!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Follow Us!

We are planning some big changes! Please follow us to stay updated and be part of our community.

Twitter Facebook

Global Warming

Causal factors of global warming

Project: Climate Change and Global Warming
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

add event | references

An unnamed NOAA scientist attempts to generate media attention for a recently published paper that used a comparison of climate models and empirical data to approximate the influence of human activities on ocean temperatures. However the media advisory is repeatedly downgraded by NOAA officials until it is eventually canceled. In an interview with the Government Accountability Project, the scientist later says that publishing such news became increasingly difficult after the Bush administration took office. [Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Category Tags: Politicization, Press releases, Public outreach, Causal factors

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report on global warming, concluding that the planet’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected, and that evidence supports the theory that it is being caused by human activity. The study predicts that the world’s average surface temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100. The IPCC’s 1995 estimate had only projected an increase of 1.8 to 6.3 degrees. The higher temperatures will cause glaciers to recede, pushing sea levels between 3.54 and 34.64 inches higher, the study says. Tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas will be displaced by the rising sea levels. The report also supports the conclusions of a 1998 study arguing that the last few decades of the twentieth century were warmer than any other comparable period in the last 1,000 years (see April 23, 1998). The IIPC’s 1,000 pages-plus report, written by 123 lead authors from all over the world, drew on the work of 516 contributing experts. At a news conference coinciding with the report’s release, IPCC chairman Robert Watson says, “We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001; Reuters, 1/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Robert Watson, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

Jana Goldman, the public affairs officer at NOAA’s Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) division, writes in an email to a scientist from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), “If you get any press requests for IPCC please bump them to public affairs before you agree to an interview.” [Emphasis in original] Her mention of “IPCC” is a reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recently released third assessment report, which found “new and stronger evidence that most of the warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” (see January 22, 2001) Responding to Goldman’s request, the scientist writes, “It seems cumbersome at best. If this policy is implemented, it will greatly cut-down on NOAA scientist interviews.” [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 52-53 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jana Goldman

Category Tags: Politicization, Media contact with scientists, Causal factors

The journal Science publishes a study suggesting that a major factor in rising ocean temperatures is likely “the increase of anthropogenic gases in Earth’s atmosphere.” The study’s conclusions are based on analysis of historical ocean data pertaining to the latter half of the twentieth century. These findings are supported by results that were produced by an atmosphere-ocean general circulation model. [Levitus et al., 2001 pdf file]

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-academic

Tom Delworth, a scientist at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, tries to generate media attention for a paper (see April 13, 2001) he co-authored on the influence of human activities on the warming of the oceans. A media advisory and press conference about the paper is scheduled, but is repeatedly degraded until it is ultimately canceled. [Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 32 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Tom Delworth

Category Tags: Politicization, Public outreach, Causal factors

The National Research Council issues a report on global climate change that was commissioned by the White House. The opening paragraph of the document reads: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs.” [Committee on the Science of Climate Change, National Research Council, 2001; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Boston Globe, 6/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), National Research Council (NRC)

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report concluding that evidence indicates that human activity is the major force behind global warming. “The report analyzes the enormous body of observations of all parts of the climate system, concluding that this body of observations now gives a collective picture of a warming world…. A detailed study is made of human influence on climate and whether it can be identified with any more confidence than in 1996, concluding that there is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” The panel also notes in its report that “the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100.” Roughly 1,000 experts from around the world participated in the drafting, revising and finalizing of the report and approximately 2,500 helped review it. [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Boston Globe, 6/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

