of climate change, with greenhouse gases acting only as potential amplifiers”. So, even if carbon dioxide is not the principle driver but could act as an amplifier, we should still reduce carbon dioxide emissions as that is something we can do something about! (And with this Veizer (2005) even seems to agree) The sun however, we have no hope to influence. Somehow, I do not understand the point the “anti-greenhouse gas camp” scientists are trying to make?? I also found the paper by Veizer (2005) quite contradictory at times. He describes the two camps as the IPCC on the one hand and “the other side” like Douglass et al. (2004) that claim that “the role of anthropogenic carbon dioxide on climate has not been proven, and that there is therefore no need for emissions quotas such as those mandated by the Kyoto Protocol” (Veizer 2005, p.14). Yet, although he is part of “the other side”, he agrees that reducing carbon dioxide emissions would be a good thing, because that would cause a collateral reduction of sulphur and nitrogen compounds…

To me the fact remains that humans have had a huge impact on our planet. We may not understand all the processes that influence our climate, but that does not free us from our responsibility to be stewards of this planet we call home. We need to find ways to reduce our environmental footprint on this planet, regardless of if it is anthropogenic factors or the sun that drives our climate. What have we got to loose anyway, should be heed to the warnings of the so called alarmist climate scientists? Yet our children could loose everything should time prove the “alarmists” right.

As Dr. Richard Sommerville in the film Too Hot Not To Handle mentioned: “The stone age people did not stop using stone tools because they ran out of stone…”


References:

Douglass DH, Pearson BD and Singer SF. 2004. Altitude dependence of atmospheric temperature trends: climate models versus observations. Geophysical Research Letters 31:10.1029

Friends of Science contributors. Friends of Science [Internet] Friends of Science: Providing insight into Climate Science; update date unknown [cited 2006 Aug 4]. Available from: http://www.friendsofscience.org/index.php

Ramaswamy V, Boucher O, Haigh J, Hauglustaine D, Haywood J, Myhre G, Nakajima T, Shi GY and Solomon S. 2001. Radiative forcing of climate change. In: Houghton JT, Ding V, Griggs DJ, Nohuer M, van der Linden PJ, Dai X, Maskell K and Johnson CA (Eds.) Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. p. 340-416. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Solanki SK. 2002. Solar variability and climate change: is there a link? Astronomy & Geophysics 43:5.9-5.13.

Solanki SK, Usoskin IG, Kromer B, Schussler M and Beer J. 2004. Unusual activity of the sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11 000 years. Nature 431:1084-1087.

Veizer J. 2005. Celestial Climate Driver: A Perspective from Four Billion Years of the Carbon Cycle. Geoscience Canada 32(1):13-28.


Karen Marais
BCB Hons NISL student
University of the Western Cape
Private Bag X17
Bellville

E-mail 2657211@uwc.ac.za

Web http://brit-journal.com/karen2006bcbnisl/

PLAGIARISM DECLARATION
1.I know that plagiarism is wrong. Plagiarism is to use another’s work and to pretend that it is one’s own.
2. I have used the CSE/CBE convention for citation and referencing. Each significant contribution to, and quotation in this project from the work, or works, of other people has been attributed, and has been cited and referenced.
3. This assignment is my own work.
4. I have not allowed, and will not allow anyone to copy my work with the intention of passing it off as his or her own work.

DAY AFTER TOMORROW

A review on the movie Day after tomorrow is provided which shows the viewers the effects of global warming. The movie gives us a preview of what can actually happen if there is a change in our climate system. The world as we know it is a very busy place in terms of the economy and production activities.

In this movie a change in the weather pattern are noticed by the break off of the Larsen B shelf. The Larsen B shelf is 200 metres thick and has a surface area of 3,250 square kilometres and form part of the Antarctic ice shelf [1]. Furthermore, is the conveyor belt that is generated at the Antarctic’s by the sinking of deep water. Since the conveyor belt are responsible for temperatures for certain northern hemisphere countries. The increasing of excess precipitation river runoff or ice melt into the conveyor belt could weaken or it shut down, which can lead to freezing of these countries [2].

Thereafter scientist shows in the movie how the circulation of conveyor belt regulates the climate systems around continents. The movie mainly focused on the city of New York and Manhattan, the northern regions of the United States of America. As the conveyor belt stops then raindrops as big as soccer balls fall from the sky on regions in the northern hemisphere. The reason why these continents and cities are affected by these climatic changes are illustrated in the movie and a model that predicts what can happen shows how severe places will be affected by a slight change in temperature. But in this movie the model didn’t predict how quick a change in climate could result and the vice president actually ignore the climatologist prediction. This should not surprise the viewer because in reality governments are aware of such unstable climate events; to me this is total ignorance.

Since most northern hemisphere regions are affected by these climatic events. Cities become flooded which are followed with a drop temperature as the eye of the hurricanes moves over cities. Several people get trapped and drowned by floods and some even gets frozen. Thousands of people and objects get immediately frozen within a day if they were not kept warm. These sudden changes in temperature I think are exaggerated by the producers of the movie because I don’t think things can freeze that quickly or can they?

As a result many people died of these cold temperatures this is actually a devastated event that can happen. Since something like this was illustrated by the movie, can you imagine how such an ice age event can influence northern hemisphere countries or southern hemisphere countries? This is definitely a wake up call for us as human beings to act more responsible, if we want to continue our existence on planet earth, as Mother Nature doesn’t like to be mess around with.

I think that a change in climate is a gradual process and not as sudden like depicted by the movie. The movie is scientific enough but because it focused mostly on America and the “un educated person” takes it as another Hollywood production (fiction). It is for this reason that people don’t take climate change as a serious man extinction event.

[1] BBC News. Sci/Tech [Internet]. Antarctic ice shelf breaks apart [cited 2006 August 3]. Available from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1880566.stm

[2] UNEP. Great Ocean Conveyor Belt [Internet]. Potential Impact of Climate change. [cited 2006 August 3]. Available from: http://www.grida.no/climate/vital/32.htm

PLAGIARISM DECLARATION
1.I know that plagiarism is wrong. Plagiarism is to use another’s work and to pretend that it is one’s own.
2. I have used the CSE/CBE convention for citation and referencing. Each significant contribution to, and quotation in this project from the work, or works, of other people has been attributed, and has been cited and referenced.
3. This assignment is my own work.
4. I have not allowed, and will not allow anyone to copy my work with the intention of passing it off as his or her own work.