The Environmental Protection Agency sends the United Nations a report on climate change, in which the US admits for the first time that human activity is largely to blame for recent global warming. It attributes rising global surface temperatures to the burning of fossil fuels and details the potential effects of continued warming. For example, the report notes, “A few ecosystems, such as alpine meadows in the Rocky Mountains and some barrier islands, are likely to disappear entirely in some areas. Other ecosystems, such as Southeastern forests, are likely to experience major species shifts or break up into a mosaic of grasslands, woodlands, and forests.” However the report does not recommend cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Rather it suggests adapting to a warmer climate, saying that nothing can be done about the greenhouse gases that have already been released into the atmosphere. Neither industry nor the environmental groups are pleased with the report. Industry’s opinions were conveyed in letters during the comment period in 2002. They had objected to the conclusion that greenhouse gases were contributing to global warming. On the other hand, environmentalists are bewildered by the the administration’s unwillingness to address the problem. “The Bush administration now admits that global warming will change America’s most unique wild places and wildlife forever,” says Mark Van Putten. “How can it acknowledge global warming is a disaster in the making and then refuse to help solve the problem, especially when solutions are so clear?” [Environmental Protection Agency, 5/2002; New York Times, 6/3/2002]

Entity Tags: United Nations, Mark Van Putten, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

Myron Ebell, a director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), sends an email to Philip A. Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, discussing how to respond to a recent EPA report (see May 2002) that acknowledged human activity is contributing to global warming. It was the first time the US government had ever made the admission. In the email, Ebell conveys his plan to discredit the report by suing the agency. He also recommends playing down the report and firing some EPA officials. “It seems to me that the folks at the EPA are the obvious fall guys and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible,” he says in the email. “Perhaps tomorrow we will call for Whitman to be fired.… It seems to me our only leverage to push you in the right direction is to drive a wedge between the president and those in the administration who think that they are serving the president’s interests by publishing this rubbish.” The organization Ebell represents has received more than $1 million since 1998 from Exxon. Cooney previously worked as a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute (see 2001). [Ebell, 6/3/2002; Greenpeace, 9/9/2003; Observer, 9/21/2003]

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney, Myron Ebell

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Politicization, Industry

Responding to a reporter’s question about global warming, President Bush, referring to a recent EPA report (see May 2002) acknowledging that human activity is contributing to the Earth’s warming, says, “I read the report put out by a—put out by the bureaucracy.” He adds: “I do not support the Kyoto treaty. The Kyoto treaty would severely damage the United States economy, and I don’t accept that. I accept the alternative we put out, that we can grow our economy and, at the same time, through technologies, improve our environment.” [US President, 6/10/2002, pp. 957 pdf file]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Causal factors

A review article by scientists Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas on global warming is published in the peer-reviewed journal Climate Research. In their article, the two astrophysicists review the work of several scientists and argue that the twentieth century was not the warmest century during the last 1,000 years. [Soon and Baliunas, 2003] Their article is promoted widely by organizations and individuals funded by ExxonMobil (see Between 1998 and 2005) [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 14 pdf file] as well as by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) who says the paper is proof that natural variability, not human activity, is the “overwhelming factor” influencing climate change. [US Congress, 7/28/2003] But after the paper is published, three of journal’s editors—including incoming editor-in-chief Hans von Storch—quit in protest. Storch, explaining his resignation, calls the paper “flawed” because “the conclusions are not supported by the evidence presented in the paper.” He adds that he suspects “some of the skeptics had identified Climate Research as a journal where some editors were not as rigorous in the review process as is otherwise common.” [Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/5/2003] Additionally, 13 of the scientists cited in the paper publish a rebuttal saying that Soon and Baliunas seriously misinterpreted their research in the paper. [Ammann et al., 2003 pdf file; American Geophysical Union, 7/7/2003]

Entity Tags: Hans von Storch, Sallie Baliunas, James M. Inhofe, Willie Soon

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

The Office of Management and Budget, which is reviewing the EPA’s forthcoming “Draft Report on the Environment” (see June 23, 2003) advises the EPA that the report “needs balance” and asserts that “global climate change has beneficial effects as well as adverse impacts.” The office also suggests removing the discussion on global warming completely from the report’s executive summary. “[D]elete climate change or use previously agreed upon material,” writes one staffer at the White House Council of Environmental Quality. Similarly, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy suggests removing a discussion of the potential impacts climate change might have on human health and ecology. The Department of Energy also gets involved, arguing through the White House that EPA should delete any discussion of atmospheric concentrations of carbon because it is not a “good indicator of climate change.” Another official warns, “Take care here and be sure to be consistent with existing administration policy. Let us try to avoid another CAR scenario.” This is a reference to the Climate Action Report (CAR) (see May 2002) that the US submitted to the UN in May 2002. That report concluded that human activities are “causing global mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise.” White House officials also suggest making edits to particular sentences. For example, the OMB asks the EPA to delete the phrases, “alter regional patterns of climate,” and, “potentially affect the balance of radiation.” It also suggests replacing the passage, “changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly the result of human activities,” with, “a causal link between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established.” Several of the edits are made by CEQ chief Philip Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist. According to a congressional investigation, Cooney removes climate change “from a discussion of environmental issues that have global consequences, delete[s] a chart depicting historical temperature reconstruction, and insert[s] the word ‘potentially’ in several places to reduce the certainty of scientific statements regarding the impacts of climate change.” Cooney also advocates the removal of references to a 2001 National Research Council report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures rose significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. Cooney also adds a claim to the draft report that satellite data does not support global warming, and removes a phrase that says “regional patterns may be altered” by climate change. In one memo, Cooney writes, “These changes must be made.” [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003; US Congress, 1/30/2007 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Philip A. Cooney, Office of Management and Budget, Bush administration (43), Office of Science and Technology Policy, Council on Environmental Quality

Category Tags: Politicization, Government reports, Causal factors

When climate scientist James Hansen gives NASA administrator Sean O’Keefe a presentation on the dangers of human-caused climate change, O’Keefe cuts him off. “The administrator interrupted me,” Hansen later says. “He told me that I should not talk about dangerous anthropogenic interference, because we do not know enough or have enough evidence for what would constitute dangerous anthropogenic interference.” (O’Keefe’s spokesperson will later deny this account of the meeting.) Hansen’s presentation to O’Keefe was a summary of another presentation, titled “Can we defuse the global warming time bomb,” that he already gave to the White House Council on Environmental Quality in June 2003. [Hansen, 10/26/2004 pdf file; New York Times, 10/26/2004]

Entity Tags: James E. Hansen, Sean O’Keefe

Category Tags: Politicization, Political pressure on staff, Causal factors

The American Geophysical Union (AGU), representing over 41,000 scientists from 130 countries involved in the study of atmospheric and ocean sciences, solid-Earth sciences, hydrologic sciences, and space sciences, issue a statement titled, “Human Impacts on Climate.” The opening paragraph states: “Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth’s climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth’s history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century….” [World Wildlife Fund, n.d.; American Geophysical Union, 12/2003]

Entity Tags: American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) routes all media inquiries about an article in the journal Science (see December 7, 2003) that was authored by two top government scientists to appointee James R. Mahoney, instead of allowing the media to communicate with the scientists directly. The article in question concludes that “there is no doubt that the composition of the atmosphere is changing because of human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest human influence on global climate.” In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Mahoney, who is serving as both assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA deputy administrator, attempts to discredit the finding of the article. Mahoney tells the newspaper, “That’s their assertion. They are extremely competent, and there are many in the climate community who would agree with them. That’s not surprising, but there are many others who would disagree with them. My own view is somewhat more open-minded, and from my perspective we don’t really understand these things as well as we might.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4/2003]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, James R. Mahoney

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science, Media contact with scientists, Causal factors

The journal Science publishes a paper written by two of the nation’s leading atmospheric scientists concluding that “modern climate change is dominated by human influences” and cannot be explained by natural causes. The article, titled “Modern Climate Change,” warns that climate change “may prove to be humanity’s greatest challenge” and that “it is very unlikely to be adequately addressed without greatly improved international cooperation and action.” The authors, Kevin Trenberth, head of National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)‘s Climate Analysis Section, and Thomas Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, insist that “there is no doubt that the composition of the atmosphere is changing because of human activities, and today greenhouse gases are the largest human influence on global climate.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 12/4/2003; Karl and Trenberth, 12/7/2003; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Kevin Trenberth, Thomas Karl

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-academic

The US government’s Climate Change Science Program concludes in an annual report to Congress that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the only likely explanation for the rapid increase in global surface temperatures over the last three decades. It notes further that carbon dioxide and methane levels “have been increasing for about two centuries as a result of human activities and are now higher than they have been for over 400,000 years. Since 1750, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 30 percent and CH4 [Methane] concentrations in the atmosphere have increased by 150 percent.” The report, accompanied by a letter signed by the secretaries of energy and commerce and Bush’s science adviser, represents a dramatic shift in the administration’s view on climate change. Two years prior, when the Environmental Protection Agency similarly concluded in a report (see May 2002) that global warming is the result of human activity, Bush had dismissed it as something “put out by the bureaucracy” (see June 4, 2002). Myron Ebell, of the ExxonMobil-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization that is part of a campaign to discredit the consensus view that global warming is the result of human activity, says the report is “another indication that the administration continues to be incoherent in its global warming policies.” The report also acknowledges studies indicating that higher CO2 levels stimulate invasive weed growth more than it does crop growth. [Climate Change Science Program, 8/25/2004, pp. 79 pdf file; New York Times, 8/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Myron Ebell, Climate Change Science Program

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Causal factors, Studies-government

A study surveying media coverage of global warming finds that, on average, news organizations give “roughly equal attention” to opposing views on the causes of climate change. In its effort to be fair and balanced, the media, in many cases, has treated the opinion of a handful of industry-paid scientists and free marketeers as being equal in value to the consensus view of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists. According to the authors, this has created the false impression that there is no prevailing scientific consensus on the causal factors of global warming. The authors—Maxwell T. Boykoff, a UCSC doctoral candidate in environmental studies and his brother, Jules M. Boykoff, a visiting assistant professor of politics at Whitman College—surveyed 636 stories published by the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal between 1988 and 2002. They found that 53 percent of these articles “gave roughly equal attention to the views that humans contribute to global warming and that climate change is exclusively the result of natural fluctuations.” The results of this study contrast starkly with those of another study which had surveyed 928 articles in peer-reviewed science journals. In that study, the percentage of articles expressing uncertainty about the cause of global warming was zero percent (see December 3, 2004-May 2005). The authors say this difference—between how the causes of global warming is described by the media and between how it is understood by the scientists—represents “a disconnect between scientific findings and public understanding.” “By giving equal time to opposing views, these newspapers significantly downplayed scientific understanding of the role humans play in global warming,” says Maxwell Boykoff. “We respect the need to represent multiple viewpoints, but when generally agreed-upon scientific findings are presented side-by-side with the viewpoints of a handful of skeptics, readers are poorly served. In this case, it contributed to public confusion and opened the door to political maneuvering.” The authors suggest that “disinformation” campaigns funded by the fossil fuel industry (see April 1998) are to blame for the media’s inaccurate coverage. [Boykoff and Boykoff, 2004; Currents (UC Santa Cruz), 9/6/2004; Extra!, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Maxwell T. Boykoff, Jules M. Boykoff

Category Tags: Presentation of science, Causal factors

Science magazine publishes a study by science historian Naomi Oreskes describing how a review of “928 abstracts, published in refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, and listed in the ISI database with the keywords ‘climate change’” failed to turn up even one study explicitly challenging the consensus opinion that global warming has anthropogenic causes. [Science Magazine, 12/3/2004] Her findings are disputed by Dr. Benny Peiser, a senior lecturer in the science faculty at Liverpool John Moores University, who says that his own review of the abstracts from the ISI database found that only one-third implicitly backed the consensus view, and explicitly, only one percent. He tries to get his findings published in Science, but the magazine does not accept it. [Daily Telegraph, 1/5/2005] Peiser later sends 34 abstracts, which he insists challenge the consensus view, to Tim Lambert, a computer scientist who blogs on environmental issues. Lambert and his readers note that only a few of the abstracts actually appear to question anthropogenic global warming. They also note that the authors who do dispute global warming have backgrounds—such as petroleum geology, and energy and power engineering—that are typically sympathetic to the views of industry. [Lambert, 5/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Naomi Oreskes, Tim Lambert, Benny Peiser

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors, Presentation of science

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s radio program, James Connaughton, head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, insists there is lingering uncertainty with regard to climate change. “We see warming temperatures and we are still working on the issue of causation, the extent to which humans are a factor—they may be—as well as our understanding of what effects may result from that over the course of the next century,” he says. [Associated Press, 3/15/2005; Guardian, 3/15/2005]

Entity Tags: James L. Connaughton

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Politicization, Presentation of science, Causal factors

The George C. Marshall Institute publishes a book titled, Shattered Consensus: The True State of Global Warming. In its press release announcing the book, the institute says the book “demonstrates the remarkable disparities between so-called ‘consensus documents’ on global warming… and climate reality.” The book, edited by longtime climate contrarian Patrick Michaels, a meteorologist, features essays contributed by Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Randall S. Cerveny, John Christy, Robert E. Davis, Oliver W. Frauenfeld, Ross McKitrick, Eric S. Posmentier, and Willie Soon. Michaels is affiliated with at least ten organizations that have been funded by ExxonMobil and the Marshall Institute has received some $630,000 from ExxonMobil in support of its climate change program (see Between 1998 and 2005). [George C. Marshall Institute, 12/14/2005; Union of Concerned Scientists, 2007, pp. 12 pdf file]

Entity Tags: John Christy, Willie Soon, George C. Marshall Institute, Ross McKitrick, Sallie Baliunas, Robert Balling, Oliver W. Frauenfeld, Robert E. Davis, Randall S. Cerveny, Patrick Michaels, Eric S. Posmentier

Category Tags: Industry, Presentation of science, Causal factors, Studies-academic

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) concludes that there is an 84 percent chance that human activity is responsible for rising sea surface temperatures (SST). Climate scientist Tom Wigley, one of the study’s authors, says data from 22 different computerized climate change models showed “exceptional correlation” between human activity and climate change. The only plausible explanation for the dramatic increase in sea surface temperatures is deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels. “There is less than a one percent chance that the changes in SST could be the result of non-human factors,” Wigley explains. The paper also finds that higher sea surface temperatures are increasing the frequency and intensity of storms in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. [Inter Press Service, 9/12/2006; Boston Globe, 9/12/2006; Santer et al., 9/19/2006]

Category Tags: Studies-academic, Causal factors

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues a summary of its fourth report concluding for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal.” The authors of the report also conclude that there is a 90 percent likelihood that greenhouse gases produced as a result of human activities have been the main cause of global warming since 1950. In its last report (see January 22, 2001), the panel made the same assessment, but with a confidence level of only 66 to 90 percent. The 20-page summary, meant for policymakers, will be followed by four technical reports that will be completed and published later in the year. The panel’s conclusions are based on “a three-year review of hundreds of studies of past climate shifts; observations of retreating ice, warming and rising seas, and other changes around the planet; and a greatly expanded suite of supercomputer simulations used to test how the earth will respond to a growing blanket of gases that hold heat in the atmosphere,” the New York Times reports.
Partial list of conclusions -
bullet Global temperatures will increase 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit if carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere attain levels twice that of 1750, before the Industrial Revolution.
bullet Concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached a level not seen during the last 650,000 years, and the rate of increase is beginning to accelerate.
bullet Even a moderate warming of the global climate would likely result in significant stress to ecosystems and change longstanding climate patterns that influence water supplies and agricultural production.
bullet Sea levels will likely rise between 7 and 23 inches by 2100 and continue rising for at least the next 1,000 years.
bullet “It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.”
bullet The panel expects that precipitation will increase at higher latitudes, while rainfall will likely decrease at lower latitudes. Semi-arid subtropical regions could see 20 percent less rain.
bullet Oceans will absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide which will form carbonic acid, thus lowering the pH of seawater and harming certain kinds of marine life such as corals and plankton.
bullet If the level of greenhouse gases continues to grow, average temperatures by the end of the century could reach temperature not seen since 125,000 years ago when ocean levels were 12 to 20 feet higher than they are now. Much of that extra water is currently locked in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which are beginning to melt. While there is evidence that the glaciers and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic could flow seaward far more quickly than current estimates predict, the climate change panel did not include this in its assessment because it is forbidden by its charter to engage in speculation. According to Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, “the speed with which melting ice sheets are raising sea levels is uncertain, but the report makes clear that sea levels will rise inexorably over the coming centuries. It is a question of when and how much, and not if.”
bullet The harmful consequences of global warming can be lessened if governments take prompt action.
Responses -
bullet Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which administers the panel along with the World Meteorological Organization, says: “In our daily lives we all respond urgently to dangers that are much less likely than climate change to affect the future of our children. Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet. The evidence is on the table.”
bullet John P. Holdren, an energy and climate expert at Harvard, who is the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says the report “powerfully underscores the need for a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable.… Since 2001, there has been a torrent of new scientific evidence on the magnitude, human origins and growing impacts of the climatic changes that are under way. In overwhelming proportions, this evidence has been in the direction of showing faster change, more danger and greater confidence about the dominant role of fossil-fuel burning and tropical deforestation in causing the changes that are being observed.”
bullet Richard B. Alley, one of the lead authors and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, says: “Policy makers paid us to do good science, and now we have very high scientific confidence in this work—this is real, this is real, this is real. The ball’s back in your court.” [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2/2/2007 pdf file; New York Times, 2/3/2007; Independent, 2/3/2007]

Entity Tags: Michel Jarraud, John P. Holdren, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Achim Steiner, Richard B. Alley

Category Tags: Causal factors, Hurricane intensity, Studies-government

Ford Motor Co. chief executive Alan Mulally acknowledges in a telephone press conference that global warming is happening and is being caused in part by auto emissions. “The vast majority of data indicates that the temperature has increased, and I believe the correlation and the analysis says that is mainly because of the greenhouse gases keeping the heat in. You can just plot it with the Industrial Revolution and the use of all of our resources,” he says. [Denver Post, 4/24/2007]

Entity Tags: Alan Mulally

Category Tags: Industry, Causal factors

During a House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing, Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) argues against a so-called “cap-and-trade” system to limit carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Shimkus argues that the world’s ecology depends on carbon dioxide to survive: “It’s plant food.… So if we decrease the use of carbon dioxide, are we not taking away plant food from the atmosphere?… So all our good intentions could be for naught. In fact, we could be doing just the opposite of what the people who want to save the world are saying.” The National Wildlife Fund responds to Shimkus’s statement by noting that the world’s plant life has sufferred tremendous damage from the inordinate amount of carbon dioxide and other gases resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Liberal analyst Matthew Yglesias writes: “The point about our CO2 emissions is that the rate at which fossil fuel use puts new carbon into the atmosphere greatly exceeds the rate at which plants remove it. The aim is not to eliminate the CO2 from the atmosphere but to stabilize the amount of CO2, which means curtailing emissions to a level much closer to the rate at which plants consume it.” [Think Progress, 3/27/2009]

Entity Tags: House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment, National Wildlife Fund, Matthew Yglesias, John Shimkus

Category Tags: Politicization, Causal factors

During a Congressional hearing on the US’s response to global warming, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) says global warming is nothing more than a natural phenomonon, and the only response people need to make is to get some “shade.” Barton says: “I believe that Earth’s climate is changing, but I think it’s changing for natural variation reasons. And I think mankind has been adopting, or adapting, to climate as long as man has walked the Earth. When it rains we find shelter. When it’s hot, we get shade. When it’s cold, we find a warm place to stay. Adaptation is the practical, affordable, utterly natural reflex response to nature when the planet is heating or cooling, as it always is.… Nature doesn’t seem to adjust to people as much as people adjust to nature. Adaptation to shifts in temperature is not that difficult.” Think Progress reporter Satyam Khanna notes that Barton is nicknamed “Smokey Joe” for “his efforts on behalf of big polluters,” and last year “stalled Congressional efforts to decrease power plant emissions.” [Think Progress, 3/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Satyam Khanna, Joe Barton

Category Tags: Policies, Communications with Congress, Causal factors

Representative Todd Akin (R-MO) tells his House colleagues that he does not want to be responsible for eliminating the seasons. In a speech opposing pending legislation to reduce carbon emissions, Akin calls the transition from winter to spring “good climate change,” and repeatedly conflates “climate” with “weather.” Global warming is a “comedy,” Akin says, and he asks who would “want to put politicians in charge of the weather anyways[?]” His fellow Republicans are more knowledgeable than Democrats on the subject, he implies, because they have “passed high school science.” Akin tells the House: “This whole thing strikes me, if it weren’t so serious, as being a comedy, you know. I mean, we just went from winter to spring. In Missouri when we go from winter to spring, that’s a good climate change. I don’t want to stop that climate change, you know. Who in the world want[s] to put politicians in charge of the weather anyways? What a dumb idea.… Some of the models said that we’re going to have surf at the front steps of the Capitol pretty soon. I was really looking forward to that.… We’ve been joined by another doctor, a medical doctor but also a guy who graduated from high school science as well, from Georgia, my good friend, Congressman [Phil] Gingrey.… So to have actually a guy who’s passed high school science is tremendously helpful.” The liberal news and analysis website Think Progress notes that in Akin’s home state of Missouri, “climate change has already caused growing conditions to shift and several species of birds common to the state have migrated northward. If global warming persists, climatologists have predicted that Missouri can expect ‘warmer temperatures, shorter winters, and an overall increase in rain and flooding.’” [Think Progress, 6/3/2009]

Entity Tags: Think Progress (.org), Phil Gingrey, Todd Akin

Category Tags: Politicization, Causal factors

Michael Beard.Michael Beard. [Source: MinnPost]Michael Beard, a Republican state representative from Minnesota and an eight-year veteran of the Minnesota House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, advocates resuming coal mining in his state. His reasoning: God has created a planet that provides unlimited natural resources. “God is not capricious. He’s given us a creation that is dynamically stable,” he tells a reporter. “We are not going to run out of anything.” Beard is drafting legislation that would overturn Minnesota’s moratorium on coal-fired power plants. He says that God will not allow humans to destroy the planet, no matter what they do. He recalls working on his family farm in Pennsylvania, which he says was mined three times for coal and now produces barley, wheat, and pine trees. “Did we temporarily disrupt the face of the earth? Yes, but when we were done, we put it all back together again.” He continues: “It is the height of hubris to think we could [destroy the earth].… How did Hiroshima and Nagasaki work out?” he asks, referring to the two Japanese cities destroyed by atomic bombs in World War II. “We destroyed that, but here we are, 60 years later and they are tremendously effective and livable cities. Yes, it was pretty horrible. But, can we recover? Of course we can.” Beard’s thesis is at odds with most climate scientists, who say that burning coal results in severe and perhaps irreparable harm to the planet, and contributes to widespread human suffering. According to columnist Dan Shelby, “Most of them are convinced that there is a point at which we will never be able to put it all back together again.” John Abraham, a professor of thermal sciences, writes a response to Beard’s statements noting the flaws in Beard’s reasoning. Beard tells Shelby that he reads a lot about science, and cites a number of conservative blogs as his sources. His primary source is Dr. Patrick Michaels, who has admitted that he receives the bulk of his funding for research from fossil fuel producers. Shelby writes: “It is understandable. Mike Beard is a free-market conservative and pro-business. No one who calls himself those things can afford global warming to be true. There is a political belief that solving global warming will destroy American business. American business deplores government interference. Global warming regulation and legislation requires governments to act.” Both Abraham and Beard have expressed a desire to open a dialogue on the subject. [MinnPost, 2/15/2011; Huffington Post, 2/16/2011]

Entity Tags: Michael Beard, John Abraham, Dan Shelby

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Industry, Politicization, Presentation of science, Causal factors

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike